Band name: Stellaluna
Place of origin: Started while I was in college in Phoenix, Arizona, but now I am back in my hometown, Los Angeles.
Personnel: I write and sing all of the songs and play guitar/baritone uke/bass/drums/glockenspiel/melodica on my earlier records. But on my newest release, and when I’m fortunate enough to have them, I am supported by a band consisting of Ryan McDowell on bass/melodica and Chase Kamp on drums.
Upcoming shows: Folktale Fest, Monday, October 18 at Pehrspace
Do you have something special planned for the show? I didn’t really plan to do anything crazy or anything since I haven’t been playing so often, but I might set Whitman on fire at the end of my set if he’s into it. Homeboy loves pain.
Hey, Fran, can you tell people a little bit about your musical history and background?
I don’t really like to call myself a musician. I wasn’t classically trained or anything and I can’t read tabs or sheet music. I play mostly by ear, and with guitar I was only taught a couple of simple chords before I started messing around and writing songs. I’m always trying to learn something when there’s time. I was more of a music promoter in high school and college. Played the drums and the violin for many years, but ultimately lost interest when I moved into an apartment and couldn’t be very loud anymore.
Can you tell us a little bit about the name Stellaluna and how that factors into things?
Stellaluna is the name of an old children’s book that I loved when I was little. It’s the story of a baby bat who gets separated from her mother. A group of baby birds find her and take her as their own where she learns to interact with someone different from her. She ultimately gets reunited with her mother at the end and it’s a happy Reading Rainbow kind of ending. I chose this name because I relate a lot to the main character in the book. I moved away from my mother when I was in high school and lived on my own for a while. I was an only child and spent a majority of my time with a close group of friends, who have basically become an extended part of my family. After I moved to Arizona, my mother and I became closer than ever, and I think the time apart and the time to grow and experience things on my own really helped shape that relationship.
Your music is pretty, but there is a real influence of the ethos of old school punk, do you like punk?
Fuck yeah! :) I love a whole lot of music, but ultimately the one band that will have my heart forever is Fugazi. I have been a huge fan for many years, of anything any of its members have ever done. I even cover a Teen Idles song, which is a band Ian McKaye was in before Minor Threat (their 7″ is also the first release on Dischord). Nothing beats listening to an awesome punk or hardcore record in the morning to start your day off right. I’m kind of a weirdo. Last week I took a nap while listening to John Weise’s Soft Punk, so peaceful.
You use a lot of untraditional instruments, like a baritone ukulele…
I’ve always been a fan of the sound of a ukulele, but I didn’t want to use a regular or soprano uke because so many “smooth jazz folk indie explosion” type people have been doing the ukulele-sing like Norah Jones thing and it annoys me. The baritone has a deeper, sadder sound and I like it very much so. It’s definitely the goth of the uke family.
Your lyrics seem to be influenced by literature, particularly the Beats. Who are your favorite authors?
I’m not a Beat fanatic or anything, but I’m a huge Bukowski fan,who I guess is considered part of that era because of the company he kept. On my first tape which was a split with Whitman, I took a poem by him and turned it into a song. I read lot, but I love Roberto Bolano and Dave Eggers a whole lot.
Lastly, can you talk a little bit about your record company, Tiny Panda Records and it’s place in the indie community and the role of small indie record companies in general in today’s changing music scene?
Kind of a loaded question there, but I’ll try. TPR is something I do as a hobby. I started it in Phoenix when I wanted to help expose some of the great local music I had encountered and now I just put things out when I can. I’ve been fortunate that nearly all of my releases have sold out. In this changing music scene, it seems like more people have been interested in buying from local or independent labels and stores. Mainstream indie has a harder time with record sales because of downloads, but these days limited edition, handmade, silk-screened, type stuff has been a growing commodity for the serious music lover. Five years ago, I knew of a handful of indie labels in CA—today I can easily name over a dozen people that I know personally who run their own labels out of their own homes.
Folktale Records & Sean Carnage present…
Starts 9:30pm / $5 / all-ages
Pehrspace—325 Glendale Blvd., in Historic Filipinotown
Image: Christopher Payne