Uncle Frank started off as a fun side project for Frank Benbini, best known for being in Fun Lovin’ Criminals, but turned into a whole lot more for the singer, who plans on releasing a new record as Uncle Frank later this year.

Frank Benbini On Uncle Frank

“It started about ten years ago, I’d say. But it started as fun. It was just a handful of songs,” Benbini told uInterview exclusively of Uncle Frank’s start. “It was like, let’s do this alter ego character called Frank that only really sings about two things and that’s food and women, which is kind of the same thing to me so that’s how we started doing Uncle Frank.” Uncle Frank is not just a cute moniker that Benbini adopted for the side project-turned-legitimate venture. Benbini sees Uncle Frank as a kind of alter ego with an origin story that’s not too dissimilar from his own background growing up in Leicester, UK. “We’re from a working class, like brought up on the counselor estate. I think you guys call it ‘the projects.’ That’s where I’m from. When I talk about Uncle Frank, it’s kind of like two people, but we’re very similar – similar age, grew up in the same town. Broken families you know?” Benbini explained. “Everything’s about respect for us, you got to have a lot of respect. And all these things come threw in Uncle Frank. That’s who Uncle Frank is, that’s where we come from, very real people.”

Uncle Frank, who had his first studio release album in Smiles for Miles, sounds like a cross between Jack Black and soul singer Teddy Pendergrass, according to Benbini. “It’s like sweet and sour, hot and cold,” said Benbini. “It’s so beautiful and so real and dark at the same time and then it can be really funny.”

“We love love songs. We love melody music. We love Disney and Pixar soundtracks and we get all of that,” Benbini added. “And then I have this love of Hip Hop music that I grew up with from an early age, and then being in an international touring band, working with some iconic hip-hop people, funk people, and jazz people; BB King, and all of the things I’ve done, it all gets wrapped up in this sweet and savory thing that is Uncle Frank.”

Already, Benbini and his collaborator Naim Cortazzi have finished a couple of tracks for their new Uncle Frank album, including “Hot Secret Lover,” which Benbini counts as his favorite. After dropping the new Uncle Frank record, Benbini will be heading off on a world tour for Fun Lovin’ Criminals’ 20th anniversary.

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Q: How did you start performing as Uncle Frank? -

It started about ten years ago, I’d say. But it started as fun. It was just a handful of songs. It was like, let’s do this alter ego character called Frank that only really sings about two things and that’s food and women, which is kind of the same thing to me so that’s how we started doing Uncle Frank. We were very busy at the time on the road a lot with Fun Lovin’ Criminals – myself and my brother who I write all the stuff with now. It started getting a little in people’s ears starting to prick up, and it was like maybe we should put something down in the studio, so we did and it started selling pretty well. Like on a cult status kind of thing. It’s funny because the first bunch of CDs that sold were bought from over here in the States, New York. We actually met the girl at our first show a few nights ago who bought the first CD. It was so cool. We couldn’t believe it so we made a fuss of her the other night. Yeah, it kind of started as a bit of fun and then we put something out and we’re like, alright people really like this, so we thought we’d step it up and then we really put some work into the first kind of studio release album, which was called Smiles for Miles. Then we thought, Ok now let’s really get busy in the studio and let’s shop it. We had no interest in shopping around for labels and doing the thing that I’ve been doing for years. It was more of a labor of love, but then we did. We shopped something around. We did this one song called “Desperate Town,” which is a song about our city where we grew up and how desperate everything had gotten ther. And I sat one meeting and got a record deal in one meeting. I played them one song and they loved it and it was totally like, this is fantastic. And we just started working and working right up to two days ago being in the studio with Tim Latham and mixing this record that’s going to come out later in the year. So it probably did start as a side project. It’s completely not that now.

Q: Where did the name Uncle Frank come from? -

Comes from Leicester, UK, Midlands. We’re from a working class, like brought up on the counselor estate. I think you guys call it “the projects.” That’s where I’m from. When I talk about Uncle Frank, it’s kind of like two people, but we’re very similar – similar age, grew up in the same town. Broken families you know? Dad left. We got brought up by our mothers, so all of this spills into our music. Everything’s about respect for us, you got to have a lot of respect. And all these things come threw in Uncle Frank. That’s who Uncle Frank is, that’s where we come from, very real people.

Q: How would you describe the Uncle Frank sound? -

It’s like if Jack Black had a kid with Teddy Pendergrass. That’s not possible. I don’t know why I just said that, but if he did and that would spawn some bastardized child, which would be Uncle Frank. It’s like sweet and sour, hot and cold. It’s so beautiful and so real and dark at the same time and then it can be really funny. Half of our set people are really laughing. Part of the set I think people can be a bit scared because you don’t know what’s going to happen, but then you get these love songs. We love love songs. We love melody music. We love Disney and Pixar soundtracks and we get all of that. And then I have this love of Hip Hop music that I grew up with from an early age, and then being in an international touring band, working with some iconic Hip Hop people, funk people, and jazz people; BB King, and all of the things I’ve done, it all gets wrapped up in this sweet and savory thing that is Uncle Frank. And then I have this storytelling voice that, to be fair, Naim pulled out of me, who I write the music with. He pulled that out of me. I didn’t really know I had that. I knew I had this big bear like voice like in the Disney film Jungle Book you know, that’s me. When I sing, I get this big voice and I didn’t know I had it until it was drawn out of me one night over a ouija board with some voodoo magic.

Q: Do you have a favorite track from your new album? -

Yeah, I got a couple. I love this song “Hot Secret Lover.’” It’s an amazing song because it’s probably the most real song I wrote lyrically, and me and Naim musically. I just had a guy listen to it who interviewed me. Says it reminds me of the “Slow Love” song on the Love Sexy album by Prince. And I was like, this interview’s finished now, thank you. Click.

Q: Are you still working with Fun Lovin’ Criminals? -

It’s our 20-year anniversary next year, so we got a world tour. Yeah, just tour when we feel like it. When we feel like we’ve got the strenght to go on with each other we’ll go back out on the road.