Welcome back for part two of our chat with Samantha Stephenson, Frenchy in the music duo, Frenchy and the Punk.
Part one can be read here.
Airship Ambassador: Knowing all those things will certainly add another dimension when listening to those songs, now. There’s never enough space for everything. What elements were originally part of Bonjour Batfrog which didn’t make it into the final compilation?
Samantha Stephenson: We usually write more songs than we need and develop arrangements for the ones that we feel are the best. We demo the songs at home to get a sense of what we want on the CD before we go in to record at a professional studio.
AA: What is the song creation process? Is there a chicken and egg process with the music and the lyrics?
SS: It differs from song to song. For example, Scott is constantly playing guitar and coming up with riffs. There are certain riffs that I hear him play that have lyrics attached. I can feel them and see them, like a little movie in my mind’s eye. Sometimes the lyrics come pouring out and sometimes it’s just one line that is the springboard for the rest of the song. Other times I get a melody that plays over and over in my head out of nowhere and we use that as the springboard. The lyrics of ‘House of Cards’, even though fleshed out with Murder Mysteries in mind, initially grew out of the thought ‘there’s a villain in the house of cards’ after listening to Motorhead’s Ace of Spades in the van while on tour. ‘Le Chat Noir’ was a song that came to me in my sleep and it was so strong that it woke me up. I got up and wrote out the whole song within minutes, which is entirely in French, my first language, and sang the melody into my phone at 3am. Another example, Scott was playing the beginning riff of ‘Don’t Fear The Rabbit’ and within seconds I knew it was a song and had him play that riff over and over again, he barked out the first line and my lyrics poured out from there.
AA: What instruments do you use regularly?
SS: Voice, tambourine, drums, hi-hat, cymbals, shakers.
AA: Any that you’d like to use more? Or never again?
SS: I’d like to work in a bit of keyboard. But that might be for another project.
AA: How would you describe your style? What were your influences early on to create it?
SS: We call it Folk Punk Cabaret. I’m not sure what my direct musical influences would be as I have listened to so many different types of music. Everything from Aretha Franklin, Santana, Concrete Blonde, Heavy D, Deelite, Paul Simon, Beethoven, Siouxsie Sioux, Green Day, Joanne Shenandoah, Lucius, Tool, Dire Straits and on and on. There are only 3 types of music I can’t listen to, Cajun, Zydeco and Country. Everything else I’ve liked at some point.
AA: What can you tell us about She Was A Flapper from Bonjour Batfrog?
SS: It’s a song about Lois Long (1901-1974). She was a columnist for The New Yorker in the 1920’s and came to symbolize a ‘Flapper’. I started that song when the line “She was a Flapper, She did whatever she wanted to, thumbed her nose at convention and the well-to-do” kept repeating itself over and over in my head. I would work on the lines here and there but it wasn’t until I watched the documentary ‘Prohibition’ by Ken Burns that I learned about Lois Long and then all fell into place. It was like the song was waiting for me to find her to finish it. I’ve always been attracted to that time period, the 20s and 30s, perhaps one of the reasons the Poirot series resonates with me. I love that there was a big step in women’s empowerment during that period.
AA: What can you tell us about Steampunk Pixie from Hey Hey Cabaret?
SS: We have been performing at Faerie Festivals since 2006 and at Steampunk events since 2009. We love both of those scenes and those communities have been really good to us. The song was a tipping of the hat, a love letter to them. They are different communities, which occasionally overlap (although they weren’t overlapping when I wrote the song) but a common thread between the two is their love of creativity, their maker’s mindset.
AA: What is one of the most memorable songs for you and why?
SS: Of ours? Fe Fi Fo Fum because, although I know what it’s about, there is meaning there beyond what I can say. I feel the meaning more in my body than in my mind. There are a lot of lyrics that I have written that come from that mysterious place and with that song, when I sing it, I feel like I’m singing something from somewhere that is infinite.
AA: When people listen to and enjoy your songs, what would you like for them to take away from it?
SS: A sense of possibility and inspiration to live out loud, to live their truth.
We’ll pause here in talking with Samantha.
Join us for part 3 where she talks about writing, and new projects.
Keep up to date with French and the Punk’s latest news on their website.