Francis and the Lights‘ Francis Farewell Starlite crafts beautiful, sparse pop ballads, can sing like Prince and commands a large and fervent fanbase. Yet Francis is markedly unique from many current pop musicians—he is a man of very few words. Francis promotes restraint, careful thought and quiet dilligence in his personal demeanor, yet he writes and composes some of the most expressive, articulate and downright brilliant, piano-driven love songs in the industry.
Francis may be an individual who shies away from theatrics or spectacle, but he’s still a favorite of mouthy MCs Kanye West and Drake. In fact, Francis was handpicked as the opener for Drake’s debut tour last summer and even produced the rapper’s standout ‘Thank Me Later’ track, the esoteric and understated ‘Karaoke.’
Francis’ latest effort ‘It’ll Be Better’ marks the band’s third project following two well-received EPs. Songs like ‘In A Limousine’ and ‘Darling, It’s Alright’ boast an impressive mix of nuance, musical prowess and sensitivity; it doesn’t hurt that Francis also possesses the good looks of a teen dream idol.
Francis is never content to settle on a formula, during a sold out show in New York City, last night (February 24th) the singer/songwriter took the round at small club Le Poisson Rouge with nothing but his piano and a drum machine, no band to be found. While much of the crowd was initially perplexed by his stripped down renditions of their favorite Francis tunes, by the end, the beer-swilling audience was transfixed. As intrigued by minimalism as he is, Francis wouldn’t have had it any other way. Nothing stopped him from breaking out into some spastic, manic, jerky dance moves right before he left the stage.
GlobalGrind had the opportunity to speak with Francis about minimalism, Drake and what ‘The Lights’ really means. As Francis would attest to, he may not say much, but each and every word counts.
A lot of writers describe your music as ’80s or minimalist, but how would you personally describe your musical aesthetic?
Minimalist is a nice word, that’s something I try to do. When people ask me about a genre, if I have to say one, I always say pop music.
What is it about minimalism that you gravitate towards?
I’m very influenced by this writing book called ‘The Elements of Style’ which is basically an argument for minimalism. The idea that I love is that if you do something as simply as possible, that’s when style comes through. If you don’t embellish and clutter, that’s what style is. In ‘The Elements of Style,’ they say, omit needless words, I like that.
Is that the way you try to live, even in your relationship with the press, ‘Omit needless words?’
I have tried to.
Do you think minimalism is something missing from the music industry?
I don’t think I would say that. I think it’s always existed, it’s been used and not used throughout. I don’t think I would say that. There are examples of maximalism and minimalism all around.
Who inspires you musically, who do you learn from?
I decided to not list names of other musicians because it always makes me a bit uncomfortable. I feel like I’m saying something that I don’t necessarily truly believe, so I don’t think I can answer that questi