Dan Francia got all soft on us. He’s the bassist of Brooklyn punk favorites Flagland, known for their buzzed-out, pants-off rock sets and catchy tunes. Dan Francia’s music is a little different though; instead of aiming for as much energy as possible, his songwriting attempts to capture the feeling of loss that surrounds death. His debut EP, Alone and Together (streaming here for the first time), is Francia’s ideas finally realized into a cohesive short player, one that deals with loss with enough retrospect as to not feel morose or maudlin.
The EP’s opener, “For All Your Love”, makes use of circus organ, strings, and crystal-clear production. This is guitar rock of the most lucid nature, both lyrically and musically. Francia sings,”Again I think it’s worth our while/When I see a stranger on a subway smile/I guess it doesn’t take me much/For all that’s left, for all your love,” before the track is overpowered by a guitar-breaking solo (yeah, he actually broke a guitar–more details below). “Merchants” is a purely instrumental track reminiscent of mid-’00s post-rock, while “Still Ill” is a pretty faithful cover of the Smiths song, with one slight lyric change (“Jersey is mine”).
Alone and Together‘s titular track is the EP’s clear standout. It shares some of the aesthetic closely associated with music of the twinkly, emo persuasion, but does so without sticking to the vocal and guitar tropes that can lend redundancy to the genre. The bass chords bring the instrument to the forefront–it might even be more appropriate to call this music “bass rock,” with Francia thinking about how the instrumentation should fit together from the point of view of a bassist. Despite this, “Alone And Together” ends on a transcendent guitar solo, ringing out before the album’s closing track, “Washington Square, In The Fall (of 2009). If you’ve never been to the park, this is what it sounds like with an acoustic guitar lullaby providing the music.
Stream the whole release below. And for whatever reason Dan decided to save us the work and interview himself, the results of which can be read beneath the embed.
Dan Francia: Now that the record “Alone and Together” is done, what are your thoughts on it, and will you be supporting it with a tour?
Dan Francia: It’s a great album, unfortunately I don’t know how much I’ll play live with it because I’m really focused on my band Flagland right now. People can be distracted when they are in the middle of an album. Every single day for the last decade or more I’ve been in the middle of an album. Nowadays more than one, more than two usually, and I want to stop that. I want to focus on one thing at a time, as much as possible anyways. Every album I’ve ever been a part of has been shorthanded by lack of time and/or lack of money. I want to give myself the time to focus, so I can stand by my work from here on out. Hopefully people get into “Alone and Together”, and hopefully they see it’s one of the many projects I’ve done and will continue to do. It’s not defining my musical ambitions, but it’s definitely got some of my essence in there. I’m wary because it’s “my first solo album”, even though it’s not, because I’ve made a lot of others when I was younger. It’s basically a handful of material I thought was strong, and went together, but wasn’t Flaglandy.
DF: Are there any misconceptions you’d like to avoid regarding this work?
DF: The night I finished mastering the album with Paul Gold, who is the shit, I came home, got high and listened to it with my ex-girlfriend. We had just broken up but were still living together until we sorted out where we could live. Listening to the track “Alone and Together” I started thinking, “Wow, she probably thinks this is about her”, but it’s about death. The album is basically about death. Don’t get it twisted. I had never imagined it being interpreted as a break up sort of track, until that moment. It seems like it could be misconceived as that. I wrote the music to that song in high school, the second I walked into my house, after returning from my Grandpa’s funeral. That was my first traumatic death experience. I went right to my bass and it came right out. I always thought it was a strong musical idea, and it wasn’t until my friend Doug Klein died this year that I wrote lyrics. While I was doing takes, alone in my basement, I could see Doug, my grandpa, my grandma, and other lost friends and family in the basement with me. That’s why it’s called “Alone and Together”, but it’s also because that’s how one usually feels in this neck of the woods. The final twist on why I thought “Alone and Together” would be a good title is because it’s a solo album, but full of guest artists. It’s mostly an optimistic view of how even the dead are part of our present.
DF: What were some of the highlights and/or stories about you making this record?
DF: Two things I think are special are the guitar-breaking solo on “For All You Love” and the “frequency solo” on “Washington Square, In The Fall (of 2009)”. Both of these were ideas I had never heard in rock music, though I’m sure they’re out there. I really wanted to get this album out before some other young turd dropped a record with a guitar solo, where the solo is breaking a guitar. Das it. The melodic aspect of it was just luck, studio magic, coincidence, and a bit of skill. I had set up for a sound check of my lay out, which included my amp far away and miked up, and me in a concrete closet with room mics, ready to destroy an already broken guitar. So, the guitar is actually plugged in and what you hear is the physical breaking of a guitar in a room and what “coincidentally” came out of the amp during that process. Because I could only do one take of smashing the thing to bits, I wanted to see if I had some alright microphone levels to record it first. It’s not easy to replicate that action without actually doing it, so before I knew it I was doing the take of this idea I had for a long time. It just happened, and it felt great. I won’t tell you what I meant to express but you can probably think of a few reasons.
The frequency solo in the last track came about because I was heavily EQing the field recording of me sitting in Washington Square. I was really trying to bring out the voices so you can hear what is being said. As I was sweeping around the EQ in Pro Tools it started sounding melodic. I did some automation of the EQ and it left me with a “frequency solo”. Although I don’t want to force interpretations, that airy frequency-solo, in my mind, is the ghost of another deceased friend, named Devin Smith. He has a bench in Washington Square dedicated to him. It could be any ghost in the park though, or any energy. The dialogue throughout the track is beautiful.
DF: Can I have a real person ask me questions?
DF: No no no no no, get back in the basement.
Alone and Together is set for release on July 19 via ECB&B.