“I feel so much more empowered when I’m onstage with the band,” says Katie Frank. “I can be timid when it comes to singing my songs.”
Timid. Hearing that word comes as a bit of a surprise since, in person, I’ve only seen Frank play with The Pheromones. With four other players and their loud amplifiers behind her, she’s energetic and sassy; her vocals are delivered with conviction and she doesn’t hesitate to bust her bandmates’ chops when the situation calls for it. That’s the antithesis of timid, right?
Then again, my first exposure to Frank was a solo acoustic video from Bands in the Backyard, and in it, we can see exactly what she’s talking about. Videographer Kyle Costill moves from side to side as she plays a sparse rendition of “False Alarm,” and the closer he brings the camera, the more she tries to look away. It’s almost like she’s uncomfortable with the whole idea of video in general, even as she plays her songs to the camera.
The difference there might be attributed to a newbie-ish performer as compared to a more seasoned player. The photographs on her releases tell a similar narrative – the “don’t take my picture” face on the cover of her pre-band EP Covered Bridge Road versus the much more poised and confident image on the new Counting Your Curses, where Frank looks like a freaking rockstar.
When I ask her about this, though, she laughs. She doesn’t deny it, but that isn’t quite how she sees things.
“Really, it’s just not as satisfying,” she says. “The rush I get from playing with the band, I don’t get that when I’m by myself.”
We’re grabbing beers at Bridgewaters with her longtime rhythm guitarist Josh Werblun, chatting about Curses and their respective paths that led to The Pheromones. Certainly its a catchy-as-heck name, kind of a sideways nod to Elvis Costello and The Attractions. But it also speaks to the collaborative nature of the group – of which Frank is the leader, but which she is wary of performing without.
She got started writing songs in 2005, when she was 15. At first she kept it mostly to herself, playing the occasional talent shows during her High School years in Elizabethtown, but never pursuing anything bigger. As a freshman at Temple in 2008, she took a pop songwriting class that provided a greater creative spark. The professor worked as a private songwriting coach, and Frank says her excited mom hired booked her some sessions with him. But the experience was dismaying.
“I’d drive in once a week, 90 minutes each way from E-town to Ambler, to work with him,” she said. “And he’d change two words in a song.”
Frustrated, she put her instrument away to focus on her behavioral health studies, and didn’t pick it up again until after graduation when she moved to West Philadelphia – which is where she met Werblun.
A guitarist and producer, Werblun has been involved in the local music community for over a dozen years – which is ridiculous when you consider he’s only 27. When he was 14, his parents took him to see his cousin Scott Bricklin play an early set at The Point with 4 Way Street – Bricklin’s supergroup with local XPN favorites Jim Boggia, Ben Arnold and Joseph Parsons – and the show made him realize his path in life was music. Continue reading