The Frames are the best Irish band you've never heard of. Well, you would have heard of them, had it not been for the Cranberries...
At the ripe age of 13, Glen Hansard's schoolmaster gave him some sage advice: “Fuckin' leave. But don't waste your time. Don't turn around and wonder if you have the talent.”
Hansard left school the same day, and told his working class mother he wasn't going back. “And she said, ‘OK, [but] you better start making some fuckin' money right now,'” Hansard recalls. “So I took my guitar to the city and started buskin' on the streets the same day.”
At age 17, Hansard was invited to meet at the house of an Island Records rep who had discovered his demo. Hansard arrived to find Stewart Copeland of the Police, Marianne Faithfull and Rolling Stones guitarist Ron Wood.
“All of them had been listening to my music, and discussing it, and were saying, ‘We see you as a Van Morrison. We think you're the real thing,'” he recalls in disbelief. At the time, he says, record labels were scouring Ireland for another U2.
“U2 are like the Catholic Church in Ireland-they're an institution. You're afraid to speak bad about them, but at the same time, you don't really give a fook.”
In the early '90s, Hansard was cast as the guitarist in a film about an Irish band called The Commitments. After the movie's massive Stateside success, he toured America with the band for a year, then quit.
Back in Ireland, Hansard and the Frames finished their debut album, and were all set for their first American tour, when fiddle player Colm Mac An Iomaire's lung collapsed. Hansard figured it was “more important to have friends than have a career” and cancelled the tour. Island Records sent the Cranberries instead.
Last year, Hansard convinced his label to drop the Frames by amicably telling them, “You're not going to earn any money on our next record, I fucking guarantee it-it's quiet and anti-commercial.” The album was For the Birds, an emotional gem that finally makes good on both Hansard and his band's potential.
“The irony of ironies is that it ended up selling more than any of our other records put together,” Hansard laughs, attributing it to the lack of record label input.
“I kinda realized at that time that the world is sick... I'm well.”