Lifted From Near Death: Frank Iero On His New Cinematic Punk Album ‘Barriers’

Frank Iero’s work has crisscrossed the world numerous times over and been in front of millions of people over the course of the decades of his adult life, most of which he’s occupied with intense music. Still, on his newest album Barriers — available May 31 via UNFD under the name Frank Iero and the Future Violents — he doesn’t just retain but significantly amplifies the engaging personality that has made his music alluring for so long. It’s one of the most sonically expansive works he’s had a hand in for awhile, opening with a track that feels taken right from a classic blues record and not stopping with the jarring but welcome and transformative punk sound that feels like the product of artists who’ve truly put it all on the line.

The Nuts and Bolts of Barriers

On Barriers, he’s surrounded mostly by new collaborators, including figures like Thursday drummer Tucker Rule and former Murder By Death bassist Matt Armstrong, alongside fellow new addition multi-instrumentalist Kayleigh Goldsworthy who handles elements like the piano and long-running Iero collaborator and guitarist Evan Nestor, who is Frank’s brother-in-law. Despite the impressive way in which Frank’s newest group filled in, it’s not as though the musician always had a clearly lined path towards the finish line of this new record.

He credits his collaborators for helping pull him into the creative process, explaining that after having admired and wanted to work with Rule and Armstrong for awhile: “All of these stars aligned. It felt like a sign kind of thing — like this is a moment. If you don’t grasp it right now then you’re going to miss out on this thing that you’ve been wanting to do for like ten years — or more, right? 19 years, Jesus, 18 years. I started to chip away at this fuckin huge boulder that was laying down on my shoulders, and as I started to chip away I started to get further and further into what I really truly wanted to say and things that I always wanted to attempt on a record.”

In a way, the sharpened focus on the personal element of Iero’s music was forced on him, considering a serious near-death experience that he had while on tour in Australia in late 2016 in support of his previous record Parachutes. While unloading gear for a small acoustic performance, a city bus rammed into Iero and others he was with, leaving them seriously injured and in the hospital for weeks on end. Barriers is the first album he’s released since then, and a new sense he has of the limits of our time here permeates the work.

As he explains it: “When you have this near death experience like this, it changes your DNA. It makes you a completely different person. Food tastes different. The way that you think about things is different. You’re a completely different species at that point. So I had this elephant in the room that I knew I had to address on this record. There was no way I could write a record as the first record after this experience and not talk about it or not reference it in some way.”

The problem was that the elephant in the room of coming more than unsettlingly close to death culminated in a form of writer’s block for Iero, who didn’t feel like what he was producing while contemplating the experience did it justice. That’s where Rule, Armstrong, and the others came in, and Iero shares: “I would like to say that if there’s one thing I can get across, it’s that this record is very much possible because of the people that were in the room. Those people really helped shape the sound of this record and I’m so happy, and I feel fortunate to have had that opportunity to have these people.”

Goldsworthy, for instance, helped bring Barriers‘ opening track “A New Day’s Coming” from something Iero wrote for his kids into a full-band performance; she figures prominently on the song, contributing both keys and vocals alongside Iero. Her violin work also really elevated “The Unfortunate” from what might have just been an acoustic song to what we hear on Barriers, Iero shares. A few of the other songs on the record began as ideas from Nestor and Armstrong, who is responsible for the genesis of the record’s closer, “24k Lush.”

On the Other Side

You might not have ever heard an album with punk music so integral to its DNA that sounds quite like this before. Iero and his collaborators turn their music itself into an expression of the pinnacles and valleys of the emotional journey they’re taking us on — every note feels alive, and nothing approaches feeling dull or phoned in.

Discussing how far they went sonically, Iero suggests that exploration defines the record as a whole, sharing: “I think that’s what this record is really about, is about breaking down these walls that we build up around ourselves, some of which we think is protecting us, but they’re really just kind of keeping us out from the wonderful things about life.” 

That’s a message sure to resonate in a corner of the music community longing for these kinds of emotional expressions, which Iero and those he’s working with put on strikingly full display.

What I hope is that people will listen to this and go off and tackle their own obstacles,” he shares. “That’s the thing — when I was younger, I thought of art as this thing where the final stage was you finished your piece and released it. Now, the older I get — and hopefully a little bit more wise, maybe, or maybe just more of a wise ass — but now, I really truly believe the final step of art is not just releasing it, it’s when other people hear it and take it and do things with it on their own — their interpretations, the ripple effect. That’s the real final stage of your involvement in art is to affect other people and to change the world. So what I hope — I hope that it’s a testament to trying things that scare the hell out of you, to attempting the obstacles that you see as insurmountable, because that’s where you really get the great stuff. That’s where greatness is achieved finally, is by doing things that you never thought you could do.”

Check out “Young and Doomed” off Barriers below and pre-order the album at this link.