When Frank Turner hits the stage at 11:30 a.m. (you read that right) at West Columbia's New Brookland Tavern on June 24 for a special solo matinee performance, it will be his 14th show in 11 days, and that’s before he plays The Fillmore Charlotte later in the evening with the full band.
It’s all part of his audacious, somewhat preposterous idea to play shows in all 50 states in 50 days. Turner has the advantage of playing early daylight shows in smaller, independent venues, where he toured relentlessly in his younger years, in addition to more conventional shows at mainstream clubs.
Turner, who spent much of the pandemic performing livestreamed shows to support grassroots music venues during the shutdown, said that clubs like New Brookland Tavern are still “the place I feel most at home on the road,” but admits that the matinee shows were mainly added to complete the 50 days gambit. In fact, Turner has been as regular a presence at the West Columbia rock club as someone of his stature and origin (he's from England) can be — playing in 2014 and 2011.
The idea to tour all 50 states in the same number of days came to him in part because his backing band The Sleeping Souls has a new drummer, Callum Green, who has never been to the States before, and that Turner himself has still never played Wyoming, South Dakota and Hawaii.
“I thought it’d be funny to start him off right,” he cracked, “but also partly because it’s a cool idea. I mean, it might kill me, but it was also my idea, so I can’t really blame anyone else.”
Another advantage to the whiplash pace of the tour is that it matches the ferocious spirit of “FTHC,” Turner’s 9th solo LP and perhaps the most electrically punk punk record he’s made since his days in the hardcore outfit Million Dead.
The opening track “Non Serviam” is a barrelhouse punk rock thrall that features Turner shouting over the din with an aggression almost entirely absent from his last two records, 2019’s history-minded concept album “No Man’s Land” and the relatively mellower protest record “Be More Kind” from 2018. Things rarely slow down from there, with the 40-year-old Turner summoning all the spit and vinegar of his youth.
Turner said he didn’t set out to write a “return to punk record,” but that it just came naturally given his 2020 split with NOFX and some recent pre-pandemic touring with more “traditionally punk” bands.
“I just felt quite at home in that arena, and that maybe I hadn’t been ‘home’ in quite a while, musically,” he noted. “I’m fiercely proud of every record that I’ve made, but it did feel good to come back around to the music of my youth, of my first instincts, again.”
That loud, forthright musical stance was paired with some of Turner’s most vulnerable and personal lyrical subject matter to date, from chronicling his rough childhood to coming to terms with his father’s recent gender transition, to his struggles with cocaine addiction.
“I wanted to get loud, but the pandemic enabled me to spend more time getting louder,” Turner explained. “The same applies to being more viscerally personal; I was going that way anyway, but then I had a lot more time to work on it than anticipated. There was a sense of, ‘if I'm going to broach these subjects, let's do it properly.’”
For all of its raucous punk rock sound and attitude though, FTHC still fits comfortably in Turner’s catalog, with big hooks, folk rock structures, winding lyrical one-liners, and choruses that stick inside your head for days.
What the album does suggest, though, is that Turner might be entering a new period of his career, one less concerned with what his relationship to punk rock or folk or pop-rock is than how to further his own particular musical vision.
“When I'm in a room full of civilians (for want of a better word), I am the punkest motherfucker you ever did see, to borrow a phrase. When I'm in a room full of punks, I tend to be the concept's harshest critic, he said. “Which is, I think, the punk rock approach. Is that meta enough?”
“It's kind of healthier, at my advanced age, to be dispensing with role models and just seeing what works, I think.”