TransVocalizers: Francis UK, “The Frantastics”

| Sep 9, 2013
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frantastics08This month, TGForum/Transvocalizers features a Brit who is in love with Americana music. Francis UK, who was originally featured in this column back in May 2009, has made a few changes in the way she presents her music.

She’s spent a lot of time as a solo musician over the years, but has always performed with other players whenever given the chance. She has recently put together a band she calls The Frantastics, who play what can best be described as early rock. Think Elvis and Johnny Cash in frocks-a sort of musical hybrid of rock, early country, and rockabilly that Francis calls Frockabilly. Francis and The Frantastics have been described as one of the “…..50 great things to discover in London.”

So, for your dining and dancing pleasure, TGForum is honored to present this update interview with Francis UK and The Frantastics.

TGF: Seems that you’ve changed quite a bit since we last spoke. How long have you had The Frantastics?

Fran: Yes, we’ve had a change in the line-up. Sarah has been our bass guitarist for the last two years. Originally, Samantha was our bass guitarist when we started out in 2008. Actually, it was she who first suggested starting the band, though I was reluctant to at the time. Sadly, due to ill health, Samantha died in 2011.

TGF: On your web site, the Frantastics are described as “…stars of the burgeoning sub-genre of Frockabilly…” Okay, is this considered to be a real genre’ to hit the British music scene?

frantastics01Fran: We coined the phrase Frockabilly, as we’re a mash-up of big frocks and rockabilly style music, thus Frockabilly. I don’t know of anyone who was blending that combination here in the UK at the time. The bottom line is, if it’s entertainment, you’ve got to dress it up. People want to see as well as hear a spectacle; we’re definitely not a jeans and T-shirt grunge band. Stepping out on stage dressed as we do, is empowering and certainly has the “wow” factor. Could imagine Elvis stepping out on stage in Vegas wearing sweat pants and tracksuit top?

TGF: Musically, one reviewer described your sound as country rock. Is that accurate? I know you mix in other elements as well.

Fran: To different ears, we sound different, but we’re simply a musical brew of country/rock’n’roll/rockabilly and rock. If we do play covers, we don’t perform it true to the original. We’ll put our spin and mark on it, rather than being some pale imitation. Of course we love and respect the original, which is how we come to deciding to perform it in the first place.

People are always suggesting to me that we should learn this or that song, but unless the song inspires me personally and sits well with my voice, I simply won’t do it. Thus, when people do see us perform, they can both hear and feel the songs shine through.

frantastics06TGF: I know that you play a lot of different types of venues.

Fran: We cover a wide variety of venues. As well as the regular club gig, we do launch parties, opening nights, hospitality events and weddings. I guess with a diverse style such as ours, the offer of gigs are just as diverse, as is our set song list.

TGF: What’s the weirdest gig you’ve ever done?

Fran: The worst gig we ever did was for a corporate Christmas gig, a large company in London. The pay was great and the brief simple, however, as all the food and drink was paid for by the company for their employees, they were more interested in getting totally smashed and talking shop amongst each other. We were very much the side show. It’s the only time I’ve finished a gig and not bothered with an encore.

Two song clips from The Frantastics: Loving You and Ninja.

TGF: Overall, though, what type of reaction do you usually get from your audiences?

Fran: Audiences react positively. They love the band’s look and wonder as to how that petite singer manages to hit those real low notes just like Johnny Cash.

However, we’ve never milked the trans angle. We’re talented enough as musicians in our own right not to have to resort to that as a gimmick, but hey, I’m not above playing it to our advantage should the situation warrant it.

frantastics04Getting an audience on board is down to stagecraft, not that you ever let them know that. It’s not unlike fishing. It’s not something that you can teach, you’ve got to learn it on the job. The more you do it, the better you get at it. But once you have, everything follows. Obviously it helps if you’re a competent musician too.

TGF: Is most of your performing in and around London? Any plans to tour outside of the country?

Fran: We also perform throughout the country. Last year, I played The Cavern in Liverpool. Later in the year, I played in Paris and in New Orleans.

TGF: I saw some of your music available through your site. Any other outlets?

Fran: Some of our songs are available on iTunes. Type The Frantastics.


TGF: You’ve also been quite busy as a solo artist. Which keeps you busier, working as a soloist or with the band? Also, what do you see as advantages and/or disadvantages of doing both?

frantastics07Fran: I enjoy the opportunity afforded me to flip from performing with the band to doing my solo stuff. I find them both gratifying and am lucky in that respect. It must be frustrating if you play only bass or drums, as you need a band to help vent your musicality.

Performing solo is both intimate and vulnerable. The adrenalin rush is quite different than when playing with the group, but in many ways more satisfying and rewarding.

TGF: This is a question I always ask: what advice would you offer to any young musician, trans or not, who is just starting out?

Fran: The advice I give is the same it’s always been: practice, practice, practice. Practice until you’re bored of practicing, then practice some more.

Don’t just sit waiting for inspiration. It’s a job, it’s a chore. You’ll be waiting around all day otherwise. Just do the pick and shovel and when you’re on stage the inspiration will come, so will all that boring practice.

frantastics02Don’t copy anyone wholesale. They got there first. You’ll just be an “also ran”, even if you’re great, you’ll always be second best. Sure, take elements of inspiration from here and there, but then take those ingredients and create something new. Mash it up, making it your style.

And hey, having an image never hurt. It can give you the opportunity to reinvent yourself for that time you’re performing, to be that alter ego inside of you. Ask yourself honestly, do you have a talent or just a titillating gimmick/image. If you’re serious about going mainstream as an act/band/singer, do you really need to brandish a banner with your sexuality sprayed across it?

TGF: You Brits always seem to have a much more open attitude towards crossdressing and drag in entertainment than we do here in the U.S. Why do you think that is?

Fran: Partly due to our history. We’ve been around a long time as a nation. We’ve seen a lot of things along the way, maturing with it. Brits are renowned as a tolerant bunch. We’re also self effacing, which itself is an endearing quality. We encourage diversity.

TGF: In closing, any final thoughts?

Fran: Bye for now.

 For more information, please check out the band’s website, as well as Francis’ website. Music on iTunes and Reverbnation. Also on YouTube, Facebook and MySpace.


Storm Miquel Florez

Last month, in our companion Perpetual Change column, Storm Miguel Florez announced his involvement with the documentary film about transgender legend Miss Major. Well, since then, the Kickstarter campaign that was initiated to raise funds for the project has brought in $5,000 towards their goal of $25,000. Granted, that’s only 20% of the needed funding, but it’s a great start nonetheless. For more information, please check out Kickstarter as well as Florez’s website.

David de Alba

David de Alba has stared a new fan based Facebook page. He is inviting all fans and friends to please visit this, along with his website.

Coco Peru

Coco Peru will be in Chicago for the first time ever on September 20-21, at The Center on Halsted for a benefit show. For more information, check out her website. Also on YouTube and Facebook.

Georgie Jessup

Georgie Jessup has announced several upcoming gigs at Edith May’s Paradise, 7711 Apple Ave., Jessup MD. For details, please check out Georgie’s website or check out Edith May’s on Facebook.

Rev. Yolanda

Rev. Yolanda has announced that her show, Rev. Yolanda’s Old Time Gospel Hour, is going to be filmed for a movie by film maker Ike Allen of Avaiya Media. Footage for the film will be shot at her November 17th gig at NYC’s The Duplex.

Other upcoming Rev. Yolanda dates include The Arts Center in Carboro, North Carolina on September 27, 28, 29. For details check out Yolanda’s website.

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Category: Music

Pam Degroff

About the Author ()

Pamela DeGroff been writing for TGForum since the start of 1999. Her humor column, The Pamela Principle, ran until 2005. She started the Perpetual Change music column in May of 1999, and in 2008, Angela Gardner came up with the idea for the Transvocalizers column and put Pam to work on that. Pamela was a regular contributor to Transgender Community News until that magazine's demise. While part of a support group in Nashville called The Tennessee Vals she began writing for their newsletter, and also wrote for several local GLBT alternative newspapers in Tennessee. Pamela is currently a staff reporter for a small town daily paper in Indiana, and is also a working musician.

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