By Mark Guarino
Art imitates life in Once, the indie movie phenomenon already raking Oscar buzz. In his first acting role, Glen Hansard plays a scruffy street busker passionate about making music his own way.
That sums up the Irish singer-songwriter best known as the leader of The Frames, the art-rock band from Dublin where they’re second in popularity only to U2. Once cost 130,000 Euros to make and is grossing over $3.2 million to date. After 17 years and six albums, Hansard is in the unexpected position of having a film finally deliver his music to mainstream ears.
“It’s pie in the sky, but then again, the idea of even getting into Sundance was pie in the sky,” he said. “Already, the film has gone way beyond any of our expectations. We planned to make a thousand of copies on DVD and tour Irish cinemas and sell the DVDs at the shows.”
Chicago is “the city I was reborn in,” Hansard said. (The Frames headline the Hideout Block Party Sept. 8). Following a solo gig at Gunther Murphy’s in 2000, he met a small but influential circle of Frames fans including producer Steve Albini, Songs: Ohia leader Jason Molina, key players at labels Thrill Jockey and Touch & Go and club owners, from Metro to the Hideout. The affiliation helped give the Frames a U.S. label, manager, producer and spiritual home.
“The thing about Chicago people is they’re really straightforward, there’s none of that indie rock pretension you get in New York or London,” he said.
Hansard, 36, arrives in Chicago on the heels of an August tour, opening shows for Bob Dylan, a fan of Once who invited the Frames to join him on the road in Australia and New Zealand. It’s yet another chapter in a year where expectations are thrown out the window.
“A band like the Frames would crave the attention of someone like Bob Dylan,” he said. “His stamp of approval is stunning.”