There’s been a steady uptick of ‘90s revival among teens and twentysomethings in recent years, as evidenced by the boom in daisy print dresses, flannel shirts and velvet chokers. But 21-year-old singer-songwriter Frankie Clarke isn’t particularly interested in the cutesy, Friends-fueled nostalgia for that particular decade. With her shaggy black mullet, leather jumpsuit and platform shoes, Clarke is doubling down hard on one very specific era: '70s rock. And as the daughter of Guns n’ Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke, Frankie received her music education from sidestages and on tour buses—the latter, as we learned, is also where she took her first steps.
As she prepares to release her first EP with her new band Frankie and the Studs—whose first single, “High on Yourself,” dropped over the weekend—the L.A.-based front woman talks with Playboy.com about growing up in music, androgyny and questing for the perfect leather jumpsuit.
How is the new album coming along?
We’re almost done! It’s almost in the can. I just have to do vocals and mix it. We’re releasing my first single this weekend. And my dad’s been recording us.
What’s that like to have him so involved?
I like it because I know I can trust him and he supports me and he’s not going to steer me in the wrong direction. Also, besides myself, he’s my biggest critic. Because he’s been doing it for so long, he has really high expectations of me. It’s always been kind of intimidating.
He got you your first guitar, right?
Yeah! When I was four or five years old, I really wanted a pink, sparkly, guitar and so my dad was like, “I may know a few people.” He had someone custom-make a pink, sparkly miniature kid’s guitar. I still have it.
You must have so many memories of growing up around music. What are some that stand out?
Apparently, my first concert was Iggy Pop when I was one or two, and I fell asleep! But when I was one, my mom took me on tour with my dad. My first steps were on a moving tour bus. I always went on the tour with him until high school, when you have to be in class every day. But the band that inspired me most was KISS. I was 10 years old and was just blown away by all the makeup and all the tricks that they do: breathing fire and spitting blood! I was like, “Oh my god. This is amazing.”
How did Frankie and the Studs come together?
Last November I put out a music video of myself covering that [Nick Gilder] song “Hot Child in the City.” I just did that for fun. I needed to put that out there, because I have none of my own music out there. So I made the video and started getting messages from people that said “We want you to play!” and I was like, “I don’t even have a band!” I said, “Okay, I’m gonna put a band together,” and I asked my dad for help, because it’s so hard to find young rock musicians. He had this guitar player that he’d worked with, Ronnie, and then he brought Johnny and then it all snowballed from there. We started Frankie and the Studs and played a couple of shows in November and have been together since then.
As you guys put together the album, what kind of influences were you drawing from?
We’re definitely inspired by ‘70s glam rock. I love the Runaways, T-Rex, Suzi Quattro and the Ramones. And that’s kind of what got this band going: We all have the same influences and saw eye to eye on everything. And [the songwriting] was very collaborative, the whole process, which was good. It’s daunting to write a song on your own.
Obviously glam rock is a huge influence on you and the band in terms of style. What’s the story behind pieces like the incredible leather jumpsuit you perform in?
I’m always inspired by glam and I really like Suzi Quattro’s whole vibe and Joan Jett’s too. I told my mom, “I just wanna bring leather jumpsuits back!” So, we went on a hunt to every vintage store in L.A. and didn’t find one. The ones we did find fit really weird. And so she ended up making me that black leather jumpsuit. She designed it and had it made.
Ha! It must fit perfectly.
It feels like ‘70s glam rock was so much about androgyny and gender play. Is that something you’re also thinking about?
My biggest influence, it’s pretty obvious, is Joan Jett. I always just liked her philosophy that she was gonna be one of the boys. She said, “I’m gonna play rock music like one of the boys and you’re gonna like it,” and she did. And she wasn’t super oversexualized. So that’s kinda been my motto: I’m just gonna play it like one of the boys.
Check out more Frankie Clarke goodness in our behind-the-scenes video from the shoot!