Welcome back for part two in our talk with Scott Helland, the Punk in the music duo, Frenchy and the Punk.
Part one can be read here.
Airship Ambassador: There’s never enough space for everything. What elements were originally part of Bonjour Batfrog which didn’t make it into the final compilation?
Scott Helland: I think if I remember correctly, we wrote 11 songs and knew we had the album. It was very pure and organic. We just knew we had it. Samantha may have a different take on this in her interview though.
AA: What is the song creation process? Is there a chicken and egg process with the music and the lyrics?
SH: I play guitar all the time. Walking around backstage, in hotel rooms, highway rest stops, at home etc… so I’m constantly coming up with riffs and melodies. Sometimes Samantha will just hear it and say keep playing and lyrics come to her like they are attached to it. Sometimes a song will just start with her humming a melody and a few hours later it’s a new song.
So there’s no specific process. We basically let the universe, the muse, whatever you want to call it, guide us. It’s kind of a mystical thing. Sometimes we think, ‘how did we write this?’ There are songs on some of my solo CDs from 15 years ago that I don’t even know how I wrote them or even how to play them anymore.
AA: That’s an interesting example of how we live, create and do, and move on. We keep changing in our lives, and so does what we make. What instruments do you use regularly?
SH: I primarily play and write on guitar, and after that I play the drums most. Which is odd because I started out as a bass player and I loved the bass but I rarely play it these days except for recording and the occasional sit-in with another band. As far as brands?
These days I only use Godin Guitars. They’re a Canadian guitar maker that specializes in acoustic/electric hybrid guitars. Perfect for what we do. They have a bright clean acoustic sound, yet they have bite and power.
AA: Any that you’d like to use more? Or never again?
AA: Time for some patrons! How would you describe your style? What were your influences early on to create it?
SH: Frenchy and the Punk is folk punk cabaret. With the acoustic guitar sound it brings in the folk feel, and we have punk-ish energy, especially live, and there is a big European cabaret vibe to what we do, no doubt from Samantha’s background, the fact that we’re a duo and I’ve always loved that Eastern European gypsy style guitar, Spanish guitar.
I grew up listening to punk rock, metal, post punk gothic stuff, singer songwriters etc and my parents took me to numerous Jazz concerts. They cranked Django Reinhardt and Count Basie at home and I cranked the Ramones, Motorhead, The Cure and everything in-between. I saw Michael Hedges in college and he blew me away with what he could do with an acoustic guitar.
AA: I still love listening to the Ramones. You definitely have great energy on stage, when I’ve seen you play. It’s infectious and the crowd certainly gets swept up in it. What can you tell us about the title song from Hey Hey Cabaret?
SH: We wrote it in our kitchen in 2012. We DID actually set out to write something upbeat that day and I think we hit the mark. So I guess there was a theme with this one… and it was about letting loose and letting it all out, gleeful abandon at a masquerade ball. It’s rhythmic, driving and was a huge audience fav as soon as we played it live.
SH: I wrote the music and was jamming on some of the chord sequences and when Samantha heard it, MC Escher came to her mind right away. She looked at my book of his drawings and did a stream of consciousness description. The lyrics are so beautiful describing all his amazing artwork.
After Samantha wrote all the lyrics and vocal melody I came up with the title. It’s one of our best songs, we’re very proud of it. It’s a bit a of a different sound for us with a bit more of an indie pop feel. We filmed a video for it in France last year that will be released in 2016.
AA: Escher really is great, and a bit mind bending. What is one of the most memorable songs for you and why?
SH: Most memorable Frenchy and the Punk song? Well, these days, and especially live, it’s Fe Fi Fo Fum off the Bonjour Batfrog CD.
Lyrically, it’s about a big evil giant and a call to action to protect the environment. Musically, I feel like it pretty much encompasses what I set out to do after I stopped playing bass guitar in loud punk rock and metal bands and that was to capture that energy with an acoustic guitar in a duo setting.
The song is powerful live and it’s just so much fun to perform. Samantha’s vocals soar and it’s got this simple punky tri-tone riff in it with a melodic minor lead melody in the middle. Audiences really love it too, I love seeing people chant Fe Fi Fo Fum. Though Dark Carnivale off the Happy Madness CD is probably our most requested song so that’s probably one of the most memorable for the fans.
AA: When people listen to and enjoy your songs, what would you like for them to take away from it?
SH: My first answer is always, whatever people want. I’ve heard people say that Its very soul nurturing music and there’s a blissful happy quality to it, it makes people feel good and there’s nothing wrong with that. There is a lot of doom and gloom in the world. We like to take people away from that for an hour or so. Uplift… and feel it viscerally. Certain music does that for me as well. It uplifts so I can get out there and deal with this crazy life.
AA: What kind of writing, practicing, and editing went into creating each CD compilation to convey the desired message and feelings?
SH: We worked very intensely on Bonjour Batfrog. We had a few tunes that were written from the previous year but most of the tunes were finished and written and arranged when we did 12 to 15 hour days in March of 2014. We recorded it in April and May that same year.
I can’t really describe the process. It’s a complete mind warp, of mostly highs, some lows… it’s a creative emotional roller coaster kind of thing. We also had meetings with and worked with a new producer, Jason Rubal over at Seventh Wave in PA. He’s worked with Amanda Palmer and a bunch of other cool bands. We previously worked with Gary Levitt at Young Love Studio in Brooklyn.
We’ll pause here in talking with Scott.
Join us next time when he talks about upcoming projects and fan reactions.
Until then, keep up to date with news on their website.