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Freddy & Francine, the King & Queen of LA's folksy alternative hard to describe scene

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If Freddy & Francine are  "...the new king and queen of an emerging new folksy funky countrified alternative hard-to-define music scene in LA...." as Grammy Award Winning Engineer & Producer CEO, Robert Margouleff suggests, then Freddy & Francine once again commanded the full attention of their followers with their passion and energy at a recent full band show at the Hotel Cafe. The two lead singers (Lee Ferris & Bianca Caruso) channeled this passion and energy surrendering themselves to their music like Gospel singers at a revival. Thus the two alone generated sufficient sound as a two piece to capture everyone's attention. The rest of the band built upon, supported and embellished the sound and chemistry of these two lead performers..

During the course of this recent set, which included many new songs off of their forthcoming new LP "The Forest and The Sea" (to be released this coming October), these strong voices of the two lead singers changed order, tempo, and support but always came back together for harmonies with ease and well timed precision. So the band once again enchanted a full house of their faithful fan base, as well as won new converts, with the band's  folksy melodies, playful lyrics, and inspired honest delivery.

Recently The Examiner got a chance to pose the band a few questions. Below are Freddy & Francine's [F&F] responses.

EXAM: If you had to make a 15 second pitch, how would you describe your sound, and what sets you apart from other musicians?
F&F: We call it "Y'alternative." It's gotta a bunch of soul, a bit of twang, a lot of rock and roll, and we mean every word of it. It's honest music for honest people.

EXAM: If you had a little more time to elaborate to go into detail, how would you answer this second question above, as to what sets your and your sound apart from other musicians?
F&F: Musically, we believe that our vocal harmonies are unique.  I believe the energy of our live show is something that sets us apart. We love our audience and we promise a great show. We play each note like our lives depend on it!!

 

EXAM: Please provide a brief bio as to where you're from and how this upbringing and location affected your tastes and sounds?
F&F:  Lee is from the Topanga Canyon area of Los Angeles where lots of amazing musicians started their careers and Bianca is from Austin, TX where music is a religion.  

EXAM: Also how did your musical training affect your sound?
F&F: We are both classically trained singers with choir singing experience so this has helped us to develop a strong sense of how to harmonize with each other. Our band is comprised of some of the best jazz players around who just so happen to love playing our tunes...so I guess their interpretations of our songs lends a hint of sophistication beyond the "normal" scope of pop music. They listen to and can play every style of music. They're amazing.

EXAM: If a group how did you meet?
F&F: We met while performing in the 40th Anniversary Revival of the musical "HAIR" in LA in 2007. We found similar interests and started writing as soon as the show ended.  Lee was already playing in his solo project with John(bass) and Christopher(drums, vocals). Bianca had never written music before and after a small tour as Idina Menzel’s back-up singer,  she decided she wanted to wanted to venture into songwriting and co-write songs with me.  
EXAM: What is the origin of your group's name?
F&F:  When we first began writing together we were writing in more of a retro style and were calling it "Prom Rock."  We played a show where we played the first song we wrote together,  "Over and Over," on our EP, which is the essence of this so-called "Prom Rock" genre,  and Bianca asked the audience to get a partner and stand up and slow dance and choose '50's names for each other...she said, "You know...like I'll be Francine," she looked at me and I said..."...and I'll be Freddy."  For one reason or another, it stuck.

EXAM: Who is your audience?
F&F: Our audience is anyone who loves music crafted on handmade instruments, sung with sincerity and great love of life- Anyone who loves a good song.

EXAM: What age group do you think you appeal to the most?
F&F: We've been quite lucky to have people from age 17-70 show up at our shows. We truly believe our music spans most age groups. We had a fan come up to us recently who had followed the Grateful Dead in his youth and told us that our performance reminded him of his old “Dead Head” days. That was pretty awesome.

 

EXAM: Who else do you think your music "speaks" to?
F&F: I would hope our music speaks to people who are longing for a traditional yet modern sound. People who yearn for honest handcrafted songs in a world saturated with technology and electronics.

EXAM: What era's or styles of music have influenced you the most?
F&F: I would say most things from the '50's, '60's and '70's.  In the past we have written in most styles from doo-wop to gospel to folk to country and pop.  We try not to discriminate.  We also love the modern Americana-folk-pop-alternative movement.

EXAM: Which specific musicians from these eras or styles have impacted your sound the most?
F&F:  We love Bob Dylan, The Band, The Rolling Stones, Bonnie and Delaney, Ray LaMontagne, Ryan Adams, Witco, The Swell Season, Jenny Lewis, Josh Ritter, Laura Marlin, Dawes and a whole bunch more.

EXAM: How are you promoting your music and your shows?
F&F
:  Mostly on Facebook and Myspace.  We have recently had the help of Koffeehouse Productions, which is fantastic.

EXAM: Do you work collaboratively?
F&F:  We write the tunes together.  Just the two of us.

EXAM: Is one member stronger with lyrics, and another with melodies?
F&F:  The two of us divvy up the responsibilities quite nicely.

EXAM: Are you working with a producer?
F&F:  For our latest record due out this Fall we worked with San Diego based Producer Mike Butler.  

EXAM: If yes, who is he and who else has he produced?
F&F: Mike has played guitar for many national acts including The Boxmasters and The Levon Helm Band.  He’s also mixed and recorded live iTunes sessions for Apple with such artists as The Shins, Nora Jones, and Ray LaMontagne. He most recently produced LA country artist Linda Kay.

EXAM: How are you funding your production costs?
F&F:  We fund everything ourselves and from the money we make from shows.

EXAM: Are you singing simultaneously in isolated rooms? Or are you singing individually while listening to a track of the other vocalist(s)?
F&F: We sang this whole last record in the same room while Lee played acoustic and electric guitars simultaneously.  We recorded 95% of this album live with the band in the studio and the 2 of us singing in the isolation booth.  

EXAM: What are your realistic aspirations?
F&F:  Realistically we would like to be on the road most of next year promoting our records.  We would like to have a publishing deal and be licensing tunes to TV, Film and commercials within the next year.

EXAM: What are your dreams?
F&F
:  Our dream is to open for Ryan Adams and Wilco on tour and make money playing music for people across the globe.

All still photography by SHGfoto

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