Freddy & Francine: A Full-Bodied Taste of Americana Soul
Coming ’round the hills of Los Angeles, from the not-too-distant past, are Freddy & Francine, a bold, full-bodied taste of Americana soul, complete with tight two-part harmonies, engaging songs that will shoot deep into your heart, and a musical chemistry that is second-to-none in the L.A. Americana scene.
From 2008 to 2010, they played lives shows at legendary venues in like Hotel Café, McCabe’s, and the Cinema Bar. Their first two albums, The Briar Patch and The Forest and the Sea, helped them gain a healthy following in California as a unique Americana duo. They were among the first artists nationwide to bring a distinct and original sounding R&B flavor to the ever-growing Americana mix during the last decade.
After a four-year hiatus as a duo, they are embarking on a third studio outing complete with new songs, colorful arrangements, and an IndieGoGo campaign that finds them perilously close to their financial goal. They are, in other words, ready for takeoff.
Behind the scenes, they are Lee Ferris and Bianca Caruso. Ferris came to Los Angeles as a hired guitar slinger for a country swing band. He met Caruso during the 2007 revival of the 1960s hit musical Hair.
“During the run of Hair I decided I wanted to make a solo album,” Caruso remembers. “But, I’d never written songs before. So I asked the cast members to write songs with me. I was already a big fan of Lee’s.”
Ferris picks up where she left off. “The first song we wrote together was not easy. I had never written with anyone before. Songwriting is an intimate thing.” But, she says, Caruso was hungry for the experience and when they completed their first song – “Over and Over,” which ended up on their self-titled EP – they knew they were on to something.
Soon the duo were writing songs with a backing band, including harmony vocals as the tunes were born. Their collaboration became so natural, neither can imagine writing a song without the other.
“We created our own sound,” says Ferris. “It’s not necessarily something I planned, but it became its own thing.”
In 2010, the duo went on a hiatus, to allow time for their individual artistic growth. Ferris spent four years on an international tour with The Million Dollar Quartet, playing Carl Perkins songs. Caruso moved to New York City, where she became part of a musical comedy duo with her partner Jen Zaborowski, called Zabruso.
Now, after spending the last several months writing and rehearsing, their sound is bigger and better than ever. “When we play live,” Caruso says, “Our sets are mostly include our new songs.”
Ferris continues, “We sometimes have worried that maybe the two vocals and a guitar aren’t enough, but as we’ve toured it’s been echoed back to us that our sound is more than enough. The new album will include session musicians, but our focus will be on how we sound live.”
The duo will also derive much of their sound from some of their strongest influences, which include the raw Sticky Fingers sound of the Rolling Stones and the crusty vocal style of Lucinda Williams. “We’re looking to remove the mask of the big band sound,” Caruso explains. “We want to have the whole but we want to use it to do less. There’s something magical moving within that dynamic range … The vulnerability and the contrast.”
Based on the their past two albums and the time spent working this last year, Freddy & Francine’s new album promises to be an important project for the enduring duo. It’s an album which will hopefully find them making a well-deserved impact on the national Americana scene.