Franc Moody on Live Arrangements, Spaghetti Westerns, and New Music
Energetic electro-funk duo Franc Moody (consisting of Jon Moody and Ned Franc) released their latest album, Into the Ether, on September 2, 2022.
The pair dropped the ironically-titled "Raining in LA" ahead of the full LP, the single's bouncing bass and sizzling synths chasing away any hint of stormy skies. The song, however, is not the only one in the Franc Moody discography to radiate positivity and a zest for life. With an eight-member live arrangement (including two music techs) for their set at the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, the group brought vibrant funk, deep grit, and, of course, a keytar to the Sutro stage.
Fans gathered from all corners of Golden Gate park to catch the show, packing the lengthy field and even spilling over onto the steps leading away from the stage. Franc Moody had absolutely everyone–friends, families, backstage crew members, security guards–bopping right alongside them through every song. Their DJ set at the Heineken House stage brought equal energy with different electronic flavors.
Saddle up, Into the Ether takes listeners on a whirlwind wild west odyssey. Franc Moody began their spunky spaghetti western-inspired album during the COVID-19 lockdown, dreaming up a collection of surreal sonic adventures, despite being stuck in their respective homes.
Into the Ether straddles the line between digital and analog musical worlds. "I'm in a Funk" draws on disco influences, the funky guitar riffs and syncopated synths giving the song infectious danceability. The following track, "Raining in LA (Intro)", adds significantly to the listening experience and concept album feel of the LP. In the short, minute-long interlude, Franc Moody transports us to a new, trippy western-pop soundscape. The transition from "I'm in a Funk" to "Raining in LA" is straight out of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: exhilarating, stimulating, and completely enigmatic.
"The 7" combines suspenseful film scoring inspirations with the beloved Franc Moody sound, not only instrumentally, but also in terms of song structure. An intro of exclusively strings and vocals provides not only a change of pace, but also a jumping-off point for the beefy bass and cinematic, crunchy guitars to really emphasize the drama of the tune. While somewhat underrated, "The 7" brings distinctive dynamic value and personality to Into the Ether, truly encapsulating the energies and intentions of the project.
Although Franc Moody announces a highly-anticipated beat drop with the appropriately titled "Here Comes the Drop", none of the anticipation and wonder is lost. The song's groovy jam builds subtly, eventually crescendoing and dropping back down to a rhythm section breakdown. Guitar leads re-enter the mix in a second jam section before everything dissolves into the next track with a final beat drop. Into the Ether races to its finale with upbeat dance bop "In Transit". The galloping rhythms and catchy vocal melodies pull listeners into an intense, high-speed horseback pursuit–an epic climax for Franc Moody's movie-magic musical voyage.
We spoke with Franc Moody about their wild live arrangements, spaghetti western influences, new music, and more. Read the full interview below and check out Into the Ether. Let us know what you think!
Where are you based?
Ned Frank (NF): I grew up in a place called Lewes, in East Sussex. It’s a very nice town with an old castle and a kind of hippie vibe. It's where a man called Gideon Mantell lived, as well as Thomas Payne, who wrote the rights of man for the American constitution.
Jon Moody (JM): I grew up in the West Country, South of England, in a town called Devizes. It’s a lovely little market town up in Wiltshire with the white horses. We both currently live in London at the moment, though.
How did the group form?
NF: We started by being in similar bands that were on the same scene. Jon actually was in my band at the beginning, then we were both in a different band together called Fat Relic, which was a cracker. We had this warehouse in North London, where we were playing bluesy, soul, and old RnB music. We had aspirations to set up a Daptone-style recording studio, but Craptone was a more apt name for it… We were already running in the same music scenes together and we eventually just said to ourselves, “why don’t we start a writing partnership?”
We thought we were going to make a lot of money doing that, which didn’t happen, but we started writing together and quickly picked up management to help us really get going. They mentioned that we should start a band, but initially we said, “absolutely not,” because we’d been in some extremely dysfunctional bands beforehand. Slowly but surely, we formed this band with great friends of ours that we’d already played with in the past.
JM: When we were working together in those other bands, we took over that warehouse space in London, which we wanted to eventually fix up into a studio. We threw parties to get the money to do that, which is where a lot of the ethos of Franc Moody came from. We used to go all night with live music, DJs on the mezzanine, and everyone wedged in together like sardines–it was all very wild.
What’s the electronic music scene like in London?
JM: It’s pretty amazing, a really interesting time. There are a lot of pioneers coming out of London right now, from Floating Points and Four Tet to some of the more left field stuff like Laurence Guy and Karma Kid. We worked with KK on our single “Mass Appeal” and he basically fills our DJ sets with his music, he’s really cool. He’s just done an EP with Luke Fono and it’s a lot of good, up-tempo, fun house music.
Someone actually asked us about the funk scene in London the other day and it stumped us a bit because we aren’t really aware of one, but we want to try and champion something that brings those worlds of electronic and funk music together. We’d love to get some sort of night or raves happening soon.
How would you describe your sound?
NF: Kind of craggy, like the musical version of a Scotch egg crossed with a massive sandwich. It’s electronica meets funk, meets rock, meets jazz, meets this and that… it’s basically a huge meeting point for loads of different things. It’s a bit of everything, really.
"(It's) kind of craggy, like the musical version of a Scotch egg crossed with a massive sandwich."
Who are your main musical influences for the project?
JM: There are a few names who really got the project going early one. Jamiroquai, George Clinton, James Brown, and early Daft Punk are some of the original references we had in terms of sonics, attitudes, and flavors we wanted to bring to the table.
Have those influences changed over time?
JM: Definitely, we’re always evolving. The record we’ve just put out, Into the Ether, was actually influenced by a lot of film scoring stuff, like Ennio Morricone. We’re constantly influenced by the London and Ireland rock scenes, and we just chip away at whatever comes through musically. We’re into a lot of different music, but we don’t tend to reference too much of it when we’re writing… we try to keep it as organic as possible.
"The record we’ve just put out, Into the Ether, was actually influenced by a lot of film scoring stuff, like Ennio Morricone."
Walk me through your songwriting/production process?
NF: The early seeds of our latest album happened whilst we were in different places during lockdown. We send each other ideas– Jon might send me a beat and a bass line and I’ll send him a couple of lyrics and a guitar riff. We just build tunes that way… It was nice to get back in the studio together again after the lockdown but the songs can start in any way. For example, for “Dopamine”, Jon had the now-iconic bass line, keys, and the beat, and I added the vocals and guitar. We sent it back and forth, and we just kept adding new ideas and layers.
What is your favorite song(s) to play in your live set?
NF: There’s a song we’re all loving at the moment; it’s the last track of the new album. It’s called “In Transit” and we wrote it to be played in a live setting. It’s really exciting to have it out there. Sometimes the singles take a little while for people to latch onto the lyrics and choruses. The first time you play it everyone’s sort of thinking, “what is this?” Then, a few months later, everyone is singing along. This one is designed for everyone to just get it in the moment, though, which is really awesome.
Do you have a special live arrangement for “In Transit”, or do you play it as heard on the record?
NF: It’s similar, but we’ve adapted all our songs for live shows with a band. We figure out who’s playing what and it just takes on a life of its own. We’ve got such amazing players with us and they all bring their own elements to the music.
How do you balance eight-person live arrangements with all the electronic elements in your music?
JM: There are six of us onstage and two techs who make magic happen behind the scenes. You don’t see them onstage, but they are such an integral part of the show, with mixing, tweaking, and everything else sound-related. For example, in a lot of electronic music, the kick drum is just a bit higher in the mix, so there are all kinds of details and changes that he is bringing to the energy. In terms of how we present it live, we have drum triggers, which bring that electronic edge, and a few synths going on.
There's an exciting hint of it there, but the stage setup is more traditionally rock ’n roll, with two big guitar amps and a bass amp. It pulls in a lot of our Parliament and Funkadelic influences. We never want it to be too clean or too digital; everything has to have a nice amount of hiss on it. We want to keep it craggy. We’re also very inspired by live shows by artists like LCD Soundsystem. They do it so well, although they’re probably more electronic than us, but they’ve got that gritty vibe.
"We never want it to be too clean or too digital; everything has to have a nice amount of hiss on it."
What has been your favorite live performance memory so far?
NF: For me, it was when we went to Phoenix, Arizona. We played at the M3F Festival and we arrived late, so we didn’t have any time to sound check. We got there and had to go on within about ten minutes. Somehow, it all fed into this urgency and energy we had, and it ended up being one of the best gigs we’ve played to this day.
JM: Yeah, we were late because we hadn’t thought about the time zone changes in this country yet… we were looking at the clock thinking we had ages, then suddenly it was like, “oh god, we’re on in an hour!” That was a big moment for us, but another memorable experience was at one of the first festivals we ever played (in the UK). We were in Cornwall and there was a hurricane going through this tent. There was no roof on the back of the tent and in the early days, we had a neon sign that we carted around with us. The wind knocked the neon sign, which then hit all the drum trigger pads. Those went mental and it was just pissing with rain–everybody was drenched.
"...There was a hurricane going through this tent... The wind knocked the neon sign, which then hit all the drum trigger pads."
What’s your dream venue for a show?
NF: There’s a place in Amsterdam called Paradiso. It’s an old music hall that goes up in tiers, like a theater with big balconies that go all the way up. It’s really beautiful. Other than that, I’d love to play at the Greek Theatre, the Hollywood Bowl, or at the Red Rocks.
JM: I don’t know why I’ve got this in my head, but I also really want to do Terminal 5 in New York. I haven’t even been there, I just really want to do it!
Tell us about your latest album, Into the Ether.
NF: Like I mentioned before, we started it during the lockdown. It’s essentially a conceptual album and we drew inspiration from the fact that we were sort of cooped up like chickens, not able to do what we love (touring around the world and playing music). As a result, we made this aspirational dream album. We could at least write music to imagine that we were out on the road. We took this “reality” of the eight of us driving around in a tin can, driving around and stopping at petrol stations–a really unglamorous life on the road, and really heightened it. It’s like Odysseus going on his big journey… We mythologized life in a van.
It’s set in sort of a Sergio Leone-style spaghetti western landscape and we put everything on a very grand, epic scale. It's a journey, an adventure, and this disparate group of people that is our band going on a crazy made-up quest.
"It’s like Odysseus going on his big journey… We mythologized life in a van."
JM: We really explored new sonic ideas, finding little western tricks within our palette. We used galloping rhythms for guitars to mimic horses, very grand string arrangements for hazy skylines, and more. We were imagining riding horseback with an oboe, a sling, and a keytar. It’s been a lot of fun to play with all that.
"We were imagining riding horseback with an oboe, a sling, and a keytar."
What was the most rewarding part of the project?
NF: It might be actually writing all the songs, then when you finally master them and they’re ready to be put out there into the universe. It’s awesome when all the concepts and ideas really come through and resonate with people.
JM: There were points during the lockdown when it seemed like there might not be live music again, which seems really dramatic now, but at the time we were all thinking, “what the hell is going on?!” We were very lost for a bit, so we’re very grateful now that we’ve still got a team around us and we managed to get through it. We’re back out on the road and we’ve got an album under our belt. It feels surreal and extremely rewarding to be able to deliver this album.
"There were points during the lockdown when it seemed like there might not be live music again, which seems really dramatic now, but at the time we were all thinking, 'what the hell is going on?!'"
What is your favorite song on Into the Ether?
NF: It might change at some point, but right now it’s “The 7”, which is about (before our lovely eighth member joined) the seven of us as a little musical posse. It really sums up the album and it’s a very different format to anything we’ve ever tried before. It starts with just a big string section and voice, then it opens up to a very deep drop and extended outro, which feels very delirious and dreamlike. It really captures what we were trying to do with the album in three and a half minutes.
Was “The 7” a reference to western classic film The Magnificent Seven?
JM: There was a definite nod to The Magnificent Seven, especially within the landscape we were creating. We had that idea of Jesse James and a gang of outlaws in mind, but it was also loads of happy coincidences, like The Magnificent Seven. The other thing we were thinking of was the Gemini 7, which was one of the first groups of astronauts to go into space. There were seven of them and we only worked that out recently when we went to Chicago, but that’s a nice little piece of serendipity there.
What’s next for Franc Moody?
JM: We just put the album out and we’ll be playing a lot of shows going forward. We just released tickets for a big show at the Novo in LA on November 3rd. We’re just going to be promoting this album and looking to a big year on the road coming up. We’ve also started to throw some exciting ideas around for the next album, so there’s a lot of great movement at the moment.