Alice Francis is probably one of the hottest newcomers in modern Swing right now. I was lucky to see her and her band live at a small club gig a few months ago in Cologne, and she is now about to enter bigger stages – and with her energetic live performance including stylish retro outfits, dancers and a full band, she certainly belongs there.
Her new single “Shoot Him Down” just earned her a remix by none other than Parov Stelar himself, and her debut album will be released this September. I had the chance to talk to her in person about her influences and her plans. To get a first impression, here is her latest video:
One might think that Alice’s sound was influenced by current Electro Swing producers, but it actually developed separate from that. Even though her sound is clearly influenced by Swing and includes electronic beats, you can hear obvious differences to those Techno- and House-influenced productions that are called “Electro Swing” today. This is one of the reasons that she likes to call her style “Neo Charleston”.
It all started about five years ago when she wrote her song “What Are You Made Of?”. She had just met the Niegl Bros in Weimar who created interesting and funny Hip Hop and electronic Beats. She started writing lyrics and melodies to their sounds which had a touch of rough “Golden Age” Jazz lines. Unconsciously, she became more and more interested in the beginning of Jazz, Swing and Charleston and was writing one song after another. That was the beginning of her style “Neo-Chaleston”. Her friend and producer Goldielocks heard their first recordings and was so fascinated that he decided to join the team. He more and more bacame the leader of the Alice Francis productions and managed to create a unique sound merging cool and modern Hip Hop beats with the wildness of the Golden Jazz era.
Alice was originally born in Romania and now lives both in Cologne and Castel Rudna (Romania). She has lived in many cities and absorbed many different influences that also show up in her music.
She told me that she has been making music for a long time. It all started on her 12th birthday: She had prepared a poem for her guests, but was too shy to recite it. Then she picked up her guitar und just sang it instead – that was much easier for her. At that time, she started writing lyrics and jamming and recording with friends.
She collaborated with a lot of different people including Waldemar Parra, a Jazz professor who lived in New York and South America and sent her musical ideas over the internet. She also kept collaborating with Johann Niegl (Niegel Bros) who lived in Shanghai at that time. For Alice, this felt like there were influences from all over the world that got sent to her. All those influences also show in her music. For example, the rhythm of the song “What Are You Made Of?” is inspired by South American rhythms.
When we talk about her influences, it becomes clear that Alice is truly fascinated by early Swing and Jazz. She names artists such as Josephine Baker, Billie Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald as big influences. Maybe this is also the reason why Alice adopts “Miss Flapperty” (a combination of “flapper” and “liberty) as her nickname and likes to call her fans “Flapperties”.
She explained to me that Flapperty is a term that stands for strong, self-conscious women in the 1920s who loved the Jazz Clubs more than just being a housewife. She believes that in a way, we are all children of this idea of freedom and self-expression.
Many people find it surprising that music influenced by the 1920s/30s is so popular right now. I asked Alice what she thinks about this, and she came up with an interesting explanation:
She told me that it’s probably no coincidence that so many people right now are interested in music that comes from that time. We say that those were the Golden 20s, but that only applied to a few people back then – many people were actually struggling to get by. However, it was also a time with a strong spirit of optimism. This contrast is something that we also see today. She also points out that many areas of life have become quite unemotional. For example, looking at modern buildings you can see that many of them show little individuality. Alice believes that many people are yearning for a little romanticism and nostalgia and that this music stands for celebrating the moment, dressing up for that moment and being polite and nice towards each other – as she expressed it:“I think many hearts miss that.”
Alice Francis will release two singles this summer. Remixes of “Shoot Him Down” by Parov Stelar and Milk&Sugar have just been released on Etage Noir. There will also be remixes by Egokind and Alle Farben. The original version will be released on June 22, and we can expect her debut album this September.