Frankie Stew and Harvey Gunn discuss their recent album, how to spend 24 hours in Brighton, going on tour, and why you should always order chips with a fry-up.
‘are you free after college?’
‘what for mate?’
Since this 2012 Facebook exchange, a lot has changed for Frankie Stew and Harvey Gunn. Eleven years and over ten albums later, the rap/production duo might have come a long way since teenage meetups, but collaborative music-making has evidently always been a constant. Best mates since 15, Frankie and Harvey have spent the last decade honing a sound rooted in classic hip-hop, garage and electronic dance music. Sonically summed up by Harvey as “not quite hip-hop, not garage, but definitely UK”, their DIY approach has seen a rapidly growing following and put them firmly on the map.
The praise of candid songwriting can often feel like a cliché, but it’s indisputable that Frankie and Harvey’s commitment to immortalising the relatable is part of their charm and success. The pair’s debut album ‘This Morning’ dropped in 2014, a project pulsing with searing honesty, depicting the often-prophetic poetics of the everyday: ‘I picture myself in the future / With a house, with a girl, with a car and a tutor’. Whether Frankie’s rapping about an encounter with an ex in Fabric or shouting out his Portslade roots, a refrain in “Congratulations” sums up their lyrical approach – “Real life, not like films / Just writing how I cope / Just writing how I feel”.
Frankie and Harvey also release projects more frequently than most, from EPs to instrumental projects and full albums, there is consistency representative of a job taken seriously. ‘Nothing New Under The Sun’ dropped in October last year, the album’s title serving as another reminder of a decade of hard work – even in the synthesis of the new, there will always be echoes from the past. There have been some life changes along the way, Frankie became a father in 2021 and Harvey’s now sober, his social media tracking a new-found love of running in the Sussex Downs. Represented lyrically, “Parent Trap” on October’s album pens some anxieties of parenthood, with tracks like ‘Don’t Do Drugs’ offering quintessential Frankie Stew and Harvey Gunn: ‘I fuck up sometimes that’s normal / might stay out all night that’s normal’. Some things might have shifted, but they’re never claiming to be perfect.
Speaking to me from their hometown Brighton studio, it’s clear their passion for musical creation is stronger than ever. Having already amassed over 100 million streams, with 750 thousand monthly listeners, their last sold-out 9-date UK tour demonstrated that Frankie Stew and Harvey Gunn’s cult following are well and truly along for the ride. We caught up with the duo to discuss new music, how to spend 24 hours in Brighton, their shows this April, and why you should always order chips with a fry-up.
‘Nothing New Under the Sun’ dropped last October – how’s the reception been since the release?
Frankie Stew: We worked on that project for about a year, so once it was out, as much as we loved it, it was nice to just have it out into the world and not think about it anymore. The reception has been really good, we’re really, really happy with it.
Harvey Gunn: Like Frankie said, as much as you love and appreciate it, I’m always excited to move on to the next thing to be honest.
I feel like anything you work on for that long, mentally it’s finished long before it’s out in the world…
Frankie: Exactly that, I can’t sit on the same thing. I get bored quite easily and I just have to be working on something new. It’s not like we have time off now, we’re just straight onto the next thing and are making new music, and going to be releasing new music soon.
Do you see the project as an evolution from ‘Breathing Exercises’ and ‘Handle With Care’?
Harvey: I feel like every project is a little time capsule of our lives at that time, so they naturally progress as we do. I feel that they’re very chronological. When I look back at ‘Breathing Exercises’, I can really pinpoint that moment in our lives and what we were doing at that time. For me, it’s so clearly reflected in the music.
That definitely comes across as a listener. How does it feel to be able to look back so clearly on those specific moments and periods in your life?
H: I love it. That’s one of my favourite things about writing, because it’s a different way of keeping a diary, isn’t it? If you’re writing honest thoughts and feelings of a time period, then listening back to stuff from when I was, say, 20-years-old, it’s interesting because that’s what I was feeling then. That’s what I was thinking about and what I thought was cool to talk about.
Right, some questions themed around tracks from the album. First up: “Fatboys Cafe”. If someone’s spending 24 hours in Brighton, where should they be going?
F: If you’re in summertime, I think you’ve got to be down to the beach at some point. I mean that’s not very specific, it’s quite broad but it’s true it’s probably the best place to go if you like beaches.
H: Go further down towards Hove and Portslade if you want to go to the beach, rather than right down in the Brighton side. It gets crazy busy in Brighton in the summer for tourists. Brighton is beautiful because you’ve got the beach on one side and then on the other side like the north side of Brighton encircling it is the South Downs which is a beautiful countryside with hills and forests. I think you’d do well to explore the beauty of the south on the beach and the beauty of the north.
F: That being said, there are a lot of good restaurants and places to eat and drink in Brighton. To keep it on a more wholesome note, get yourself in the woods.
Equally important, what are both your breakfast cafe orders?
F: Sausage, chips, scrambled egg and toast.
H: Either a full English, or we often get a sausage sandwich each and a little bowl of chips to share. I’m a big fan of chips with your breakfast.
I always get chips to dip in the fried egg…
H: Yeah, do you know what I mean? I’m more of a sausage, egg, bacon, and chips guy.
F: Chips are a standard in breakfast for me if you’re talking about having a proper fry-up breakfast, but some people think it’s weird. I love hash browns too, but chips have to be in it.
You have to get extra hash browns…
H: Yeah, remove the black pudding, and add extra hash browns. We’ve got a good couple of cafes near our studio.
F: Yeah, shout out Lizzie’s Café.
Next track, “Cats and Dogs” ft Kojey Radical. Firstly, cats or dogs?
F: My cat recently died so rest in peace to him, R.I.P. Snoop. He was a good cat, but I think it’s got to be dogs.
I had one really good cat, but I think he was an anomaly. So, Kojey’s on this tune – thinking about collaborations, how do you usually go about adding other voices to your partnership?
F: Kojey came to a session with us and wrote his verse in our studio where we are now. But then Lex [Amor] and some other people, we would just send the song to them. But if it’s a musician they’re more than likely always coming into the session and helping us out here in the flesh.
H: We usually think of people we’re fans of, and often people we’re crossing paths with. 99% of the time, it’s just Frankie and I here on our own, and it’s been like that for 10 years now. But we do like to bring other people in.
Thinking about how long you’ve known each other, what are you proudest of each other’s achievements in the last few years?
H: For Frankie, I’d have to say raising his amazing son, and being a great Dad.
F: It depends, I was going to say more on a professional level, it’s the consistency of professionalism.
Do you feel it helps you like musically, having known each other for a long time?
F: Yeah, definitely. I reckon it’s the key to it to be honest, I can’t see me being a professional musician without Harv being here and doing it with me.
Moving to “Happiest I’ve Ever Been” as the next track, where in the world are you both happiest?
F: Probably at home with my missus and my son, or on holiday with them somewhere hot.
H: I’d say at home with my missus as well, but also being out in nature running on my own.
Harvey, I know you’ve got into running and more recently Frankie, you said you’d got into swimming – do these things help you feel happier?
F: Exercise is a key life changer for me for how it can make me feel.
H: Same. It’s a huge part of my life, I wish it became more a part of my life sooner. I also love to have something other than music, that’s solo and it’s something where you always get what you put in. With exercise, the hours I put in, you always get what you deserve. That’s something that I find really anchoring for me.
Thinking about touring, you’re going on a big tour in April – How are you feeling about that? Anywhere you’re excited to play?
F: Yeah, excited. It’s been ages, or feels like it’s been ages – I can’t wait for the tour. It should be really good heading to some amazing cities. We’re going to Europe for the first time and going into places we’ve never even been before, let alone played music before. Feeling very lucky, grateful and excited.
H: Yeah, super excited and very grateful. I feel the most excited for this one than I have for any of them. I’m not sure why, but I just feel in a good place to have fun and have a really good time.
Do you both like touring? Do you think you’re suited to tour-life?
Both: Probably not.
F: I don’t reckon many people are really. The reality of touring is being on a bus, on your phone all day, then being in a hotel room by yourself. If you’re suited to that, that’s savage.
H: I think we’re suited to it in the way we can get through it very professionally. We hold it down all of us.
Frankie: It’s not like an old rock star tour. I mean Harv doesn’t drink, and I might have a beer or two throughout the night, but it’s not fucking crazy partying. It’s an emotional rollercoaster because you just have anxiety the whole time, are wondering ‘is this going to be a good show?’ or ‘am I going to fuck up’. It’s up and down the whole time, a proper gruelling experience, but amazing at the same time. It’s very rewarding.
Apart from the tour, what’s next for Frankie Stew and Harvey Gunn? What are you both excited about for the rest of this year?
F: Loads of new music. You’ll be able to see us on the festival circuit too, which we’re excited about, we’re going to be on the festival circuit in a big way this year. Also, a lot of international shows, a lot of music and a lot more creative freedom. We’re going to try and have a lot more fun with it this year.