Today (January 28), electronic duo Neil Frances release their debut album, the cheekily titled ‘There Is No Neil Frances’.
It bears this name because Neil Frances is not one man, but two: Jordan Feller, born in Sydney, and Marc Gilfry, originally from Southern California. This is the duo’s first full album – built on a foundation of singles and EPs built over six years – and it plays like one: this laid-back collection of electronic indie pop ebbs and flows, scintillating melodies making surface to catch the ear and move the hips.
NME catches up with Feller from a green room in San Francisco to talk about the album‘s long gestation period, how writer’s block keeps you “honest” and more.
You met Marc 10 years ago, and it’s been six years since you formed Neil Frances. Now that you’re about to finally release your debut album, do you think it was worth going through this long process?
“It was. I think in our time the idea of the album can be looked at in different ways. If you don’t have an audience that’s interested in an album, I think it’s probably up to the artists to build that fan base with singles. Marc and I got to a point where we’re pretty excited about what we’re writing, first, on the creative side. And second, we were at a point where we were like, let’s an album. It made sense, we were tired of a fan base that would gravitate towards it. It was the right time.
“I think at this point, now, we’re going to move towards an album strategy for releasing music. I think that makes sense for us. Still, consistent singles, I think that’s really good. for bands and artists to always be in front of your audience one way or another. Without compromising quality, of course, without putting music out just to put out music. But I think a series consistency of singles in an album now feels good.
You posted on Instagram earlier today how hard studio days are “necessary” and they keep you “honest”. Can you elaborate on this subject?
“I recently got into TikTok, and I have a fun algorithm where it’s like my personal sense of humor, and then the music and the production stuff strikes me too. There are videos of people putting together stuff and it’s like: this all happens in a minute, everything is put together and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, there’s a song. I don’t think that’s necessarily realistic on the one hand, the process, and on the other, good music. I think time is such an important factor in creating good music.
“Marc and I have quite an arduous screening process. And once you’re happy with a song, it’s not like you release it the next day. There is a waiting period. For example, we have a song or two on the album that we’ve had for four years, and it hasn’t felt right to release the song until now. An album allows you to do a little more artistic stuff. You don’t have to choose the most popular song or what we think is the most listened song. It gives us the ability to do different things in that space.
“And then also just in general, it’s hard to always be successful, you know? I’m in this on my own, or Marc on my own, or we’re in there as a duo trying to write, to finish songs and you don’t always necessarily know what you’re looking for. It’s also not every day that you write a great song. This video just shows me frustrated: are we going somewhere with this? I think days like this are necessary to ground you as an artist I wasn’t kidding when I was like, there are days you don’t feel like “writing something good or weeks where you feel like you’re in a rut. You feel it and it’s like, am I really good at what I do? This kind of doubt and being hard on yourself keeps you coming back and increases the quality of what you do over a long period of time.
You were talking about the fact that with an album you have the opportunity to do more “artistic” stuff. There’s a track, “Thump Thumping From a Distance (Karen’s Interlude)”, which has a really interesting dialogue sample: it sounds like someone filed a noise complaint against you.
“I’m going to leave some ambiguity as to what and who it is exactly. Marc and I were saying a long time ago that we liked the idea of the majority, or at least some of our music weekends. Or you have a house party, and you can put our music on and it works in that environment. I think that’s really important. And it wasn’t necessarily a sample played against us. But I think the idea of this post speaks to our audience in a cool way – i think everyone had or been to the house party where the music was too loud and someone complained and the cops came and everything I think it’s a good thing to represent that in an audio piece, because I think everyone has been in that position.
Yeah, I feel like you can take the album with you wherever you go during your day, and have that sample really anchor it to a particular place and situation.
“I’m a big fan of rap music, and a lot of that early ’90s rap stuff that I grew up with and is now part of my DNA as a music producer and listener – using ‘Doggystyle’ from Snoop Dogg as a reference point there were little skits that mixed songs together Not only are they there so you can play the songs together but it also gives you as an artist a way to project your personality from a really cool way. Some of these sketches are funny and interest you as an artist.
“I think these things are important. And I think maybe in this day and age where things move so fast, a bit of that stuff gets lost. So we just hope that taking this time and creating these little moments [the album] apart from 10 songs, one after the other. There aren’t just ‘verse bridge chorus’ songs to choose from.
You are currently on tour in North America. How does it feel to play these songs to people?
“We were lucky last year when things kind of opened up before this wave we’re in right now. We were able to go play at festivals and it was amazing. For example, it could have been two years since we played a gig, we hadn’t seen people or played as a band in so long and then all of a sudden you’re just playing in front of a crowd of people. The response was wow, that’s quite a piece we missed.
“Because as an artist, when you do stuff, it’s a loop of: I make music, and then I finish the music, I put it out and people respond to it, which is cool. And then you’re going to play it live, you get this immediate feedback from the crowd. And then it makes you want to come back and write again. Also, when you’re playing it live, you realize: wait, we we need a song that does this, or a song that does that. It’s a little creative loop, and not being able to go play live kept that loop from looping full circle.
“It’s amazing to replay shows and have a crew of six sailing with us. We have two other people in the band, we have a sound guy, we have a videographer. It’s really nice to ‘to be in this position and we’re lucky to be able to come out and do it now, and people are ready – that’s what blows my mind. I mean, we had two sold-out shows in San Francisco, second one tonight, and it amazes me that it’s a weird time right now and people are still out to love coming to a gig. That’s really what it’s all about.”
“There’s No Neil Frances” is now available via Nettwerk