AD FRANK 295

AD FRANK & THE FAST EASY WOMEN

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by Rick Dumont

He’s seen a lot of
changes in the music industry since hitting the stages of the city more
than two decades ago, but Ad Frank and the Fast Easy Women continue
to make music that matters and strikes cords of deep emotion in his
fans.

Celebrating
the release of his first album in four years,
Your
Secrets are Mine Now
, Ad has
turned the tables on the messages that made him one of the most respected
lyricists in the city’s music scene.

“There’s
this fabulous book called a thesaurus that helps,” Ad quipped about
drawing the word “mollify” into the song “A Note on the Type.”

In
reality, the softspoken deeply passionate songwriter is a poet, an artist
of word and music; such phrases spring from his pen when he’s in tune
with his muse.

Normally
he writes about being lovelorn, venting his frustrations about broken
relationships through song. These days, however, Ad says his love life
has been flowing in a positive direction—not a good thing when writing
about the downsides of relationships—but he’ll take it. He jests,
however, that he might have to entertain the idea of a girlfriend who
doesn’t return his calls and treats him like a pawn in order to revive
some of the disconsolate inspiration of his past.

Previous
albums might bear the scars portraying the lady as the antagonist, but
in this latest release Ad himself is the bad guy.

Of
course he considers himself to be the world’s best ex-boyfriend, as
stated on the title track of his last album, so there you go.

Speaking
with most of the group recently about the album, their career and the
direction local and national music scenes are headed. The ethereal voice
of Sarah Rabdau was missing due to her impending nuptials to a wonderful
man. Sorry, all you fantasizing suitors. Drummer Ned Gallacher was MIA
due to an illness (hopefully not the dreaded H1N1).

Right
away it is clear the new album is something of a departure from the
past, but it only lasts so long before Ad dips back into the analyzing
of what went wrong.

The
opening song, “Open Up the Patio (Pretty Girls Are Back In Style),”
gives one the overwhelming sense of the positive. Frank said it was
written in a matter of moments when he hit the streets to meet his manager
for a drink, one of many that day, and just observed the fine melding
of warm weather and multitudes of beautiful women out and about.

The
simply versed proclamation to celebrate the art form that is woman was
brought to the FEW where Ad queried whether there should be verses.
To a person, and much to the delight of the taskmaster and bandleader,
the decision was to leave it as is. Not that they had much of a choice.

“He
tells us everything to do and we do it,” quipped bassist Linda Pardee.
“Otherwise you get spanked,” guitarist Sean Connelly chimed in.

Such
as it goes with the band fronted by a mercurial maestro (look to your
thesaurus to figure out why mercurial is appropriate).

“There’s
only a limited pool of people that can stand playing with me for any
length of time,” he quipped.

It’s
his band, his leadership, his words and his decisions about where to
go musically or otherwise. But given the fact that everyone has been
playing with him off and on for years, some, like Pardee, since high
school (a flash of 25 years), it is obvious the respect and deference
for Ad’s brilliance is obvious.

Or is it?

“Of
course when he leaves for the bathroom we change everything,” Connelly
said.

“I
don’t notice because I’m drunk,” Ad said.

“We’re
all grownups and nobody takes anything personally,” Connelly said.
“We work [matters] out, argue, but in the end it flows pretty well.”

They
also added horns in one song and had the Somerville Gay Men’s Choir
involved in another. There’s always something new for the ears be
it live or on disc.

No
matter who is responsible for the final recorded or live version of
the songs, fans still take from them what they want.

Ad
recalls many folk, including this writer, who have heard such deep-rooted
passion and positive love messages within some of the songs. In “Girls
As Sharp As You Are Something Rare,” he’s received and welcomed
requests from friends to play songs at their weddings even.

Of
course he reminds them, as he did me, that the song is a breakup song.
“It’s really great when people take parts of songs out of context,”
Ad said. “Actually it makes a certain amount of sense. People extrapolate
and identify based upon their own experiences and even when they select
certain passages from a downer of a song and turn it into a positive
‘that’s fantastic.’”

It
is that connection that Ad is able to make with an audience that has
kept him in the business and there are precious few bands (no pun intended)
that have had the longevity that the FEW have had in the city or even
on a national scale. Still Ad says he’s not one to come to for career
advice, since he’s never broken big on a national scale. He’s too
modest to discuss his vital impact on local bands and his keen eye for
artistic talent.

He
credits keyboardist Chris Mascara for keeping him from retiring after
the breakup of Permafrost (a band he played in with Pardee) in the late
’90s.

Both
Pardee and Mascara went on to other projects for a while only to come
back into the fold with the FEW over the last couple of years.

It’s
pretty obvious that the music industry has undergone a massive change
since the ’80s, which has caused the industry giants to cry and whine
about how much money they are losing out on thanks to the Internet,
etc, etc, blah blah.

“Blame
the drinking age being raised from 18 to 21,” Connelly said. “Live
music was part of our culture in our early twenties” when they had
access to the clubs and bands. The vision of those in their latter twenties
coming out to see local bands has dwindled to a select core.

“Local
and national music was also more integrated in the ’80s,” Ad said.
Radio stations could often be heard playing the Cars up against lesser-known
bands like the Dark. And it was that support of the airwaves that pushed
people out the doors to the clubs to see them. “There was a real sense
that they were real bands,” Ad said. “We’re feeling the loss of
that now.”

But
there is something brewing and bubbling in the rubble that was once
massive money for record deals but now devastated and divided record
labels. “Nobody is being signed,” Ad said. A Phoenix of sorts is
growing with those artists responsible not seeking out huge money or
fat album deals, remaining content to just play and create.

“It’s
actually freeing for the creative process,” Ad said. Along with the
disappearance of the fingers in the mix style of major record labels
is the subtraction of the promotional support. The yin and yang of trying
to earn a living just making music—“It comes in waves,” Ad said.

Passionate,
inspired, a bastard in relationships, controlling in the creative flow
of his band. Ad may be all those things and more, but he’s utterly
supportive of his mates and wants to see them succeed in their outside
the FEW’s pursuits. “If they get a better offer and don’t take
it, I told them I’d fire them,” he said.

After
all these years does Ad think that there is still support for his band?

“Well
we’ll find out on October 24,” he said. That is when the band will
gather at Great Scott and celebrate the completion of the album. “I’m
just happy to still make music and see people come out.”

www.adfrank.com

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