It has been quite a while, but Framing Hanley made their way back to the Southland at last, performing an exhilarating show at the cozy Saint Rocke out in Hermosa Beach. On tour in support of their latest magnum opus The Sum Of Who We Are, the Nashville-based collective has experienced quite a bit of changes since A Promise To Burn was unleashed in 2010. Now finding themselves on Imagen Records, their solid new album featuring stunners such as Criminal and Twisted Halos. Prior to their set at Saint Rocke, we had a chance to hang out with front man Kenneth Nixon in their RV to discuss their new album, the triumphs and difficulties of being in a band, their old and new bass player, what they really think about their chart topping cover of Lil Wayne’s Lollipop. and other epic topics of interest. Read on…
How is this tour going? What have been some of the highlights for you?
It’s been good. We don’t get to come out to the West Coast that often, so any time we get to come out here, we enjoy ourselves. We’re a few shows in to this portion of the tour, the eastern part of the US was good. We’ve toured out there more extensively than here, so the turnouts can be hit or miss some nights depending on where you’re playing. We’ve had a few awesome shows and I’m looking forward, no matter how many people show up tonight and having a great show. It’s been fun, it’s fun to be back out on the road again.
Is this your first time playing Los Angeles?
No, we’ve played with Tantric somewhere and we did a headline show at the Key Club years ago. It’s not open any more. I think this is our third show out here, someone said that we played here with Trapt. That was Modesto, and that’s a ways away. That’s where we came from last night and it took us forever, going up the mountains, this thing (their tour van) doesn’t like to go more than 30 mph.
How does The Sum Of Who We Are compare to the last two albums?
I’d like to think it’s more evolution and lineage of who we are as a band. I think any band is selling themselves and their fans short if they want to just put out the same album over and over again. I feel from album to album, there’s been natural growth and progression in our band and at least, I’d like to hope so. So, somehow some people still stay it has the same Framing Hanley sound, whatever that is. But it sounds like we grew up, whatever that means. It’s good to feel like we’re still evolving. A lot of our favorite bands are those bands with every album they put out something different. A band like Biffy Clyro or Incubus, Thrice, Foo Fighters. Those are the band we all look up to, with every album you’re getting a new piece of that band. Hopefully we can continue to do that.
Is there any story behind the title of the album?
Yeah, originally we did the Kickstarter, it was more along the lines of that it was a collective effort, this is us and you guys together. Us and the fans. This album is the sum of us all putting in all hands on deck. Then, through the things we were going through personally with a former label, former management, all these obstacles that kept popping up that made it seem like the album wasn’t going to come out. It was still, the sum of who we are, which was actually a lyric in a song that didn’t make the album. It was “the sum of who we are, always the battle scars and weary hearts.” It was about that situation, no matter how tough the things are that we’re going through, we’re stronger than that. Then, it’s funny because the album took on an even a different meaning I guess, it became a collection of songs that really were things we’ve gone through over the past few years in the making of this album. The sum of who we are definitely has a lot of different reasons, I think, it’s a perfectly fitting title for this album.
Pick two songs off the album, and what inspired the lyrics for you.
“No Saving Me” was one of the songs that, I think during the making of the album there were definitely periods where we were like, have we seen this stage for the last time? Are we ever going to please ourselves enough for this album to release it? That was during one of the darker periods where there was disdain and maybe a bad taste in our mouth after everything that we had gone through that we had seen success, and then to have it all kind of fall apart. Not to throw anyone under the bus, but to feel like that wasnt our fault. We werent at fault for things hitting a brick wall. It seemed like Framing Hanley fell off the wall. I think we’re responsible guys to where we’ll accept responsibility for things that we are responsible for. The past four years, I dont think that’s something we’ve even now grown to accept responsibility for. That said, I think it was Darren, making this album it just hit m. I’m beyond in it until the wheels fall off. In some ways, as much as I love doing this it can be viewed as a curse. There’s no saving me. This is the one thing I love in life, I’m lucky to have a woman that supports me. I know the same for the other guys, that support us for doing what we do. Because it can be really hard at times. I can only imagine what it’s like being our significant others, it’s really hard on us sometimes. But, there really is no saving me. I’ve come this far, I’m here until it’s over.
Another song on the album that plays off that but maybe from a different angle is “Cast Away.” That’s lyrically, one of the most special songs. The subject matter that we’ve done on any of the three albums. That was the awareness, yeah, maybe through all the shit you go through – obviously there’s good times a plenty, but you’re going to have bad times with everything. To know that there’s a group of people out there that, despite us falling off the face of the earth for the past three years, that have sat and waited patiently for this album and they’re coming out in flocks at shows all across the world to see us. Again, whether it’s 10 people or 10,000, it’s what we say every night. That’s a special thing, it’s something I don’t think we even imagined of the payoff of doing this when we were young and dreamed of doing this and being “rock stars.” I don’t think the fan part, yeah, that will be cool, but naturally I think its more if you look at it like a kid from the fame side instead of the fact that you have fans. There’s a difference there. There’s a big difference between being famous and having people that are actually fans of the work you pour your heart and soul into. “Cast Away,” there’s a line in there that says “I’ll go down with the ship.” It’s really a testament to our fans. As long as you guys are out there and you want to hear what we’re doing, we’re going to keep doing this because again, there’s no saving us anyway.
If you can open up for any band, either now or from the past, who would it be and why?
Whenever I get asked that, there’s two answers. I think if it could be a dream scenario even though we belong nowhere near a stage with these two bands, but for me it’d be Guns N’ Roses and Queen. GNR is the reason I’m in a rock band, that’s who introduced me to Rock N Roll. Queen because Freddie Mercury is the greatest vocalist of all time and that band is on another planet. Current, bands if you want to say would be realistic even though it’s not, Foo Fighters and Biffy Clyro. Two of the greatest rock and roll bands, Foo Fighters obviously everyone knows who they are. Biffy is a band from Scotland, three piece and I always explain them as Foo Fighters meets Failure. It’s a really interesting rock band, I think they write unlike any other mainstream rock band, at least right now. I love both bands and both those bands released my two favorite rock albums in the past 10 years. It’d be a dream to share the stage with them.
Lollipop. How do you feel about that song after all this time? Is it a curse for you to play?
I think we looked at it that way for a period, which was maybe immaturity or the disdain we had knowing that we were known for a song that we did kind of as a joke basically. We covered, not opposed to our own material. During the hours we’ve poured into this album, just feeling more and more confident in this album I was like, you know what? THis album speaks for itself. If people hear this album, the tricky part is creating the awareness of the album. If people hear this album, I’m very confident in saying that they will quickly forget we were the band that covered “Lollipop.” I mean, with that being said, we took it out of the set briefly because of our own feelings towards that song and we put it back in there during the course of the making of this album when we were given some one offs. Just because I started looking at it as, it’s pretty selfish of us to do that when there are fans that made a connection with our band. There’s a memory attached to that song. I had plenty of memories attached with other artists and songs of theirs I heard for the first time or remember where I was. If that was a college party, and someone heard “Lollipop,” so be it. The good thing is, most of those people have stuck around and if that’s what opened the door? So be it. Here we are with an album that blows away anything that we’ve done before. Hopefully they’re still listening.
Who is the new member in the band, and what happened to Luke?
Jonathan Stoye is our new bass player. Luke, he’d have to speak for himself, I just think he wanted to get to a place where he – maybe with how, I don’t know. How fickle this industry is, and how it can all fall apart at the last minute. We all have families. Again, I don’t want to speak out of line. He flat out said that he wanted to get to a place where he felt comfortable and happy with life. There were things he felt like he had to do to change that and he thought he had to take time away from doing this in order to get to a place where he was happy. Again, we all have wives or kids, finances and he was one guy who I think walked away from school to do this and maybe that’s something that he wants to look back into. Stoye, it’s almost like, not to take away from Luke. The years we shared with Luke were awesome. He’s an incredible bass player, saved my ass plenty of times with his awesome backup vocals. Stoye, it’s almost like he was the guy that’s always been here. We were worried about replacing someone that has been in the band for 5+ years and it just being so different, the chemistry being different. But Jonathan Stoye came in and it was one of those things right away where everything clicked. We didn’t even plan on maybe adding a fifth member, maybe just feeling it out as a four piece and having someone play bass with us live. When we met him, we felt it out for a few weeks and said man, this guy is the fifth member of this band. We took a bad situation and turned it into a great situation with Jonathan Stoye coming on board.
Do you have any messages for Framing Hanley fans out here in Los Angeles, a place you seem to rarely visit?
Come out and see us when we do come here. It’s hard to convince an agent to bring you so far away from home if the crowds aren’t there. We’ll keep coming out here as long as people come out and listen.
Framing Hanley is:
Kenneth Nixon: vocals, piano, guitar
Ryan Belcher: guitar, piano, backing vocals
Brandon Wootten: guitar, backing vocals
Chris Vest: drum
Jonathan Stoye: bass guitar
(Interview and Photos by Ken Morton)
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