Franklin: Trip Home
Montpellierain Frank Rabeyrolles aka Double U has assumed a new guise as Franklin and, on debut 'Every Now and Then', has arranged an affecting marriage between electronic pop and American psychedelia. He tells Rockfort about why the album is like "coming home".
Rockfort: What did you want to explore with Franklin that you felt you couldn't with Double U?
FR: Maybe something lighter… I did Franklin without telling myself I had to write songs, it was more on instinct. I just had a desire to throw off the introspection and particularly a melancholy that seemed bound up with the Double U project. Life was being good to me and I wanted to make a record without any hang-ups. I thought a lot about my travels in Eastern Europe… I left Paris and the calming influence of nature returned little by little.
Rockfort: Has your approach to making music changed a lot over the years?
FR: Music is perpetual change… capturing emotions, writing a song, is all tied to the passing of time, to your life, to the people you meet. So my music has changed like that but I think that these days it happens naturally. I don’t wake up telling myself that I’m going to make a track that sounds like this or like that, I just try to maintain a certain discipline and not to fall into well-worn routines.
Rockfort: Did the tracks on ‘Every Now and Then’ begin as songs or guitar compositions? How did they come together?
FR: Sometimes I’d start with a guitar, and other times with little keyboard ideas… I don’t like ambitious music, I prefer an artisan style. Apart from that, I was open to spontaneity and some old obsessions with analogue effects, delay and things like that. What I like most in music is when people have mastered the form to such a degree that it has an incredible purity and simplicity. I recently discovered the Brazilian composer from the beginning of the last century,Villa Lobos… he wrote this piece, ‘Choros No.5’, that I find incredible, that’s true emotion in music. With Franklin, my ambitions are more modest, I can assure you.
Rockfort: Did you have any conscious influences (musical or otherwise) when making ‘Every Now and Then’? The album seems to draw on 60s/70s folk and acid rock, electro and dub simultaneously.
FR: Yes, undoubtedly, but I hope it’s not in too obvious or calculated a way. I discovered music with Leonard Cohen and The Byrds, The Beach Boys. I had a big moment of regression… all that 60s psychedelia that was the soundtrack to my adolescence, when I was always playing 13th Floor Elevators, Love etc. It’s more a coming home than a search for a new sound. I’m a fan of Krautrock like Can and Amon Duul, but I think I’m doing something much lighter and more fragile. I like the American pop comparisons, the West Coast thing is very flattering for me. It has this earthy quality that I really like.
Rockfort: On your MySpace, you say that “talking about music too long makes no sense”. It seems you’re happy for others to read what they want into your music, but do you resist trying to explain it to yourself?
FR: I was just trying to say that there are people around me who sometimes spend hours talking about music, looking for the next ‘big’ thing’. The analysis of music is a bit of an urbaine activity that escapes me… I prefer listening to and making music. I hope people take something from what I do and I'm happy to satisfy their desire for discussion, but I’m more interested in hearing about people who make music. I’m very interested in the lives of musicians, how they end up as part of a particular movement, how at a particular moment they end up creating something truly unprecedented. I’m constantly rereading things about Dylan, Coltrane, Miles Davis… I really get off on those anecdotes.
Rockfort: You mention “dusty synths” as well – what’s the attraction of using vintage equipment?
FR: Yes, analogue, the whole world comes back to that. It’s a little bit the old conflict between the real and the virtual or the concept of the simulacra… I studied a bit of philosophy at university a long time ago and it was one of my obsessions. That said, I’m not hard line about it – digital, software… why not? The key is to have a desire to get something across, some albums that are recorded very badly can be magical. And then the analogue thing can become snobby, bourgeois. I don’t like music that feels class-based, whether it’s populist or more elitist.
Rockfort: There’s a female singer on ‘Every Now and Then’, but do you generally work alone, is that your preferred way of working?
FR: That’s Camille Vachin, my girlfriend… it’s something we’re trying, I’m working with her a little bit for the next Double U recordings. I think that it brings a little fresh air… but otherwise I prefer working alone. I can get into some pretty intense states but I like the intoxication of it – and also music in my little garden and I find it difficult sharing it.
Rockfort: Can you tell us about your background in Montpellier – what are your activities there?
FR: I work full time on my label and my music, I organise concerts – we’ve had people like The Chap, Uzi and Ari, Sarabeth Tucek this year. Other than that, I also worked in a record shop a few years back. I like to live in the moment.
Rockfort: What’s the ethos of Wool Recordings, your label – is it just a means of releasing your own projects?
FR: Wool is a means of expression. I don’t really want to work with labels for the moment, I’m looking for another form of independence. And we’re starting to get serious distribution partners. In September, I’m releasing ‘Collage’, an Estonian vocal jazz reissue from the 70s, plus the new Double U release and plenty of other things that are secret for now. That last single is a 7-inch with Sarabeth Tucek, Uzi and Ari and Franklin. Wool is a little home for my projects, sure, but it’s becoming more and more open… as I get older I’m increasingly open to the music of others, the whole thing of the neurotic and ego-maniacal artist is too clichéd, I want to create a family around the label. You have to be ambitious in the context of the record industry’s decline, there’s a slightly desperate, cowboy side to the whole thing that I like.
Rockfort: Do you have any passions outside music?
FR: I love Italian cooking, collecting vinyl, travelling, 60s cinema, particularly Antonioni… I also like picnics by the river, spending time with my girlfriend, my cat and my friends… life, basically. I'm like most people, really.
Interview and translation by David McKenna