Francis Bakin
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Francis Bakin

San Francisco, California, United States | SELF

San Francisco, California, United States | SELF
Band Alternative Singer/Songwriter


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"Venus Zine Feature"

With two tribute bands in her background, Clementine finds her own voice in Conversation with Francis Bakin

By Amy Kaufman

Published: January 27th, 2009 | 1:30pm

After years behind a drum set for San Francisco tribute-band stalwarts AC/DShe and Zepparella, the singularly named Clementine is trading in her old digs for an electronic stand-up kit and playing frontwoman in her newest project, Francis Bakin. What’s more, she’s writing all of her own songs — no small feat for a musician who spent hours perfecting another musician’s style and who admittedly possessed anxieties about the songwriting life.

A wordsmith all of her life, it wasn’t until after college graduation that Clementine began to doubt her authority as a young writer. The San Francisco transplant was left with an overwhelming case of writers’ block and the notion that she needed to live more in order to write. Armed with her drumsticks, she set off in a different direction. Assembling a close network of artistic collaborators, Clementine was touring the United States with New York rock group BOTTOM, before landing back in San Francisco to form the all-female tribute bands AC/DShe and Zepparella, but she still shied away from writing her own material.

Her 14-year battle with writers’ block finally ended after she was pulled away from a 10-day yoga retreat due to her mother’s hospitalization, she said. “She ended up having really serious surgery, but she’s fine now. I was still in this weird mindset from the retreat. I was staying in a hospital room and words started pouring out of me. I stayed up and wrote about 12 songs.”

Singing vocals over an electronic drumbeat, Clementine built the structure that would eventually support her self-released debut album Conversation with Francis Bakin, adding guitar, shifting melodies, and finally altering the drums and bringing the song full circle. “I’ve written with other people before but never just on my own,” she explained. “I don't really play melodic instruments. I have a background in piano, but I'm not a piano player. So I just curled up with my computer as much as I could.”

When the songwriting process was over, Clementine enlisted fretless bass player Rob Preston, and keyboardist/sample-man Mike Wells to round out the edges, providing a steady backing beat for Clementine’s sporadic pacing. Zepparella accomplice Gretchen Menn would take over the role as raunchy slide guitarist. For the virtuoso with an ear for precision, Menn had to forget everything she learned in school, loosening up for a swampier, sprawling sound for Francis Bakin, Clementine said. “I think she likes the fact that I want her to really stretch out and not think so hard about exactly how it should be played but to just play.”

Determined to achieve her specific sound, Clementine co-produced the album with Preston at his studio, Get Reel Productions. The two bonded over “the weird” or “wrong” recordings that they loved so much. “We’re constantly trying to convince the other players to live with the things that they’re like ‘oh no way, you can hear my sticks click!’ That makes it real. In this day and age, people respond to real. There’s so much perfect out there. The real stuff is the fun stuff,” she said.

As a result, Conversation plays with the casualness of the ’90s — it’s grungy but not careless, methodical but not precise, thrashing but not self-destructive. “I like to record quickly,” Clementine said. “My first response is always the best one. If I do a vocal track and I'm like, 'that's it,' and I listen back, that's usually it. I can try it three other times, but that one's going to be it.”

For the raucous riot grrl at heart, riding the wave of instinct made the recording process a breeze. “Having a limited budget is actually the best thing that can happen for a record,” she said. “You end up living with things that you think you would do differently, [but] looking back, those are the best parts of the record.”

The once wordless writer has gone as far as to create her own blog to catalogue the journey she took to get to where she’s at today with her songwriting. Francis Bakin is still evolving, she says, and Clementine hopes to maintain a certain level of undeveloped freshness by keeping the group from over-thinking and by forcing them to live in the moment. “If I can get to the end of a song [having been] unaware that I was in it — just have been there — then that's when I know it’s great.”

- Venus Zine

"Palo Alto Daily News"


FRANCIS BAKIN — “CONVERSATION WITH FRANCIS BAKIN” Oh, my darlin! Clementine leaps from behind the Zepparella drum kit to front this raucous, rockin’ new project, which hints at the Stones, Runaways, 4 Non Blondes and a non-slick version of Gwen Stefani. Play this San Francisco artist’s debut CD and you’ll instantly be hooked.
- PA Daily News

"Cosmic Lava, Germany"

Does anyone remember the heavy rock band Bottom? I really hope so, because they had a very unique style, what sets
them apart from all the Kyuss copies at the beginning of this decade. During their existance from 1997 until 2005
Bottom released three albums, which presented a band that never was tied to a specific formula. Especially their last
album 'You'rNext' for Small Stone Records in 2005 was a brilliant statement on artistic freedom and a nightmare for
some of their fans. After the band broke-up in 2005 I was wondering what happend to the band's ex-members.
Suddenly in 2008 I received an Email from Clementine, the former drummer of Bottom, where she asked me if I want
to write a review about her new solo project Francis Bakin. After listening to the track 'Sunshine' on her site I agreed
and a few days later I found a copy of her self-released debut album in my mailbox.
Supported by Gretchen Mann on guitars (who's also in Zepparella) and Robert Preston on bass, Clemetine has recorded
an album which is much different from Bottom and showcases her talent as singer, too. FRANCIS BAKIN is still rock
with strong pop leanings, but it's definitely no cheesy pop music. The dark vibe of 'Spite' has more in common with
Tricky or early Portishead, while the blues influences set off by keening slide guitars on almost each of the here
included eleven tracks. 'The Champion' sounds as if it's based on the groove of Led Zeppelin's 'When the Levee Breaks'
with additional harmonica. All of this results in deep music that's a natural outgrowth of the way Clementine is looking
at the world. It also no mistake to take a look a the lyrics, that can be very ironic at times. 'Conversation with Francis
Bakin' is a successful debut from a very ambitious musician, and I hope that Clementine will record more music under
the monicker FRANCIS BAKIN. - Klaus Kleinowski


"Conversation with Francis Bakin" - 11-song album released on January 15, 2009. CDs are available here:, and you can hear the songs here:



Heavy rock drummer Clementine steps out from behind the drumset to front Francis Bakin as singer and songwriter. Powerfully lyrical, melodically textured and darkly danceable, the debut album Conversation with Francis Bakin was released January 15, 2009.

In May, the song "Cold Snap" won second place in the lyrics category of the International Songwriting Competition.

As a founding member of the New York City stoner rock trio BOTTOM, Clementine developed a hard-hitting and emotional style of drumming. One of the very few female bands in the genre, Clem, Sina and Nila were known as relentless road warriors. An 11-month/320 show tour, many more trips around the United States, the Warped Tour, Europe… the payoff was a well-honed technique and stage presence that earned them notoriety throughout the metal/rock community. BOTTOM released three albums: the first self-released, the second on the legendary Mans Ruin Records, and the third on Smallstone Records.

After relocating to San Francisco, Clementine joined AC/DShe, one of the first all-female rock tributes. In her 3-year tenure as Phyllis Rudd, she applied a heavy athleticism to her playing, and the band became the highest-grossing Bay area band at the time. An additional benefit was the musical connection developed with guitarist Gretchen Menn (Agnes Young).

Gretchen immediately hopped onboard when Clem expressed a desire to learn the Led Zeppelin catalog, and the girls started Zepparella. Clem enlisted Nila Minnerock from BOTTOM to play bass, and the band was born. Now on WhatAreRecords?, home of labelmates and alumni such as Stephen Lynch, David Wilcox, Fancey and The Swayback, the band released their second record, A Pleasing Pounding, in February 2008. Zepparella tours the Western US and is growing swiftly in notoriety.

In 2005, Zepparella started an original project, The House of More. Clementine wrote the words for all but one of the songs, and pushed the girls to record an album. The self-titled debut was released and the girls played several shows opening for themselves. As the band was shelved in the interest of other projects, Clem became increasingly aware of the desire to sing her own words and write songs. After holing up for a year and a half, and with the help of Gretchen, Francis Bakin was born.

The songs were written from the ground up, starting with electronic drumbeats which sparked the lyrical intent. From there the melodies grew from a banjitar, a keyboard, and words. Gretchen developed the melodies with stunning slide guitar work. Robert Preston laid a heavy foundation with his fretless bass playing, and Clementine incorporated live drumset playing over the electronic beats. The result is a unique sound with all her favorite things: evocative lyrics, slide guitar, danceable grooves, and things that go “boing.”

The album was recorded and mixed by Robert Preston at GetReel Productions in San Francisco, and was produced by Clementine and Rob. Live, Clem fronts the band with a stand-up electronic drumset, along with a drummer, keyboard/sample guru Mike Wells, Gretchen and Rob.

The journey from drummer to frontperson is chronicled in Clementine’s blog and in her songs. When she asks, “Let me be your damn sunshine, baby…” you have no recourse than to let her.