The proper intentions of Frank Turner

Punk makes good
By REYAN ALI  |  August 28, 2012

BELIEVER Frank Turner embodies a narrative so fulfilling that it's no surprise that he's being embraced by a wide audience. 

On July 27, Frank Turner played the biggest show of his life while surrounded by sheep, actors dressed as Brits of different stripes, a Ferris wheel, a synthetic recreation of the English countryside, and an unfathomably massive crowd. That Friday marked the start of the 2012 London Olympics, and thanks to the good kismet of his being able to count opening ceremony/film director Danny Boyle among his fans, Turner and his band the Sleeping Souls performed three songs during the "Isles of Wonder" prologue. In person, 200,000 people watched; at home, 25 million. Speaking from London within a week of the festivities, Turner has a residual glow reverberating in his voice.

"In the run-up, I got pretty immune to the excitement," the sharp, fast-talking guitarist/vocalist says. "To be honest, I'd say [my excitement] was after it happened. We got off stage and went back to our dressing room. The Internet went completely bonkers, my phone went mad, lots and lots of people I haven't seen in a long time are suddenly my best friends again." He adds: "I remain pretty overwhelmed by how fucking massive it was, and yes, life is all a bit weird at the moment."

The Winchester, England–based Turner got his start in the early 2000s in the brainy post-hardcore bands Kneejerk and Million Dead, but it was once the latter dissolved in 2005 and he decided to go solo that he really began to gain name recognition. He's since released four records, played an absurd number of shows, transitioned from basements and bars to big festivals and massive tours, and headlined the 12,000-capacity Wembley Arena in London — quite the trip for a guy whose background and acoustic-rooted music are ultimately closer to Billy Bragg than Bruce Springsteen.

On one level, it's insane to imagine that this son of nose-to-the-grindstone DIY ethics has reached this level of fame while staying honest. Turner has always come off as a decent guy: he's mature enough to speak with self-awareness about his image and punk activist past, brash enough to call Nicki Minaj "a total selfish shithead" on Twitter after he felt she disrespected the backstage crew at a recent festival both had played, and unfailingly genuine and kind in public — even at his most outspoken. At the same time, he embodies a narrative so fulfilling — musician starts small, works hard, writes good songs, scores big, stays true — that it's no surprise he's being embraced by a wide audience with similar ideals.

His music reveals a similar narrative. The crucial Love Ire & Song album follows Turner as he transforms from a youngster eager for change to an embittered punk-rock acolyte who has watched his scene degrade, and then back to an optimist who hopes for great things to come, even as he realizes the potential pointlessness. There's a complex nostalgia behind Turner's back-and-forth cynicism/optimism, but it's contained in a single, believable voice, only underscoring his credibility.

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