There’s no place like home for making music, according to The Frank.
The Blackfalds rock group that started out as a high school band in 1997 has become something of a local institution with its live shows at Red Deer’s The Vat regularly drawing a loyal horde of followers.
Many of the group’s Central Alberta fans will undoubtedly congregate at Alberta’s Own Independent Music Festival, from Aug. 29 to 31 at the Tail Creek Raceways in Nevis. The festival will feature performances by The Frank, along with Monster Truck, Throne of Vengeance and other bands.
It’s this listener devotion — as well as the overriding love of music — that’s kept the group going over the last 15 years, through many personnel changes and a short-term switch in locale.
“We do this for ourselves and the people who want to hear us,” said lead singer/guitarist Denver Swainson, The Frank’s only remaining original member.
While the band was started by three high school friends, it gradually expanded to a quartet as various musicians left and were replaced. The group now also consists of bassist Joe Miller, guitarist/backing vocalist Sara Page (who became Swainson’s wife, following a quickie Las Vegas chapel wedding a couple of years ago), and drummer John Page, Sara’s brother.
Swainson recalled he and the rest of The Frank headed out to Los Angeles for a six-month stretch a while back, only to return with a heightened appreciation of opportunities in Central Alberta.
Compared to L.A.’s “oversaturated” music scene, which leaves a lot of very talented bands competing for limited live performance venues, Central Alberta is “wonderful,” said Swainson.
He noted tons of local venues now book live music, and these businesses and other bands in the music community are very supportive.
Outside this nurturing bubble, however, things are tough for bands aiming for big-time success.
“The music industry is so difficult to break into right now,” with so many people downloading music, leaving record companies feeling the pinch, said Swainson.
While in L.A., he witnessed even seasoned performers who’d played in prominent bands struggling to launch solo projects.
“The answer isn’t necessarily a change in geography,” he said. The solution for The Frank has been not worrying too much about chasing major success, but focusing on personal growth and development as a band.
“It would be nice to make a living as a full-time musician,” said Swainson, who is influenced by Neil Young and Jimi Hendrix and works as an electrician in his other life.
But he and other group members are satisfied to balance their day jobs with weekend music gigs in Red Deer, and occasionally Calgary and Edmonton.
“I’m happy with whatever comes our way,” he said.
The next project will be recording a new long-awaited full-length album to follow Blackfalds Revisited from 2005 (several EPs were recorded in the interim). No decisions have been made on producers or recording studios yet, so fans might have to wait a while longer for a finished recording.
In the interim, they can still rock out to old favourites like Slick Your Hair Back, or the title track from Blackfalds Revisited, which recounts a night when the band was just starting out playing at the Blackfalds Motor Inn.
Unsurprisingly, Swainson’s group has stayed dedicated to that very first venue, continuing to perform at its annual Halloween parties. “We’ve been really lucky to have such a loyal following. They’re a really good bunch of people,” said the singer.
For more information about the 13th annual Alberta’s Own Independent Music Festival at Nevis, visit www.albertasown.ca.
The Frank next plays at The Vat on Sept. 19. For more information about that show, call 403-346-5636.