By Raymond Simon
I was sitting in my office enjoying a glass of whiskey. I’d just closed a case. Something about a bunch of mixed-up kids from Iceland. They go by the name Seabear, and I was celebrating.
The blower rang, interrupting my thoughts, so I picked it up. “Speaking,” I said. It was the editor. Bright. Talented. Ambitious. The kid’s got moxie. Would I be interested in another assignment? he asked.
“Depends,” I said.
He outlined the facts, such as they were: four kids from somewhere deep in the heart of Sweden. They call themselves Francis. Got involved in the rock and roll business and could be in over their heads.
“Not much to go on,” I said, but something in his voice persuaded me that I should at least check into this Francis thing. The next day, just like he’d promised, the editor sent me one of those link things the kids talk so much about. Whatever. I clicked the damn thing and it pulled up some pictures. Not much else.
Uh-oh, I thought, eyeing the pics. Skinny broad, dyed blonde hair, unhealthy pallor, standing there with three shady-looking punks in the background. Got that dressed-in-black-and-haven’t-shaved-in-days thing going on and looking every which way but at the goddamned camera. Not even looking at one another.
What the fuck.
I’d seen it all before. Some square john couple gets all moon-eyed over one another and, next thing you know, the broad’s pushing out a passel of brats and Romeo’s got himself a 9-to-5. They do all right by the kids, but as soon as the ungrateful bastards get out from under Ma and Pa’s roof, they go and louse it all up, playing their rock’n’roll.
I scoped a few more pictures and then stumbled across a link for the tunes.
What’s this? I thought. Some chick singing. In English. And she ain’t bad at that. Must’ve had some education. Sounds like the genuine article, too. Lotta emotion in that voice.
Take this ditty here: “Judgement Day.” Plenty of reverb. Moody, atmospheric tone. And get a load of the lyrics. “On my judgment day, a body might just take me away / But Jesus you’re not here today, and his arms are maybe as safe,” the bird warbles. I dunno; I think maybe she’s been around the block.
I report back to the editor. “Ya gotta give me more,” I say. “You’re holding out.”
The editor maybe knows a guy. One of those publicist fellows, represents artists. A real prince. If I maybe scribble some questions on a scrap of paper, he’ll pass it along. That’s the best he can do.
So I scratch out my precious thoughts, send them off, and cool my heels for a few days. Sometimes it goes like that on a case.
But I start to blow my cool sitting around the office all day listening to the same four fucking songs on the band’s self-titled 2009 EP over and over and over.
One of the tunes just kills me. It’s called “Eternal Souls” and it’s got a Del Shannon feel to it. Must be that goddamned plaintive piano or something.
(What’s that? You don’t remember Del? A real poet of teenaged angst. Wrote a song called “Runaway.” Check it out.)
Anyway, somehow these kids buried up to their necks in snow in Dalarna, Sweden have channeled good ol Del’s spirit. A few days later, the J.J. Hunsecker wannabe forwards a reply via e-mail. At last, some answers. If you could call them answers.
It’s the dame who writes, the one who gives with the voice: Petra Mases. The rest of her crew is Tim Grundtman, Petter Nygårdh and Jerker Henriksson.
“We are all childhood friends,” she writes, “and when we got older we parted for all different reasons, and Petra got the opportunity to write something that she needed to say to herself. And the most natural thing to do was to call her old friends.” I like that, the way she refers to herself in the third person. If someone here gave me the high hat like that, I’d sock ’em in the jaw, but it’s kinda cute from a European dame. I read on: “Francis is someone we once knew. The name can be seen as a salutation to her, and our music as a reflection through her.”
Musta been a real wigged out broad, I think, ’cause in “I Was Never Bored at All,” the golden voice sings, “They say, Francis, you’re too intense.” But the chanteuse’s got an answer for everything: “People could sometimes feel offended by Francis, maybe because she had her way of saying things and doing things. She wasn’t the average person. Some people had a hard time with that. But she really was just herself.”
The only other clue she drops is that there’ll be a new record. Sometime soon.
I think maybe you should go pick it up. It’s gonna be a heartbreaker.