Francine Thirteen
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Francine Thirteen

Dallas, TX | Established. Jan 01, 2015 | SELF

Dallas, TX | SELF
Established on Jan, 2015
Band Pop Avant-garde

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Jan
24
Francine Thirteen @ Deep Vellum Publishing

Dallas, Texas, United States

Dallas, Texas, United States

Jan
13
Francine Thirteen @ Sahara Lounge

Austin, Texas, United States

Austin, Texas, United States

Music

Press


"AFROPUNK PREMIERE: Francine Thirteen's 'Queen Mary' is Darkly Captivating"

With a skipping minimalist beat that sounds like nervous tapping, Austin-based Francine Thirteen's latest single 'Queen Mary' is a lesson in uneasy suspense. An ultra low organ bass is juxtaposed against Francine's haunting soprano, teasing a release from the tension that never comes. The track builds and contracts; a kick drum heart beat is reflected and refracted. Like the best darkwave, this is a track all about the manipulation of tension and ambiance. “What good is your crown / With your heart on the ground? / Oh Mary...”

By Nathan Leigh, AFROPUNK Contributor

'Queen Mary' is intended as part of an EP focusing on female archetypes in a dystopian empire. Each one, 'Mother Mary', 'Queen Mary', 'Sister Mary', and 'Lady Mary' focus on the woman's power, its intersection with the balance of power between citizen and state. Dystopian sci-fi is always best when it focuses on the conversations our society is having now from a new angle, and so far Francine Thirteen delivers. - AFROPUNK- words by Nathan Leigh


"Francine Thirteen Blurs the Lines of Femininity and Sex With Her Musical-Theater Hybrid"

Francine 13 is a really shy person, but you'd never know it from seeing her perform. Inspired by theater, she wears elaborate costumes and performs as four different characters, or as she calls them, "sonic shadows." She's heterosexual, but people have thought she's singing about the courage it takes to come out of the closet. The result can be so provocative that one fan, encouraged by her music to think about who she was and to be independent, even credited Francine 13 with inspiring her to get a divorce.

The reactions aren't always so extreme, but there's no doubt that Francine 13's performances can feel transformative. Lily Taylor, a singer-songwriter with a foot in both the music and art scenes, sees her as a kindred spirit, which makes sense because of her background with a focus on theater at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and the Soul Rep Theatre Company. Music is her calling, but it's her passion for theater that drives the ambition of a project like her upcoming 4 Marys and the King EP, which explores her four "sonic shadows. “It informs so much of my life,” Francine 13 says of acting. “I ultimately see myself as an actress.”

Very much like an actor playing a role, she can hide behind the music and imagery of these characters. The 4 Marys represent female archetypes, but also the four elements. There is Mother Mary, who is also the earth. There is Lady Mary, representing fire, as well as raw female sexuality and passion. Queen Mary is water and follows traditional modes of femininity with perfect posture and a stately demeanor. Sister Mary, the air, is known for her ideas and awareness of modern social constructs that disrupt female sexuality, which Francine 13 describes as a relationship with nature. The King represents these norms as much as he represents a man.

Francine 13 has mainly performed as Mother Mary so far. She cites nature as a primary influence on her work, and as a mother the character can best represent all the others. But she has plans for future shows that will feature each specific character with her own mannerisms, costumes and props. This unique approach turns one performer into four, which is somewhat of a revelation for an artist performing locally. Typically acts try to spread out shows, but Francine 13 billed as Lady Mary one day and Sister Mary a few days later would give very different performances.

Even with these specific characters, she somehow manages to leave room for interpretation. Francine 13 has a spiritual quality that all sorts of people react to. She grew up very religious, going to church a few times a week. Like many people, she was swept away by the singing, music and emotion. But she ultimately saw church as a gateway to these activities and does not classify herself spiritually. She is also conscious of African spiritual systems that inform her work as an artist. “Black people signify all the time,” she says, hinting at verbal strategies that cloak language.

A believer in cellular memory, she sees spirituality as something that is rooted in her DNA and combined with religiosity and personal experiences. “I consider each song to be a magical spell,” she says. That may sound unusual, but any song that gets stuck in your head and changes how you think or feel could be characterized the same way. Francine 13 describes her songs as cathartic, a method of sonic healing. She's even ambitious enough to coin a new genre she calls "ritual pop." The sound is a mix of dark wave and trip hop with a heavy emphasis on being literary and metaphysical.

There is also a sophisticated ideology in this music. These characters are based on female archetypes. “We are all trained to see our own mothers in a certain way,” she says, for example. “But I like to interrupt this notion.” Francine 13 wants to complicate dominant views of femininity by more or less chanting down Babylon. She wants to break women free of dominant paradigms from cultural imperialism. But she isn’t necessarily trying to move away from the gender binary.

“I actually refer to my work as being hyper feminine,” says Francine 13. After all, she is exploring the system through the eyes of four different females. Hover over growling, minimalist rhythms, her soprano voice is the female aspect that keeps everything moving. “Being black and female is such a unique way to see the world,” she continues. “You have a different set of experiences and eyes. It’s such a privileged position to understand the way that systems operate.”

Francine 13 firmly believes that every generation should be freer than the last. She even takes issue with the notion that being quick to forgive is best for everyone involved. “I buck against those platitudes,” she says. As she sees it, people who are trained to quickly forgive may be choosing to deny trauma and bottle it up inside. “I think that has a lot to do with religious programming, television programming and all of these different programs that don’t have to do with the wild, organic true you,” she suggests.

One doesn’t have to look too far to see examples of tension being created when something is not properly acknowledged or someone is not held accountable. If forgiving is allowing, it’s easy to see how that mindset could lead to people being haunted by something that happened to them. Or how it could perpetuate the disturbing behavior. “We can dismantle so much with just our thinking,” says Francine 13. - The Dallas Observer


"The Gospel According to Francine Thirteen"

The Gospel According to Francine Thirteen
by Alaena Hostetter Posted in Pop Music. Nov 06, 2015 at 9:34 am

If Francine Thirteen ever decides to start a religion, it would not be entirely surprising. Her music is steeped in the occult, she hails from a line of mystics, and she performs rituals at her shows. She refers to her album as a “sonic book of shadows” – an audio book of spells that she hopes will heal her audiences.

Her music is deep, her voice soulful. Her lyrics are profound, easy to understand, yet layered with meaning – they expose plot and character tension that are reminiscent of the gravitas of a Shakespearean drama. Set to electronic beats, the result is mesmerizing. Music has the power to inspire worship. And Francine’s aesthetic inspires a kind of devotion. She’s only been on the Dallas music scene for about six months, but her schedule is picking up speed with shows in Dallas and Austin this month. On Saturday she’ll have another chance to work her magic at City Tavern.

Raised in Dallas in the Baptist church, she sang in choir on Sundays. Her music has a gospel feel, although she gave up Jesus a long time ago. Now she preaches the gospel according to Francine, exploring complex topics in her music – cellular memory, religion, nature, patriarchy, and female archetypes.

For her forthcoming debut album 4 Marys and The King, Francine wrote each song from the perspective of one of four female characters: Sister Mary, Mother Mary, Lady Mary, and Queen Mary. Each of the Marys represents different feminine characteristics and a different elemental force of nature. Although there are biblical undertones to each, Francine drew ultimate inspiration from Auset – in Egyptian allegory the “Black Madonna,” and according to some mystics, the prototype for biblical stories of the Holy Mary. Francine delves into the psyches of these archetypal females, exposing their relationships with each other and their struggle against a dominant male figure known as the King.

In “Mother Mary,” the Queen Mother sings about her son:

“Take a look at his stride/ He’s so awash with pride/ No wonder they call him the holy one / Prince of truth, son of the sun…/ Oh you can call yourself king/ Of what you want to son / But you can’t ever erase / The woman who made you one / Dead or alive (kill the king) / He’s always mine (kill the king)”

Francine says she wanted this song to show the interconnectedness of all beings on the planet, dead and alive, to their foremothers and to the great mother: the earth. Francine’s voice is haunting, and she repeats the final lines over and over, searing the lyrics in your mind.

Sometimes one Mary sings to another. The posturing, judgment, and tension is palpable, and the result is delectable. In the track “Queen Mary, The Water and Throne,” Lady Mary, the King’s mistress, sings to the Queen:

“You live all your days/ According to his ways/… Never show your true face/ Pretending high grace/…God save the Queen/ With a throne made of stone/ Long live the queen/ With a life not her own”

Francine uses the term “divine feminine,” which she defines as “the feminine representation of God…the sacredness and holiness of femininity, the female form, and the female experience.”

She says that her upbringing in the church, with male religious figures and in a male-dominated culture, didn’t jibe with her sensibilities. “We hear about the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. There is no woman in that, so this is a reclamation, or a proclamation that we are present within the divine and not only present, but key.”

Despite the personality clashes and competition amongst all the King’s women, Francine says she exists within each of them. She used experiences from her own life and went back into her ancestral record, drawing from her mother’s, grandmother’s, and great-grandmother’s experiences to create her characters. At each of her shows, Francine plays the role of one of her Marys. Assuming a character is something she’s comfortable with as a theater alumna of Booker T. Washington High School.

In her most recent Dallas show at Aurora, part music and art exhibit, part ritual, she was Lady Mary, and performance artist Netherina Noble portrayed Mother Mary. The two enacted a “roses ritual”: Lady Mary paid her respects to Mother Mary by casting rose petals over her head. The two also shared a “holy drink” at an altar they created. Francine even blessed an audience member who was disrupting her performance by pouring a cup of water over his head and awakening him, so to speak. He left the scene peacefully.

The religious and ritual aspects of her work are not just compelling artistic devices. She’s using her work to heal her cellular memory and hopes her music and rituals will promote a similar healing in others. She said some people in the audience at Aurora were mystified but overall responded positively. Francine thinks the ritual resonated with them because it may have triggered their cellular memories of public rituals and a communal convening with the divine.

If you’re not familiar with the term “cellular memory,” it’s the concept that our experiences are stored in our cells. We can also inherit cellular memory from our ancestors – the experiences stored in their cells are passed onto us and manifest as memories, habits, phobias, and affinities for things we may have never experienced in our lifetimes.

“It’s something that we inherit. It’s something that we create. It’s something that’s always present. We can always be tapping in and reprogramming our stories to benefit us, rather than to destroy us. We can always strengthen the joyous part of our story,” says Francine. “I wanted the work to be something that was thought-provoking and healing, to maybe trigger certain ways of thinking, or maybe opening up the heart a certain way. When people talk about healing music, in my experience, it’s very positive. But I wouldn’t describe the work as being very positive. It explores the darker aspects of the psyche and of life.”

Francine Thirteen debuted in Dallas at Soft Power: Intimacy, a cultural-equity gathering created by social practice artist Darryl Ratcliff. That one performance was enough to burn her into my mind. She was visually captivating – she donned a fabric-wrapped headpiece by Chesley Williams and a sequined bustier and matching skirt. Playing the role of Queen Mary that night, she carried herself like someone who is supremely self-possessed. The inner sanctum of Zhulong Gallery had been filled with the chatter of handfuls of people even as performers took the stage, but it seemed that once Francine got started, the gallery hushed. Smartphones emerged, capturing her likeness on tiny screens. A circle formed. From inside it, her voice radiated outward. B-boys who were scheduled to perform later, moved by the music, began to pop and lock to the slow beat of her music and her mournful voice. I won’t ever get that performance out of my head. I walked away with the chorus, “Dead or alive, he’s always mine” ringing in my ears. Maybe it triggered something in my cells. - D Magazine


"Francine Thirteen"

Within moments, the lights hit the stage, and I didn’t know where I was anymore. Two women on stage in red dresses started what seemed like a ritualistic display. A percussionist began an earthy, tribal-like beat, with a DJ in the back, lightly following along. Francine Thirteen then begins her spiritual song that sounds almost as if she were communicating from an astral plane. She would make a statement. On the opposite side was Ajah, replying in a hypnotic fashion. The two of them would then drink from two chalices on the center table, in an almost religious manner, and then continue with their ritual in song and hypnotic response. As short as her set was, it was an artistic, ethereal experience that one can get easily entranced by.

Francine slows down your mind with their words, and brings you to their pace with their song and slow movements of their limbs and body. When you’re ready, they show you their futuristic vision: the rebirth of soul. Not the music genre, mind you. A euphoric, almost futuristic glimpse of a digital soul that’s a bit eerie, if not a little haunting.

The Sahara Lounge was a prime location for Francine Thirteen’s performance. It’s an open-minded, friendly little shack with soul and culture. Framed pictures of old artists and instruments hanging on the walls, a few pool tables, couches, christmas lights for ambiance, LED mirror balls and a disco ball on the roof of the dance floor. They even had free nachos in a crock pot, asking for donations if you felt like it. I met an elderly gentleman there who was all about hanging out and having a good time. While we were discussing the vibe and energy of the place, his exact words were, “Everyone just come over. Forget all that racial bullshit and have fun!” This small establishment was the embodiment of the traditional meaning of the word “cool.”

The whole experience was something new to me in the music world. It was a very different mixture, somewhere in between a tribal ritual and futuristic euphoria. The short, 20 minute set felt like the first free lesson to a new experience. Something that, if repeated, could be good for the soul.

-Matt Jain, TipCow - TipCow


"Francine Thirteen "Lady Mary, The Highborn Fire/Pars Una""

Francine Thirteen “Lady Mary, The Fire/Pars Una”
26 Jun 2015 — Anaïs Duplan

Francine Thirteen is important. An afronaut hailing from Dallas, Francine Thirteen describes her latest work as "ritual pop." This is a smart move – not only because "ritual pop" is indeed a fitting picture of the Venusian's music, but also because of the mutual power that the two words "ritual" and "pop" lend to each other. ‘Ritual’ evokes the transformation (and conglomeration) of mundane acts into efforts-toward-the-supernatural. In that way, 'pop' acts as a storehouse of possible mundane actions from which ‘ritual’ draws. Popular music, insofar as it is widely enjoyed (by the 'populace'), must be in some way mundane and repetitive. That is pop's plainspoken charm. But of course, the pop worth surrounding yourself with works so much harder than that. It's not interesting unless it does things you don't fully understand. Introduce: ritual. Introduce: the unknown, the superhuman, forces that signal either toward the greater good or the greater vice. The Venusian seems to know this dearly. She appeals to the dissonant, the odd musical variables, the imperative narrative, and to her own high and hyper-feminine voice which is, in the best way, sonically disruptive. On her new track, "Lady Mary, The Fire/Pars Una," she chases the divine as though it were an ever-retreating vision, never quite attaining beatification but striving all the same. Ritual pop is still, after all, pop – still essentially earthly and therefore appealing in the way that pop music must be. Francine Thirteen’s work tickles the senses with rich tones; it is almost animal-like ('universal') in its gritty rhythms and grounded beats. And in that way, the Venusian, the demi-goddess, acts as a conduit between our present reality and some other unattainable world.

“Lady Mary, The Fire/Pars Una” will be featured on Francine Thirteen’s forthcoming EP, 4 Marys and the King. - No Fear Of Pop


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos