Frankie Rose Wants You to Stop Smoking

Published May 3, 2012

PHOTO COURTESY OF SHERVIN LAINEZ.

Frankie Rose couldn’t be happier that we rescheduled our interview. “I was literally doing three things at once when you were calling [earlier],” she says. “I was like, ‘Oh! Shit! I don’t know! Ahh! Ahh!’ But it totally worked out perfectly. Luck.”

When Interview first met Rose back in 2010, she had just branched out on her own as a solo artist. After an exhausting experience at SXSW playing for two different bands, Rose had decided that she had enough. “It reached a point when I remember I was like ‘I’ve got to put in my resignation letter, because I can’t do it,’ ” she told John Norris two years ago. “I think I played like 13 shows in three days. [My other band] was off at the swimming hole eating barbecue and I was like losing my mind.”

In his writeup of Rose, Norris wondered aloud if the Brooklyn songstress was “commitment-phobic.” His inquiry is warranted—with stints in Crystal Stilts, Vivian Girls, and Dum Dum Girls, Rose has more gigs on her résumé than some temp workers. She’s even changed her stage name for the release of Interstellar, Rose’s second entry as a solo artist. “Frankie Rose and the Outs” is no more; now there is simply “Frankie Rose.”

On the phone, Rose is a joy. She comes across as someone who has finally found their footing—infectiously confident, more than a little sarcastic, and eager to talk about anything. When we mention how the current round of press for Interstellar continues to focus on her previous bands, she spouts, “Oh, God! I hope that’s not how it is. I like to think that I steer people in a totally different direction… a lot of times they’re not having it, though.”

It’s not very difficult to imagine Rose as that one bold kid in junior high who scouted the cafeteria during lunch hour, unafraid to sit and exchange pleasantries with complete strangers. “I’m interviewing two alien abductees,” she says, “To give you an idea of the kinds of interviews I’ve been doing.”

Since neither of us are alien abductees ourselves, we instead mull with Rose over the usual: exercising, day jobs, human lungs, French sex blogs.

JOHN TAYLOR:  So… I was stalking your Twitter feed and saw that you walked into the middle of a porn being filmed in your apartment?

FRANKIE ROSE:  [laugh] It’s not an actual porn. [My roommate] was making something for this French fashion magazine called Purple Magazine. There’s a woman on there, “Slutever” is her moniker, and they were doing a short video for the magazine and its sex blog. We had no idea, and my house is really crazy, so we all walked in, and there were like, four babes with their shirts off. I didn’t know what was going on. There was one point, later, where one girl had just a shirt on, no underwear—and was cutting raw meat in our kitchen. She had a meat cleaver, and was cutting big chunks of… I think it was a short rib or something. I mean, no one in my house would ever… it was definitely not normal. It was a little weird to go through to the kitchen to the bathroom and see that, but you know. It was cool. Very artsy.

TAYLOR: Speaking of kitchens, I read an interview that said you make the best Pozole in Brooklyn.

ROSE: I make amazing Pozole. And, nobody knows what it is in New York. There’s not much Mexican food in New York. I grew up mostly with the Mexican side of the family. So, cuisine-wise, that’s the only thing I know how to cook well. I wonder what the Mexicans eat here, honestly. Most people don’t even know what Pozole is! I’ve been told that my cooking is really authentic. Which, I don’t know why it wouldn’t be. It’s my grandmother’s recipe.

TAYLOR: You’re fluent in Español, I take it?

ROSE: No, no. I can understand it. I can speak enough to get me by. My mother and their whole family, they actually live in Mexico. But me, I can’t, at all. I can get by.

TAYLOR: Quiero dos tacos, por favor.

ROSE: Slightly better than that. [laughs]

TAYLOR: Perhaps someone could cast you in a guest role on Portlandia. That show could use some diversity.

ROSE: Someone needs to tell them that I need to be on Portlandia! I mean, Grass Widow was on Portlandia. I’m waiting for my call. I’ll fly out. I will make time. I’m ready. Annie Clark was on there. Joanna Newsom was on there, looking like a babe.

TAYLOR: We should tell your agent. You’ll be on TV, and you can kiss day jobs goodbye forever!

ROSE: I’m your working-class hero! This is the first year that I’ve ever not had a day job.

TAYLOR: What is the secret to being awesome at a day job?

ROSE: Okay, one—I’m terrible at jobs. I’ve never really been great at keeping them; not that I’ve ever been fired, but that I have a really short attention span, and I’ll go on to the next job.

TAYLOR: What day jobs have you had? List a few.

ROSE: One job I had for years was bike messenger. I was one for about six years. I was a pretty tough little lady back in the day. All around San Francisco. I had no sense of fear or mortality back then. I just thought it would be a really awesome job. I didn’t have a boss telling me what to do all the time, and I had a certain amount of freedom… which is why I was able to keep that job for so long. It didn’t bore me. If you weren’t riding around delivering something, then you could go wherever you wanted to. You could go to an art museum! It didn’t matter. It’s the ultimate freedom. Also, there was a certain element of, being in San Francisco, you were a little bit of an urban hero. Which, is probably not the case in New York, I think.

TAYLOR: What is the best thing about being a bike messenger?

ROSE: There was some element of mystique in being a bike messenger. It was a funny, weird little culture to be a part of. I know a lot about bicycles for some reason. I would do alley cat races and skid competitions.

TAYLOR: Alley cat races?

ROSE: Bike messenger competitions. I used to fly around the country and do them. One of my first trips to New York was a race. You would get a manifest, which would tell you, you’re going to pick up something here and go to this spot, and then this spot. Pick up something here, drop off something there, and everybody races. Whoever gets there the quickest wins!

TAYLOR: Do you still have your bike?

ROSE: I still have my bike, my fixed-gear. I pull it out for summertime now, but I have a pretty deep-seated fear of mortality that set in.

TAYLOR: How old were you when this fear of mortality set in?

ROSE: I’m not going to tell you that. Never ask a lady her age! Too old. Old enough to know better than to answer that question. One time, Time Out New York asked me that and I lied. What I realized in interviews is that, you can say something that sounds snarky and hilarious on the phone, but it makes you sound like a total asshole in print. It’s so dangerous. I told Time Out New York that I was “22… Kidding! I’m actually older than that,” and then they printed it that way. It was hilarious! One of my friends held it up to me, and they were like, “What? You are not 22. Come on.” So I definitely have to catch myself sometimes. Because I can be a little sarcastic, and it can come off a little ugly sometimes.

TAYLOR: That’s hilarious. So what other jobs did you have?

ROSE: I was a limo driver for a minute, and that was funny. I was 18 years old. I’m glad that I had a sleaze-meter. A guy approached me to be a limo driver for his company, and they offered me money… it was called “Phil’s Magic Carpet Ride”—I’m not afraid to say that, by the way—whose deal was finding 18-year-old girls to drive his limos around, and later, somehow convince them to start stripping in the back. Which, I was not a dumbass. So the minute that proposal was made to me, I said, “Listen, Phil. You’ve got the wrong girl.” That was an interesting job.

TAYLOR: Sounds like it.

ROSE: I was a Peachy Puff once. They’re cigarette girls that go into the venues and sell cigarettes, doo-dads, tchotchkes, all dressed.

TAYLOR: So do you smoke?

ROSE: Absolutely not. I am smoking’s greatest enemy, actually.

TAYLOR: Are you now? Could you make anyone quit?

ROSE: Well, not to get too intense, I probably could. I mean, it’s a terrible, terrible thing. My mother used to have this lung. I don’t where she got it, or where it disappeared to. I would love to find it, actually, so I could put on the center of my house. She had two human lungs encased in glass. One of which was a smoker’s lung; a smoker who had been smoking for fifty years. And the other lung was a healthy person’s lung, and they were right next to each other. This lung was black. It was charred. It looked like an ashtray. It was fucking disgusting.

TAYLOR: Gross.

ROSE: Not to mention I had a friend pass away from smoking with almost no notice. He was 36. He got the diagnosis and he passed away about eight months later. It was a real eye opener to me about how dangerous smoking is. I mean, I won’t even play in venues that are smoking venues. I can’t. I won’t. I’m an advocate! I know all the arguments, “My grandfather smoked for years,” but it’ll get ya. It really will.

TAYLOR: What’s a good way to relieve stress? You know, that isn’t smoking.

ROSE: Joining a gym. Maybe jogging. That’s a real stress reliever. Smoking just raises your anxiety level, and then you smell bad.

TAYLOR: Do you exercise? What’s the Frankie Rose exercise routine?

ROSE: Currently, I’m running about four miles, four to five days a week. There’s a track in the park, and I will also run on the treadmill, like a rat. [laughs] My bass player, Kimberly, formerly of The Duchess and the Duke, she’s amazing. She’s a runner also. She just ran a 5K the other day. We have plans for tour running before we get in the van. We’re going to be the most lame and fit band to have ever toured the United States of America.

FRANKIE ROSE IS ON TOUR NOW, AND WILL PLAY MERCURY LOUNGE ON SATURDAY, MAY 5. HER NEW ALBUM, INTERSTELLAR, IS AVAILABLE IN STORES AND ONLINE. FOR MORE ON THE ARTIST, VISIT HER WEBSITE.