ESSENTIAL TRACK: “War Paint”
FOR FANS OF: Hayley Kiyoko, Tove Lo, Dua Lipa, Bebe Rexha
Frankie Simone has a finished album in the can, but no release date specified. There’s a new live show choreographed, but all tour dates are on hold. The world is grappling with a health and humanitarian crisis, teetering on the edge of economic collapse.
But Simone remains optimistic.
“It’s been really inspiring to see how folks are connecting and coming together via social media,” Simone observes. “People are really showing up for one another and that makes me have hope.
“So just keeping compassion at the forefront of our minds... We will get through this and come out on the other side, hopefully having learned new ways we can move about our lives, taking better care of ourselves and others.”
Simone also tells it like it is. For some, achieving empowerment by allowing space for vulnerability may seem dichotomous. For others, it may even evoke strong feelings of negativity or resistance. But for Simone, it’s a necessary progression. For them, being open and direct inherently leads to positivity and strength.
“It’s important to feel our feelings about it. This time is fucking hard and uncomfortable. There’s no sugarcoating that,” they state. “And it’s hard on so many different levels for so many different people, depending on privilege and access to resources.”
Simone’s music already deals with race and sexual identity, among other intersectional issues of privilege and agency. Much of those efforts are focused on validating others by speaking their own truth.
“It’s really important for me to use my privilege as a light-skinned, queer person of color, who is often cis-passing because of my more femme-leaning identity,” the Puerto Rican-born artist tells. “It’s my job to make room for more black and brown and trans and queer voices to be heard.
“I honestly just feel like there isn’t enough music out in the world that is talking about these topics... It feels really important for me to be loud about empowerment and inclusion, while setting that to a beat or sonic landscape that hits in a new and inspiring way.”
Simone debuted their EP LOVE//WARRIOR, featuring standout hit “War Paint,” in 2018. The inaugural release on homegrown music licensing company Marmoset’s label Infinite Companion, it was the type of introduction to an artist that felt more like an announcement. On the macro level, Simone embodied the aesthetic paradigm shift occurring in Portland over the past several years. And as an individual artist, it was clear that they were a talented writer and singer capable of sustained success.
Simone’s captivating live shows also help set them apart. They feature dancer and choreographer Che Che Luna—who also happens to be Simone’s wife—and it’s clear that one artistic expression informs and elevates the other.
“Being able to co-create and explore artistic edges with Che Che is such a sacred gift to me. It facilitates such raw, tender, authentic content.”
While Simone’s previous work has always addressed social issues head on, they declare that this new batch of songs is their most personal music to date, exploring their evolving relationship with Luna in particular. Describing a particularly difficult period of their life, they say they leaned into the darkness and turned to writing to cope: “I had to move the pain through me.”
The impending single “On Our Own” may have been written months ago, but it feels like a prescient look into our current collective psyche. It’s exactly the uplifting pop anthem we could all use to power through these isolated, uncertain times.
On other forthcoming songs, Simone further mines the depths of their inner power and imbues listeners with some of their own transcendent energy. These are catchy earworms to be sure, but Simone insists they’re all part of a larger story.
“It’s a full-length concept record, and I am taking y’all on a journey of navigating non-monogamy and the self-discovery that comes along with that. But it also touches on themes unrelated to my relationship, like sexual assault and my struggle with social media, to name a couple. The record is a story, though, and is intended for folks, upon first listen, to listen all the way through nonstop.”
While much of our world currently feels tenuous, Simone is confident, and they intend to share some of that vigor with the rest of us as soon as possible.
“I feel strongly that in this time of great unknowns, releasing music seems necessary. Art helps us heal. It has the ability to be medicinal for the collective, and we need that more than ever.
“The world needs all of our unique voices,” Simone asserts.
Agreed. And we’re lucky to have theirs, especially now.
UPCOMING RELEASE: Look for new music out this summer via Infinite Companion