On her first LP, Frances Forever creates her own galaxies

On her first LP, Frances Forever creates her own galaxies

Frances Forever likes the bubbly synth line in her song “Nobody’s Daughter” because it makes you feel like you’re underwater. The song, released last month on the 25-year-old indie-pop artist’s debut album, isn’t so much about drowning as it is about disappearing, like a sexless sea creature in a great darkness: “I don’t wanna be nobody’s daughter/ I wanna live underwater/ Where nobody can call me ‘she.'”

That quirky escapism connects the songs on “Lockjaw,” despite a number of personal themes – her therapy duties, severe bouts of romantic longing or, in the case of “Nobody’s Daughter,” her nonbinary identity. The singer-songwriter, whose real name is Frances Garrett, says her penchant for fantastical escape plans stems from dissociation and “not quite feeling right” in her body.

“It definitely helps to write about that feeling,” Garrett says in a Zoom call from her home in Boston. “It’s almost like a kind of daydream.”

We’re talking on the day of their album’s release, so even Garrett’s sadder comments have a triumphant undertone – the 11-song debut was three years in the making, and Garrett has spent the first few hours of his life partying with his collaborators and watching fans’ reactions. The singles they released in promotion of the album were upbeat and slightly silly, talking about being hit on by creepy guys in a Trader Joe’s or their deep-seated desire to live under a bridge as a troll. “I wanted to hook (the fans) with the fun summer bops and then give them a little feel,” they say, referring to the album’s heavier themes.

It’s a tactic Garrett has long employed, layering lyrical sadness, longing, or angst over upbeat bedroom pop beats (often literally made in closets and friends’ apartments). That was most evident to many fans on “Space Girl,” the pandemic-era earworm that catapulted Garrett into the cosmos of TikTok fame and spawned a cute dance trend of its own.

Although they say they can’t stand listening to the song anymore, it has helped them gain nearly half a million TikTok followers. For Garrett, that visibility also comes with downsides, such as the vitriol of transphobic commenters.

“It’s very strange to be noticed by so many people online,” they say. “It’s nice to see yourself in the context of the size of the world, like climbing a mountain and feeling so small. It’s nice to have that in the context of my brain, because I always write songs about myself and my inner feelings. Sometimes it can feel very self-centered.”

With “Lockjaw,” they’ve channeled that attitude into fantasies that feel both playful and hollow; on the album’s closing track, “Jupiter,” they sing, “Float into space/ Take Jupiter’s place/ Land, escape/ Disappear into the haze.” But with cosmic travel out of their reach (for now), they’re settling for a tour—their first run of headlining shows began this week.

They say they’re excited to introduce their new sound to audiences across the United States. On this first full-length album, Garrett has moved away from the DIY pop that characterized her early work, turning instead to furious guitar breaks and a full band sound, complemented by strings on some tracks.

“Because ‘Space Girl’ came out big during the Covid pandemic, I didn’t really think about what a live show would look like,” they say. “When I started touring, I thought, ‘I wish I had a song with a huge guitar solo or a song where people could jump up and down and sing this one phrase over and over.’ I tried to put those little parts into the album specifically for the live show, because touring is kind of the reason for making music.”

July 15 at 6:30 p.m. at Atlantis, 2047 Ninth St. NW. 20 dollars.