Frankie Rose brings pure pop chops to third album

“I want to make songs that I would want to hear, and I like pop songs,” says Frankie Rose.
Sebastian Mlynarski
“I want to make songs that I would want to hear, and I like pop songs,” says Frankie Rose.

NEW YORK — There comes a moment in every Frankie Rose song where she gives you exactly what you want: a shimmering guitar solo; a lush cascade of harmonies; a chorus that swells and swells until it finally cracks wide open and you’re heady from the sugar rush.

“I want to make songs that I would want to hear, and I like pop songs,” she says recently over afternoon drinks at a bar in Brooklyn, a few blocks from her apartment in Bushwick. “I really do think in terms of making an album, not just singles. That’s what I grew up with.”

Rose, 34, records an especially dreamy brand of guitar pop that’s compact but flush with emotion. She first got noticed as a member of indie-rock bands such as Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts, and Dum Dum Girls, usually as the drummer. Yet it’s under her own name that she has blossomed into a sound architect, a Phil Spector type of character highly attuned to what she hears in her head.


Rose, who opens for Franz Ferdinand at the Orpheum Theatre on Sunday, is obsessive about the craft of making memorable pop music. Her eyes widen when she talks about melodies, hooks, harmonies, chord changes. She says she spent days thinking about how to sequence the track listing for her new album, “Herein Wild,” and clearly she is not joking.

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The record begins with “You for Me,” which is a good place to start with her work. It’s all right there: a pummel of drums, a heavy clang of electric guitar, and then a dulcet vocal drenched in reverb. The sweep is cinematic until the rhythm accelerates, and your own pulse quickens. Rose’s talent hinges on a sense of dynamics: loud and soft, tough and tender, organic and synthetic.

She and Michael Cheever, who co-produced her new album (along with its predecessor, “Interstellar”), played most of the parts on “Herein Wild.” But if she can’t coax the right sound from an instrument, she has no qualms about asking someone who can.

“I wouldn’t be able to do everything that I hear,” she says of recording alone. “I wouldn’t be able to do anything too complex. I’m good at simple guitar parts, drums, and synths. I’ll have the idea for what I hear, but sometimes I just can’t do it. And I don’t care to, necessarily. All I care about is getting the record to sound the way I want it to sound.”

Scott Rosenthal, an engineer and musician who has played drums and bass in Rose’s band and worked with her on her latest side project, a drums-and-guitar duo called Beverly, echoes that sentiment.


“I would say Frankie’s best skill is having great taste and understanding the sonic properties of music,” Rosenthal says. “A lot of times when you’re listening to her stuff, she has designed it so that you know what to feel. She’s very intuitive like that. She’s very modest about it, but she is quite good.”

The Cure is a major touchstone for what Rose does, as evidenced by the Robert Smith T-shirt she’s wearing for today’s interview.

“I think they’re a perfect example of a band that makes albums and pop songs that are emotional and interesting but fun,” she says. “I think a perfect album, from beginning to end, is ‘Disintegration.’ ”

You could hear the Cure references on “Interstellar,” Rose’s 2012 album that drastically expanded her palette. Her first effort as a bandleader, under the name Frankie Rose and the Outs, got her saddled with misleading descriptions like garage rock and lo-fi. “Interstellar,” though, gave the impression that you were listening to a pure pop record emanating from outer space. The hooks were clean and bright, but the vocals were layered with effects that coated the songs in a pretty sheen. Its shiniest moments, like the single “Know Me,” could have (and should have) been big hits.

Even though that album had its admirers, Rose felt disappointed that it didn’t make a bigger splash.


“I think it’s the nature of the game now, to be honest,” she says. “There’s such a huge influx of bands making records, such a huge output. It’s really one in a million records that actually holds people’s interest over an entire year. If someone holds your attention for a year, that’s a miracle at this point. People have iPod shuffle brain.”

“Interstellar” wasn’t a blockbuster by any stretch, but it gave Rose a certain degree of acclaim and freedom and bolstered her fan base. That was all to her surprise.

“I was totally shocked and really happy,” she says. “I didn’t know what I had. I thought it was weird and could be alienating. I felt like it gave me permission to do whatever I wanted, to make weird decisions.”

“Herein Wild” is more terrestrial than “Interstellar” but no less infectious, even when the lyrics touch on heavier subject matter. “Minor Times” addresses the agony of Rose’s overactive subconscious state, with dreams so vivid that she often can’t tell if she has slept or not. It also has a softer poignancy courtesy of three minutes of string parts sprinkled throughout.

Rose admits her meticulous attention to detail in the studio has often posed a challenge when it’s time to translate her music to the stage.

“I never think of myself as a live performer,” she says. “That’s not my deal. I feel like a recording artist. I make records and I’m not trying to put on the world’s most incredible live show. Give people what they want: ‘Don’t bore us, get to the chorus,’ says Tom Petty, my spirit animal.”

James Reed can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJames