frances forever, paranoia party
[Photo by Lani Parrilla]

Frances Forever, otherwise known as singer-songwriter Frances Garrett, has perfected their sound on paranoia party. Garrett guides listeners to the peak of their emotions, balancing melody and melancholy without pushing anyone over the edge. Refusing to be confined to any labels, the EP whirls between lighthearted doo-wop (“depression”), jazz (“daytime”) and more. 

When we speak, Garrett is at their home in Massachusetts, days before moving to Vermont. In addition to the moving excitement, they have just graduated from Clark University with a degree in music technology. As an emerging artist rocketing to fame from the popularity of “space girl” while simultaneously being a college student, Garrett would switch between shooting a music video over the weekend in New York to going back to school to take an exam. 

“I considered dropping out of school to do this full time, but I had a semester left, and I knew that if I dropped out, I would not want to go back,” they say. “So I worked out that school [was] going to go first. It was a huge priority for me to get my degree.” 

This extreme amount of focus and dedication to their craft is evident in the work they’ve produced on paranoia party. Each track is a mini universe in itself, perfectly constructed by the artistic mind of Garrett. Although each song is utterly unique, the otherworldly, layered vocals that have become Garrett’s signature remain a constant thread. 

Describe the moment you knew “space girl” was a massive TikTok hit.

I distinctly remember it being one weekend where the numbers were just insane. And I think it was like 30,000 videos [using] the sound. And I was like, “This is crazy.” And I would check the next day, and it would be like 60,000. And I would look at my Spotify algorithm and see how many people are listening, and I think one day a thousand people [were] listening at one time. I just started crying. I was just in tears the whole weekend. And it was just a lot of feelings of, “This is crazy. This is a dream.” 

So then you reissued “space girl” with chloe moriondo. What was that experience like?

It was really fun. I am such a big fan of chloe moriondo. I’ve been listening to their music for a while, so having the opportunity to work with them was crazy. They were a huge fan of the song, and they had a bunch of ideas for a verse, and it came together really quickly, really organically. I really like that version. I almost like it better than the original because I’ve heard the second verse literally so much.

chloe openly discusses being a lesbian artist. Do you think it’s crucial for artists to normalize sexuality within their storytelling?

I think it’s super important to have representation, but I think it’s also important to not tokenize artists into, “You can only make songs about being gay.” We have a bunch of other different aspects of our personality. Whenever I hear songs about sapphic relationships or gay relationships, I’m always like, “Aw!” It’s really important.

You did another collaboration with Matty Sun called “Slow Down!” How is the creative process different from when you’re writing your songs solo versus collaborating?

That was really fun. It was something I’d never done before, collaborating with a rapper who was also a close friend of mine. I wrote my own verse, just a quick little thing, but it was mainly his song. I think it definitely depends. I’ve collaborated with people where I just sing their lyrics on top of their song or I co-write the song and sing part of it. I always really love collaboration because I learn so much from the other person. I think it’s a really invaluable way to learn how to do different things. I always write the same way, starting with the chord progression and then writing lyrics and melody. But maybe someone has something different they can add, which is really cool. So it’s how I learn how to be a better musician.

How have you changed personally and/or creatively since coming out with pockets in 2018?

A lot has changed, for sure. I think a big thing was just how much more I know about production [and] experimenting more. I feel like pockets was a pretty simplistic EP production-wise, which I love, but I wanted to do more in the future. I think it’s really fun now to write songs—instead of just writing [them] on piano or ukulele or guitar—writing [them] with production in mind. I didn’t write pockets like that. I think writing with more knowledge about production and more creative ideas on that front is pretty different from that EP.

Your production is very distinct through the vocal layering that you do. How do you know when you’ve gotten it just right?

Well, it’s hard because I’m such a perfectionist. Especially recording vocal takes. I’ll do it over and over and over again. But I think it really helps working with my producer Ash [Del Carmen] because they’ll be like, “Oh yeah, that sounds good.” And I’ll be like, “OK, I’ll just let it be.” It has to sound like me. It can’t sound like a perfected version of me. I definitely really value other people’s opinions. I definitely ask a lot of my friends. Especially when I finish a song, I ask for feedback from a lot of musicians that I know. And that definitely helps to know when I should stop working or what else I should improve on. I really value that a lot.

What does your creative process look like when conceptualizing visuals to put with your music? Especially the really eerie “paranoia party” video.

It came mostly from my director, Christina Xing. She had this dream about ghosts with those types of veils, and she was the only one without a veil. And it was really spooky. And she brought that up to me, and I was like, “I love that.” If I came up with a concept for the music video, I probably would have been like, “I don’t know. You’re anxious at a party. That’s what it’s about!” But it’s really cool to have somebody who fully understands the feeling of the song and then turns it into a visual that’s not super cliche. And I think a lot of the video’s meaning is just about finding your identity and releasing yourself from the ties of society and gender roles and all that good stuff.

I noticed that you’re donating some of the proceeds from paranoia party merch preorders to the Ally Coalition. How did you decide you wanted to donate?

I think it’s really important to use my platform for social justice in a way that benefits my community. So I really wanted to donate to a coalition who helps LGBTQ youth because a lot of my friends have been homeless or have been struggling with getting top surgery or anything like that. There is so little support for a lot of LGBTQ youth, especially those who were thrown out of their houses. So I think using this new platform that I have to help out those people was really, really important to me. It’s just me trying to figure out how I can use my platform and the things that I do musically as a way to help change the world a little bit.

What was the hardest part of recording paranoia party, and what was the most rewarding part?

I honestly think [the hardest part] was just quarantine because my producer lived in Minnesota, and I lived in Massachusetts when we were in school. Working virtually was really hard, and my motivation was down the drain over quarantine. I think working together in a room was the only way we could finish it. And I think the most rewarding thing was to just have it done and listening to it in the car and blasting it—I can’t even describe how that feels, hearing every single little thing that we put in and just enjoying it as a whole and thinking about everyone else who is going to listen to it. That’s such a good payoff. 

What do you hope fans take away from the title track?

It’s my favorite song that I’ve ever written. It’s so good. I hope that anyone who relates to the feeling of “paranoia party,” of feeling really out of place, can listen to the song and be like, “Oh, here’s at least one other person that doesn’t know what they’re doing either.” And to find a community through that.

Read the full interview in Alternative Press issue 396, available here.