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INTERVIEW: Francis

Hi Francis, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Hi guys, really well thank you – great to be here and I appreciate the support!

Can you talk to us more about your song “I Feel So”?

‘I Feel So’ is an interesting one on the EP as I see it as a bridge between this record and what I have coming next. That song starts to bring in keyboards, synths and more etherial sounds which is more of the direction I went after recording this EP compared to the straight up, balls to the wall rock that fills the rest of the record. It’s a gentle track that is just more about what is being said and the sound/feeling of the song than trying to be anything more than it is.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

It’s hard to say really, I wrote it nearly 6 years ago now. I could say what was going on in my life at the time and perhaps that influenced it but at the same time I also know that I don’t sit and write songs about particular things – they just happen and then only when I’m done do I sit and re-read it. At that point lines start to jump out and I could put them to events and happenings but I guess what it was about to me is only a small part of the story and I find it much more interesting when other people put their spin on it – for me thats the best thing about making music, connecting with people.

Any plans to release a video for the track?

No current plans for any videos for this record. I’m not a very visually minded person, I know what I like and what I don’t like but that’s about it – so it’s not particularly high on my agenda. Also when you add visuals to the mix then that in itself brings it’s own story which possibly dilutes or changes what ever the song is trying to say. – That’s the intelligent answer, I could also say I don’t have a budget for any videos ha ha.

The single comes off your new album The Long Way Back Around – what’s the story behind the title?

Over the years I’ve been really lucky to play in a lot of different bands and with a lot of different people. This EP started 6 years ago this April with the initial week long session in the studio. I had just finished an album with a band called ‘The Amateurs’ which had taken a lot of time and we had really gone over everything with an ultra fine tooth comb. It was a great experience but it left me with quite a frantic energy that only ripping some guitar riffs can cure.

‘The Long Way Back Around’ is really about me getting back to playing my own music and writing my own songs rather than being a hired hand, playing in other bands where you’re more part of a collaborative process or more simply playing certain gigs because you want to eat or pay the rent this month! I had tried every other way of living music – it took the better part of a decade but I got back round to doing my own thing.

How was the recording and writing process?

Both were really great. The initial idea of the record was to be a 2piece thing with drums/guitar in the classic White Stripes/Black Keys vein. It was quite amusing really as, obviously the EP has been sat on for a long time but once it was completed I got a lot of people saying to me that “no one would buy a 2 piece rock record”. Then Royal Blood happened. So one great lesson from this record and life is to always follow your gut! 
 I worked with a great drummer in Kev Hickman (www.kevhickman.com) who I’ve known and worked with on and off for years. I had the riffs for Miss Understood/Take You Out from years before when I was writing with The Amateurs and we just kind of got in a room together and hashed it out. We also did a gig under the pseudonym ‘Killer and the Neon Farmboy’ where we basically had maybe 6 minutes of music and a 30 minute set so a ‘much greater than it should have been’ portion of that show was improvised but it all helped work things out. After the initial week session two of the songs grew middle 8’s and we brought in a bassist and second guitarist to perform the tracks live so I ended up recording the bass on a later session. It has all fleshed out very naturally to the finished article that you hear now.

How did time serve as an advantage for this material?

I’ve found when I’ve written songs or worked on albums that you always love your most recent track. When you’re in the studio everything sounds fantastic and you have that energy and it’s all brilliant. Time, however, changes everything!

I’ve done various recordings over the years that I think are brilliant at the time but be it a week, month or a year later it ages badly and you perhaps aren’t as happy with it as you once were. Especially when it comes to rock music, you look at the classic tracks everyone knows and loves and they are all years and often decades old but they’re timeless because they’re such great songs. That’s the bar I think I certainly am trying to hit – creating music that is timeless and while I don’t have a crystal ball to predict my future or anything else, I can say with my hand on heart that these tracks have stood the test of time so far and I think they sound as great now as they did 6 years ago when we first recorded them. Time has been the best quality control.

How Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age has influence your writing?

Other than them being a blueprint on making great modern rock music? I know Dave Ghrol’s method of playing electric guitar, leaving strings open at the top is something I’ve found myself always doing, even way back when. Queens of the Stone Age released ‘Like Clockwork’ around the same time as the initial sessions for this record and I absolutely love that album, I think it’s their best work. Incorporating keys alongside the guitar band vibe certainly influenced everything that came after this EP. I’m a fan of both bands, I guess that their biggest influence really is that in a musical world that is increasingly dominated by hip-hop and more electronic sounding artists (not that I have a problem with either), it’s still ok to just get into a room, turn the amps to 10 and rip it up. You don’t need to conform – just do you, what ever that is and that’s ok.

What role does England play in your music?

I love England, I haven’t lived there for a couple of years but it will always be my home. I’m from a particularly unique part of England in the form of Milton Keynes. The town (although everyone calls it a city), is only 50 years old, which is incredibly young by english standards. While music has always been very important to people in Milton Keynes with it’s youth it doesn’t have the associated history with music that somewhere like Liverpool or Manchester does. I think if I was from one of those towns then it would be difficult because the first thing that will happen to you is you will be instantly compared to which ever iconic artist or band is from that area. Milton Keynes has had some great ska-punk and metal bands over the years who have done some great things but we certainly didn’t give birth to the Beatles!

I guess with that limited history it gives itself a blank slate. Rather than being a kid from Manchester trying to live up to Oasis, I’m a kid (although less these days) from Milton Keynes trying to write the history books and set the bar.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

I read an interview with Keith Richards once that is the only thing which I have thus far found to explain an answer to that question. He said about just putting your antennas up and picking up what’s in the air. It can be very easy to get wistful or philosophical about inspiration and where it comes from. Maybe all the songs that have and ever will exist are already out there and we just catch them, maybe all time is simultaneous and inspiration is just a memory from a future we haven’t lived yet, maybe someone has put something funny in my coffee, maybe.

Any plans to hit the road?

Depending on how you look at it, I’m kind of on it right now just not with Francis! I’m playing a gig with Francis on the 16th February at the Apple Store in Dubai Mall. I’ll see about some UK dates later this year, for now it’s just been about getting this record finally out so I can move forward to what I want to do next.

What else is happening next in Francis’ world?

It’s time to record all the songs I’ve written in the last 5 years from this EP onwards.

Whether it turns into another EP or an LP, I’m hoping it doesn’t take another 6 years to do… Time will tell.

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About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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