“Your Friends Don’t Buy it at All” is It Could be Franky’s debut album, a project from Land of the Lake’s member Danielle Hamel.
As a huge fan of hers, I can sense some similarities in the lyrics between Hamel’s solo and duo acts. Or maybe it’s just her voice I am familiar with or her words resonate with me on many levels, no matter what musical platform.
However, It Could Be Franky, is a completely new and separate project. Not only is it different from anything Hamel has created but also an original and fascinating piece of pop art. I gotta say it’s a proud piece of talent coming from NL’s back yard.
This album started in 2014 during an RPM challenge. Hamel had usually played alongside her husband, Matthew Thomson and wanted to produce something on her own.
“I decided I wanted to try writing a whole album of material myself, something I’ve never tried before. I’ve been playing music with Matthew for over a decade. In the past, I wrote a song or two here and there that made it to an album and I thought they were ok. But Matthew was constantly writing demos so there was an endless supply of unfinished songs with no melodies, which was my favourite part to write anyway. I felt confident in writing melodies and lyrics, so for years, that’s what I felt was my contribution to the bands we were in. I took his demos and wrote melodies,” explained the musician of the process.
“Slowly over the years, I began to develop a taste for what sort of melodies, hooks, jumps, relishes, etc, that I wanted to do and I realized that in order to do it fully, I need control over the music as well. I realized that I know what I like, so who better to write the music than me. I don’t play guitar so it never occurred to me to do a solo project before but when I realized I could do electronic music it was a light bulb moment,” she continued.
In 2014, Hamel tried to do an RPM in the style of Grimes, a musical inspiration for her but kept hitting a creative wall.
“Nothing was sounding the way I had hoped. I spent two weeks on one song and I still wanted to start over from scratch. What I heard in my head, I didn’t know how to make the sounds come out of the computer. The album went no further,” recalled Danielle.
The remnants of the 2014 song has been salvaged and became the song “For the Record,” track eight of “Your Friends Don’t Buy it at All.”
That year, the Hamel and Thomson household did not produce an album for the RPM challenge, something the musicians usually partook in every year.
Fast forward to 2015, the couple released an RPM album, now known as the Land of the Lakes album.
“This was the first time we released something that I wrote half the songs from the ground up, had a bigger hand in the arrangement and had more fully realized opinions about the whole process. It was very rewarding. It sort of cemented the idea I had that if I wrote the music, I could be very excited about the melody I could sing on top of it, ‘On These Days’, for example. Songwriting and arranging is a craft and it took me years to feel confident doing it,” she explained.
When the RPM challenge rolled around in February of this year, Hamel committed herself to an electronic album again.
“I am spurred on by the feeling that I have to do it to prove to myself that I can. It was a completely different experience this time around. I felt like all of my ideas of what kind of songs I wanted to write and were excited about, they were all lending really well to working in this new medium. It was such a positive and empowering experience and I felt like I had songs that represented ME.”
“Your Friends Don’t Buy it at All” is much more poppy compared to previous projects Hamel had released, which take on a folky tone. I am not musical by any means, but it’s clearly generated without traditional instruments and sound and it’s a whole other level of approach for her as a musician.
“I’ve been listening to a lot more poppy stuff lately. I really appreciate a well put together pop song. I love pop music that’s a little bit out there and quirky, but still really accessible. Since having kids, I’ve decided that dance music is really important in my life. I have to make the most of my nights out nowadays and some of the most fun times I have had in the last few years is just getting out and enjoying the night dancing! So, I think that plays into what sort of music I want to write. I want to write what gets me excited so I am very happy to have this project in my life right now,” she said of the album.
Matthew and Danielle are parents of two young boys and they both work full time, so it’s fair to ask where in the heck they manage to find the time. Of course, it’s important to hold onto all creative venues when you become parents, it’s also hard not to put them on the back burner for awhile. Hamel accredits some of her ninja time management abilities with the RPM challenge.
“If you can’t tell already, Matthew and I are big fans of the RPM challenge. I love the idea that you can enforce a deadline on yourself and just do a short burst of creative activity.
You would be surprised at how productive you can be in a month! I think becoming parents, we both felt desperate to not let go of writing music. And finding the inspiration and excitement to do something is half the battle for me. If I wasn’t excited about it, I would never find the motivation to do it. I need music in my life to stay sane and stay feeling like myself, like I haven’t subsumed all of my identity into being “mom”. I have learned to make the most out of an hour or two of free time,” she said.
The response to It Could Be Franky has been overwhelmingly positive (obviously, it’s so damn good). Hamel and Thomson just attended the Music NL awards in Bonavista, where It Could be Franky took home the 2016 “Urban Electronic Artist of the Year” award.
“Winning the award is a great confidence builder because starting a solo project and putting yourself out there can be terrifying but I guess I’m not doing such a bad job at it after all. It is time to start thinking about album number two, I suppose,” said the award winner.
For more information visit: https://itcouldbefranky.bandcamp.com/releases
To see Danielle live- check out her upcoming shows:
• Rock Island Halloween: October 29, 11 PM to 2:30 AM @ Distortion
$5 cover with costume, $10 cover without costume
• November 4 , 11 PM to 2:30 AM @ Peter Easton
• Joanna Newsom Tribute Show: Featuring Joanna Barker, Maggie Burton and Danielle Hamel:A fundraiser in part for Girls Rock NL
November 5, 7 PM to 10 PM @ George Street United Church
Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for students/ seniors/unemployed persons
Youth are $5 if accompanied by an adult
*Photos by Tom Cochrane