Need To Know: Francis and the Lights
By Courtney Nichols
When asked about their inspirations, most, if not all, musicians will often list other artists, especially significant songs or records, or family members who introduced them to particular kinds of music via vinyl LPs from their youth. Francis and the Lights, better known as Francis Farewell Starlite offstage, is not one of these musicians. He credits a single revelation that has influenced all of his work: The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. Used as a grammar manual in academic institutions, The Elements of Style has an undertone of a minimalist handbook. Using the text as his dogma, Francis and the Lights only performs, writes and creates what he deems absolutely necessary -- excess is not part of his aesthetic.
That being said, Francis has toured with the likes of Ke$ha and other overtly exaggerated pop artists. His sultry, soulful tracks and erratic, yet pure dancing complement the pop performances in a subtle manner.
Out caught up with with Francis at Cochella earlier this year to chat about failure, music, and his fear of Twitter.
Out: Where are you based?
Francis Farewell Starlite: New York City. What publication is this for?
Out? I am so excited!
It's good to have the gays on your side.
Exactly! Makes you look even better.
How did you get involved in lighting? Do you have a technology background, or do you just like the aesthetic?
It's the sound of the word. The idea of extremes: black and white. Black and white could be dark and light. I like that idea. Also in The Last Waltz, Van Morrison is the standout performance when he sings "Caravan." He sings, 'Turn on those electric lights!' I fucking feel that. I am fucking about that.
Your dancing is very unique. Who taught you how to dance?
This fellow named Russell Light. I would watch him dance hip-hop every morning. I think that affected me. Other than that, I think it is the thing I need to work on the most.
Why do you think that?
It's the thing I want do the most. Music makes me want to dance, but it's the thing I work on the least. I have a more casual attitude toward dancing, as opposed to writing songs. This is why I need to work on dancing the most.
At least it's accessible. All you need are your own two feet.
That's true. I can do it right now.
What's your songwriting process like?
Let me think about that for a second. I heard a response from Chromeo three years ago that was so good that I always wanted to answer this question the right way! It was even asked to them in the same way!
Well then, music or lyrics first?
Oh yes, that is always the question. For me, it is music first. It's the melody first. The song for me comes from a melodic upbeat. Everything is attached to that instant.