Good news for those who have missed it… Years after the release of their EP Midlife Noises, rockers TRANK are back with a brand new album, titled “The Ropes”. The latter is indeed available since September 15th on major streaming platforms. Michel, (vocals, programming), was kind enough to answer a couple of questions for us. Check out the full interview below!
Hello Trank, thanks for your time. Would it be possible to introduce your band to our readers, as well as your roles in it?
Sure. We’re a fully independent band – all French and living in France but very close to Geneva, Switzerland. Julien (guitars) and myself (vocals and synths / programming) first met in 2015, Johann (drums) joined us soon afterwards. He was an old friend from work whom I knew to be a great drummer in search for a project, so I called him when we realized there was something really worth progressing in our first demos. But the band in its final incarnation exists since late 2016 when David (bass) joined, after we went through a fairly long series of candidates. That’s when the final brick in our sound and gang dynamics fell into place.
You’ve been working for a while on your new album, “The Ropes”. How was the writing process for this new record?
Yeah, you might say we’ve been working on it for the past 30 or 40 years… Seriously though, we are horrible perfectionists so we took our sweet time getting the pre production, recording, mix and mastering exactly right. But songwriting is actually a little easier and it’s definitely a very organic group process. The core melodic idea (typically the riff and most of the chord changes) will always come from one of us – most of the time Julien, sometimes David, sometimes myself. But then developing that idea into a song is a group process.
Johann usually works with me on structuring the basic idea into a fully-formed backbone for the song. And if one track feels too full-on, then I might add a part that opens it up a little. Once we’ve got something that works we put it in the practice room and work on the arrangement as a band – bass / drums / guitar first. Then, I’ll take it home again to work on enhancing the feel and atmosphere with electronics (I collect vintage synths). Then we’ll have another go at refining everything together in the room, let it rest for a few weeks, and finally I’ll find a line in my notebook of lyrics ideas that feels like a good fit for the mood and sound of the instrumental – and create the vocal on top.
What do you hope your fans will take from this new release?
The intense and mind-opening pleasure of being drawn into a world and a sound that they haven’t experienced before, and where they find high-energy emotion that they want to come back to, over and over again. We’re getting overwhelmingly positive reviews about the album, and they all point to the fact that we’re a hard act to pigeonhole or label. We love that. We have very eclectic, complementary tastes, from 90’s alternative metal to 80’s electronic post punk to contemporary alt rock to new-prog. And we all bring that to the party with TRANK. The result is there’s a coherence but also a diversity within our music, which we hope people get – and we’re seeing that in the reviews.
What makes a TRANK song recognizable is the fact that walks across a couple of thin, crucial lines. We want it to feel intense and emotional BUT also accessible and full of infectious power, we want it to sound sharp and massive BUT also layered and complex enough that you can hear new details every time you listen. We want it to go through light AND shade at the right pace, so you create a coherent atmosphere but people don’t get bored – either within a song or all the way through a concert or an album.
Plus each of us has a recognizable sound, a tone – which becomes part of the band’s identity. And for those who pay attention to the lyrics as well – we love the notion of words catchy enough you sing along to them. But with enough depth and multiple meanings that they evoke interesting thoughts and emotions in your mind. If people feel AND think when listening to us (there’s that AND word again), we’ve done the job.
Releasing something often means tour support. Do you guys already have some dates planned for the end of the year or 2021?
We’re like everyone else – stuck while we wait for the air to clear. But if all goes well we DO have one date planned. A release celebration gig for the album, planned November 7th, 2020, in a really cool venue, the CCO in Lyon. We’re sharing the stage with two cult French acts of the area – our friends of Perséide, and Stereotypical Working Class, who are very much young veterans of the local scene.
You’ve also released a music video for the title track, “The Ropes”. How was the shooting experience?
Mind-blowing. We wrote the concept with our visual director, Alban Verneret, based on the meaning of the song. I suggested the idea of a reference to bondage and he came up with Shibari – the Japanese art and discipline of bondage. He happens to know practitioners of it and they jumped aboard immediately. After the band were done shooting our own sequences we sat and watched the artists at work – and it was such an intensely spiritual experience. We were NEVER this quiet!
Hopefully that sort of immaculate sense of spirituality shows in both the video and the album design, which was taken from it. Also, it keeps us from the sort of black-leather-and-chains clichés that usually come up when a rock band or artists goes into S&M land. Doing our own thing is just as important visually as it is musically and sonically.
What is the story behind this song?
“The Ropes” talks about the invisible bonds that may restrain us in our daily lives without us even noticing. It’s narrated from the point of view of a manipulative pervert who approaches someone less experienced and promises to “show them” those ropes. But in the end, it isn’t about freeing them – it’s about replacing the ropes with new ones. Like all of our songs, you can read it on several levels. We’re not the first ones to come up with an analogy between S&M sex and other, broader aspects of life, but hopefully we’ve put our own spin on it.
When the album was written, we stepped back and realized most of the songs were about relationships and connections in some way, shape or form. So that song, being the most explicit on that theme, felt like a good title track for the whole album. But also, there’s that phrase about “showing someone the ropes,” as in “the basics.” And this is our first album, so it felt like an appropriate title from that point of view as well.
To finish, what is one lesson you’ve learned that you think is important to pass onto other bands?
We’re literally just starting so it’d be really presumptuous of us to give anyone lessons about anything. I can tell you we’ve worked with a couple of principles that have helped us so far, and we’ve learned a few things. First off – we make the music we want to hear. That’s based on what we love to listen to as individuals, but also on what comes to us naturally as a band when we get together. So we’re not trying to force anything, we’re not imitating anyone, or putting up any barriers to what we do. We just grasp what we’re good at and makes us feel good when we play it, and that nurtures both our friendship and the music.
The second principle is that we never half-do anything. If it sounds half-done it sounds bad. So we do take our time beating the songs into submission to the last detail, for maximum effect. And I think it’s easy to forget the value of working hard on perfecting your sound and performance and arrangements, in an age when technology makes it very easy to get to something “decent” quickly. And most people are satisfied with that. Well, decent isn’t good enough.
Last but not least – we only truly learned exactly how big we wanted to sound when we started to get those huge gigs opening for rock giants (Deep Purple, Anthrax, Papa Roach, Disturbed) – in enormous arenas. So play live – your identity as a band will be shaped first in the practice room. But how it sounds on stage in front of an audience will help you find out more about what kind of band you want to be.
Thanks for your time!