FRANSIS are a London-based alt/indie band fronted by singer-songwriter Emma Withers. Formerly known as Emma & the Idles, the band have been hailed as ‘Jessie J meets Joan Jett’, making a name for their balls-to-the-wall approach to their sound and sharp songwriting style. Their single, “Pin Me Down,” was spurred by the tragic murder of Sarah Everard. It tackles a subject that is often difficult to talk about but shared by so many women, that of sexual assault, candidly focusing on the mental strain, particularly in the aftermath and the struggle behind closed doors. Described as a therapeutic exorcism, Withers shares, “This song is vulnerable and real; I wanted to focus on the self-destruction, the brokenness, the confusion, the anger, and then finally the release which is supported by the music constantly, and as the song intensifies, we hit an explosive finale, and an emotional release, which was incredibly satisfying to perform in the studio, I did like 8 takes of this to get the raw emotion out of me; this is bonded with the mammoth eruption of epic guitar lines and pure power from the band.”
I write and sing from the shoes. ~ Emma Withers
Tell us about the inspiration behind your new music.
The inspiration was a journey of womanhood, I wanted to capture the raw emotion of girlhood, female suppression, love and empowerment. Empowerment being the main running theme throughout, especially within song ‘Pin Me Down’ which is for the most part incredibly vulnerable but for me there is a strength in being that vulnerable, and it ends with an explosion of anger and acceptance, and an intentional feeling closure. This song is about sexual assault so it’s a hard subject to talk about, but I’m incredibly happy I did it, we arranged this song with the intent of moving through the emotional stages of the grieving process.
What was the songwriting and recording process?
Recording process was amazing, we recorded at Lightship 95 with Dave Holmes. With ‘Pin Me Down’ I re-wrote the end of it in the studio on Dave’s suggestion and it’s now my favorite section of the whole EP. I always try and prepare as much as I can before I go into the studio but there’s a certain magic that can happen when you just flow in the moment, which I think happened here. I did quite a few takes for that ending just screaming into the mic until I’d gotten all of the emotion out.
What do you hope your fans/listeners take away with them when they listen to your music?
I want ‘Pin Me Down’ it to help survivors of sexual assault, make them feel not alone and empowered in a female collectiveness. For the music in general, I would love people to simply enjoy it in a way that is real to them, whatever that is, I don’t care about it being ‘cool’, I want people to scream this stuff at the top of their lungs, unapologetically.
When did you first pick up the guitar, and what drew you to that instrument?
About three years ago, I wanted to start to accompany myself while I was busking and now, I write every song on it. I did play the piano for a while but I’m not a natural pianist — I find the guitar has much more freedom to it.
Speaking of instruments, what brand(s) do you play and why?
I play a Fender acoustic and a Gretsch Electromatic, the other guitarist plays a Fender telecaster. I picked the Gretsch because they look gorgeous, but they don’t hold tune well! Time for a new one.
Who are some of your musical influences?
Kate Bush is a massive influence to me, she has been since I was a kid rifling through my dad’s CD collection. I was listening to a lot of old rock artists, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Creedence, etc., and she blew everything I thought i knew about being a music artist out of the water — it was unique, theatrical and mesmerizing to watch and completely under-rated, but I’m glad she’s getting some attention through Stranger Things now!
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