The duo of Aluna Francis and George Reid have been having a sweet run of success as AlunaGeorge, the electro pop project that extends beyond genre. A string of sizzling videos, and sharing the stage with Katy Perry on recent tour have built momentum toward the release of their new full length album I Remember, out now on Interscope.
Featuring a host of collaborations, and creative contributions from a range of artists including Popcaan, DJ Snake and Dreezy the career path of AlunaGeorge has been shared by critics and peers alike.
ARTISTdirect’s Christopher Friedmann caught up with Aluna Francis to speak about the project, her creative process and how to keep things personal, even when speaking on universal topics.
Christopher Friedman: You’re gearing up to release your new album, I Remember, this week and head out on tour with Sia at the end of the month. How is the mood in camp?
Aluna Francis: It’s excited.
CF: With all of the hype that surrounds the band today, in comparisons the early days when it was just an exciting project for you and George, what’s your day to day life like?
AF: I guess it’s all wrapped up a lot of the time. Your double booked most of the time. It’s less brand new I guess so it’s not as daunting as it was before.
CF: You’ve already unveiled a number of singles off I Remember. On the first single from the record “I’m in Control” you worked with dancehall rapper Popcaan. What was it like working with Popcaan, and how has dancehall as a genre influenced your music?
AF: Well he just did a verse for us, and I wouldn’t say that dancehall has really affected our sound. We were just working the same way we normally do, experimenting with different things, and we just came up with that track.
CF: You’ve worked with a number of different artists over time and they all have different backgrounds, and they all create something that is individual. How have those artists influenced the process of your own creation?
AF: Well the kind of featured artists kind of world is an interesting one. I think that it’s fundamental, where it’s like basic level, you’re being invited in as a vocalist to just sing what somebody else has written, but because I’m a songwriter, I generally come in and write my own work. I try not to step on people’s toes but if it’s sort of an opportunity to work on production I will always say something and get involved with that, so it’s never been a particularly educational process for me because it’s like one day hanging out with someone and it’s mostly a bit of fun.
What I’ve been finding is that I’m bringing a lot to the table in terms of being a songwriter because you’re working with producers that just work on the musical level and don’t really know how to create a bed for a songwriter to sort of sing within that context. At the same time, they tend to get a line and then work with it later, so I often bring in some songwriting elements to the studio. So I wouldn’t say it really influences me or educates me, but it’s a good fun thing to do.
CF: Well that seems similar to how you work with George in some sense, since I know that you do most of the songwriting and the singing. Do you bring lyrics to the table initially and your vocals, and he kind of puts something to the back of it or how does the creative process work for you two?
AF: It’s always different. What we tend to do is see if anyone has got an inspiration or a jump off point and then take it from there, so in our different camps I’ll bring vocals, melodies, lyrics or piano, different vocal melodies, something like that. George will bring board production or guitar or something like that and see if the other person is inspired by it.
CF: Many of the songs on the new album are oriented towards relationships and love, but they take very different pieces of the entire relationship puzzle. I was wondering how you dig into yourself to create songs or where do they come from? What’s the process like for you?
AF: I used to listen a lot to people around me and people used to tell me their stories, and I would take note of what their thoughts were around that, how it related to that story, what my advice would be, and it would take awhile – I wouldn’t necessarily say that it in response to something somebody told me – and I was able to weave those perspectives into a story with an incredibly objective position because it wasn’t my life, so it would weave together a fuller perspective on the story, but then I used those tools to start penning my own stories.
So at the beginning of a songwriting session will be what’s really really high up on my mind that day and seeing if I can find a way to reconcile myself with that subject through the songwriting process.
CF: Would you say therefore I Remember is a more personal album because you’ve been able to explore yourself more?
AF: Yeah, believe me, it does come from a very real place. I mean, all of my songs come from a real place that’s personal real not someone else’s real.
CF: As we talked about momentarily in the beginning, you are going to go out on tour with Sia. Are you at all nervous about that? She’s a huge sensation.
AF: Yeah, I’m nervous because we’re doing shows at this kind of level for the first time, and I really want to come across in the way that people maybe don’t associate us. You know because of the EDM features and things like that, I want to showcase us as a band for our songwriting capabilities, and where our hearts lie.
So that’s going to put us in a more vulnerable position because I won’t necessarily be playing the songs that people associate with us. It’ll be new music from the album and a big stadium full of people or arena rather.
CF: On tour with an artist like Sia, are you looking to find new fans or just trying to give a different type of interpretation of your own music to these people?
AF: When I was told about this tour, I just thought to myself that this is the perfect home for our band. It is the audience that I thought would have bought tickets to this show really to listen to songs and really connect to what those songs are about because Sia songs are very in-depth, they’re very layered, you have the initial enjoyment of this is a great song and then you can really listen to those lyrics and get a lot of meaning from them.
So I guess I saw… the main thing for me is giving me more of a home then I felt before, for example, performing on EDM stages. There I felt like the odd one out. I’m just going to be really happy to open up for Sia in this particular scenario. I think it’s great. Similar to when we supported Katy Perry, where it is all about the songs and the people are always geared towards that, which is really great.
CF: How did this tour come about? Who knocked on whose door?
AF: I don’t really know how… I’ll have to ask, maybe when I start the tour… but I did meet Sia briefly at Katy Perry’s GRAMMY party and I’ve known her friends, and what I’m assuming is that Sia’s booking agent put forward a couple of options and because she met me and probably Katy vouched for me and then she was like, “Yeah we’ll go for her, go for Aluna.” I don’t think it was a complete coincidence, like I’d just met her.
I know that I do get sort of asked what kind of support I want on my tour, so she’s got to have been consulted (Laughs).
CF: I know there are a lot of expectations coming around a second album after such a strong debut. But aside from all that, what would success look like to you?
AF: I think that success for me is a really sort of a beautiful system that is ideas coming into your mind and then being made into reality as best as they can be, as most intact because they have their original form. And that for me is about my team.
The people I work with are just so important to me. They are real creatives and really dedicated to the AlunaGeorge creative train as it were. So when it comes to putting the band together, making music videos, and me and my stylist are really close together, coming up with concepts and stuff for making the theatrical outfits from scratch and all of those things that are involved in this huge kind of creative movement. What I call success is continuing to make those things happen.
CF: So we’ve talked about Katy Perry, Sia, and music videos, a whole team of people, and all these things that go into the modern day music experience. But as an artist you have an opportunity to connect with fans and perform at places you may have never expected to be. Is there any particular memory or moment that you found to be not so much of a rock ‘n’ roll experience, but it was grounding, it really brought it back to a more human element inside yourself?
AF: I guess there’s moments like that in every performance, where you feel like the audience has kind of latched on to you and you’re kind of on the same page. I can’t remember where I was recently, it could have been Reading (Festival) where the audience was completely and utterly insane like moshing, doing all kinds of crazy moshpits and stuff like that, but I decided to sing the start of “I Remember” just with my keyboard player, and we looked at each other, we we’re thinking “Is this gonna work?” (Giggles), and it did because everyone quieted down, had a listen, and just let me do that really intimate thing even though the rest of the set was really wild. So it’s moments like that that stand out for that.
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