Amid the uncertainty of the pandemic and all of its devastating restrictions, didn’t know if he’d ever play music to a live audience again.
The guitarist and vocalist is best known for being a member of rock band , who made a surprise return in 2019 six years after they announced their split.
But while proved long delayed, and live audiences as a whole seemed to be a thing of the past, Frank joined fellow musicians and friends Travis Stever, Tucker Rule, Tim Payne and Anthony Green, to keep making music.
They had to, he explains: it was a ‘lifeline’ to them, while everything else was so uncertain.
Now the music put together by these five friends has a name: L.S. Dunes, billed as an ’emo supergroup’ as it features members of MCR, Saosin, Thursday and Coheed and Cambria.
Frank – more on that later – but speaking to him, it is abundantly clear how excited he is to tour upcoming album Past Lives with L.S. Dunes, particularly in the UKr.
Why? Because the UK gets it.
‘As soon as I heard this record I was immediately like, “We need to go to the UK,”‘ he tells Metro.co.uk.
‘I don’t know if it’s the sensibilities but I’ve always felt like, whether it was My Chemical Romance, Death Spells, there’s something about the UK that just kind of gets it. And they tend to get it before anybody else.
‘There’s a certain sensibility around some of the stuff that I make. [The UK] feels like, some might say a second home but it feels like a first home for the art.’
After performing in arenas across the world with My Chemical Romance – with more to come in Australia and New Zealand next year – the New Jersey native is ready to take it back to more intimate venues with the L.S. Dunes tour.
Frank, Tucker, Anthony, Tim and Travis are doing a short but sweet trip across the UK, with shows in Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham and London’s Electric Ballroom at the end of January.
With four shows in a row, it doesn’t give the band much of a chance to explore, but as Frank puts it, ‘I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to play a lot of those places a bunch of times in the past.’
‘I don’t think I’ve ever had a negative show. Even the hard ones, they teach you something. But we picked four great cities to have in a row.’
With Past Lives set for release on November 11, the guitarist says performing the songs live is his ‘biggest Want of this year,’ stressing it in such a way that you can hear the capitalisation of the word.
‘I’ve listened to this record countless times and I haven’t gotten sick of it. That’s not something that I think easily happens.
‘You get a real sense of what the band is, where it came from, and what we’re trying to put across. It’s not a light record, there are some heavy moments, musically but also emotionally in the subject matter.
‘It’s something that needs to be digested a little bit, and I am looking forward to people hearing the record the way we made it and then experiencing it live.’
This is L.S. Dunes’ future: albums, touring, the roar of a live crowd. But back when it all started, in the darkest days of the early pandemic, none of it seemed possible.
‘Collectively we (the future L.S. Dunes band members) all felt the same way. Nobody knew what was going to come of it. You’re watching people lose their lives, lose their livelihoods all around you,’ Frank recalls.
‘People were scared to go outside and scared of other people. [Making music] was our way to still connect – and we didn’t even need to be in the same room together.
‘It became this lifeline of creating art and playing together and making something out of this craziness and this fear that we all had.’
A few of the future members had jammed together for a Thursday live stream in 2020, but L.S. Dunes really started life with bassist Tim and drummer Tucker contacting Frank and Travis and asking if they wanted to create original music.
‘I was never going to say no to that,’ Frank says. ‘”You want to write music with some of your best friends that are some of the best musicians you know?” Like, I definitely want to do that!’
In the basements of family homes, Dunes tracks were being created bit by bit, with the members emailing each other something new to work on every day.
At this point in its life, the group didn’t have a vocalist, and Frank admits none of the members were interested in taking on the role.
They even dabbled in the idea of being a fully instrumental band, but eventually ‘the name on all of our tongues was Anthony’ – and as soon as they heard him sing, Frank realised: ‘Oh… this is a real band.’
But Anthony had no idea what he was auditioning for: he didn’t even know who the other members of L.S. Dunes were. He simply heard the instrumental track – sent over email – and got to work.
‘The fact he jumped on it and started to write lyrics and sending tracks back immediately, without even knowing who was in the band, was testament to how much of an artist he is and how fearless he is to jump into anything,’ Frank praises the band’s frontman.
‘And how good the songs were! They moved him, without knowing who it was. So that was a big excitement for us as well.’
The result being breathtaking debut album Past Lives, with each of the 11 tracks offering something unique and, often, devastating.
Take for example 2022, the opening track and one of the three singles released from Past Lives so far. For a band founded in the middle of the pandemic, it’s to be expected there’ll be some reflection on those dark days, and the album’s opener is a gut-punch with its raw emotion: ‘If I can’t make it ’til 2022/ at least we’ll see how much I can take.’
The song was so personal, so ‘haunting and beautiful’ that Frank admits he was wary to work on Anthony’s demo at all ‘until he assured us over and over again that that’s what he wanted.’
‘It’s hard to take a song with that much weight to it and put your spin on it. You have to keep checking in and be like “Is this the right direction, how do you feel about this?”‘
But they persevered, and the final product on Past Lives is actually, Frank reveals, the first time he ever played 2022 in full.
‘I heard the song, I listened to it, I listened to what Tucker was doing, and then my first complete run-through of the song is what’s on the record,’
‘I knew I’d be chasing that performance,’ he explains, describing the song as ‘a real special one.’
And so the band is born. They have songs. An album. A name. And then they had to keep it quiet for the bones of two years.
‘It was an amazing feeling [to finally announce it] – it felt like a weight had been lifted,’ Frank grins.
‘It’s hard to keep that secret, especially when it’s something you’re so proud of and so into. It’s been hard to hold these songs in for as long as we have!’
L.S. Dunes made their debut performance at Riotfest, when they had just one single out in the world, and were playing to a crowd who had not necessarily come to see them.
‘It was like “This could be terrible,”‘ Frank recalls. ‘But it was the best first show of any band I’ve ever been in. It was insane.’
But because of this, ‘it’s hard to see what the fanbase is at the moment.’
‘It does feel like it runs the gamut of all of our bands, but also individuals that maybe weren’t fans of previous stuff but are fans of this project. That’s also what we’re trying to get across with the idea of Past Lives: this is where we’ve been, it got us to where we are now, but that’s not what this band is.
‘This band needs to be able to stand on its own two feet. I think we accomplish that in the record and it’s up to the listener to give it its chance. I think people are smart enough to do that.’
With each of the members already having stellar careers, their original bands being massive names in the scene for years, L.S. Dunes has been labeled an ’emo supergroup’ – and Frank is not exactly a fan.
‘I don’t mean to call anybody out, but it just feels lazy,’ he sighs.
‘People are way into labels of things and they like to put things in boxes. I love little containers for things, but not people and art.
‘The supergroup thing, I get it. We’ve all been in other successful bands. But really … this is just the friend group that I have. We all live kinda close to each other, and when you tour enough you become friends with people that do what you do.
‘Supergroup, I don’t know – they’re like my friends from work.’
Frank is currently on tour in the US with My Chemical Romance, after an incredible UK and Europe leg earlier this year, before L.S. Dunes was announced.
Now preparing to take Dunes on tour for the first time, Frank is ready to finish up with MCR and ‘dedicate my full brain space to all the Dunes songs.’
‘It’s been a lot!’ he reveals. ‘With My Chem, we had basically a bank of around 50 songs… and then the 11 Dunes songs were in my head. I would be rehearsing the songs we were going to do that night for My Chem, and then jump over to the Dunes set for the Riotfest Aftershock shows, then go back and forth… so my practice schedule was almost as long as the show.
‘I’m looking forward to scaling it down a little bit. I’m surprised I’m not having nosebleeds!’
L.S. Dunes’ debut album, Past Lives, is out on November 11. The UK tour kicks off in January.