Here’s a couple of proper rainy days songs taken from a new split we’re reviewing this week on RPM its Frank turner & NOFX.
NOFX and Frank Turner will release a split covers album, ‘West Coast Vs. Wessex’ on July 31, 2020. Due for release via Fat Mike’s own Fat Wreck Chords label, the project brings together for the first time ever the long-running Los Angeles punks and the London-based singer and ex-Million Dead frontman, for many years now both friends and fans of each other’s music. With supporting live shows also shortly to be announced, the 10 strong track-listing of ‘West Coast vs Wessex’ captures NOFX tackling five selections from Turner’s sizeable solo back catalogue, with Frank reciprocating with recordings of five of his personal favourites picked from NOFX’s 37-years-and-counting career.
Just how often does the leader of one of your favourite bands ask you to do a split album? One where his band covers your songs? It’s the situation Frank Turner found himself in last year, when Fat Mike of NOFX asked if he wanted to do a split covers album. “And I shit the bed and said, ‘Fucking of course I do! That sounds incredible,” Turner recalls.
‘West Coast Vs. Wessex’ does sound incredible: NOFX filtering five of Turner’s songs through their singular sensibility, with Turner doing the same on five NOFX songs. But these aren’t simply double-time versions of Turner’s folk-punk tunes or slow, acoustic re-workings of NOFX’s iconic SoCal punk anthems. Both NOFX and Turner took time to play with the possibilities each other’s music presented.
“I listened to all his records, and I picked the ones that I thought I could make more interesting,” notes Fat Mike. “What I did is change a lot of chords. Frank, he beats me in the singing department. So I can’t sing better than he can, but I can maybe throw in a melody here or there or chord that he hadn’t thought of.”
Turner took a similar approach. “I didn’t want to just do straight covers of anything. I wanted to try and pick songs where I felt like me and my band could bring something different to the table,” he says. “But it did strike me that it would be cool to demonstrate to the casual NOFX fan, who doesn’t know who I am, that I am actually a fan. I didn’t just go to Spotify and pick the five most-listened-to songs.” For the record, only one of his choices appears on Spotify’s top five for NOFX: ‘Bob’, which Turner here transforms into a wistful country song. He pulled from deeper album tracks for his other covers: a punk-ed up ‘Scavenger Type’, a barroom singalong ‘Perfect Government’, the post-hardcore ‘Eat the Meek’, and a spare, haunting ‘Falling in Love’.
“Everything he picked was from the ’90s, so I took that as it’s okay to mostly do his early stuff too,” says Fat Mike, who channeled ‘90s NOFX for their interpretations. “People who hear it, they all say it sounds like old NOFX.” The band’s climactic take on ‘Substitute’ could’ve fit on ‘Punk in Drublic’, whilst ‘Worse Things Happen at Sea’ simmers with an ominous portent. The jaunty ‘Thatcher Fucked the Kids’ sounds like a companion to NOFX’s ‘Philthy Phil Philanthropist’. ‘The Ballad of Me and My Friends’ – lilting and bittersweet in Turner’s original – goes balls-out here. “Glory Hallelujah” sounds like a lost track from Fat Mike’s Broadway musical, ‘Home Street Home’.
Turner and his band, The Sleeping Souls, recorded their songs between their rehearsal space and during tour commitments, with Frank tracking his vocals from his bunk on the bus. NOFX recorded at Fat Mike’s Six Floggs studio, with production by the D-Composers (Fat Mike, Johnny Carey, BAZ Bastien, Yotam Ben Horin).
“It’s difficult to describe quite how it feels to hear back a song that you wrote played by NOFX, one of your favourite bands, in a style that is unmistakably theirs,” Turner says. “It tends to make me just laugh in a really elated kind of way. It’s just like, ‘Holy shit, this is ‘Substitute’ done by NOFX! This is fucking insane!’” Fat Mike was similarly psyched. “When Frank picked ‘Falling in Love,’ I was so fucking stoked,” Mike says. “Then I heard it, and I go, ‘Holy shit, he just kicked our ass.’ I was pleased with all of them. I thought he did a really good job – and not such a good job that we couldn’t beat him on a few songs.”
But there are no losers on West Coast Vs. Wessex. The Frank Turner-Fat Mike Mutual Admiration Society has produced 10 hooky re-imaginings of each others’ music. The novelty may pique listeners’ curiosity, but the songs will keep them coming back.
“I have always thought and always maintained, well before we were friends, that Mike is a great, classic songwriter,” Turner says. “And that’s what sets NOFX apart from many of their peers.”
What about him?
“Just for me to be able to stand up in front of the mirror and look at myself and say, ‘You’re doing a fucking split with NOFX’—that is an absolute dream come true for me,” he says, laughing. “I mean, I don’t quite know where my career goes from here.”
Punk in Drublic Festival 2021 European Tour Dates Feat. NOFX and Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls
13 May FRANCE Chemillé, Théâtre Foirail à Chemille
15 May BELGIUM Boom, De Schorre Open Air
16 May GERMANY Berlin, Zitadelle
21 May AUSTRIA Wiesen, Wiesen Open Air
23 May ITALY Milan, Carroponte
4 June GERMANY Oberhausen, Turbinenhalle
5 June GERMANY Hannover, Faust Open Air
10 June FINLAND Turku, Vanha Surrtori 5
12 June NORWAY Oslo, Oslo Spektrum
13 June SWEDEN Malmö, Folkets Park
Frank Turner Website / https://twitter.com/FrankTurner / http://instagram.com/frankturner /
http://www.nofxofficialwebsite.com/ // https://twitter.com/fat_wreck // https://www.instagram.com/fatmikedude/