Welcome back for the conclusion of our chat with Samantha Stephenson, Frenchy in the music duo, Frenchy and the Punk.
Part one can be read here.
Part two can be read here.
Part three can be read here.
Airship Ambassador: If you weren’t a musician, what else would you be doing now?
Samantha Stephenson: Art – Painting, sculpture and installations.
AA: What do you do to keep a balance, music and the rest of your life?
SS: I’m not good at that. I am consumed by what we do. I’m actively trying to be more balanced, to find time to paint and do other creative stuff that I love. We’ve been touring so much and spending so much time on the road for the past 10 years that it’s been a bit challenging to do anything else. I started conducting a panel in the beginning of 2015 at conventions called “Steampunk As Metaphor.” I want to inspire people to follow their true path and in so doing I have reminded myself of the things I need to have in my life to make it more balanced.
AA: Do you get to talk much with other musicians to compare notes, have constructive critique reviews, and brainstorm new ideas?
SS: Not really with other musicians more with other artist friends. I don’t consider myself a musician, rather a performer and artist.
AA: How have you and your work grown and changed over time?
SS: By leaps and bounds. It’s a slow process, very organic. It’s ultimately a journey of self-discovery.
AA: What do you find most rewarding about what you do?
SS: That I get to express myself and lead a creative life.
AA: That’s not always something people get to say about their lives and their jobs. We all need to pay our bills, but it can be so nice to be in a job we enjoy, or at least not in one we loathe. Composing and writing can be a challenge some days. What are some of your methods to stay motivated and creative?
SS: We spend very little time at home so when we’re home I’m usually motivated to create. If I need inspiration, I take stuff in like reading, watching films or documentaries, checking out other people’s art etc. There is a lag time though between shedding the insanity of the road and sinking my teeth into the creative process. I can sometimes be impatient as I want to get into it right away. I have to step back and take a breath, remember that time, even if just a day or two, as luxurious as it is, must be taken to warm the fires of the creative soul.
AA: Most of the people I’ve talked with have some type of day job and that being creative is their other job. What has that situation been for you and how has it helped/hindered begin an artist?
SS: I haven’t had a job, other than being a full-time performer, in over 10 years. All I ever wanted was to do art full time. I’m not very good at working for other people. I get bored as soon as I’ve learned what the job is and need to be constantly challenged. There was a period of time where I had 25 jobs within a 10 year period. A lot of that was because I was working while going to college and grad school and then after the corporate world debacle I turned to temping jobs to support my art habit. So, happily, I’ve now been in the same job as singer/percussionist for Frenchy and the Punk for 10 years. That’s a record for me, but I’m working for myself so it’s up to me to keep it interesting and challenging. My sewing projects complement what we do and contribute in the quest to sustain it.
AA: Do people outside the steampunk, and music communities recognize you for your work? What kind of reactions have you received?
SS: We do have a wide appeal. When we play for other more general audiences we invariably get the “you should play on the Letterman/Kimmel/Fallon/Conan show.” “I never buy CDs but I’ll buy a copy of everything you’ve got”, etc… We do get covered by other media like interviews on NPR affiliates, our songs are licensed for TV, we get written into books as characters…
AA: Looking beyond steampunk, music, and working, what other interests fill your time?
SS: Besides music and art, I also do a lot of sewing. I’m known as the bat girl because of the little finger puppet bats I make and sell at shows and on the website (I do the sewing of the FnP merch too). I paint and draw when I can and somewhere within all that I have to find time to be physically active. I grew up studying dance. Dance and movement are super important to me. I used to teach aerobics when I lived in NYC. So whether I’m riding a bike, working out or just taking a walk, I have to, to deal with the pressures and uncertainties of the artist life. I used to have a pretty strong self-destructive streak so I need that kind of outlet. I also am heavily into energy work and meditation. I used to meditation for hours and that experience informed my painting style early on due to the visions I had during meditation. I am also a certified Polarity Therapy practitioner, a healing modality though I don’t actively do sessions right now.
AA: How do those interests influence your work?
SS: Everything is intertwined. The ‘new age’ side of me is quite strong so that influences everything I do and the get-out-there, take action and get-shit-done side fuels me too.
AA: Are there people you consider an inspiration, role model, or other motivating influence?
SS: Whether I read something on the internet about someone who somehow accomplished something despite insurmountable odds, or meet someone who tells me about their experience, or re-read a book like Letters To A Young Poet by Rilke or listen to Bill Moyers’ interview with Joseph Campbell, or see a gallery show of someone like Bill Viola, watch a documentary on Marina Abramovic, or read a book about Camille Claudel, there is inspiration everywhere. People who tap into their true selves and do what is authentically at their core, those people inspire me. Recently Scott was a guest performer at a show where Henry Rollins was the MC. He inspired me, talking about people needing to get out of their homes and attend shows, communicate with others, share an experience with strangers and in so doing knocking down barriers. In the wake of atrocities committed by people who have forsaken their humanity, breaking down barriers is super important, connection is super important.
AA: What event or situation has had the most positive impact in your life? What has been your greatest challenge?
SS: Event that has been the most positive… there are a few. Reading Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman back in the early 90s was an eye opener and helped me sort out my anger. Reading The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho around the same time was too. Learning that the painter Gauguin was a stockbroker before becoming a successful painter changed my life and shattered a debilitating belief. Meeting Scott and starting an incredible creative journey with him has been the most enduring positive event that has happened cementing the commitment to the life I always wanted to lead.
Most challenging?… getting myself out of the way, forging ahead despite the obstacles, both real and imagined.
AA: Three quick fire, random questions – what is your favorite meal on the road, city to visit, and souvenir?
SS: Meal on the road – salad bar at Whole Foods. I’m super health conscious and finding healthy food on the road can be really difficult. Their salad bar is always a healthy and yummy meal and you can easily control how much you spend.
City – I look forward to beautiful natural landscapes rather than cities. Cities don’t interest me that much on the road. But just to visit… I have to say Paris. I absolutely love Paris.
Souvenir – A kitchy wolf image that moves as you walk past it that we bought at a truck stop in the middle of Iowa.
AA: Any final thoughts to share with our readers
SS: Be kind to yourself. Find your joy and invest time into it. When we find those things that make us happy, when we feed that part of ourselves that is crying out for attention and love, we make ourselves whole, we come into our own and by giving ourselves permission to do so, we inspire others to do the same. It’s simple but really hard. It’s a hell of a lot of work but it’s worth it. You’re never too young, too old, too poor, too tired, too fat, too thin, too anything. It is our responsibility as humans to find our happiness because when we do, it makes for a better world. And the world needs our help. It needs everyone’s help.
If you are already a fan, thank you. If you don’t know us, check out our website, listen to some tunes, come to a show.
And… support independent arts, craftspeople, local farms and local boutiques. Fight the homogenization of everything. Embrace your eccentricity, it wakes people up.
Thanks, Samantha, for joining us for this interview and for sharing all of your thoughts. We look forward to hearing about your next projects!
Keep up to date with French and the Punk’s latest news on their website.