Women musicians know, as much as any woman, how sexism creates gendered hurdles that are difficult to leap over. For instance, female musicians are often paid considerably less than their male counterparts and there are very few female producers. Even the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame is sexist (it’s time to vote Janet Jackson in, by the way).
The Franklys, a rock quartet based in the United Kingdom, is using their music to call attention to the ways the music business mistreats women. They’ve encountered sexism over and over again, from male engineers attempting to change their guitars during soundchecks to being told they “play well to be women.” Their experiences aren’t surprising for women, but are still worthy of being discussed.
So, here we talk about the group’s garage rock sound, navigating sexism, and their electric live performances.
I’ve been listening quite a bit to your music in preparation for this interview. What I’ve noticed is that each song, from “Castaway” to “Weasel,” offers a different mix of rock, grunge, R&B, and funk. No two songs sound the same, but they’re all cohesive. How have you mastered that mix-and-match music?
We’ve always wanted no one song to sound the same as the one before it, but we wanted there to be a ‘red thread’ running through that connects them all. I think it’s just down to the variety of influences that we all have and bring into the songwriting process.
How would you describe your sound?
We would describe our sound as raw, loud and frenetic garage rock, with some punk, indie and rock-n-roll thrown in.
The Franklys formed in 2011, although most of you were in bands previously. What persuaded you to join forces musically in London? Was it an easy fusion of sounds and personalities?
Through a love of playing similar music, and wanting to see the world together doing this.
You are known for your electrifying live performances. How have you incorporated that energy into your forthcoming album, Are You Listening?
It’s always been a big challenge for us to transfer the energy of our live performances to record. And it’s hard because that’s one of the main things we really want to capture. We were lucky enough to work with Sean Douglas again who is a great engineer and producer and also Jimmy O & Mikey Sorbello from The Graveltones who all helped us find the right sounds and vibes for the album.
As an all-female band accruing popularity in the music world, what sexist obstacles, if any, have you encountered? How have you advocated for yourselves and your music?
I think any female artist out there could probably write a book on this! There are some occurrences which are subtle, and some which are not so subtle. For example, the likes of ‘you play pretty well for girls’ or ‘I don’t usually like female singers but I like you’ make you wonder sometimes. And it’s as if ‘female’ is seen as a niche genre all on its own. It feels that as a female artist you have to prove yourself over and over again just to gain the same level of respect that a male artist would.
Sexism is prevalent, especially in the music business. For instance, only 46 total of the 206 songs in the Top 40 were sung by women. What has to happen in music for it to become more equitable? How do you, as a group, push for that equality?
There needs to be a revolution, and everyone needs to be on board. Just our existence, that we are four female musicians in the rock world, seems to be revolutionary for some. We are always pushing for that equality, from marching in the women’s march in London earlier this year to calling out the casual and overt sexism that seems to follow us wherever we go.
In just six years, you’ve performed everywhere, including at large music festivals like the Loud Women Festival. What is your vision for what comes next, given that you’ve achieved so much in such a short period of time?
We’re currently on tour in the U.K., and will also be heading back to Europe in the autumn for some more live dates. Hoping to come back to America next year as it was bloody awesome playing there! Besides playing live we will also be writing some new stuff and preparing for the second album.
What can audiences expect from Are You Listening?
A fun, raw, garage rock-filled 34 minutes!
Invest in The Franklys:
Buy Are You Listening through Apple Music.
Follow their events on Facebook.
Listen to their music on Soundcloud.
Find the band on tour in the United Kingdom.