It started like a scene from The Commitments.
– Hello, Glen?
– It’s Frank Shouldice from Irish America magazine.
– Oh, how’s it going? Is this for an interview?
– Well, we have one scheduled.
– Oh right. I’m just having me dinner at the moment. Could you ring back?
Glen Hansard is founder find front man of The Frames, once featured as Outspan, the woolly-headed guitarist from The Commitments. As soon as the credits rolled he wanted to move on, but it’s now ten years since the movie. Enough distance for the Dubliner to talk about it comfortably once more.
“The minute it was finished I was out of there,” he says. “I loved it and was proud to be involved but I needed to get back to me band. What I’m not into is doing interviews with people who want to talk to Outspan instead of catching up with what I’m doing now.”
It amazes him that some of the film’s original cast are still living off The Commitments. Hansard has never hidden a burning ambition to push his own musical career and with The Frames (www.theframes.ie) he has done just that. It has been a long haul, but the band’s excellent fourth album, For the Birds, has opened ears and doors worldwide.
“It’s been an amazing year,” enthuses the singer-songwriter. “So many good things have landed in our lap and for the first time it feels like we’re a legitimate rock band that’s getting every opportunity we deserve.”
The five-piece toured the U.S. twice this year and were joined onstage in Atlanta for a jam session by members of Ash and Coldplay. “It just happened naturally and it was a great night. What I find with American audiences is they respect hard work. If you come and make an effort they seem to support that. We have a solid fan base in New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle, but everywhere else is still hard graft. We’ve never had a machine behind us in the States but now we got that support in place.”
Apart from a couple of visits to growing Frames strongholds in the Czech Republic and middle Europe, a highlight of 2002 was the band’s first concerts in Australia. “Unbelievable,” laughs Hansard. “I think if you’re popular in Ireland you’ll find that Irish fans abroad are the greatest ambassadors you could have. Our concert in Sydney was sold out. Everybody knew we were coming, but only about a quarter of the 1,200 crowd were actually Irish.
“We’ve played England a lot. It’s hard to talk about England without sounding prejudiced, but I’ve never felt the love or the good vibes there. In America it’s the other extreme. You nearly get favorable treatment because you are Irish, and I don’t think that’s fair. It should be down to writing a good tune and good music.”
Known for big live performances — they really give it everything — The Frames are already recording their fifth album. With exquisite electric violin playing from Colm McAnIomaire, For the Birds is a fine work, soulful and reflective and well worth a listen. For anyone curious about the band’s name, it came from Glen Hansard’s boyhood enthusiasm for repairing bicycles. According to suburban legend, bicycle parts used to lie strewn around the garden, and the Hansard home became known as `the house with the frames.’ So there you go! ♦