“Don’t stop believing in yourself as persistence always wins. This industry is made up of knock backs, so you gotta be strong, you gotta know what you want, you gotta build the team around you, never take the word ‘no’ as an insult oh yeah… and most importantly, write good songs.” – Dallas Frasca
Dallas Frasca’s velvetine vocals, raucous rock riffs, electrifying stage show, and her nothing-can-stop-me attitude have gotten her a long way in an industry of knock backs and hard yards. Here’s an interview with an artist I’ve been inspired and intrigued by for the past ten years since I first spied her playing in the back of a West End cafe with a head full of dreads and a steel guitar. Now she’s playing to crowds of 30,000 and being crowned the Queen of Australia’s indie rock scene. Upon the release of her third album Love Army (my fave by far), I wanted to find out How Dallas Does It. And here’s what she told me….
FJ: You’re the hardest working and most successful muso I know. You’ve been called the Best Female-Fronted Act in Australia by the Sydney Morning Herald and your track record is mind-blowing. How the fuck do you do it, and keep on doing it?
DF: Wow FJ, you really know how to flatter a girl! Thank you and to be honest, I think you’re pretty special yourself xxx I suppose am constantly drawing from other people’s inspirational stories and then coupled with anxiety if I don’t get something done, ha ha. I know successful people work hard and they don’t expect others to do it for them. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many ups and downs and there are many more losses than wins a lot of the time, but I think if I am playing music for a living then, I feel I am a success because I am doing something that makes me happy and that is the KEY!
“I think with every obstacle you face, it’s just about working out how you are going to move it out of the way, climb over it or smash it in the face.”
FJ: Ciggies and coffee or meditation and a morning run? Do you follow a daily routine? Do you schedule in creative time, business time, down time? Or do you just go at it like a bat out of hell? What does an average work-day or work-week look like for Dallas Frasca?
DF: I go through phases where it’s sometimes just coffee and others cigarettes (I usually pick up the habit when I go to Europe and then have to kick it when I get back to Oz), then this month I am doing a detox so will get the joggers out again…. It always changes and I rarely schedule in downtime, I LOVE IT!!! We most definitely set aside time for songwriting sessions (these sessions are creative time and we don’t talk business) and we treat it like a day-job, so you get up, you start songwriting and then finish up around 5-6pm. My week varies from touring to songwriting phases, at the moment we are releasing the new record, so there are heaps of interviews, phone calls and small live performances. There is always so much stuff to do and when you are involved in your own business it feels like there is no switch off, but I just actually feel blessed that I’m doing something I love x
FJ: As far as I know you are mostly self-managed, with a great team behind you. How do you juggle the creative mode with the business mode, and do both so well?
DF: Ha ha, yes, I think the key is the team of people around you and we have management now but for many years we did it ourselves, we built our team around us (based on their passion, belief and love for the project) and we set clear goals between everyone, so we all know what we’re aiming for. This can change daily sometimes but as long as everyone is on the same page, it’s about clear and regular communication towards WORLD DOMINATION!! Ha ha.
FJ: I love the song “Suzy’s on My Mind” off the new album “Love Army”. It’s a look at drug and alcohol abuse and its connection with suicide (aka “Suzy”). Drugs and alcohol can be a hazard of the job for musicians. Last time I spoke to Jeff Curran he was a few years drug and alcohol-free while touring HARD and loving it. What’s your take on drugs and alcohol in the music industry?
DF: Thanks Claire! Yeah, there’s no doubt it is constantly surrounding you in this industry, I mean in your workplace you get alcohol instead of a food rider a lot of the time?? It’s funny. We have a no drinking policy before we get on stage that works for us and then after the gig, whatever goes… I think playing together for 9 years when you see it so much you either learn how to be hung over all the time (which we did a lot of) and don’t get anything done on your days off or get a shit tonne of stuff done creative instead of wasted. For the record, Jeff is the biggest legend I know and he is always the last one to go to bed (even though he doesn’t drink).
FJ: I love the way you’re not afraid to sing a good “fuck you” song to people who have wronged you. There are also some beautiful heart-break songs on the new album – “The Day that We Were Done” and “Today”. Do you write for therapy? What does your songwriting process look like?
DF: ‘The Day That We Were Done’ shot me like a lightening bolt from the sky. We had finished the album and the chords and melody came to me one day. A lot of songwriters have spoken of the same thing happening when the pressure is off and the album is finished and then a song just falls on your lap. I drew on past experiences for the lyrical content in this song and it wasn’t until I brought the song into one of the last days in the studio and everyone freaked on it that I knew I wasn’t alone. Our wonderful producer, Andy Baldwin was in New York (he produced the album via a new application they gave you a ‘real time’ direct live feed of what was happening in the studio) when I played it to him and he said, I’M COMING BACK TO OZ TO HELP YOU FINISH THIS. The strings in this song are so sad, Andy arranged these like a genius.
‘Today’ was written 6 years ago at around 6am in the morning in a motel room on the road, I had just gone through a break up and was awoken by the ache of losing someone and the melody and chords came to me and was enough to throw me out of bed. I climbed out the window onto the roof (as not to wake the crew up) and I recorded the song on my iPhone. The band returned to the song whilst in writing sessions for the new record as it was too strong to let go. When I started to pull the song together, I felt like I was collaborating with my younger song-writing self.
“I feel I am a success because I am doing something that makes me happy and that is the KEY!”
FJ: I first saw you playing at the back of a tiny little café on Boundary St in West End more than ten years ago after being intrigued by a street poster with your beautiful face on it. Now you’re playing to 30,000 people at festivals in France, and sharing stages with the likes of Aerosmith and Midnight Oil. It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rocknfuckingroll! Do you have any words of advice for aspiring musicians?
DF: Wow, that was such a long time ago, haha!! We’ve had such an amazing time and it doesn’t get less exciting!! Don’t stop believing in yourself as persistence always wins. This industry is made up of knock backs, so you gotta be strong, you gotta know what you want, you gotta build the team around you, never take the word ‘no’ as an insult oh yeah… and most importantly, write good songs.
FJ: You’ve said the making of the new album was a “bloody battle”, with all the first sessions getting scrapped and the album being entirely re-recorded with a new drummer and a new producer. The band’s motto “Nothing Beats Us” sounds like a handy mantra. What other Dallas-isms do you have to share with your fans to whip out when they hit a hard or low point?
DF: I think with every obstacle you face, it’s just about working out how you are going to move it out of the way, climb over it or smash it in the face… ha ha.. There are ups and downs with everything, that’s just life so you just gotta keep trying I suppose. Work out a different way to do it if something isn’t working. The last 18 months have seen the band face some of its biggest challenges and looking back now, we used that energy to pour into the recording of the album. We got to the other side and we made it, you always do.
FJ: The new album “Love Army” continues to spread your message of love, human compassion, integrity and plain human decency. “You are Beautiful” with its highly naked film clip (which amassed over 220,000 views in just 6 months) tears down body image myths and promotes self-love, and “Lizard Boy” (“we all know who that song is about”) exposes lying politicians at the helm of Australian politics. “Rise” questions the overnight fake fame created by TV talent shows and the impact of TV-worship on the live music scene. Dallas, what would you do if you and your Love Army were put in power tomorrow?
DF: I would bring into the education system a schooling that teaches people to love themselves, because when you love yourself, it resonates throughout the galaxy. P.S I love you x
Dallas Frasca are touring Love Army nationally now. For full tour dates see www.dallasfrasca.com. I am honoured to be supporting Dallas Frasca at the Hotel Brunswick on 31 May with my band CC the Cat. Get your music-loving butt to a show near you, and purchase Love Army here:
Musos, what challenges do you face in the music industry and how do you overcome them?
Music lovers, what music is rocking your world right now and why?
With love n musical magic,
Ps Huge thanks to Dallas for the interview. Love your work sister! See you at the Bruns!