What happens when we can’t trust our thoughts? Who are we, but an amalgamation of traumas, struggles, and triumphs over ourselves? Musician Lukas Frank actualizes these themes and ideas in his latest album, Ink and Oil, under the moniker Storefront Church.
Lukas Frank was inspired to make this album after coming to terms with his own struggles and past, with not only addiction, but also childhood memories and nightmares that returned years after the mysterious death of his uncle. These revelations are infused into his music, where he blends the lines of reality and music to create a unique experience that mirrors the haziness of memories and the mystical nature of the mind. In this interview, we get a chance to learn more about his early life, the process of making Ink and Oil, and about his professional journey through the film and music industries. Join us as we journey through the past and how our thoughts and memories make up who we are as people.
What made you decide to become a musician? Was that decision affected by the struggles throughout your life and the nightmares you experienced throughout it?
Hard to say. I don’t really know why I got into music. I can remember being very little and loving AC/DC  and Supertramp to death, but I don’t know why.
You’ve spoken about how you started your music career as a drummer for hire, working with a variety of different bands. How has that early experience affected your personal style as an artist?
Touring as a ‘hired gun guy’ is a great job, but I’m not really cut out for it. I think working that way as a teenager made me realize I just want to be making my own music.
Given your experience in the music world, what was it like working as a teacher, serving at a restaurant, trying to break out on your own, and release your very first album all around the same time?
It was a grind, but that’s the experience for 99% of musicians these days… I’m still hustling in a bunch of ways to keep the Storefront Church industrial complex alive. Thankfully, that doesn’t look like working as a waiter anymore (shoutout Silverlake Ramen). The music business is so apocalyptic right now, there’s no middle class, everyone has to have nine different hustles going at once to keep things afloat. It’s unsustainable.
Let’s talk Ink & Oil. From what I understand, the ‘ink’ comes from a message you saw in a nightmare where your uncle came to you and you saw an orange peeled with something written in ink. While the ‘oil’ comes from your time driving and your fascination with cars as an escape. Were you trying to create a blend of nightmares and realization, trauma and tranquility, or some other combination? 
Oh cool! I like your take on it. Yeah, there’s definitely some kind of dichotomy that I was trying to get at with the title. It’s a double album: the first six songs feel different from the last six. Maybe the first half is ink and the second half is oil, I’m not sure.  I had the title early on and it was a helpful lens that colored all the songs… these two black liquids that move the world.
You went on tour earlier this year to promote the album. How did it feel, both knowing that your audience wouldn’t have any idea what your songs were about or their lyrics? Also, how did their reactions to the songs impact the rest of the album, and your own personal feelings about it?
It was a little uncomfortable. I’d finished making this record with like twenty musicians playing at once on each song, the proverbial fifty thousand didgeridoos record, and now I had to go and perform the songs solo. They had to find a new life in that setting, and they did, but it wasn’t the glorious debut I’d pictured.  I was also surprised to see that the most abrasive track on the album, Coal, was a clear crowd favorite.
Usually it’s the other way around: artists embark on a tour after releasing the album. So I’m curious, do you plan to go on tour again now that the record is out?  
I will definitely continue to tour this record, so help me god.
You’ve spoken about your struggles with addiction in your life. How did that play into making Ink & Oil, and how did it interact with your struggles dealing with the nightmarish visions and negative memories you’ve had throughout your life?  
Well, to give a quick backstory on the sort of ‘visions0' and memories you’re referring to: My great uncle – a guy I’d never met –  disappeared from prison when I was a kid, and all that was left in his cell was a single orange. My family used to joke that he turned into an orange. I had this recurring nightmare where he’d visit me in my sleep. It seemed like he couldn’t speak, he was holding an orange with the skin peeled back, and he’d written something in the rind. I’d always wake up before I could read whatever it was he’d written. The dream went on for years, stopped abruptly when I was thirteen or so and then came back during the pandemic—more vivid, more detailed, and sometimes while I was wide awake.
My sobriety made some of the weird dreams and hallucinations even more confusing. If I’d been high, it’d make a lot more sense why I was seeing flocks of birds flying around in the supermarket, but when you’re stone-cold sober, experiences like that become a little more chilling. I’ve chalked it up to lack of sleep and lack of contact with people.
With such a wide range of creative input, from Waylon’a guitarist background, and Cassidy Turbin’s work on sound engineering, how do all of their various backgrounds and styles blend together with your own vision, and how did their input shape the style and voice of the album?
Cassidy’s pristine, Hi-fi approach to recording colors everything. For Waylon, even when I thought I’d written a record that didn’t want guitar at all, he still found beautiful ways into the songs. The little lick on the re-intro of The High Room has to be one of the best moments on the whole album. Bastard.
You also incorporated a live studio orchestra, which you can tell right away through the sound of violins and other instruments. What made you decide that those sounds would orchestrate your music and set the tone of the album?
I just heard it that way and couldn’t hear it any other way. This album just had a clear identity from the start. It may be that everyone has always called the music ‘cinematic’ and I really wanted to just see how far I could push that.
“The music business is so apocalyptic right now, there’s no middle class, everyone has to have nine different hustles going at once to keep things afloat. It’s unsustainable.”
You’ve mentioned that the lyrics in this album might be “cryptic and even a bit hifalutin” and that there “were mysteries for me about these songs that weren’t solved until way after recording.” How have your opinions or feelings changed over time? Have you found new meaning in songs you might not have during their initial completion?
Some songs are always being redefined in my head and some are pretty straight forward. I think what I meant was, if I consciously lead with what I want to say while I’m writing, I don’t always get at what I need to say, so I try and just let whatever comes be. As long as it feels right, meaning can come later.
Let’s talk about your foray into the film industry. You recently worked on Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit. Can you tell us about your experience working on the series?
On The Queen’s Gambit, I was asked (by my Dad) to make a bespoke retro-ballad for a particular scene.  This is something my dad and I have done a few times now. I did a song with Phoebe Bridgers for his series Godless, and another with Laetitia Sadier for Monsieur Spade. I’d like to think I understand the assignments pretty well and know my dad’s taste, so I usually make something that lands and makes it past the approval of the non-family members associated with the project.
Unrelated to my dad and that work, though, I have started scoring films with my dear friend Daniel Meyer from the band Agriculture. We just finished scoring two features and two shorts that we’re really excited about.
As a last note, how do you handle the struggles recollecting on those nightmare-ish visions and memories following the death of your uncle, and how have they influenced you as a person and as a musician? And, what would you tell others who might have their own struggles and tribulation in life? 
Yikes, big question. In terms of what I’d say to anyone who’s struggling, I’m not sure, but I can say for myself that after making this record and being so unsure of what was real or not for so long, I’ve decided that uncertainty is where the good stuff is. Uncertainty is where I get to let go of control, and when I do that, I get to trust things outside of myself. Feels like I’ve found my way into some kind of faith. Or maybe I’m just another delusional guy in LA… remains to be seen.