Vincent Frank is a fashion-school dropout and former beatboxer who lives with his grandma. But hes also Frankmusik, it-boy of Londons nu-pop scene and Perez Hiltons latest obsession. The compact, doe-eyed 23-year-old released his debut album, Complete Me -- a synth-heavy celebration of all things 80s -- earlier this month and earned a spot on Hiltons debut tour alongside Ladyhawke and Ida Maria. The day after his New York gig, Frank -- looking dapper in a gray cardigan, dark jeans, and intricately designed X-I-T frames -- chatted with us about his love for America and Whitney Houston.
Out: You wrote, recorded, and played all the instruments on your album. Did you study music growing up?
Frankmusik: In an abstract way, yes. I did learn the piano and a few other instruments, but not to any high standard. For me, it was more that I grew up being educated by what my mum used to listen to. She had great taste in music. Well, I thought she did [laughs]. Id be listening to a lot of music from the 80s to the late 70s -- Earth Wind and Fire to Human League to Billy Joel to Chicago. She used to listen to chart music, basically. Chart music used to be artists. Proper artists. Nowadays its all about singles and singles and singles.
So what of this music was a big influence? I read you especially love Billy Oceans Get Into My Car --
Ohhhh! [Clutches his chest in ecstasy.] Great song.
I find that really funny because most Americans your age would consider that song downright lame. Though, of course, theyd also know all the words.
So do you feel like youre purposefully trying to capture that kind of sound? To me, it really seems like an homage.
I look at things like Get Into My Car or Bobbie Browns Every Little Step -- theyre just great songs. None of this boom-boom-pow crap. If I hear another in da club song, Im going to kill myself. However cheesy that music was, the reason you know every single word is because it was a really good song. Like, Whitney Houstons Bodyguard album? Incredible love songs. Do I try to put that sound into my music? Indirectly, yes. But Im not trying to sound nostalgic. What Im trying to do is capture what influenced me, subconsciously, the most as a child. I have that sound built into me.
You started out as a beatboxer when you were 17 and even made it to the final round of the BBCs Let Me Entertain You talent show. How did you get into that?
I could just do it. I heard Rahzel do his infamous If Your Mother Only Knew thing and I tried to work it out and I had it in no time. I was just naturally quite good at doing it. Everyone in my school thought it was hilarious. And I did the talent contest and I started doing beatbox battles in London. That was a whole different thing. It was very hard for me because I went to a good school and Ive got a quite posh accent and Im white. But it wasnt so much my skin color -- it was that I didnt dress correctly for these events. Id turn up like this [fingers his cardigan] and everyone would be like, Who the heck are you? Youre in the wrong building. I just started getting scared going to these things. When youve got guys -- big, big guys -- standing here [holds his hand right in front of his face], saying, Youre shit, youre shit! at the top of their fucking lungs when youre trying to beatbox, its just like, No thanks." So I said goodbye, thank you very much, and made Frankmusik.
This is your first time touring the U.S. as Frankmusik. How is it different from playing in the U.K.?
People are a lot more willing to talk to you here. Most of the time in England, people watch the gig and leave. Over here, you dont have to be so ashamed about selling yourself. Semi Precious Weapons, who play after me, theyll make an absolute effort to stand by the merch table and talk to their fans, whereas that would be frowned upon in England. You need to be offstage and disappear because you need to show this kind of divide -- that youre better than your fans. People are a lot more negative in England.
Especially the press.
Pfffff tell me about it! But thats kind of why creativity does come out of England -- because its not a particularly nice place to live socially. That spurs people on. In America, things are a nicer and people are a bit more laid back and a lot more positive, so there are less things to get pissed off about. I quite like the weird transition, and I will be doing a lot of work in America for my next album. Im going to record, write, and produce it here. I want to do a studio tour and hopefully meet some cool writers. I didnt have any writers on my first album, but I wouldnt mind getting creative with some other people.
How come? Usually its the opposite: artists work with a lot of writers on their first album and then they decide they want to try it out on their own.
Well, I havent really had time to live since the making of the first album. I could write about sitting on a tour bus and playing a gig and doing a regional radio interview, but Im sure that wouldnt make for a good album. I need to get excited. And I think its good to bounce ideas off people.
Do you have your eye on anyone?
Not really. I think its going to be a matter of letting people know its happening and then if people want to come forward But its going to be all American.
Only American collaborators? Why?
Because I love America. I want to have a place out here eventually. America excites me, so I should go where I feel excited. Ill be touring up until Christmas in England and from January to March, Ill be here recording my next album. I want to get it done in three months.
Yeah, I think I need to because the problem with the first album is it took too long. We spent two years on that record and its like, thats not how I do my music. Its like [snaps his fingers] bam bam bam.
Why did it take that long?
It just all got a little crazy, I think, because we didnt know how to sell me at first. The album is a good body of work, but there are a few things that could be better. I dont feel for a second that I made a record where it sounds like I sold out. I just feel that inside Ive sold out a little bit because Im not excited about my music anymore. Its all to do with process. The idea is simply, youve got to have fun.
You seem very serious about having fun.
Oh yeah. I think Im a thinker and Ill have fun when its appropriate [shakes his head]. Thats what seven years of boarding school does to you [laughs].
Do you find remixing fun? Youve done remixes for the likes of Amy Winehouse, the Pet Shop Boys, and Alphabeat. Is it as rewarding as doing your own music?
It has different rewards. With remixing, I can go a bit crazier. I dont have to think about it as much. I only use the lyric or the vocal part and I never listen to the original song either. I want to get my own interpretation of the track, as if the singer had come into my studio and that was what we came up with. Ive tried to make my remixes a bit more commercial. I had a remix approved by OneRepublic for their song All the Right Moves and the singer sent me a personal e-mail saying he really enjoyed it and thought it was awesome. Theres this rapper/dance producer called Example whos blowing up in England at the moment and Im doing a remix for him. But Ive got to focus on me at the moment. Ive got to get excited about me again.
The gay community is really excited about you. Are you conscious of trying to appeal to a gay audience? Obviously, you posed nude for AXM. As Samantha Jones said, first you get the gays, then you get the girls
Yeah, the gays then the girls. Its funny -- I was just discussing this with a friend. Ive never been, like, a prick tease and I think its important I get this across. Im not someone whos like, Is he gay? Isnt he gay? People know that Im always with chicks and that will never change. But Im a bit camp, and I think thats okay. When I was doing the beatboxing, I was going to a lot of fashionista nightclubs because of all the London College of Fashion stuff. And there are a lot of gay people in the creative world. Im very comfortable around the gay community because I dont judge myself on my sexuality. I dont say Im straight, Im gay. I dont say, Im white. I say, Im me. Other journalists would say, What do you reckon on all the gay fans youve got? And its like saying, What do you reckon all the black fans youve got? Its irrelevant to me. But I do like doing stuff for gay press -- gay people are generally a lot more fun and theyre more with it. [Laughs] They like me.
Complete Me is now available digitally and in stores.