Frank and Earnest play final show
After eight years, local pop-punk outfit Frank and Earnest plays its final show this weekend at the Avenue Café – not a bad run considering its founding member and chief songwriter Nick “Otis” Pierce left the band four years ago.
“Frank and Earnest is different for me as it was a very established thing before I joined,” said guitarist/ vocalist Tommy McCord, who replaced Pierce in November 2013. “In many ways, I tried to honor the foundation Otis had laid while keeping things natural. We only released a few songs while I was in the band, so I don’t know if I succeeded.”
Pierce, who put music on hold to join the Navy, departed the melodic poppunk band amidst the release of its only full-length LP, 2014’s “Modern Country.” Over the years, the band also released 2010’s “Old Francis” EP and contributed to stacks of split singles and punk compilations.
As for the lack of proper album releases, guitarist/vocalist Ben Hassenger admits the band – which also comprises bassist/vocalist Paul Wittmann and drummer Ryan Horky – has been busy adulting and dealing with a series of issues and mishaps.
“The last couple years have just been stop-and-starts with life,” Hassenger said. “Paul and I have been busier than ever, Tommy has a million bands. Horky had surgery on his wrist so he could keep playing drums. We talked about it and agreed it’s been frustrating for a while. It seems like the perfect time to have a good ending while the vibe between all of is still cool and positive.”
For this final performance, Pierce is using shore-leave time from the Navy and will perform much of the show alongside the current lineup. The last time he reunited with Frank and Earnest was one year ago at Fledge Fest.
“We worked around Otis’ availability,” Hassenger said. “He is going to play a ton of the set with us. We’re going to play our ‘Old Francis’ EP in its entirety during the show and some songs we haven’t played in years – it’ll be fun to do it one last time.”
This final show is not only a last hurrah with Pierce, it will also serve as a release show for one last DIY release – engineered last minute by McCord, who produces albums for his own locally-operated GTG Records imprint.
“The farewell EP will feature all new recordings, new songs, a couple covers,” McCord said. “Everyone who’s been in Frank and Earnest over the years is contributing to it. We’re still recording it but so far it’s going great.”
Hassenger said, aside from the band’s first song “Stick a Fork in Me I’m Done,” the quintessential Frank and Earnest track is likely “’87” – a rambunctious rocker written by Pierce. It’s closed out many of the group’s live performances.
“It’s super catchy and people always enjoy it,” Hassenger said. “I didn’t write that song, but Otis was just feeling really frustrated with where he was at and what he was doing at that point in his life. The chorus of the song is, ‘I’ve been fucking this up since 1987.’ It’s about, ‘I know I’m not where I want be, how do I get there?’ but then not knowing how to do it.
“A lot of people identify with that, it’s a pretty timeless struggle for a lot of people,” he added. “In a lot of ways, that was a common sentiment that was in a lot of Frank and Earnest songs.”
Those close to the band also know a far less serious side of Frank and Earnest – especially when the band was moonlighting as Paul Dubya and the Oak River Bridge Boys Band, a low-brow, tongue-in-cheek, “pop-country band.” One evening in 2014 at Mac’s Bar, the alter-ego country outfit subbed for Frank Earnest in front of a bewildered crowd.
“We thought it’d be funny if Paul Dubya did an AC/DC tribute set,” Hassenger recalled. “We just did it randomly at this show that was supposed to be Frank and Earnest. We didn’t tell anybody, just got up there in our country regalia and did ‘Highway to Hell,’ ‘Big Balls’ and all that. We did ‘Down on Me’ by Jekyll because we didn’t understand it wasn’t an AC/DC song. Half of the crowd was like, ‘I don’t know what this is, but this is awesome!’ The other half, was like, ‘What the hell? Who are these people? Is this a real band?’” Jokes aside, Hassenger said some of his fondest memories were playing multiple GTG Fests and warming up stages for iconic bands like the Smoking Popes. Winning the “Best Band” in City Pulse’s Top of the Town contest was also a surprising honor.
“We won that twice – 2011 and 2012,” Hassenger recalled. “We were stunned both times, I voted for the Plurals both years. I didn’t even vote for us. We were like, “Who is voting for us?” It was very confusing. Because of that, to this day, and we think this is very funny, we are the only punk band listed on the Lansing Wikipedia page. If nothing else, we have that going for us.”
Frank and Earnest – Final Show w/ Bong Mountain, Small Parks, Flatfoot Saturday, July 1 The Avenue Café 2021 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing FREE, 21+, 8 p.m.