Frances Clare is a proudly South African, female-fronted five-piece band that have toured extensively both locally and internationally. With stripped-down lyrics, expert nuancing, beautifully layered vocal melodies and consistently open, honest delivery, Frances Clare presents the listener with a balanced showcase of emotional integrity and untold maturity that speaks to the innate talent of the five music teachers who make up this enigmatic Cape Town-based act. We chat to them about their latest EP and more.
How long was your EP, Gold, in the making for and can you tell us a little about the hurdles you faced and how you overcame them?
“Gold“ actually technically took a year to release! The first two songs, “Clouds Over Gold” and “Broken Girl“, were recorded in our first-ever recording session in a small studio in Malmesbury. The other two tracks on the EP were recorded over 7 months later at the Stellenbosch University Studios. On the day that we were meant to record, we were halfway to the studio (we all live in Cape Town) when we received a panicked call from the engineer. He was having issues with the gear and suggested that we reschedule. We had already set our release date and were on an extremely tight timeline! Undeterred, we raced to the studio and recorded 6 tracks in just two hours. It was pretty stressful…
Your single Go, was recently named one of the top 15 tracks in Australia by Banks Radio, what did it feel like to receive that kind of acclaim?
“Go“ came together very quickly. From writing to heading into the studio with DJ Cosher to sending it out to radios must have been under 5 months. We released it just before heading off to the UK on tour and while I was in London I kept receiving emails about it being playlisted in Luxembourg and Australia – it was so unreal! When we got back to South Africa we found out that it had been featured by Banks Radio and we were ecstatic. The song is all about determination and going after your dreams and it has just been incredible seeing people from around the world connect with it and adopt it as a positive message for their lives. We actually just finished filming the music video for it!
Locally, you’ve shared the stage with acts such as Mango Groove, Matthew Mole, and Zolani. Who have been some of the artists, locally, you most looked up to coming up and then thought, “wow I’m actually sharing a stage with them right now”?
Growing up I was the biggest fan of local music. I used to illegally download Al Bairre, Majozi, Matthew Mole, Monark and Beatenberg’s tracks because I could never find their cd’s in the stores (I’m giving away my age because this was way before streaming existed!). All of my embarrassing fangirl moments came back to haunt me when the tables turned and I ended up performing with my local heroes! Thank goodness when we played with Beatenberg in Berlin, Matthew Fields didn’t recognise me as the girl who wanted a photo with him in a 24 hour Woolworths two years prior. Out of all of the artists that we have been privileged to perform with I think the craziest moment was when Matthew Mole asked me to sing while he played the drums for “Take Yours, Take Mine”. I had joined the crowd with my Matthew Mole merch and then he gestured at me to come back and handed the mic to me. Afterwards he was like, “I really put you on the spot and I just hoped you might know the words”. Little did he know I would have been able to sing any of his tracks!
On a similar note, you toured the UK in Dec/Jan, which artists did you meet/ play alongside and can you tell us a cool story about any of them?
Touring the UK was such an amazing adventure. One of the coolest gigs we played was organised by an amazing company called Spotlight Presents and featured an all-female lineup- something we love to be apart of. This one featured Cortney Dixon (go check out her latest song, Parliament Owls!) and HAti (who has a song with SA’s very own DAS KAPITAL) and was in Newcastle Upon Tyne. One of the other standout shows was in London at a venue called The Bedford. We played with local legends including Sophie Worsley and Jenna Bennet. The latter told us the most hilarious story of when Ben Howard opened up for her band at a gig in Cornwall!
You headlined a show in Dublin Castle in Camden, what was it like to play in a venue where the likes of Amy Winehouse used to sing?
It was strange…I kept on trying to imagine her singing there but I just couldn’t. When you are on a stage it feels impossible to comprehend that someone like Amy Winehouse could have stood in the same place as you!
Any embarrassing/ funny tour stories?
Last year we were in Europe on our first-ever International Summer tour. We were in Luxembourg and our gig was meant to end at midnight. Because our train to Switzerland was at 5am the next morning and it was Summer we had decided not to use money on booking accommodation. It was such a rookie error! By the time 2am rolled around we were freezing our butts off. Eventually, we had the bright idea to use our railcards and we spent the rest of the night riding the same train back and forward so that we had somewhere to sleep. Annoyingly, this journey was only 30 minutes long each way! We were so grumpy when we finally arrived in Switzerland that we never even left our air BnB.
What has been your all-time favourite gig?
We were one of the headline acts for the Women’s Day event at Grandwest (organised by our friends at Marimba Jam). The other acts on the night were some of our favourite locals, including The Kiffness and Craig Lucas, and we got to perform with a full marimba choir behind us! The venue was full (it was definitely one of our biggest audiences ever) and the highlight was that I got to sing Osiyeza as a duet with Craig Lucas in memory of Johnny Clegg.