2016's been a wild ride for FRANKIE and her merry gang of misfits. She released her debut EP Dreamstate in August 2015 and after a shout out by pop heavyweight Taylor Swift on twitter, the young artist was thrown out to the wolves to prove her status on the singer's list of "New Songs That Will Make Your Life More Awesome." Fortunately for those of us who fell in love with her sickly-sweet "New Obsession," she proved she was more than just a one-hit wonder. The Oakland-raised artist hit the road with performers like Troye Sivan, Charlie Puth, Dua Lipa and Phoebe Ryan to bring her music from the blogosphere to center stage in cities across the country–including a coveted slot at this year's Lollapalooza. It's been just over two years since their first show together... and with an album on the way next year, the craziness and fun will only continue into the new year. Frankie's joined on stage and in the studio by her producer Petros Anastos-Prastacos, her "Greek who champions the use of more cowbell;" Joey Orton, their "salsa dancing twerking keyboardist;" and Ben Rose, "the goofiest of them all who keeps everyone on beat." We catch her before the year comes to a close to talk about the hijinks they get into, her Cuban heritage, and the importance behind her latest single "Blink." (Check out the music video here.)
Frankie is more than just a girl: It’s her and her three best friends. How did you all meet and what does each band member bring to the table?
Yes! I'm so lucky I get to work and play with my best friends every day... still can't believe it. I first met Petro, my producer/guitarist, in college at UC Santa Cruz when I was 18. He had known Joey, songwriter/keyboardist, since he was 13 from high school and playing in a band together, so shortly after meeting Petro I met Joey. Then Joey and Ben, [our] songwriter/drummer, met each other in college at USC. Once we all moved down to L.A., I finally met Ben and we started writing songs together and became one super friendship. Now I call them the moles I can't remove. It's all love between us.
You’ve played in cities across the country and gone on getaways together for fun and to have writing sessions. What’s one of the best trips you all have taken with each other? Most productive?
Wow. We have done sooooo many trips together. It's so funny people are shocked that we vacation together because we spend so much time together. I'd say one of our favorite trips was when we first played SXSW because we couldn't believe we were there. It was our first trip together as a band and only our 5th show I believe so that was a great way to kick off the adventure. This year we played at Lollapalooza and that was such a magical weekend on so many levels. I love Chicago so much. Being there with the boys [and] hearing people sing our songs back to us was the greatest feeling and one of the highlights of my year. Our most productive trips are when we go away to write songs. We've probably done six trips and every one of them has been pretty productive. One of our first writing trips was in Santa Barbara. I had just gotten signed and we were getting away to write songs for the album for the first time. We were so excited that we wrote a song a day for three days. Two of those songs are some of the best songs on the album so I think that was pretty successful.
What is your general approach to songwriting? When you write together, what kind of brainstorming do you do together?
Each song comes differently and at a different pace. Some songs we write in a day and others we write over a month, like "Blink." I'd say the main process is I have a part that I've come up with that I think is interesting that I want to work on. I then bring the part to the boys and we write around it to create a full song together. If writing isn't coming naturally, we'll play games to keep us on our toes and make it fun. Sometimes we'll split into pairs of 2 and see who can come up with the better chorus in 15 minutes. We can get competitive. The best part of writing with them is that we all have different styles and tastes in music so when we all unanimously agree that a song is amazing then we know it will be something special for other people. Our motto is quality over quantity so we won't continue with a song if we don't think it sounds perfect just on guitar and me singing over it. If it sounds great then we'll continue. If not, move on. After the song is written Petro will produce it out for a few weeks until it is enhanced and sounds elevated from its original form. We never want production to make a song we write; we just want it to take it to the next level and Petro kills it every time. I trust him with everything creatively.
How did getting a degree in music help you expand as an artist?
Getting a music degree definitely helped me as an artist. I grew up teaching myself everything, from playing guitar to writing songs. I always had that natural gift in me since I was 3 years old but going to college advanced everything. I'm such a music nerd so taking all these classes that explained what I naturally did fascinated me. I got a degree in classical guitar and took singing lessons and composition classes throughout my experience. It's so comforting to have the theory behind everything and speak the language of music confidently. The boys are even more knowledgable than me in music so we all geek out together.
I’ve read that you're half-Cuban. How much of your Cuban heritage did you grow up with?
Yes! I'm half Cuban and Spanish! Those roots are very deep in me and very important. My mother is Cuban and Spanish and her whole career is based around her roots and growing up in America and dealing with that balance. Her entire side of the family only speaks Spanish to each other and when we get together a few times a year it's pure chaos. Everyone is screaming on top of each other, food is constantly being cooked, everyone is cracking up trying to understand each other because the younger kids only speak English... it's hilarious. Essentially My Big Fat Cuban Wedding.
Your website is one of the best things we’ve seen, filled with bright aesthetics and handwritten lyrics. What draws you to colors and neon?
I'm very attracted to bright colors. If you look at my instagram, I definitely have a theme with saturating all the colors in the pictures to make everything pop... perhaps I like living in an enhanced dreamy world. Who knows. I write everything so I really wanted hand written lyrics on my website and wanted it to represent all the different sides of me. I doodle all the time so it has some of my doodles and more randomness. But I love it and I'm so happy you noticed it! The website also has a similar vibe to the "New Obsession" video which I love as well.
“Blink” is deeply personal and dedicated to your father. What inspired you to record something for him?
"Blink" is written for my step-dad Steve who was one of the closest people to my heart. He passed away 3 years ago from brain cancer and it just changed my world forever. He was one of my best friends and one of the top three people I spent most of my life with, so losing him left such a hole in me. It's unfortunate because all of these amazing opportunities have happened after he passed. I wish badly he was here to see them but at the same time maybe he's making it all happen for me. Who knows! I wrote "Blink" as a dedication to him and to myself with everything I've learned throughout this process in hopes that when someone is down and needs a little love and perspective, they can hear the song and hopefully it makes them feel better. I wanted to honor him and in a way come full circle with everything.
What can we expect to see from your upcoming album? Will we see more songs like “Blink” or will it continue Dreamstate’s pop adventure?
What is great about the album is that it is an extension of me and what you heard on Dreamstate. I have so many different colors in me that I wanted to show and in this album I really get to do that. So you'll obviously hear singer-songwriter pop songs but you'll also get more emotional songs because that's who I am: a yin yang. Aren't we all though? My hopes with the album is that it can be the friend you need. If you need to dance and feel happy, it can do that for you. Or if you need a good cry or some advice, it can do that for you as well because that's what I always want to be for my fans. The friend they need in any moment.
Lastly, the holidays are just around the corner. What’s on your holiday wishlist?
My holiday wish list is to be present around my family and friends, sing Christmas carols while eating Cuban food and perhaps doing a puzzle.