Headed back to town as one of the opening acts for Coldplay Thursday night at Soldier Field, I spoke with lyricist and vocalist Aluna Francis about recording new AlunaGeorge music in Jamaica, adding a more personal element to her lyrics, empowering fans through AlunaGeorge songs and much more...
British electro pop duo AlunaGeorge found an unlikely road to success in America with the single "You Know You Like It."
It first saw release as a black and white YouTube video in 2011.
In 2012, it was officially released as the first single from their debut album Body Music.
Following placement in a British advertisement, it was re-released in 2013, reaching its peak on the UK singles chart.
But it would take until 2014 to break through in the United States, when a DJ Snake remix featured in the film The Amazing Spider-Man 2 nearly cracked the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, peaking at #13.
Multi-instrumentalist George Reid creates the musical backing while Aluna Francis writes the lyrics and handles lead vocals on AlunaGeorge songs.
And despite the success of a single like "You Know You Like It," Francis prefers to think within the context of a full album, tackling societal barriers like racism and sexism in song. "I’m from the kind of art school mindset where you create a body of work and you tell a little piece of the story with each piece of work that you make," she said.
I spoke with Aluna Francis yesterday about opening for Coldplay, empowering her fans through her music and much more. A lightly edited transcript of that phone conversation follows below...
Q. Well you guys were in Chicago for the Freaky Deaky festival in 2015, Lollapalooza in 2016 and you'll be back in a few days with Coldplay at Soldier Field. How has the tour gone so far and how did that pairing come about?
That was our first Lollapalooza. We also did North Coast [in 2013]. Chicago is always just one of our favorite cities to go to and we’re looking really forward to coming back.
I think the first time we played there was great because I sort of walked around the city in the day time and I just met people. We talked. I actually invited people to the festival and things like that and it was really good fun.
Q. Well, you guys successfully avoided the sophomore slump and the I Remember album is about a year old now. But you’ve released a few new singles ("Turn up the Love" and "Last Kiss") that you recorded in Jamaica. What was that writing and recording process like?
AF: That was a really incredible experience. I’m half Jamaican so it was interesting to see how it felt to go somewhere that I had heritage, but had never really spent any time, and see how that effected my writing. It was just kind of an inspiration to be honest. Talking to the people who live in Jamaica about how much they love their country and what they love about it – their history.
Also, I love the connection of staying in the place where the James Bond films were written and how that inspired those films – those [Ian Fleming] books actually.
You can’t necessarily detect the influence of the music in every song that we wrote there but there’s definitely a majestic sort of flavor in everything that we wrote there.
Q. When you talk about working on new AlunaGeorge songs, are you working on a new album or are you and George kind of embracing that ability now to just release new singles as they’re ready?
AF: It’s interesting. On the one hand, I do like the freedom of releasing singles. But when I’m thinking about writing about things that are important to me, I do feel that it’s within the context of an album. Because I’m from the kind of art school mindset where you create a body of work and you tell a little piece of the story with each piece of work that you make.
And I don’t think that AlunaGeorge has done that to our fullest potential yet. So that’s still kind of a dream of mine.
Q. Your lyrics on the last album were a bit more personal. Is that something you feel has continued so far with the new singles or that you hope continues as you work on new music?
AF: Absolutely. I think that throughout our career there’s been songs that crop up in every batch of songs that we write. And I’m starting to get confidence in that. "Mean What I Mean,” “I’m in Control” and “Turn Up the Love” are just three of the kind of songs that are a highlight for me where I’ve said something really important to me.
And I would like to continue that tradition. Maybe as a full body of work that would be exciting.
Q. I’ve heard you talk about the importance of addressing societal barriers like racism and sexism. And, especially with what has gone on here in America over the last few days, is that something you’d like to work towards addressing musically in new AlunaGeorge music?
AF: The way I work toward it is, I think of music as the soundtrack to the development of both subject areas.
I imagine “Turn Up the Love” being the soundtrack to young people thinking about the future and how we can increase togetherness in our society as opposed to thinking about that song as being an integral piece of that puzzle.
The music, I feel, doesn’t really fit perfectly well in politics. It can just be the wonderful soundtrack to people working towards a better future.
Q. “Empowering” is frequently a word that’s used to describe your lyrics (especially in regards to a track like “Mean What I Mean"). I know you like to kind of keep your lyrics open to interpretation but in finding your own voice now over the course of these last two studio albums, is that idea of empowering your fans a goal for you as you write new lyrics and work on new AlunaGeorge songs with George?
AF: I think that’s absolutely true. Because I often write for myself partially. Maybe more than that.
But I need empowerment myself as a human in society. I get depressed. I get sad about things that are going on. And I find myself up against challenges all the time. So, for me, writing a song is a cathartic process.
Through looking at the ideas that I might talk about in a song, and working them about, I’m empowered myself.
- Jim Ryan ( @RadioJimRyan )
(Details on Thursday's AlunaGeorge show with Coldplay at Soldier Field below)
Thursday, August 17, 2017
Gates open at 5PM
Show starts at 7PM
Also performing: Izzy Bizu, Coldplay
Tickets: Starting at $97
Click HERE to purchase tickets