Frankie Stew & Harvey Gunn – Handle With Care

Words by Daniel Farrell

As the days grow longer, and the prospect of linking pals in beer gardens becomes more graspable, Brighton’s Frankie Stew & Harvey Gunn have released an eight track album, Handle With Care. The album’s themes are what we’ve grown accustomed to with these boys; Love, self-awareness, depression, anxiety, looking forwards and looking backwards. We’re going to dissect a few of the tracks as best as we can, and hope you’ll join us for the duration. So sit back, light a scented candle, grip a single slice of cucumber for one of your eye holes, leaving your strong eye available for reading, and enjoy the ride….

Handle With Care

The album opens with a song of the same title, whereby producer Harvey Gunn, whose understanding of subtle thematics, has produced a dreamy, undiluted yet concerted base for Frankie to deal with. Simplistic pops and consistent snares are adjoined with a trio of laboured piano chords, which subtly change pitch throughout the track. Stew lays down a series of wavering bars, filled with emotion and anxiety. 

“What’s to come? What’s the pros and cons, most of us are cunts, sorry for swearing mum, sorry for all I’ve done, sorry that I’m your son, I’m sorry that I can’t change, sorry that I’m not the one”.

Frankie Stew’s building a career on his ability to tap into his emotions, and trying to engage with them. With young people becoming ever more pressured by external forces, he’s a beacon of hope for many listeners. His innate ability to come to terms with his past family troubles, former friendships which have set sail and more generally his anxieties, has propelled him to the glass ceiling which hems in the UK’s underground scene. We’re certain this ceiling is likely to shatter soon, and this album is another fine example of why that’s so likely. 

Tears on my Window

Released as a single from the album a number of weeks prior to the albums official release, Tears on my Window is a hopeful song, a song which directly contrasts the album’s opener. We can suppose that Eleni Drake’s tranquil and indistinct feature adds this hope, but even Stew is more engaged and at times more upbeat, which is refreshing. It’s a testament to Harvey Gunns production techniques. He’s able to maintain the theme, but slightly raise the tempo to allow this change in feeling.

“Plans are gone, I don’t make the biggest ones, I make the saddest songs”.

With lockdown marking it’s anniversary, Tears on my Window is apt by design, it’s a song which pertinently describes the times we’re currently enduring. Stew always appears to be challenging himself, and questioning his motives and decisions in what we can only imagine is becoming a busier and busier life. It’s quintessential FS&HG, and shows a clear maturity of sound from when they set out on this journey more than half a decade ago.

 

Artwork by Comes With Fries / Flower Up Studios

Numbers on the Brain

It’s fair to say that we might not have expected to see Ocean Wisdom on and FS&HG joint, but it’s proven to be a great collaboration, and that statement is true for all the features on the album. We loved Kofi Stone’s approach on Constellations, and we’ve briefly touched on Eleni Drake’s input, but this is a special one. It reminds us of the much deserved Loyle Carner feature on Breathing Exercises (2020), and shows the clear progression of the Brighton duo. 

Stew, who usually doesn’t offer the most exciting flows, but typically the most relatable and real lyrics, is caught in a playful flow which is replicated by Wisdom as the track progresses. Gunn lays down another hopeful and engaging directive for Stew and Wisdom to follow, and they do it to a tee. Wisdom, who is revered for his energy, multis and sheer pace, is refreshingly brought back to basics for this one. Through the duration of the feature, we can forgive Wisdom for picking up the pace which he’s clearly so used to utilising so well, as we enjoy this more laboured version of his raps. It’s a clever feature, and it’s executed to perfection.

Plants Don’t Grow

The album’s final offering, Plants Don’t Grow, features Kamran Kaur, who sings in an up and coming band – Attic’o’matic. She’s an illusive character, and we’re not sure how FS&HG caught wind of her, but her light and breezy backing vocals add a dynamic layering to the soft and lucid lyrics of Stew. The song tackles the usual themes, but primarily it shows Stew’s guilt of not supporting someone close to him as much as he perhaps should.

“I know I said plants don’t grow they do grow, anything I want for myself I want two-fold, cause you deserve it, don’t be so hard on yourself it’s you that’s worth it, look what you done for the youts its super certi, you’re a great person look at you super person, I’m so proud i’m proud I can’t hide it, there’s a few things that helped it weren’t silence”.

We wouldn’t usually highlight lyrics at such length, but this segment encapsulates the song’s core. It’s not romantic or lined with incredible word play, quite the opposite, it’s Frankie Stew showing his admiration for someone in the only way he knows how. It’s as though Stew is overcoming some of his anxieties that come with the heightened exposure he and Gunn are receiving, and it makes for great listening. 

We watched them kick back with Belmont Stores Barbershop on their new podcast series (highly recommended), and it was refreshing to finally see the guys whose music has narrated a good portion of so many people’s lives just… Being themselves. Just two best mates, chatting music, footy and shotting ice pops around Brighton. We’re delighted they’ve given us this album, and like all FS&HG fans, we’ll now begin the assault on all their socials asking for even more music as summer approaches.