Life Is Beautiful // Neil Frances
If you don’t know of Neil Frances, you need to. The LA-based pop-rock duo came about in 2016 when vocalist + guitarist Marc Gilfry joined forces with electronic musician Jordan Feller. Their sound (+ their Life Is Beautiful set) embodies chillwave + psychedelic vibes. We chatted with the masterminds about their unique start as a band, pursuing authenticity in the era of social media + their california aesthetic.
// photos + interview by Leah Perrino
Asymmetric Magazine: Congrats on playing the fest and your recent EP Took A While. Can you tell us a bit about the EP?
Marc Gilfry: It’s been a long time coming, hence the name Took A While. We re-released three songs that we had previously put out and added two new ones.
AM: What themes are you pursuing through your music?
MG: If honesty is a theme, we just try to be really honest. We made a rule for ourselves early on that we’re going to write pop music, but we want it to come from some place real. It’s not just a collection of good-sounding words with a verse and chorus. Every song—it all comes from real experiences. Sometimes it’s sad, and sometimes it’s great and happy. But it’s real.
Jordan Feller: We’re also in a crazy period in the world right now with social media and everyone always putting their best foot forward. There are a lot things that easily relate to people since everyone is so connected. It’s a great topic to speak to.
MG: We’ve also been recently writing about being in a band, engaging with people, and putting your best face to the world. It feels a bit superficial at times. As an artist, we’re expected to be honest and at the same time expected to perfectly craft an Instagram picture. So, it’s sometimes hard to know when I’m personally being honest with myself.
We made a rule for ourselves early on that we’re going to write pop music, but we want it to come from some place real. It’s not just a collection of good-sounding words with a verse and chorus. Every song—it all comes from real experiences.
AM: Social media definitely blurs the lines, and the honesty in your music is so refreshing.
MG: Thanks! So yeah, we’ve been writing about those blurry lines. And everyone feels that way—it’s not just artists and musicians. Never before have people been expected to lead such a public life. It’s something we can all relate to.
JF: And of course, we write about a lot of other human things, too: relationships and love. For instance, Dumb Love is about a long distance relationship—the tough shit we all go through.
AM: Do you have a favorite track you like to play live?
MG: The one that seems to really stick out live to me, because it’s the grooviest, is Show Me The Right. We’ve been doing this thing live… spoiler alert… where at the very end, we take the song and slow it way down to like 30bpm.
JF: It’s like when you’re listening to a record and then put it on the reeeeeaaaaalllllyyyyy slow speed. That one is fun live.
AM: You guys are LA-based, and your visuals are very ‘California’—from the graphics I saw today at your live set to your cover artwork. Do you think that parallels your sound and comes through your music?
MG: I think part of that is intentional and part of it is just who we are. When we first started writing music, we weren’t trying to make a ‘California, beachy’ sound, it just started coming through naturally. We realized we had made all this music in LA, and it does have this laid-back feel. So, the visuals are done by a friend of ours, Pia Riverola, who is an amazing photographer. All of her photographs are beautiful, and she has a really great eye. We thought her work was a great match for our music, and since then, we tried to encapsulate the whole kicked back vibe.
AM: What inspired the all white look today?
MG: We’ve been doing that a lot lately; we do it all the time when we play live. We’re not super stylish in our everyday dress, so it makes it easy and it’s fun for us.
AM: You guys both started as songwriters for other vocalists. So, how did this duo ultimately become what it is today?
JF: We were writing in LA, and I think what made us start to take it more seriously than when we first started out is when we sent around a SoundCloud demo we made to some friends. The feedback was good, and our friends happened to send it on to a radio DJ at KCRW Chris Douridas. A buddy of mine called me up one day and was like, ‘Hey, you guys just got back announced on KCRW.’ So, somehow Chris got a bootleg version of our song and played it. And we were just like, ‘Holy shit. Maybe this is something worth pursuing.’
MG: It was that moment when we were like, ‘Maybe we can do this on our own.’ Initially, he comes from an electronic music background, and I come from more of a rock background. We wanted to get together and write some pop tunes, but we didn’t necessarily intend to start a band. The radio play was a nice little kick in the pants to start our own project.
AM: Speaking of your backgrounds, I hear a few different influences in your sound. How do you guys like to describe your sound?
JF: Ah, that’s a tough question. I think it’s just a good mix of both of our backgrounds and our styles lining up and seeing what sound comes out.
MG: We’ve gotten ‘dad-pop’, and I really like that. I also heard ‘vapor-pop’ recently, which is funny.
AM: What other musicians are you guys listening to?
MG: A lot of Unknown Mortal Orchestra—I can’t get enough of them. And Tame Impala.
JF: Speaking of ‘dad-pop’, I’m going through a 70s rock phase. I’ve been going back and listening to bands like Toto and Fleetwood Mac. I’m also really into DJ Koze and Caribou. There’s so much good music out there right now.
AM: Anyone you’re excited to see this at the fest?
MG: We’re going to see Jungle. We’re lucky enough to go on tour with them after the fest.
JF: I’m excited to see Cashmere Cat, too.