By Jibril Yassin
EDMONTON — It’s time to get dead… again! Long-beloved Edmonton punk act The Franklins are returning to play two shows this holiday season.
Despite breaking up in the mid-2000s, the band has returned to the stage several times since. However, with guitarist/singer Johnny Olbey situated in Toronto, the prevailing thought was The Franklins were no more. That is, until a promoter approached them about the possibilities of another show, the first in eight years. As drummer Clint Frazier puts it, the demand for a Franklins return was immense.
“[I’d] go to the bar or a show and all the time I’d get asked is ‘When are you guys gonna play again? Are you ever gonna play again? Can you guys please play one more time?’” Frazier says.
Starting out in the late ‘90s, The Franklins went through several different names and phases before settling on a sound, opting for the best bits from hardcore, thrash, and old-school punk rock. The band would play shows in costume and fierce zombie make-up, leading the press coin the band as “zombie skate punk” for several years.
“We did what felt natural to us,” says Olbey.
“We were never really out to fit into any particular box or subgenre of punk rock or metal or whatever.”
It wasn’t until they enlisted a young Frazier on drums and started playing regularly that The Franklins took off, playing more and more high profile shows and drawing a considerable fan base who took to the band for their song writing and theatrics.
“We never took ourselves too seriously. We had a really good sense of humour. Maybe it’s just that we weren’t trying to fit ourselves into any box, we just did what felt natural,” explains Olbey. “Also we had some pretty insane stage shows and I think people loved the spectacle of us losing our shit onstage.”
“It was such a volatile, wild live show,” says Frazier with a laugh. “I have the scars on my face to prove it!”
They released one EP entitled Let’s Get Dead back in 2002 and a self-titled full-length on Reluctant Records in 2004. The record drew praise for its sound as well as its snotty and unique packaging: the cover folded out into a giant “F.” Frazier mentions the band will have limited copies of the self-titled album on vinyl, however, the covers will be custom-made for the show.
“Those [covers] were so popular, they sold out very soon after we released them and it was such a pain to manufacture the packaging because it was all silk-screened by hand and you can only do 12 panels at a time or something ridiculous like that,” says Frazier.
Now reminiscing, conversation turns to the time that The Franklins came to prominence, as the Edmonton punk scene was thriving.
Hall shows were a regular and popular occurrence, the majority of them packed to the rails with hundreds of kids as bills included such punk icons as Wednesday Heroes, Les Tabernacles and High Jinks. It’s a stark difference from the shows of today.
“It was way different. I remember the scene was so strong back then and I think it was even stronger in the mid ‘90s. I was in the tail end of it but hall shows were really the thing, the big thing,” recalls Frazier.
“Even people who put on shows like Aaron Getz would do big all ages shows at Stars, which turned into Pawn Shop. We played Red’s with Mad Bombers Society and it was nearly sold out. The all ages scene back then was fucking crazy.”
Although the all ages scene in Edmonton is currently in a flux, a crowd of mad fans old and new are sure to descend upon the back-to-back reunion gigs that are impending. After all, both gigs are at the bar!
Check out the Franklins on December 26th in Edmonton with No Problem, E-Town Beadown, and the Strap at DV8. They also perform on December 27th at DV8 with Tarantuja, Stangled, and Narkotta.AB, Alberta, DV8, The Franklins