After nearly a quarter-century of hot, sweaty good times, the cross-country Van’s Warped Tour is coming to an end in 2018. Founder Kevin Lyman released a statement saying, “I have been proud to work with so many artists who have grown to be some of the largest stars in the world. Countless bands have played in hot parking lots and through summer storms for you at some point.” Though the full tour is no more, fans and friends will gather in 2019 to celebrate 25 years of Warped.
In the meantime, Frank Turner is one of the heavy hitters who will be sending the annual tour off in style this year!
In a 2012 post on his website, Frank Turner signs off by writing, “So there it is. I really don’t want to talk about this much more—today has fucking sucked, actually—but I hope this clears things up for some people.”
At the time, Turner and his politics were the center of a debate in one corner of the internet. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, here’s the condensed version: In September 2012, a music writer for the Guardian wrote a story that mainly consisted of quotes Turner had given in interviews between 2009 and 2011. The quotes addressed a range of Turner’s political opinions, but the one that sent Twitter abuzz—and led to Turner getting “100 death threats and hate mail a day” according to an interview he later gave to the Guardian—was the one where he said, “I consider myself to be pretty right wing.”
Like most “Twitter scandals,” this one quickly blew over, but it left a mark on Turner. “I’ll take my punishment. I’ll take my share of the blame for that,” he says. “I’m not going to be bravado about this. It was an upsetting experience for me, and it really put me off the idea of having those kinds of conversations in public about politics, not least because it strikes me that the degree of nuance in public political conversations is essentially zero.”
Now, six years later, Turner has created a political album—sort of. Even with songs like “1933,” a punk anthem about the dangers of political movements that promise national renewal, and “Make America Great Again,” a cheeky pop song that pays homage to Turner’s love for the U.S., he’s still reticent to use the label.
“Partly the function of the fact that I’m getting older, and I’m arguably in my late 30s now, and also as a function of what’s happening to the wider world at the moment, the central emotion that I’m feeling about current affairs and politics is doubt and confusion,” Turner says. “Political certainties that I feel that I grew up with are mostly turning out to be bullshit at the moment. That’s combined with the process of getting older and realizing I know nothing about anything anyway. It’s sort of an attempt to write a political album with that in mind. It’s quite hard to write fist-pumping anthems along the lines of, ‘I don’t really know what’s going on.’ I’ve given it my best shot.”
Regardless of what you choose to call it, Be More Kind—released May 4 on Xtra Mile—is Turner’s most musically diverse album. After 2015’s Positive Songs for Negative People, a back-to-basics punk-rock album with the feel of a live show, Turner decided it was time to try something new. Produced by Austin Jenkins and Joshua Block, formerly of White Denim, the album was recorded over two blocks in June and October, making it the longest Turner has spent in the studio working on an album.
“This is the first album where I really wanted to try to use the studio as a tool rather than a tape machine,” he says. “I was trying to do things I really don’t know how to do, and that took time for obvious reasons. Secondly, it meant that I wanted to be sure I was getting it as right as I could before releasing it to the world.”
Lyrically, Be More Kind covers everything from the aforementioned doubt, confusion, and politics to undergoing therapy on “Little Changes” and finding new love on “There She Is” and “Going Nowhere.” The most prevalent theme, though, is summed up by the title track. “In a world that has decided that it’s going to lose its mind / Be more kind, my friends / Try to be more kind,” Turner sings over a simple acoustic guitar that gradually melds into a pretty strings arrangement. At its core, Be More Kind is a hopeful, forward-looking album that encourages people to talk and listen to each other, regardless of politics.
“At the center of my politics is—and this might sound like a really pretentious thing to say, and I’m sorry if it does, but at the center of it is quite a deep affection for human beings,” Turner says. “We’ve done some pretty great stuff collectively. We’ve done some awful stuff too. I think there’s cause for optimism in there somewhere. How it is we get out of our current impasse, I don’t know. In the grand scheme of things, human beings are OK. I like human beings.”
Catch Turner on the very last cross-country Van’s Warped Tour ever by grabbing your tickets today!