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Thursday 9 February 2023 Dublin: 7°C
# frank and walters
The Young Offenders gives 25-year-old song a huge boost - but band don't expect a windfall
We speak to the band’s drummer Ashley Keating about how they have coped with the many changes in the music industry.

IMG_0046 The Frank and Walters

A 25-YEAR-OLD song by the legendary Cork band Frank and Walters has been given a huge boost thanks to the TV show The Young Offenders – though its creators are unlikely to see much money as a result.

After All by the Frank and Walters is now number three in the Irish iTunes charts and gained another 40,000 streams on Spotify after it was featured prominently in the finale of the RTÉ TV show. (We won’t spoil the episode for you – but you can watch it here.)

But the song’s journey from practice room to its current revival is one that shows just how much the music industry has changed from when it was first penned.

Ashley Keating has been the drummer for the Frank and Walters since the alternative pop band formed in the Cork suburb of Bishopstown in 1989. In the early 1990s, the band moved to London to ‘make it’ – at a time when ‘making it’ and having a career in the music industry was possible.

But in the intervening years, the musicians have watched how the industry has completely changed. Rather than stay frustrated, they have decided to evolve with it.

“We were blown away and thought it was brilliant,” says Keating of how the song – which landed them on Top of the Pops – was used in the show.

“That song is 25 years old, so for it suddenly to get a new lease of life is great for the band,” he says. ”That’s the thing when you release a record. Streaming services, you get very little for them but they give the band a boost at the same time. Years ago the traditional way of releasing music, once you released it that was it, it was gone and you moved on.”

river The Young Offenders

With today’s model, the song never really goes away. After All is now the band’s most-listened to song on Spotify, with over 641k streams compared to the next most popular track, This Is Not A Song, which has just over 99k streams.

“The fact it’s always there and always available means it’s always got a chance of gaining a new listenership,” says Keating. “[The Young Offenders] brings us on to a whole new generation. Myself and Paul [Linehan] are 50 so suddenly to have 14, 15, 16-year-olds knowing our song is a bit mad, but obviously it will keep us going for the next album.”

‘Music has changed so much’

2002 was the year that things changed completely for the Frank and Walters. It was three years after the music download service Napster emerged, a site which ushered in a new era which showed how the internet could make paying for music redundant.

Bands had heretofore been able to rely on album sales for income – now those sales could not be depended on at all.

“From about 1989 up to about 2002 we made a living solely from music but since 2002 we all have jobs. When the Napster thing really hit, sales plummeted and music shifted very quickly so it was a bit of a wake-up call, we were living in dreamland a bit.”

Irish Examiner / YouTube

“Because music has changed so much, it’s extremely difficult to make a living out of music these days,” says Keating.

“When we started off we hopped on a bus to London with our equipment and a tenner in our pocket. You were able to do it that way then because if it worked out you could make a living, but now… you wouldn’t be putting kids off making music, but you certainly would be telling them to stay in school and college and get a qualification as well.”

The percentage of people making it is tiny.

The band goes from album to album these days – releasing an album and using the money from the subsequent tour and merchandise sales to help fund the next album.

“It’s completely shifted,” says Keating of the model for earning from their music. “When we started, the business would have been completely the other way round. You would have made money from album sales. But that’s completely gone – music is essentially free these days. And that’s fine too.”

Do they check how much they earn from services like Spotify? “We tend not to because it’s so depressing,” says Keating. “Last time I checked it works out as something like .006c per stream.” And the band doesn’t get all of that money. Still, Keating is quite sanguine about it all.

“It would be great if it was more and maybe it will be someday, but there’s benefits to it too; you just have to adapt.”

The band have chosen not to let this new era affect how they feel about their creative potential.

“I think when we’re in the practice room or when we have a moment of when everything comes together with the drums, bass, guitar, keyboard, vocals, we record it… and you’ve got that deeply satisfying moment of creating something completely new, you’re not thinking ‘who can I send this to’, you’re thinking ‘I want people to hear this because I think it’s good’.”

When After All was written, the band were in London making their debut album Trains Boats and Planes. Vocalist and bassist Paul Linehan, the main songwriter, approached the band with a new track.

“I think he wasn’t 100% sure on it, but he played it to us and we thought ‘God that’s a great track, we should work on that for the album,” recalls Keating. “We were living in London at the time, we were being typical Irish lads abroad – a bit of homesickness. And it was just a simple love song, it’s boy-girl in a way but it’s also loving where you’re from and missing where you’re from.”

Paul White Horse Paul Linehan on stage.

Why does he think it appeals to people so much? “It just worked: the rhythm of it, there’s a celebratory chorus, hands in the air. I saw someone writing [online] that it’s a song that’s at home when you’re by yourself listening in headphones, or in football terraces.”

Keating says there’s a certain poignancy to the song that helped it fit into the finale of The Young Offenders. A 3.10-minute long love song, it’s the sort of power pop tune that ends up being an instant earworm.

“The emotions of the song and the emotions of the finale clicked perfectly – it was as if they were meant for each other,” says Keating.

You write hundreds of songs over the years and there’s an element of luck with some of them and they ring true and they have a life beyond their release, and that’s one of those songs.

The nature of the music business is that people’s eyes are always drawn to the new kid on the block, says Keating. But he’s glad of streaming’s benefits – like how it helps a long-running band reach potential fans abroad, which can in turn lead to new faces at gigs.

“You weren’t able to do that when we started. You really were relying on the music press and the alternative radio shows to get through to people.”

In 2019 the Frank and Walters will celebrate 30 years making music. “The band and songs have given us so much. We have seen parts of the world we would never have a chance to see otherwise,” says Keating.

They even have a whole new generation of fans coming to gigs, now that many of their stalwart listeners are parents themselves.

‘If we looked at it clinically, we’d jack it in’

There are also the benefits of just being involved in the act of creating, something which Keating emphasises.

“We always say if you don’t have that outlet I think you’d be more frustrated. That release of creating is great.”

Overall, the band is about more than making money for the members of Frank and Walters:

If we looked at it clinically we’d just jack it in – that’s why we’d tend not to look at it and just go with it. Are you going to throw all that away and split up just because [of this]? It gives us too much pleasure. When you’re on stage and banging out a song and the audience is singing it back to you, there is no better feeling in the world.

Read: ‘It was hellish’: How Paul Howard’s Anglo nightmare led to a musical about Coppers>

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