Note from GofG: Etta Shon, one of our resident photographers at GofG puts down the camera to REALLY get personal with musician Frank Hoier:
Do not call Frank Hoier an Anti-folker. As a regular performer at the East Village Sidewalk Café (a spot historically recognized as the hub of the New York Anti-folk scene), this singer-songwriter hailing from Southern California possesses a style distinctly his own. Part Gordan Gano of the Violent Femmes, part John Lennon circa Plastic Ono Band, Frank first considers himself a songwriter before anything else. With the upcoming release of his new album, Lovers and Dollars, he is sure to gain long overdue recognition for his unique story telling skills. Presenting an eclectic mix of jangly, melodic tunes like the title track Lovers and Dollars, as well as Brooklyn Baby, a confessional ballad written for an unattainable love, the album retains it's humor while remaining unabashedly candid.
I was lucky enough to catch a moment with the towheaded troubadour for a quick break from an all day photo shoot (during which, by the way, he was never less than perfectly gracious).
Congratulations on your new album, Lovers and Dollars. You must be so excited to see this come to fruition. Yes I am so excited. I'm grateful to finally see these songs come to life. They were just imaginings in my head. I still can't believe I got The Weber Brothers to back me, they are incredible. I've been playing by myself so long and just concentrating on writing, planning one day to get the best band I could find to record, I'm just surprised it worked that way!
It looks like you've always been big on collaborations with other musicians. Tell me about how this played out in the new album. Well actually I'm very very picky with who I play with. Just as any passionate artist would be with who he surrounds himself with. I've played with Debe Dalton, one of my favorite NYC songwriters. I've also played with Feral Foster and Shilpa Ray who are tied as my other favorite NYC songwriters. I will play Harmonica with almost anyone though, because I need the practice!
The collaboration of this band for Lovers & Dollars came about because I asked The Weber Brothers who were these guys I met at my first open mic in Los Angeles, where I was raised. Kind of cosmic huh? I always sent them emails, I was such a fan. They were these students of Hank, Dylan, Little Richard, and The Beatles. There could have been no better fit to make music with for me. They got a drummer friend, and I asked Andrew Hoepfner of Creaky Boards to play Piano and Organ.
Lovers and Dollars seems like a natural progression from your first album, Love Is War. What new elements are you bringing this time around? Well everything is new, because Love Is War was just me, an acoustic guitar, and my harmonicas. Now we have the standard rock 'n roll band lineup; drums, electric guitars, standup bass, hammond organ, but with crazy sounds like bowed bass and slide elbow guitar. Even banjo!
You spent most of your life in L.A. before heading out to New York to pursue your music. What was your reason for the move? The way I felt about life just didn't fit in with the southern California vibe. It's too slow, and sleepy. The sun is oppressive all year long, I never knew the seasons really. I just all the sudden realized that I didn't feel I fit there, and I wanted to be a songwriter. I was high on Dylan biographies, and wanted to become a new person. So I went to New York City with a backpack, a guitar, and harmonicas. The single girl I knew in all of New York City wasn't returning my calls. I played open mics, and in the subways. I stayed in Hostels till I found a job and apartment in Harlem. The job didn't last so long.
I know your Dad also had a career in music. Would you say that he had any influence on your personal style? Actually yes. My dad was a rock and roll singer and guitar player, so we always had guitars in the house. He owned recording studios, and I grew up in them until the age of 6. He had a rough time with shady realtor's, thieving friends, and he was recording demos of his songs at the height of Disco, so no record companies were looking for much else. By the time I took an interest in music he had had enough, kind of burned out. I was influenced by his record collection when I began digging through it at about 19. That's where I found the White Album, Another Side Of Bob Dylan, and Plastic Ono Band. I was never the same.
I have to ask, as this is a music interview, who are your other influences and inspirations? I am influenced by music that makes me feel, and anything that makes me think beautiful thoughts. I like Folk music because all those old recordings are real people with no thoughts of fame or money, just songs that are small stories. But you wonder about the people singing he songs who are the bigger mysteries. I am in love with the Blues and Rock 'n Roll. Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Little Richard, Elvis, and The Beatles. I don't think it gets better than that in my opinion. I am a Beatle and Dylan fanatic. I'd like someone to challenge my Beatle/Dylan cover list. I've studied them.
When did you first know that you wanted to make a career out of your music? I got a late start. At about 22 I was convinced I wanted to be a songwriter. I wrote my first song at 21, I was a very withheld person. I had never written my thoughts down on paper until about 19 years old!
Do you find that critics often try to peg you into a convenient category? Well I haven't had much criticism yet. When writing about me people throw the Dylan comparison in there, but maybe just cause I'm a guy singing on an acoustic guitar and harmonicas. But actually they'd be more right to compare me to Dylan in the way of songwriting. I write from different characters perspectives, and write songs deliberately in certain styles. Everyone was asking who Dylan really was, which I've always thought was stupid. He doesn't need to show anyone who he is, he just wants to write and sing songs in whatever styles is currently inspiring. That's what I do, just not as well. Haha.
So, what comes next? Well a tour with the Weber Brothers, making videos, and writing new songs. Always writing new songs.
Frank Hoier will be having his album release party for Lovers and Dollars with The Weber Brothers at the Jalopy Theatre in Red Hook on June 7th. Catch his performance before he leaves for his West Coast tour this summer. You can check out his music at http://www.myspace.com/frankhoier.