In Conversation With Frances Litten: Front-woman of Cape Town based band, Frances Clare
Every now and again in life you come across a movement that is really meaningful and has the power to change perceptions and make a difference to those that need it most. When mixed with incredible music, it is a beautiful combination.
I sat down with 21 year old Cape Town music teacher, front-woman of popular Cape Town band Frances Clare and concert promoter, Frances Litten. She is making waves on the local music scene with the success of The Venus Project Part 1: the first of a series of collaborative initiatives celebrating local female musicians and artists, while also helping young women all over Cape Town, by raising money to sponsor sustainable and reusable sanitary pads for the Lalela Project.
Thank you for taking the time to chat to me about the Venus Project movement, your music journey and what 2019 has in store for your band, Frances Clare. Firstly, how did it all start for you musically and did you always know that you were destined to be on stage performing?
Thanks, excited to chat! I have always been surrounded by music, both of my parents are music lovers, but I was properly introduced to making music by my stepdad when I was 10. Unlike my parents or anyone I knew, he made music and performed often. I would watch him and try (fail) to sing along. He gave me my first guitar and was the first one to record me (I solemnly hope no one ever hears those recordings). One of the first things I wanted to be when I was young was, coincidentally, a singer! While growing up, I was always acting and on stage in musicals so I became confident on stage.
It’s been a busy year so far for your band with touring and gigs, which artists have you most enjoyed sharing the stage with and which venues have been the best so far?
I feel very humbled that I find it so difficult to answer this question. Recently we performed with Zolani from Freshlyground at the Backsberg Concerts and that was a dream come true. However, I have to add Matthew Mole to the top of the list because he has been one of my favourite musicians for so long. Also, he surprised us by calling us up and handing me the mic to sing his last song! Other artists that were great to share the stage with include Monark (for New Years Eve), Mango Groove, Majozi, Wendy Oldfield and Crimson House (White Mountain Festival). If we had to pick some of our favourite venues they would definitely include Cafe Roux, The Raptor Room, The Alma Cafe, Backsberg, The Music Kitchen (PE) and the Murambi Rose Cafe (EL).
What plans do you have for the rest of the year, any new music releases, tours or music videos on the horizon?
I have goosebumps just typing about it, that’s how excited I am! We are releasing a four track EP in March and then we’ll be touring it up the Garden Route between the 22nd March and the 31st. On the way we’ll also be performing at the Greenpop Reforest Friends Fest with fellow bands Grassy Spark and The Steezies. Our tour in December was a trio tour so we are really looking forward to introducing the full band (violin and all) to the Garden Route.
Being an independent and self-funded band is tough as you know, what advice would you give to new solo artists or bands trying to get started in the music business?
It isn’t easy…I would seriously recommend that you give yourself time to learn and grow. Music can be lucrative if done right but I believe the best thing you can do if you’re starting out is to control all elements of your career. Learn how to make the bookings, do the sound, send your songs to radio, sort out your SAMRO stuff. It will give you more confidence and lowers the risk of being taken for a ride. In some ways the local music scene is terrifying for the same reason that it’s exciting: there are no rules and no blueprints. To some extent we are all making it up as we go along.
The Venus Project that you founded recently has created quite a buzz in Cape Town and the venue was packed at The Raptor Room for Part I. How did the idea start and who else has been involved in the creative process?
This project is so special to the band and I. There were two main thoughts behind it’s concept. The first was sparked by the terrifying truth that a huge majority of young women in our country miss up to a week of school a month because they cannot afford sanitary products. The second was out of the desire to see more female acts on lineups and festivals. The goal was to unite and celebrate the extremely talented and diverse female musicians in Cape Town to work towards a common goal. Other amazing people who have been instrumental in making these events happen include Dominique from The Lalela Project, Orah & the Kites, Mia Lotter (our amazing designer), Kirstin Warries, the ladies from The Raptor Room and all of the artists who have performed and will be performing.
Without giving too much away, are there plans for a Part III of the Venus Project?
Why stop there? According to Harry Potter, 7 is the most magical number…All I’m going to say for now is to keep your diary open for Women’s Day.
Final question, what does The Venus Project mean to you personally and how have you found the support for the event?
As I was sitting listening to the amazing female artists at the first Venus Project and looking around the room at our overflowing (unintentional pun, I promise) donation box, I couldn’t help but feel that music can change the world. I have always felt that the world needs musicians because they inspire people to go for their dreams. The support from fellow artists, venues, media and the community has been overwhelming. We even had two people choose to celebrate their birthdays at The Venus Project Part I. I have loved receiving photos of men buying sanitary products for the first time and have had my heart melt when one of my guitar students brought two bags of products to donate.
Stream The Weather EP by Frances Clare below.
Featured Image credit: Expresso Show.