[drɪŋks wɪð] The Frank & The Earnest

Okay, first band interview, kind of. Phew. And, very fittingly (you’ll see why in a bit, don’t worry), with two people that live in a different time zone. And those two don’t even live in the same country. I mean, they’re close, under Canadian circumstances, but still. You’ll see.

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from left to right: West, Max, Franz, Julian, Lukas

We’re in Brussels, Belgium, and then in Berlin, Germany. Well, when I say we, I mean Franz is in Brussels, and Lukas in Berlin. I’m in Vancouver. Duh. Funnily enough, both Franz and Lukas are originally from Dresden. Which is where I’m from. Not that it matters, as we didn’t meet there, and this isn’t about me anyhow, but still.

Anyhow. We’re talking (separately, because in addition to different timezones, there’s also different work schedules) about The Frank & The Earnest. And about their new and, sort of, third album, “Radiate”. We’re also talking about distances covered, time-wise as well as space-wise and creativity-wise, if that makes any sense (it will, eventually. You’ll see). We’re drinking coffee and smoothies (note the colour difference, please) in Canada, and Whiskey in Berlin, and Formula in Brussels. Ada, Franz’ daughter, that is. But for the sake of this article and the blog’s title let’s just say that’s the drink of choice. So much more fun than beer. For Ada, anyhow.

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While I’m writing this, I’m listening to the first two albums, “Away“, and then “Reset“, and then, once again, to “Radiate“. It’s pretty mind-blowing that even now, five years after the first album was released, with a pretty different group of people and under a slightly different name, and featuring a fairly different style, this conglomerate of people around Franz (thank you, Franz Ferdinand, for making this an internationally pronouncable name, by the way!) is still going strong. It seems an unlikely setup: During this time, Franz has lived in Nepal, New York, Thailand and travelled through most of Asia overland on his way home. Lukas, the other almost constant in the project’s history (he used to be referred to as “this other guy” on the first album, “Away”, but we’ll get to that. You’ll see.) has been mostly in Berlin, but recently also in Australia, and before that in San Francisco and – and here’s another one of those fun connections – Vancouver! So has Franz, by the way. Way back when. Anyhow.

The whole thing started out under the name Franz & Frau Schneider, and then the other guy, aka Lukas, joined them. Also way back, when this blog was still part of another blog and written in German, I interviewed Franz and Lukas, and said Frau Schneider, about their second album, “Reset”. That was in 2015. Other than recording two LPs they also had two tours through western Europe under their belts, and were about to do embark on another one. Meanwhile, some of the original members had acquired “real lives”, as it’s been referred to ever since: Jobs, families in the making, that kinda stuff. Regardless, they managed to meet up at least once a year to play some fine music together, and continue to do so. Thank you, internet and globalisation.

It’s an interesting way to play especially this kind of music: Very hand-made, in the earlier stages very acoustic (including a stand-up bass and accordions!), with lots of harmonies and a general feeling of togetherness. And one thing becomes pretty obvious as I’m talking to Franz and Lukas now: If this was gonna be more of a full-time, musical career, I’m-gonna-live-off-of-this kinda deal, it wouldn’t work. The way all three albums came into existence is proof of that: The first one is an assembly of Franz’ work of seven years prior to recording. Thematically, as the title “Away” suggests, it talks a lot about traveling, wanting to be somewhere (and maybe someone) else. To me, it carries a strong sense of longing. “Reset”, which was published two years later, is still very much a traveling album, lyrically, but the direction seems a bit clearer, more focused. Which may have to do with the fact that all twelve songs on the album were written with the goal of recording an album within a year. That’s a different kind of writing process than just collecting gems along the way with no time pressure whatsoever.

And now “Radiate”. The decision to get together and record a new studio album was made in December 2017. Recording sessions happened in April 2018. When Franz rallied the current version of the band, now under the new name, he had one finished song. In the end, there were, yet again, twelve. Some of them were completed while Franz, Lukas, Julian Gramm (who’s banging out those amazing guitar solos) and drummer West aka Felix Franz (yes, another Franz. This, like, never happens) were in that old farmhouse somewhere in Eastern Germany. With “too much beer, too much whiskey and too much garlic pasta”, Lukas says. Lucky for us, music doesn’t carry smells. Yet.

Musically, the album sounds “a lot more like it’s a band”. A lot more electronic, and everyone “finally has the room” to expand their craft, to solo, to shine. In this, Franz and Lukas agree. As in a lot of other things, really, other than how they became friends and fellow musicians. Which, I’m not gonna lie, made me laugh a lot, as I was listening to both of them separately praising each other.

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They met because they were sharing a practice space in their hometown, Dresden. This was around 2006. Franz was then playing with his second Band, Philia, which was the first band he ever played guitar in. Originally, he started off as a bassist, which he got to be again on “Radiate” after not really touching his bass much for years. That he became a bass player first came to be because he borrowed a friends Discman (I’m gonna link this just in case some of you don’t remember those) during recess and “Californication” (can’t help you if you don’t remember that, sorry!) was playing. Instantly he knew: This is what I want to do!

“I sat there, feeling as if I was high. I had never experienced anything like this before: That a song can make you feel like you’re flying. That’s when I knew.”

The next song that came on was “Around the World”, which settled the instrument of choice for Franz. He founded his first band when he was 13, with a singer that “looked exactly like Kurt Cobain”, which never hurts, I suppose. Another band later, Philia came to existence, where Franz didn’t only pick up the guitar, but also wrote all the lyrics – but he wasn’t quite ready to sing them yet.

This finally happened with Clocks to Zero, whose members were partially poached from Lukas’ old band, Self-Fulfillin’ Prophecy. With whom Franz was actually impressed: “When I heard their song Morninglight, I didn’t believe this was a local band. Lukas had this big American vocal sound…”. Franz had come back from his trip to Canada and was in search for a new band, and Lukas was about to go there, so both Christoph, the co-founder of Self-Fulfillin’ Prophecy, and Helge, their bassist, became part of Franz’ new project. When Lukas came back, a year later, he asked if he could sing backing vocals for them.

“I almost said no. Because Lukas can actually sing! I thought it would be embarrassing for me to have him sing backing vocals.”

Oh, the modesty. Thankfully, Franz got over himself, because who knows if we had three beautiful albums to listen to today if he hadn’t.

This is that funny moment where I get to hear two very different sides of the same story, because Lukas tells me he came back from Canada, and brazenly asked to be part of his old band again, “like the jealous ex-band member that I was”. And then just never left Franz alone (Lukas’ words, not mine), and eventually followed him to Paderborn to study and become part of yet another of Franz’ band projects, because this is where Franz & Frau Schneider und dieser Andere started out. Alas, different story, same result, everyone happy.

Lukas, meanwhile, indeed probably has the most profound vocal education of the entire makeup. He started out in the legendary Dresden Kreuzchor, an institution in German choir and classical music in general. Eight years he was part of it, and got to travel to such exotic places as South America and Japan. Then, at the age of 16, he thought being part of a boys choir just wasn’t cool enough anymore, and left. To co-found the aforementioned Self-Fulfillin’ Prophecy. They had a good run until Lukas went across the Atlantic, which their EP and some truly amazing Youtube-footage is proof of (if you speak German, that is).

Now, Lukas is working in film and Franz is getting his PHD in Brussels, whilst being the ambassador of Formula at home. Times change. Franz, very much hiding his light under a bushel these days, says he still doesn’t understand why all these awesome musicians that are part of The Frank & The Earnest family, are still doing it. To mention only a few: Julian, for example, actually is a professional musician, and travels the world a lot, but still takes time off to tour or record with them “because he wants to”. Franz’ brother Max managed to not only contribute some of the vocals, guitar and key tracks, but also  somehow mix the entire album, whilst also having a full time job, and his own band project [pi!]. The tracks were accumulated not only during that week in Saxony, but also in Australia with Gemma and in New York with Eli (both trumpet), and then some more in Brussels, and Dresden, and the Netherlands, that just as a side-note. Lukas is working for the Berlinale non-stop, nine months a year, and tries to travel as much as possible the remaining three. And it’s not like Franz is underemployed, either. Which didn’t keep him from driving out to the Netherlands to record with Anne for “Radiate”. Who is a guy, in case you were wondering, and played keys for this album as well as for “Nepals best (because only) country band” in Kathmandu, Franz says. That’s how they met, by the way. In case you were wondering. Julian was in on that, too.

The Frank & The Earnest
photo cred: Ben Zank

And so, through time and space, so to speak, and different styles, there still is a band, however fluid, and dreams of coming tours and more albums, and a bunch of new beautiful, sometimes funny (“Barbara”), sometimes truly heartwarming (“Into Place” – especially when you know it was written for Lukas) tracks to listen to. Somehow, there always seems to be a time and place for the music. And isn’t that what we’re here for, really?


All the links to The Frank & The Earnest:

Website ~ Facebook ~ Bandcamp ~ Spotify ~ Youtube

Oh. And should you happen to be in or around Dresden in January 2019, you should not miss out on the truly rare chance of seeing The Frank & The Earnest live: On January 15th, at Societaetstheater Dresden!


[drɪŋks wɪð] Kavi

The man has many names: Emcee Kavi, which is the moniker I got to know him under,  has officially been surpassed and evolved into Ya Boi Kavi, and every once in a while the mysterious Killa Kuv makes an appearance, though no-one ever knows when it’s gonna happen. But really he’s just Kavi. We’ll get to that.


We’re drinking Pineapple Bellinis, made by Captain Awesome aka Dave at Lucky Tacos in Kavi’s hood, Kitsilano, Vancouver. It’s good stuff. And my first Bellini ever, but, you know, whatever.

We will talk a lot about circles, and in some way, about fate, I guess. Like how Kavi means “poet” in Hindi, and his relatives would ask him when he’s gonna find his Kavita (which means poem). Or how Kavi ended up at the Anza open mic one Thursday night for the first time ever, on the day he got his first tattoo, which is his name in Hindi scripture. Or how his first mixtape Bar Smasher was recorded in the same room Vancouver rapper and freestyle legend Aspire used to live in, who was one of the main inspirators (that’s not a word, but, you know, whatever) for Kavi to become a rapper. But let’s start at the beginning.

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While Hiphop was always a part of Kavi’s life, that night at the Anza was when he first encountered rappers up close, and – in his words – the experience floored him. He went on going to the open mic almost every week for four years, got to know more artists and became inspired by them. And then he finally made the decision to quit his well-paid job as a realtor to become a full-time rapper.

If you’ve ever been to the Anza open mic, or any of Kavi’s shows, you’ve heard this story a few times. But really there’s so much more to it. And the more I know, the more I am amazed by the commitment and authenticity with which Kavi Lehdar, that super friendly guy, a little quirky, always running around talking to virtually anyone – I’m pretty sure the term “social butterfly” was coined after Kavi – always up for a quick doobie outside; is just constantly going for it, following his passion, and inspiring others to do the same. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

photo cred: Jordan of Open Aperture Photography

After being a loyal member of the Anza community for quite some time, Kavi encountered his first Cypher buddy,  Lucas Bell, while playing Kubb in Kits. They hung out a bunch of times before Lucas moved back to Victoria, and by then Kavi had caught the sweet scent of rapping. He connected with other artists at open mics and through the social web, like SMX, JUNK, the aforementioned Aspire, Li’l T aka Travis Turner and many others. They taught him about different aspects of rap and performing. And finally, one beautiful day – on his 33rd birthday, actually – he decided to spend five hours every day rapping. For the next ten years. Now that’s what I call commitment. Coincidentally, buddy JUNK – who also started his rap career at, you guessed it, the Anza – started the first ever Strictly Cypher in Vancouver two days after Kavi made that fateful decision. And the rest, as they say, is history.

The Anza Club really appears to be at the centre of many of those circles mentioned earlier. Not only was it the birthplace for Kavi’s inspiration to become a rapper, he also met two of the other members of his label and self-chosen Clockwork Family here: Dirty Mike and Rozmo, who later brought Jordan Humphreys of Open Aperture Media and Jamie Sands of J.Sands Photography into the fold. All five form the core of the Vancouver-based label, but there’s a lot of extended family, most of which you would likely run into at the Anza on a Thursday night.

“That place has impacted my life to a point that I can’t even fathom.”

And to bring yet another circle to a close: After closing the doors on the last, very cherished “oldschool” Anza Open mic late in 2017 after a very successful, 14 year long run, guess who’s been hosting the new and updated version under new management since July 2018? You guessed it: Killa Kuv and his gang of Clockwork brethren.

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The collective has been gaining a lot of traction over the past couple of years. Originally a brainchild of Rozmo’s, the idea is to help each other grow, push each other’s work, develop new skills and just generally make some dope art happen. The Clockwork gang doesn’t limit itself to the realms of Hiphop: They’re frequently collaborating with artists of other genres, and are hosting their Clockwork Solo Sessions also featuring musicians that come from a non-rap background, like, for example, SOLA Music.

“Everything has been organic. […] We’d see each other at all these places, all developing… we all have different styles and skills, and now that we’re all a unit, we’re able to accentuate these skills, and learn what the other people are good at.”

Kavi’s first mixtape, Bar Smasher, was recorded in what is now Dirty Mike’s room (there’s another circle closing for ya) in the house he shares with Roz, which also serves as the backdrop for most of the Solo Sessions and Clockwork Cypher videos you can find on Youtube, and of course the brand new Elephants in the Room project. It was Kavi’s first publication under the Clockwork label and, for Kavi, was the entryway into the growing label and a confirmation that he was “doing this now”.

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Photo cred: Jordan of Open Aperture Photography

“I don’t just wanna live off the music, I wanna live the music. […] I don’t wanna do anything that I don’t love ever again.”

Kavi’s story is not a linear one by any means, but then – whose is these days, and who wants linear, anyway. Let’s just say: He’s been a seeker for a while, before he found his true calling in rap music. Some of the jobs he’s had – like working for Lululemon, with autistic children, or at an ice rink for the City of Vancouver – don’t exactly scream “Rapper!”. But looking at the career stations Kavi has visited, the last one being said job as a realtor (not counting the one at CannaFarmacy he’s been working at since, because, let’s be real, that’s more pleasure than pain and has allowed him to amp up his rap skills while paying the bills, and vice versa), I feel like they all may have helped hone Kavi’s communication skills, and allowed him to get a look at all kinds of people, and different sides of society, all of which definitely shows in his bars.

Speaking of which: Bar Smasher attests to a very keen, sometimes, let’s say, subtly pessimistic – outlook on society, and in particular, religion and politics. Since then, his raps and diction have become more polished, the sound somewhat heavier and more  bumping. All in all the tracks come across more rounded. Never less poignant, though, and from what Kavi tells me, we’re about to hear a whole let more of those biting words on the upcoming double-EP, which is due to be released December of this year. Titled “Lucid Illusions”, it will feature a dark and a light side, lyrically, and will be preceded by a 10 minute freestyle containing “some very crazy shit”. So, you know, if you were worried that wider exposure and experience have made the man mellow – far from it. He’s just getting started.

“I just think we can really do what we want to do.”

When Kavi came to the realisation he needed to quit his job and become a rapper, he turned his phone off for three weeks, meditated every day and wrote down the thoughts that would come up during his practice. Since some doubts kept arising – after all, he had been no stranger to making what might seem quite drastic changes in his career path – he gave one of his journals to a friend, without any hints as to what he was planning on doing. His friend’s comment: “You obviously wanna be a rapper.” So Kavi decided to give the whole thing a try for six months. It’s been four and a half years since then.

When he tells me about his daily regiment of meditative practice, freestyle, rhyming and association exercises, it becomes clear that Kavi is very aware it doesn’t just take making a decision, but massive amounts of dedication and exercise to fulfil your dream. And, last but not least, passion. Kavi has finally found his Kavita.


Links to all things Kavi:

Soundcloud | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Youtube


One last thing: The Clockwork Anza Open Mic is a weekly event happening every Thursday night at the long-standing Anza Club Vancouver. Since it’s a members club, there is a door charge of currently $4, but only $10 gets you an annual membership and access to the club whenever you want it. The Anza is also home to the best bartender in town, Jon. Just saying. While the impression often is that Hiphop is the only genre featured at this particular open mic, that’s definitely not the case. All genres are welcome and regularly represented, and the atmosphere is super open and supportive to artists on all levels and stages of their craft. It’s all about community. So if you’re looking for a sweet spot to try out those new tracks, you should definitely give the Anza a try. Signup is at 9:30 pm, music 10 pm – 2 am. See y’all there.