If the title of Franco’s Pain’s latest album – Don’t Freak Out, But Remember To Play – isn’t a motto to live by at the minute, I’m not sure what is. Back in 2017 when the Berlin-born, Frankfurt-based artist decided to pick up a guitar and make some music, things started to get fun. Drawing inspiration widely from MF Doom to Erik Satie, King Krule to Joy Division, Mac DeMarco to Yves Tumor, Franco’s Pain has found his sound amongst the chorus. Refusing to be shoved into any boxes, he makes his own
Franco’s new album – a mixture of guitars, synths, and delightfully psychedelic undertones overlaid with punchy, mellow vocals – should remind us, as he says himself, to “never forget to be youthful.” With his ear held to the sounds of our generation, Franco’s sits down to chat with us about bedroom pop, lockdown blues and Tokyo dreams.
For those who might not have heard of you before, how would you describe Franco’s Pain? What are the differences and similarities between Zion Elijah Dere and your musical alter ego?
Franco’s Pain is a life project. The lyrics are just some very honest thoughts and feelings that I have, and I think that a lot of people share those certain thoughts and feelings in a similar, yet different way. When they listen, they can apply my lyrics to their situations. As for the differences? The differences between the two are significant. Whilst Franco’s Pain is an outward, energetic and made-up character of mine, Zion is very settled and quiet – I’m studying computer science full-time at the moment. The two are always struggling to see who’ll last longer.
I’m sure you get asked this a lot, but where does your name come from?
Franco is the first name of the alter ego and Pain is the last name. It stands for emotion.
You only started making music in 2018, so relatively recently! Was music always your plan? What made you want to start?
Until 2017, music was never really a thing I wanted to do seriously. I listened to a lot of music growing up but never had an interest in making it myself, especially because I didn’t know how to play any instruments. It was when I went abroad for a while in 2017 that I decided I wanted to start. When I got back to Frankfurt, I immediately taught myself to play the bass and the guitar from scratch. Straightaway I recorded my first EP, Francos Pain. I literally recorded all day and night.
You lived in Texas for a while and now live in Frankfurt. Do these places influence you as a person as well as your sound?
I was born in Berlin and moved around within Germany for a couple of years. It was in 2007, when I moved to the United States, that I lived in Texas and New York for about six years altogether. Frankfurt has now been my home for five or six years. I think these places have formed me into the person I am today in many different ways. Moving places that often gave me a certain skill of adapting.
Dummy Mag recently featured you in their bedroom pop Spotify playlist. How much would you say this label fits you? Do you see what you do as bedroom pop?
I think it fits quite well, especially because the playlist entails different genres and artists. Franco’s Pain fits well in a diverse label. Bedroom pop is a good description of how the songs are recorded, but personally, I think Franco’s Pain is more than that too.
You recently released your first studio-produced album, Don’t Freak Out, But Remember To Play. Tell me a bit about the process behind this album. How does it compare to your other LPs?
I recorded the album from the end of 2019 to mid-July, which was a difficult time for me. Studying and being a musician isn’t an easy job at times. Then, the whole situation intensified quite a bit with coronavirus. The album feels like a homage to that time in some way. Realizing there’s not much that you can do except weather the hard times and never forget to be youthful.
We got the chance to mix and edit at Abbey Road Studios Frankfurt, which offered us better equipment than I usually have in my room at home. I also had a bit of help when it came to the technical part. A good friend of mine, Janek Hruschka, helped me a lot with the album and became my studio engineer, which I have never had before. So there were a couple of things that were different with this release, but at its core I think it’s still Franco’s Pain. Just a bit more evolved than my first two releases.
In one of my favourite songs from your album, Tokyo, you talk about wasting time with someone through a city and stumbling through the bathroom of some club. Does this song come from a personal place for you? And what about the rest of your album?
A lot of the songs talk about a past relationship that I had that ended not too long ago. Tokyo is more of a dream. I’ve never been to Japan, but it’s definitely a place I really want to visit. But for now, it’s more of a scenario in my head.
I can hear a lot of different genres and influences in Don’t Freak Out, from people like King Krule to MGMT. Who are your biggest inspirations?
I’m definitely a big fan of King Krule, Mac DeMarco, Connan Mockasin and Tyler, the Creator, to name a few. But it’s very diverse. While I love indie acts, I also have a love for hip-hop acts like MF Doom and Madlib. Sometimes I even listen to classical acts such as Erik Satie, or experimental artists such as Yves Tumor. Joy Division and Josef K are also on top of the list. All these acts have something in common: they have their unique sound and feel, and that’s what draws me to them. They inspired me to start my personal project.
So you actually have a band, and a lot of your art seems to be rooted in being able to perform and express your energy live. How has it felt not to be able to do this recently? How has lockdown affected your music?
The band is made of five of my best friends. There has been trouble though, to be honest. We were planning on doing our first tour this summer but things have been thrown around so much and have basically just slowed down the process. But the situation has opened new doors and possibilities too. In a way, we just have to ride the wave and keep on working around the situation. Not being able to play in front of people definitely is a bit frustrating because that’s really the only way to see your fans and create that magical bond.
What can we expect next from Franco’s Pain? Are you working on anything new at the minute?
I’m on a farm in the mountains of Alsace, in France, right now, just recuperating my energy and thoughts. I took all my recording gear with me and have been recording ever since the album dropped. I definitely like to take my time though, so we’ll have to wait a while until another full-length tape will drop. But I will have some stuff coming out soon.
Francos Pain Metalmagazine 2.jpg