Disclaimer: there is no actual singalong, but Adam and Ed do interview Frank Turner, the musician and songwriter responsible for that line from his song “The Gathering,” part of his ninth album F.T.H.C. releasing 11 February 2022.
Prior to the interview, Adam and Ed debut their new, more formal trivia game "The Karaoke Trivia Bullpen" with some questions on songs Frank Turner has covered, and then cover some topics at the intersection of karaoke and professional music: is a karaoke performance a cover song? What do musicians have to say about karaoke? What are the barriers to making music, and creativity in general? Essentially, the concept is the same as in any episode: it's about loving music, and how people engage with it (and everyone knows how Adam and Ed engage with it).
Frank might be a surprising choice for a karaoke podcast, but Adam and Ed are both big fans of his work. They heard an interview Frank did with Liam Bird on Liam’s podcast Punks in Pubs--Frank told a story about getting kicked out of a karaoke bar after singing Meatloaf (which they’ve excerpted here). He expands on that story, tells another unhinged karaoke story, and then the three of them sort out all sorts of music and karaoke related questions. He even left a piece behind--starting in Episode 4, the quickfire game has a question rephrased because, not surprisingly, Frank Turner turns a phrase more cleverly than Adam and Ed do.
FTHC is the ninth solo album from British punk and folk artist Frank Turner. Initially striking out as a vocalist in the punk rock band Million Dead, Turner then turned his focus towards a folkier, acoustic-based solo career. Since that time, he has reached international acclaim as a chart-topping, award-winning singer-songwriter. Taking inspiration from early '80s US hardcore band logos, FTHC stands for Frank Turner Hardcore.
Photo credit: Ben Morse (ben-morse.com)
As always, you can find more info on the website (https://www.sungpoorly.com), and on social media--the show is @sungpoorly on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and now even Tiktok, sometimes. You can reach Adam and Ed via email by sending a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adam Wainwright: Hello and welcome back to "The Greatest Song Ever Sung Poorly," the podcast that takes karaoke *exactly* as seriously as it should be taken. I'm your punk-rock-party-pooper Adam Wainwright.
Ed Cunard: And I'm dying-to-get-into-the-mosh-pit Ed Cunard,
Adam Wainwright: Hell yeah, Ed. It's been a while since I've been in a good mosh pit. It's been a little while since we've dropped one of these episodes too Welcome to season two, baby we're here. I'm ready to jump into a mosh pit over season two of "The Greatest Song Ever Sung Poorly."
Ed Cunard: What a way to kick it off, right?
Adam Wainwright: What a way to kick it off? You kidding me? We're we're kicking off the season with Frank Turner. Our guest is Frank Turner this episode, 'yall. How did this happen, Ed? How did we get here? What motivated us to reach out to Frank Turner and see if he would come and talk to us about karaoke?
Ed Cunard: Well, obviously we're both fans of his music, but that's not why we invited him on. The reason that we've invited him on is because of an interview he did with Liam Bird. Liam has the "Punks in Pubs" podcast. And in that episode, Frank told a really great karaoke story, which we're going to share here now.
[EXCERPT FROM “PUNKS IN PUBS” PODCAST EPISODE 4]
Liam, again ,thanks for letting us use that clip. But that's why we had to reach out to him to have him on. That's a great karaoke story. And if you've got one great karaoke story, typically you have a couple.
Adam Wainwright: And spoiler alert, y'all: he definitely did have some very, very great karaoke stories. You will not be disappointed, stick around, make sure you check out the interview with Frank Turner. That's going to be coming up in a little bit, but until then, we're going to talk a little bit about cover songs. We're going to talk about being a musician at karaoke. And we're going to talk about the barrier to making things a little bit, like what what's that disconnect? What, what stops us from making music, as opposed to just singing at the screen? Ed, if you could take all of these things that I just described that we're talking about today and simplify them to just a couple of words, how, how would you simplify, what's your condensed version of what we're talking about today?
Ed Cunard: What we're talking about today is loving music and how we engage with it.
Adam Wainwright: Ooh, loving music And how we engage with it.
Ed Cunard: So I have a question for you, Adam.
Adam Wainwright: I have an answer, Ed.
Ed Cunard: Fantastic. I would hope so. Is a karaoke performance a cover song?
Adam Wainwright: Man, I, I struggle with this. Okay. Because I could see this going two ways. From the musician friends that I have, I think they'd steadfastly say, no, it's not a cover, but I would argue, I think it's partially a cover, but it's not the entire way to a cover. Cause you're definitely covering the vocals.
Like your voice sounds differently. You're, you're… the way you're approaching the music. The way you're hearing the music, even everything about the song is going to be different. And when you're performing it, you're giving your own performance of an established song. And I think that's what a basic definition of a cover song is going to be. At the same time, I understand that you're not covering the instrumental and that's an important part of making a cover is taking every aspect in every little part of a song.
and assembling it in your own way. So there's a valuable part of that that's missing with singing a karaoke song. Oh, how do you feel about it, Ed?
Ed Cunard: No, I think that's the exact way I would've said it too. You can definitely do some transformative things with karaoke, but at the same time, you're just using your voice to do it. You're doing it along to a backing track and you have no real control over that backing track, unless you're going to ask the host to pitch it up or pitch it down, which I almost never do. I just roll with it as it is, typically. But one of the things that I love about what Frank Turner does with his music is he does a lot of cover songs. I mean, you know, this, he does them at his shows he does that on his collections. And I figured that was a good way to introduce our newest segment for season two, "The Karaoke Trivia Bullpen: the only acceptable distraction at the bar when people aren't singing at screens."
Adam Wainwright: I'm so excited for this, Ed. I'm so excited for this. I'm so excited guys. It's going to be a recurring thing. We're going to have a scoreboard. Give them the lowdown of what's about to happen right now. Cause I love this.
Ed Cunard: First season, we did a lot of trivia challenges back and forth at each other, and we just made up points and we did it very willy-nilly, but Adam and I are competitive and we want to see who's going to win season two. So we actually have a format for it now. Here's what you're going to get Adam:
Five trivia questions based on this episode's topic with varying degrees of difficulty. Each question is worth one point. So the top score for any round is five points. If you get stuck, you can ask for one hint per game. Even if you get all of the questions wrong, you can still win by answering the impossible question. Get that one right, and you get all five points. But remember, even if you save your hint, there are no hints for the impossible bonus.
Adam Wainwright: Yes. Yes. I love this. I love that this is happening. Different every episode. I saw it today, guys. I'm excited for this. I think Ed's more excited for this. Ed has designed a scoreboard y'all. It's like a Fenway park or an old-school like Forbes Field scoreboard, where we are going to keep score and keep a running tally that we'll post on our social media with the releases of every episode.
So you can see who's actually winning and losing, and Ed and I can brag about it to all our friends, because that's what trivia is for, is to brag about how awesome you are to all your friends.
Ed Cunard: Absolutely. And I feel like by the end of this year, I'm just going to be slightly more awesome than Adam.
Adam Wainwright: You're going to be slightly more awesome in trivia maybe, but you will never be just slightly more awesome.
Ed Cunard: So are you ready for me to cue the music for this theme round?
Adam Wainwright: Yes. Please hit me with it. Let's go.
[ED PROVIDES A VERY POOR PARODY OF FRANK TURNER’S “PLAIN SAILING WEATHER,” WITH LYRICS THAT GO:]
[I’ll give you one quick round of Frank Turner’s covers
So please don’t fuck up anything, anything
It’s been a wonderful show that we’ve put together
But now we’ll do our trivia game thing]
Adam Wainwright: That was amazing, Ed. Well done.
Ed Cunard: I am very much keeping with the theme of our podcast title by singing that parody of a Frank Turner song. So is a parody a cover? I'm not sure, but what we're going to do right now is five questions about songs that Frank Turner has covered. Are you ready, Adam?
Adam Wainwright: Sure. Ed, we're going to see how this goes.
Ed Cunard: Question one: on the collection "The Second Three Years," you can hear Frank cover "On a Plain," a song this band recorded on both their major breakthrough album and on their immensely popular MTV unplugged concert and album.
Adam Wainwright: Uh, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana.
Ed Cunard: We were looking for the band. So yes, Nirvana, you have a point.
Adam Wainwright: Okay. There it is.
Ed Cunard: All right. One point for Adam. Question Two: one of the perhaps surprising things Frank did during the "Independent Venue Love" series that happened during the pandemic was a quick, special, short one where he played Disney songs. He finished that set with a song that didn't leave him all wet from this 1989 Disney animated musical.
Adam Wainwright: Did he play "Under the Sea?"
Ed Cunard: He very much did, Adam. That's two points for you.
Adam Wainwright: That's amazing. Well done, Frank. Man, I love that.
Ed Cunard: Question three also during the "Independent Venue Love" series, he covered "If I Ever Leave This World Alive" by what band?
Adam Wainwright: Flogging Molly.
Ed Cunard: Three points, Adam. You're really kicking ass today.
Adam Wainwright: Yeah, well, that was the easiest. I love Frank Turner. I've been a Flogging Molly fan since I saw them at a Radisson Hotel in Sacramento, California, back in like 2005 or something like that. The first time they called "Punk Rock Prom."
It's still one of the best concerts I've ever been to. There were like 200 people in a courtyard of a Radisson with a pool behind us. And it was, it was, it was amazing. It was, it was a great show. So I've been a fan of flogging Molly since then. They're the band I've seen the most. I've actually seen them seven times now.
Ed Cunard: Fantastic
Adam Wainwright: So yeah, I was excited for that one. Let's go ahead. Let's go to number four.
Ed Cunard: Question Four: Frank has covered a few songs from this classic rock group whose guitarist is also an astrophysicist who, in 2006, resumed the doctoral studies he left uncompleted when the band hit it big, and received his PhD from Imperial College in London. What group can claim both a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2001 and a guitarist who has worked with NASA on the subject of asteroids?
Adam Wainwright: Uh, man, I don't know. I'm going to take a guess here. Uh, the Rolling Stones.
Ed Cunard: It was Queen.
Adam Wainwright: Queen. Okay.
Ed Cunard: Now don't forget you have a hint that you can take.
Adam Wainwright: I did. I learned something today. I forgot about the hints. Honestly. Now I can use it on Question five.
Ed Cunard: You can. Also during those live streams, Frank and his wife Jess did a cover of this love theme from a classic eighties romantic comedy that was set in the sixties. Name the song.
Adam Wainwright: Love comedy that was set in the sixties… Uh, give me the hint.
Ed Cunard: The movie involved dancing.
Adam Wainwright: Oh fuck. Ah, I'm gonna forget the name of the song. It's there now. Ah, shit. Why is, why is the name of the song escaping me? See, this is what happens when pressure gets turned up. It's it's there. Um, I can't remember the name of the song. It's from Flashdance, right?
Ed Cunard: It was from Dirty Dancing. It's "(I've Had) the Time of My Life" by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes.
Adam Wainwright: Yeah. I know. I'm kicking myself. It was there.
Ed Cunard: That's okay though. You still, you still have an option to get those last two points. If you could answer the impossible bonus, are you ready for the impossible bonus?
Adam Wainwright: I'm sure this is going to go so well and I have the chance to get those last two points.
Ed Cunard: One cover that Frank has recorded and done live is "Barbara Allen", a traditional folk song. It's also been covered by the likes of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. While we can't know for certain when the song was originally written or performed, the oldest recorded mention of it that we know of is in a diary entry of Samuel Pepys, an English diarist and Naval administrator. Pepys served as Chief Secretary of the Admiralty under two British monarchs. To get the impossible bonus right, name one of them.
Adam Wainwright: Uh, King George.
Ed Cunard: We were looking for either Charles II or James II but, hey, three points is a great way to kick this off. You're technically in the lead.
Adam Wainwright: That's a great way. Yeah, you're right. It was three out of five. I'm not super happy with the performance. It should have been much higher, honestly. But I'm excited. We got to kicked off. I'm excited. It's gonna be a recurring segment on the show.
I'm really excited to give you where I have cooked up for the next episode too. So it's going to be a, it's going to be a good time.
Ed Cunard: I look forward to it.
Adam Wainwright: Let's kind of transition to the next thing we're going to talk about today. Focusing on just making music because, you know, karaoke. We've discussed if karaoke is cover songs and even with cover songs, when you're covering someone songs, you need to create something. You need to create the music you gonna put to it. You need to create the vocals. You need to sit down and record. There's, there's a lot that goes into any kind of creative process, even beyond cover songs or just writing an album or music or a song in general. What are some of the barriers that prevent you from making things Ed, because I think you're a pretty talented guy. I think you could make some beautiful things. What's the things that stop you from taking things one step further.
Ed Cunard: Honestly, Adam, for me, it is both talent and drive. I lack both of those things in a professional music kind of setting. During the pandemic. I tried to learn guitar and by trying to learn guitar, I took exactly one or two lessons, bought a cheap guitar. I was like, I'm going to do this as my pandemic project, but I was working throughout, we had the podcast. I really didn't have the time or really the drive to learn how to fumble through some things on guitar that maybe I'll come back to that someday. But like right now, that's not a thing that I'm actively working on. And I also don't think that I think in the terms that you need to write music. I could maybe write lyrics, but the actual writing of the music part, I think that part is a little bit beyond my ability. What about you?
Adam Wainwright: The writing music is beyond my ability. I can steadfastly say that. It's just not the way I'm built or the way I was raised or born. And that's a completely separate discussion, but th the musical things just never gonna happen for me. It's just not. I can write lyrics. If you give me music, I could write lyrics and put stuff to it.
I could 100% do that. I'm fully confident in that because of the way I understand the structure of the song and I could do that for you. I can come up with something. For music in particular, it's just, it's never been my thing. I have other things that I can create, you know what I'm saying?
And there are things that other people would struggle with. With theater, you know, I create, and that's something I chose to get into and there's barriers. It's like anything you just need to learn and start to understand. And I have a unique ability to innately understand a lot of stuff that goes along with theater, like people that play like eight instruments and they're like, oh, I learned this one.
I'm just going to pick up and learn this completely separate one. And they can just do that cause they innately have this gift or this sense about them. Which is amazing, but just amazing, by the way. I feel like I have that same kind of grasp on theater where I hear about techniques and something just clicks and I can just instantly apply them.
Ed, you have to have something like that with like I've known you for a long, long, long, long, long time. You have things like that. What are some things that come to mind that you can just do and they click.
Ed Cunard: Mine are not music-related, but when it comes down to it, it's, it's writing language and poetry. I just have a fundamental grasp of those things. So when I go and do a poetry reading, I often don't even have anything prepared because I know I can just put something together on the spot that, at the very least it's going to be passable. But Adam, you have made some music.
Adam Wainwright: Oh, God. Yeah, I okay. Yeah, there may be a clip that's going to be associated. We're going to see if we can dig it up from the archives. So on black Friday of this past year, cards against humanity was posting something new every half an hour where you could make money and they would PayPal you $5, like do it for five.
And so I did some ridiculous things. There's some tweets that happened. , there's just ridiculous, you know, with, you know, cards against humanity to get the sense of humor it's associated with it. So I did create a song. It's about two minutes long. There are very specific guidelines you need to follow, certain things that needed to be used. They gave you the chorus, you needed the write the verses, and one of the verses need to include a certain phrase. And it was all about what was it? Uh, what was It about Ed? I think it was about mayonnaise. But all I did is I went and found a drum machine online and looped it.
So that's the only time I've ever recorded any kind of music that was very uniquely mine and released it. We'll, we'll see if we can find the clips cause you just, you need to hear how ridiculous this thing was. . You're going to hear it in this episode maybe right here. So I'm going to assume you enjoyed that and if you didn't, I'm so sorry. Like just, just deeply, deeply, deeply sorry for that. Oh, it wasn't about mayonnaise. It was about chowder listening to it, it's about chowder. I think the line I used in there was "if chowder were a city, I'd be comptroller."
Ed Cunard: Which is a great line,
Adam Wainwright: That was a line we had to use. It's a such a good line. But that's my only musical endeavor. It's the only time I've ever created music.
Ed Cunard: As far as I'm concerned, that makes you a musician and that kind of leads into the next thing. Musicians and karaoke. We've already talked to Ben Dumm season one, episode three, the guy who has given us all of our music for our show. Thanks again, Ben. And he's terrified of karaoke cause he doesn't have his band and he doesn't have his instrument to hide behind, and karaoke is a scary thing for him and that's an interesting musician's take on it, but there's a lot of musicians who just hate the idea of karaoke. I mean, we talked about it with Douglas Wolk last season, Don Henley from the Eagles hates karaoke. There weren't for a long time official Don Henley written songs at karaoke.
Adam Wainwright: Let's just pause on Don Henley and the Eagles for a second. The thing about Don Henley and the Eagles is that I don't give a shit what they have to say. Just, just, straight up. I don't, I don't care. With karaoke specifically, I think the musical artists should be compensated when it's created. You shouldn't be stealing your karaoke tracks.
There should be some kind of compensation for their intellectual property, but at the same time, like, I don't know. I just don't like the Eagles, I guess. I'm on board with this.
Ed Cunard: Now the one thing I will say though, which cracks me up is there is a karaoke disc called "The Hits of Don and Friends." So none of them are actually written by Don Henley, but it's a lot of Eagles songs and there's also a song on there that is written by Mojo Nixon called "Don Henley Must Die."
Adam Wainwright: I am about to check this out as soon as we're finished recording.
Ed Cunard: You really should. Mojo Nixon is a, is a wonderful, wonderful thing if you haven't explored his catalog. So again, I don't want to spoil our interview with Frank Turner too much, but the fact that a musician who I legitimately adore his work is encouraging of karaoke, has done karaoke and just likes the idea of people singing, singing along to his music at shows.
I find that really encouraging cause like the, my favorite thing about karaoke is the way that guys like you and I, who are never going to be musicians, but it gives us a way to interact with the music that we love.
Adam Wainwright: And I think that's incredibly valuable too. And I think that's one of the hidden values of karaoke is having the opportunity to do so because like, listen, it also kind of breaks down economic barriers a little bit too, if we're going to get into this discussion. Because live music is great, but to interact with the music you love, sometimes there's just severe economic barriers.
I think the most recent example I heard of this is Olivia Rodrigo. Immensely popular with a younger generation than you and I are in. Okay. We're talking like the cheap seats at her concerts are going for a thousand plus dollars. That is an immense economic barrier to anybody being able to interact with her music, but at karaoke to interact and perform and share that music and be able to share it with people when you're out and about and something you love, you can do it karaoke for free. Or a small charge, depending if you're going to a private room or something like that. But you have a chance to interact with an artist in a very unique way without the economic barrier that's associated with some concerts. I think that's a beautiful thing, I really do.
Ed Cunard: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there are barriers to all sorts of things that stretch across economic lines like that, whether it's just access to the music itself, access to streaming services, access to reliable internet, or if you're somebody who makes stuff, you know, access to instruments, access to equipment, access to people to listen.
Adam Wainwright: Yeah. It's a sad reality that there's still a severe socioeconomic divide that prohibits people from engaging in sharing music or, you know, sharing their love of certain things. And the stable internet thing just trips me out on this day and age. It really does the fact that there are some areas that just still don't have access to reliable internet is just mind boggling to me.
Tying this all back into karaoke, this is, this is one of the things I love, you know? It, it, it does give you a way to engage. It's not gonna be the same as a concert. Yeah, we get it. But you go to engage, you get to share your passion with other people. And if you're in the right group, you're going to find other people who have that same passion with you. And it can form friendships that can last a lifetime.
Ed Cunard: Like us. The other thing that I found too is I've discovered a lot of music through karaoke, things that I wouldn't otherwise have ever listened to.
Adam Wainwright: Ed, what's a good example. Give me an example of something you'd never listened to, but you discovered at karaoke and now you're like, oh, this shit right here. And this is my, this is my jam.
Ed Cunard: For me, the obvious one is a lot of country music stuff that I, I have learned to love over time, partially because it's stuff that's in my range to sing, but also because I'm not seeking out country radio. I'm not seeking out country playlist on streaming apps. That's not my jam.
And then also the older I get, a lot of contemporary music that I otherwise would not listen to. I do remember the embarrassing time we were at the Castle Pub. It was before karaoke started in something came on over the jukebox. I'm like this song slaps who sings this, I'm going to buy it.
And one of our friends just like started snickering at me. It was like, you don't know who to. I was like, no, like this is Justin Bieber.
Adam Wainwright: Baby baby, baby.
Ed Cunard: No, no, no. It was after that. It was "Love Yourself." and I'm like, I don't care if this song slaps, I'm buying it right now because I buy music cause I'm old. And now I actually sometimes sing it very badly at karaoke.
Adam Wainwright: we could have an entire discussion about Justin Bieber and that song in particular, how I think that is a perfect pop song.
Ed Cunard: No question there.
Adam Wainwright: Country music is one of those things because we were doing it in Western Pennsylvania.
We were going to learn about some country when we go out there.
So I picked up some country music stuff. Although I primarily picked up a lot of country music that I listened to from the TV show "The Voice" is what really got me started on country music. I never liked hair metal. I never understood that entire movement. I, it just doesn't resonate with me in any way, but there are certain songs that I picked up. You know, through somebody saying, I really want to hear you sing this song. Can you learn it from me? I say, yeah, sure. So like, "Patience" by Guns and Roses, I think is a beautiful song. I love it. I've started to discover a lot of KISS too. I love the song "Beth" by KISS. So just an entire era of music that like never really resonated with me and because of what I've heard of karaoke, I it's something I carry with me now.
Ed Cunard: That reminds me that a lot of classic rock kind of passed me by. Like, I'm very good on old rock and roll. I'm good on oldies. I'm good on sixties, Motown soul. That's the kind of stuff that I listened to because my parents grew up listening to it and they continued listening to it when I was young, but seventies, classic rock hard rock kind of passed me by because it passed them by.
And we have a friend who was really great at karaoke. I asked him to sing the song once that I had heard him sing before. And I'm like, can you do that Billy Joel song you do? He goes, I've never sang Billy Joel at karaoke. I'm like, you know, dah, dah, dah, dah.
And it was "Fool in the Rain" by Led Zeppelin, who I had literally never listened to. And I'm like, I better go check out Led Zepplin now, because the only thing I remembered about Led Zeppelin was the compilation commercials that aired on television when I was growing up. And so I knew like the rifts from "Kashmir" and that's about it. And I mean, it's embarrassing to say, but that's how I got into led. Zeppelin was finding out that Casey's Billy Joel song was actually a Led Zeppelin song.
Adam Wainwright: That's a wonderful story. I love hearing stories of people discovering music and like sharing lists. It is something I really do appreciate about a good karaoke night. I think we've done a pretty good job of touching all the bases here. Right? I think we've, we've accomplished our mission.
We played a great game. I know there's probably people out there that are just begging for us to shut the fuck up. Right. Wouldn't you agree? I think so.
Ed Cunard: I think it's time for us to shut the fuck up, cue the guitar so we can get to the Frank Turner interview.
Adam Wainwright: There's a good chance that you're already familiar with our guest. He's an incredibly hardworking and hard traveling musician, an author, and an all-around nice guy who, you heard earlier has at least one really great karaoke story under his belt. Frank Turner, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today on "The Greatest Song Ever Sung Poorly."
Frank Turner: Uh, I love the name of the podcast. Thank you for having me. It's nice to be here and, uh, and to indeed to revive these memories.
Ed Cunard: We're so excited to talk to you. I mean, aside from being big fans of your work, we wanted to have you on specifically because of that story you told on Liam Bird's podcast about how you celebrated finishing your "Poetry of the Deed" album by going to karaoke?
Frank Turner: Well, it wasn't quite that simple. Um, but, uh, that's the broad outlines. I mean, are we diving into this? Like tell the story properly?
Ed Cunard: We're actually excerpting it.
Frank Turner: Are you excerpting it? Okay. Well, I mean, I can't quite remember how in depth I was about it, but yeah, we've, we've finished the record and, I didn't go to a karaoke bar specifically.
I went out to get very drunk with a friend of mine. Who's a nuclear physicist I might add. and, uh, he's, he's at Yale, I think I'm right in saying, or he was at the time. I think he's now weirdly in Idaho. Anyway. Um, and Yale, you can get to Yale to New York City from Yale quite easily. Right. Um, and yeah, he just like got a train down and he was just like, let's get smashed.
And, uh, karaoke was a feature of the evening and then we got thrown out.
Ed Cunard: Right, because it was the five minute version, not the nine minute version.
Frank Turner: I know this is completely unconscionable.
Adam Wainwright: And I feel like most karaoke stories start with that. Like with a friend that comes in, it's like, Hey, let's go get hammered and then karaoke comes along, so
Frank Turner: So I, by the way, I have another karaoke story, this completely demented as well. If you want to hear that briefly.
Ed Cunard: Absolutely. Without question.
Adam Wainwright: We absolutely do.
Frank Turner: Okay. I figured that it would be useful for this, A long, long time ago, when I was like 18 probably, I was doing some kind of backpacking cause I'm middle-class around Southeast Asia. I was with some friends and we were in Cambodia. And we crossed the border and we'd sort of been picked up by this young girl who was sort of showing us around. And this is a standard thing. They kind of there'll be kids who will hang around, be your sort of tour guide. And then they get some money at the end of it. She was genuinely lovely. And at a certain point we were in Phnom Penh and it was my then girlfriend's birthday who I was traveling with and, and our guide found this out and said, oh, we should have a party and took us to karaoke place, right, with her family. But here's the thing about karaoke in Southeast Asia. It is not a public performance over there. You do it in a private room with the people you came with and no one else. Right. So we're this, we're in this like really small kind of living room type thing with a big screen and speakers and a microphone.
And like her family, none of whom speak a lick of English. then like the four of us are traveling together and there's this huge karaoke menu. And it's all like Cambodian pop music in Khmer. And like, none of us have any fucking idea what any of these songs are. And we can't read the Khmer language or indeed pronounce it or anything and feeling really like fish out of water.
And then I was going through it and they had "Bohemian Rhapsody" and I was like, oh, okay. I know that song. That's fine. But the thing is, none of them had ever heard the song "Bohemian before. And the thing about it from a distance for a second, like if you've never heard the song, "Bohemian Rhapsody" before, It's quite a startling generally, and secondly, this was a badly recorded karaoke version of it.
Adam Wainwright: Oh man.
Frank Turner: wasn't a hundred percent correct. And it's kind of layout of the timing and everything. And thirdly, I was pissed and singing it quite badly and it's kind of stead house. Like we were doing fucking drugs and they was just like, what is wrong with these people?
I think it was kind of the end of the evening. They would just like, okay, thanks, bye. Um, it was, it was pretty awkward.
Adam Wainwright: That is just the spirit of karaoke right there. It either goes one way or the other, and that kind of just encapsulates everything, especially doing karaoke in Southeast Asia. Like Yeah. That's that's a good one. so I saw the punk rock karaoke band posts that have karaoke from home video of you doing that classic Sex Pistols song with them during the pandemic. Did you get into the punk rock karaoke when you were with flogging Molly on the salty dog cruises?
Frank Turner: Man you're really pulling the stories out today. I did. I mean, it's quite bad though, because, so you ever been on this either the sorts of deal or any of those kinds of cruises that they do. Have been on one of those?
Adam Wainwright: Not yet. Still, still working on that one. Desperately want to one day. Yeah.
Frank Turner: They're great, but they're completely demented in the sense that you have like a mountain of maniacs with a free bar, trapped on a ship at sea, you cannot escape. Just everybody gets completely hammered. uh, the punk rock karaoke thing is so cool and it was going on. And actually I think I'm right in saying when the first year I was on the boat, Steve Soto was running it the late great departed Steve, who toured with many years ago, he was an old friend.
And the thing is like, I remember being at punk rock karaoke, and I remember I'd finished all the shows that I had to play. So, you know, like the gloves were off in terms of my sobriety and this kind of thing. And then like, I sort of vaguely remembered that I did a song. But, uh, it wasn't until like footage came to light.
you like the true enormity of what I'd actually tried to do, I basically got up on stage and was like, yeah, I'll do a Sex Pistols song. And I was like, I don't need the lyrics. like, I, on a real punk, I don't need the lyrics to the Sex Pistols song. I know the lyrics. And then of course, I mean, I think I've got a reasonable handle on the lyrics to, to like, um, God save the queen, but like was hammered.
And, there's a difference between singing along to a song like on a, when a band is playing it and you actually like leading vocally, do you know what I mean? So I basically just got up and went like three minutes and then stage dive um, to, to, I think the bemusement of everybody who was there,
Ed Cunard: So you've done nearly 2,600 shows and people pay to see you perform. As an actual musician--
Frank Turner: --sorry, as a follow-up of that previous thing, just like, yeah, the fucking idiots Sorry.
Ed Cunard: What's doing karaoke like for someone like you?
Frank Turner: I mean, it's, it's different. Um, it's, it's, uh, it's a different, um, autistic endeavor. I don't know if karaoke is an artistic endeavor, but like it is, I mean, particularly if you're doing it along with like a prerecorded track, that's a slightly strange thing. And, um, I mean, ultimately it's supposed to be fun.
Do you know what I mean? So it's, and it's not that I don't enjoy my shows, but there's perhaps more than just getting pissed with your mates and having a laugh going on. When I'm doing a show, there was some sort of artistic intent, hopefully, and, and maybe even like a panoply of, uh, emotions to engage with.
Adam Wainwright: Hm.
Frank Turner: you're doing "Bat Out of Hell" you're just kind of panic it out. and as karaoke, I'm not doing the song down, obviously. Um, but, uh, so it is different. I mean, doing the band is kind of between those two experiences, but, um, I mean, it can be quite weird because people were like, oh, you're a singer, you should do karaoke. And. Yeah, I dunno. It's a little bit busman's holiday sometimes.
Ed Cunard: Yeah. I mean, my thought on it was like, I know you're a big T. S. Eliot fan, like you're out there daring to disturb the universe, Adam and I are daring to eat a peach.
Adam Wainwright: Yeah.
Frank Turner: I mean, I would be very flattered to discover that my efforts disturb the universe, how pleasant to think,
Adam Wainwright: So, have you ever been in a bar or a pub or some kind of setting where you heard someone singing one of your songs during karaoke?
Frank Turner: Not during karaoke. People have done covers of my songs while I've been in the room sometimes once, mean a few times, and sometimes it's been inadvertent and that's kind of it's, it can be a little awkward, but it's also insanely flattering, do you know what I mean? Because without wanting to get overly philosophical about this, there is a part of me... when I was kid a big way that I learned about music was sitting around on camping holidays with my sisters and my friends. And we'd play, you know, Weezer, Counting Crows, probably um, uh, Soul Asylum because I'm fucking ancient and whatever else. And, and, you know, they sort of in the process became our songs.
You know what I mean? I've long said, and it is a line, but it's also true that like one of my sort of greatest ambitions for my stuff is that somewhere there's a campfire out there with kids sitting around playing my songs, what a beautiful thought. And if you see that kind of in the wild, that's a beautiful thing.
And I've encountered buskers playing my songs at times as well, which is fucking amazing. it's slightly different when somebody sees that you're in the room and decides to crack out one of your tunes. That's a bit like really dude, like, you know what I mean? It's like, um, that that's a slightly different thing.
And obviously, you know, there are different levels of skill involved in these things. And, and every time somebody plays a song, they should own it and make it their own and all the rest of it. But I mean, arguably playing it badly as a form of owning it, but I don't know, I don't want to do anybody down, but it's... I mean, ultimately if somebody is playing one of my songs, that's sensational, I have heard that there are some karaoke playlists that exist that have karaoke versions of my songs. And I've not, I don't think I've encountered that in the wild myself. But I wouldn't do one, by the way, if that was going to be your question. I mean, how, how up your own ass could you possibly be?
Adam Wainwright: That may be the most up your own ass you can possibly be. That might be the sterling example of that. It really may be.
Frank Turner: To search through a karaoke library for yourself and then fucking do it. I mean, come on. I'd imagine Bono might do that, but that's Bono.
Ed Cunard: So, my last live show before Corona hit and my first one back when things opened back up for a bit at Mr. Smalls in Pittsburgh, and I love how you encourage everyone to sing along with rule number two at your shows, how did that start, and what was the reason?
Frank Turner: Um, that's a good question. I mean, the, the, the two rules thing, um, uh, kind of evolved over time. I mean, I don't script what I say on stage because Jesus Christ. But like at the same time, I mean, I guess there was a moment probably like more than a decade ago now where it, so. Uh, you know, I remain kind of wedded to anarchism in some ways.
And like, I'm not super interested in there being a hierarchy in anything in life, particularly. And then there is one of the show because some people are standing on the raised up bit of flooring and everyone's looking at them and some people aren't, and there's good reasons for that. Nevertheless, you know, I don't want to, I don't want to like exercise any power from the stage or whatever, but ultimately over time you realize that you can influence the environment in the room in which you're playing and therefore you should use that for good, rather than ill, um, in my opinion.
and, uh, you know, so, and, and it's sort of codified over time that the two rules the first one, don't be a dickhead and second one sing along. And the singalong thing, I mean, it's just like, I fucking love it when people sing along at a show. I, and, and not just from the ego stroking sense of like it's w and it is it, you know, and it's fucking sensational for a room full of people on the other side of the world to sing along with the song that you wrote in your bedroom.
if I'm in a crowd, I mean, is there anything more exciting than that moment of singing along? It's just when a, when a room explodes in voice, it's kind of breaking the fourth wall. It's the moment that music really demonstrates that it's a collectivist activity. And that's the thing that I really value. I mean, it's to pick up a specific example, the first proper full capacity show back, was that I did, which is in July last year here in the UK, it had been a really stressful day because some people didn't think that we should be doing it and the rules have changed, but like there's a lot of kerfuffle around the show and I'd never, I hadn't been in a room with 1200 people in it for quite a long time and a lot of nerves and it was all a bit weird.
And then my buddy, Jerry opened up the show and he played in an Oasis cover. Now I am not an Oasis fan. I don't like wish them ill, but they're just not for me. he played an Oasis song and the whole fucking room sung along with it. I just burst into tears because it was the first time I had heard that sound in the in more than a year. And you know, it's just a magic thing, you know, it's, it's, it's comedian is what it is.
Adam Wainwright: That's a great word for it, man. Yeah. That's see. Now I'm getting all the feels. I been able to get back to like one of those environments yet. Like those packed shows. So I'm getting, like, just hearing you talk about your experiences where it's like giving me like chills in my body right now.
Frank Turner: Yeah. Yeah. When you, when you find yourself able and comfortable and all the rest of it to be back in that environment, again, like bring some fucking tissues cause you're going to cry. uh, and, and I did, and then pretty much everybody did that show. I mean, I cried a number of times, um, including on fucking stage, like, it was it's a, is a cliche and it's been talked about endlessly, but like ultimate and you can't talk about it without mentioning Joni Mitchell, but like, you don't know what you got til it's gone.
And we all to a million shows, we'll play them and their shows and it was just part of our everyday every week, whatever. And to have it taken away and voluntarily for such a long time, you realize how important is your life or at
least I do. And, to have it back again is a very, very meaningful thing.
Adam Wainwright: Your next album is due out this week and you did all the work on it throughout the pandemic, which is clear in "The Gathering" and "Haven't Been Doing So Well." How did you know this thing that we've all been collectively living through really impact you and your writing and create a process?
Frank Turner: Uh, well, mean, for me, I mean, it was, it was a pretty severe impact. It was for everybody, of course, but like, I hate special pleading, but ultimately like my job is to travel around and gather people together in confined spaces, like... the pandemic affects everybody. I think it possibly affected people who do what I do for a living more than some, let's say that. And it was difficult on the identity level, like who the fuck am I? If I'm not the guy who's on tour, you know what I mean? I don't know where the, um, but it was also difficult financially. Do you know what I mean? And it impacted my life enormously and, uh, I moved house and all this kind of stuff. So, it's, um, been, uh, quite impactful.
In terms of the record. I mean, like, I didn't want to make a lockdown album and I like to think it's not a lockdown album, but at the same time, art is supposed to reflect life and we are all living through this enormous thing. And it would be kind of insane slightly ersatz to write a record that sort of pretended it wasn't happening at all.
And it affected the methodology of the record. I had lot more time to write and to demo, I wrote 28 songs for this record. That's way more than I usually would. We made the record in this slightly odd remote fashion. I've still never met anyone who played drums on this record. It's crazy. there's four drummers on the record.
I parted ways with my long-term drummer, which was a sadness, but we have Ilan Ruben from Nine Inch Nails plays most of the record, and Don from Muse, Don Howard, um, Jason from Death Cab For Cutie and your man from They Might Be Giants. Fucking A, like, but it's, uh, we've never been in the same room. It's completely insane.
When we made the record in that remote fashion, I was thinking it would be difficult to navigate and might impact the record negatively and all the rest of it. And I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it actually brought a shitload of focus to the proceedings because there was so much kind of technical setup to get into a place where, you know, we had the producer was in Vermont and we were in Oxford and the producer was on a laptop screen, you know, on top of the mixing desk and stuff.
And once, uh, audio feeds being sent through the ether and all this shit, and once everything was in place, it was like, we better fucking work. You know? So actually it was a really focused experience, you know, there was no, we didn't spend the first half of the day mucking around with weird guitars or showing each other funny cat videos we online or whatever. We just kind of did the fucking work. So it was actually really, really kind of drilled experience in a way that really enjoy,
Ed Cunard: Wow. That's fantastic. Thanks for sharing that. We know you have a lot going on with the album release and getting shows rescheduled, so we'd like to cut our normal quick-fire game down from an EP length to a single length question.
Frank Turner: You know, what man. I mean, I was going to say, I like quickfire rounds, want to do it properly, feel free.
Adam Wainwright: Let's do it. real quick then.
Frank Turner: Let's do it. Let's do it. I will make it. Yeah, I've got, I've got a break after this. We can just screw into the break. It's fine.
Adam Wainwright: Let's let's let's go. Let's go. Okay. Frank, what's the best thing you've seen the karaoke.
Frank Turner: The best thing I've seen at karaoke...
Adam Wainwright: the best thing you've
Frank Turner: oh, uh, um, I mean, uh, uh, my sister singing Bonnie Tyler songs.
Adam Wainwright: That's solid.
Ed Cunard: What's the worst thing you've seen at karaoke?
Frank Turner: Um, definitely myself in the mirror, above the bar. Um, unquestionably.
Adam Wainwright: Okay. What's the one song you would love to sing a karaoke that you just never be able to find an adequate instrumental for.
Frank Turner: Well at the risk of sounding up my own ass, I have a reasonably broadened at times, obscurantist taste and music. Um, there's of stuff I like that, that wouldn't be on there. I mean, it's slightly complicated by the fact that I often cover songs live, which is not the same as karaoke I'm aware, but like, um, I dunno, I'm not sure I've ever seen a, an instrumental for "Hammer Smashed Face" by Cannibal Corpse anywhere. Um, and that that'd be a laugh.
Ed Cunard: So let's say that you're in a brand new place while traveling, and you only have the chance to sing one song at this karaoke night you've been drug to. What song do you pick to make your mark on that karaoke night?
Frank Turner: "Bat Out of Hell," the full nine-minute version, that's where this conversation began. It's like, I sort of feel like there's a question every person should be asked, which is the one you just asked me the way I would phrase it was like, imagine that somebody kidnapped your family and the only way to release them is to wow someone with a karaoke performance and what song do you choose, and "Bat Out of Hell.". And we haven't mentioned this yet, but rest in peace, the great Meatloaf.
Adam Wainwright: Oh, yes.
Ed Cunard: We did also send you a nine-minute copy of the karaoke version of that.
Frank Turner: You did!
Ed Cunard: So you never have to be thrown out of a bar again.
Frank Turner: I know. Yes, of course. I have been practicing at home.
Adam Wainwright: Our favorite question to ask everybody, cause we always get such wildly varied responses on this and we love it so much. So if you could magically strike one song from every karaoke playlist forever, what would it be?
Frank Turner: Only one?
Adam Wainwright: Only one.
Frank Turner: Can I, can I pick one band?
Adam Wainwright: Yeah. That's let's go one band.
Frank Turner: And just... I mean... I mean, I know the thing. Okay. I'm going to preface this by saying that I'm old enough now to be aware that kind of negativity is a of energy and that ultimately any band that is successful and that pleases its fans, good luck to them. Do you know what I mean?
Like if, just because you don't like it, who fucking cares, like if there's bands out there that's playing music and doing well, I wish them all the best-- that is true. Having said all that I just cannot fucking stand the music of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Um, and if it was to not, I mean, ultimately I can leave the karaoke bar, you know what I mean?
It's like, I don't need to delete it if other people want to sing it, then fucking have at it. But like, it really brings me out in like hives, ughh.
Adam Wainwright: See, this is what we love, that we've had had responses from like, what was the last one we did that we just did an interview the other day. We had somebody respond with just another wild answer that we didn't expect. So this is why we love this question so much. but we really appreciate you, Frank. That's all the questions we had for you today. We know you have a new album coming out in just a couple of days. Tell people about it, where they can find it? Give them the downlow.
Frank Turner: Sure. There's my ninth album, which is a crazy thing to say out loud. It's called F.T.H.C. It is me venturing back into punk rock territory for the first time in a little while, uh, quite a long while actually. Um, so it's a, it's a heavy record. And I'm excited about it. I'm very proud of it and you can find it in, on the internet and all the places that you would normally find music.
Was that enough as a sales pitch?
Ed Cunard: I've already pre-ordered so, I mean…
Frank Turner: Okay. Well, thank you very much. I appreciate that.
Adam Wainwright: Well, you should too. Yeah, everybody should pre-order. Do it.
Frank Turner: yeah,
I mean, if there's one thing that musicians love, it's a preorder.
Ed Cunard: Frank, thank you so much for taking the time to hop on and talk with us about karaoke today. Is this the weirdest music related podcast interview request you've ever had?
Frank Turner: Ah, there's a question. Um, I mean, I'm struggling to think of specific examples of weirder ones I've. I don't mean that as an insult. Um, So it's up there. Definitely. I'm not, I've done a lot of interviews in my time, so I'm going to just slightly, um, mull over the top spot for a minute, but, uh, you're, you're in the top 10 for sure.
Top five Fuck it. Top five. There you go.
Adam Wainwright: Hey, listen. It always feels great to be in the top five of anything. As far as I'm concerned, we're very proud of the little old like niche we found in the world. Frank, we sincerely appreciate it. And I personally can't wait to get back to one of your shows and just be part of that environment you were describing. And I mean, it's like,
Frank Turner: Thank you.
Adam Wainwright: We didn't talk about this a little bit at the top, but it's really magical. I mean, I've had a chance to see you. I saw you once in Cleveland with my brother who was a die-hard fan, by the way, he's going to be extremely jealous that we've had time to sit here and talk today. I saw you in Cleveland with Flogging Molly, and it's just an experience I'll never forget. It's one of my favorite concerts of all time.
Frank Turner: Oh, my goodness. Was that the one that was outside,
It was laid down by the river.
Oh, that fucking show. God damn it. Let me tell you just, I know, look, we finished this up, but I'm going to finish. I'm a raconteur. Sue me. The night before that we were in Detroit and Nathan fucking Maxwell from Flogging Molly got me so wasted the night before that that it was like, there is an age that you reach, I just turned 40, there an age that you reach, where you really start to understand what the word hangover can actually mean. And like I spent all day that until about two minutes before we went on wondering whether I was going to be able to do the show, I was like, was, I was a fucking Jackson Pollock of a man.
Like it was, it was... I was completely fucked all day. And like my tour manager was like, do we need to cancel the show kind of thing? And it was like, oh, I'll go on. I'll make it work. And then somehow the gods of rock and roll pulled me back into shape. And I seem to remember it being a pretty fucking good show, but, uh, it's worth saying that it happened by the skin of my teeth.
Adam Wainwright: From somebody who was in the audience, I did not notice and did not care. I thought it was awesome.
Frank Turner: Okay, well, this is a relief.
Ed Cunard: Again, Frank, thank you so much for joining us today. It was a pleasure seeing you at Mr. Smalls. It was a pleasure seeing you here. And I look forward to seeing you again, sometime in the future, singing at a screen at karaoke maybe, or at least at a show.
Frank Turner: At a to show, and this is, I promise you, this is the last thing I'm going to say. We're about to announce an absolutely gigantic US tour. So, brace yourselves.
Adam Wainwright: That is the best. I'm braced, now. This is the best news ever. Thanks again.
Frank Turner: My pleasure. Thank you guys. See you again. Take care.
Adam Wainwright: We'd like to thank each and every one of you for joining us today on the debut of Season Two. That still is wild to me. Thank you so much for listening. If you liked what you heard or you just want to engage with us a little bit more, there's plenty of ways you can do so. You can follow us on Twitter @sungpoorly. Send us an email (sungpoorly at gmail dot com) or subscribe and leaving review on Spotify, iTunes—any of those. Send us a message. Hop on Facebook, join our group there. Please let us know what you think. Let us know what you’d like to see. We're open to ideas. We just want to talk to people who are passionate about karaoke, and if you've made it this far, that's you.
Ed Cunard: We'd also like to thank friend of the show Ben Dumm for the theme song "Gasoline." Make sure you check out his latest project the Ben Dumm 3 on Spotify or other music platforms.
Adam Wainwright: And make sure to tune in in two weeks, when we talk about the healing and therapeutic aspects that karaoke can bring you. Well, that's it, that's all there is no more. So until next time, I'm Adam Wainwright.
Ed Cunard: I'm Ed Cunard.
Adam Wainwright: And remember that singing off key is still technically singing.