FOR FANS OF: Kesha, Ellie Goulding, Demi Lovato.
SOUNDS LIKE: A Saturday night patio dance party on a warm summer night.
As a queer-identifying Puerto Rican woman creating catchy pop tunes in a city that, as she acknowledges, "has zero platform for pop artists," Frankie Simone is the California transplant that Portland actually needs.
"We were sort of in a transition period and looking for a new set of creative people to work with," says the 28-year-old singer-songwriter. She moved here with her partner, dancer Che Che Luna, in 2014 after passing through town on a short tour with her experimental dance project, One Sea. "Portland wasn't on our radar, but we gave it a try for a month and we loved it."
Originally from San Clemente, Simone grew up in a very traditional Puerto Rican household whose after-dinner rituals involved singing, dancing and more singing. "We listened and danced to Celia Cruz, Hector Lavoe and the like, along with a lot of Donna Summer," she says. "My mom is an incredible singer, and I learned so much just singing to a ton of disco divas with her."
Despite starting songwriting at a young age and playing with a handful of bands over the past few years, it wasn't until recently Simone decided to pursue her dream of being a solo artist. After recording a couple of dance tracks earlier this year with Portland producer Distance, Simone started writing songs for herself.
"It just kind of evolved in a solo act," she says. "And I definitely feel like I'm my truest self creating the music that I feel passionate about." And what she's most passionate about is using her voice to spread as much love and positivity as possible—especially when it comes to speaking up for the LGBTQIA community, "and anyone and everyone who has been oppressed simply for being themselves."
"As a queer woman of color, I know that there are so many people just like me in the world that deserve to feel seen and heard," she says. "There's a knowing in my heart that I'm doing something different, and I was put on this earth to be unabashedly myself and challenge some perspectives, get people questioning some of their own beliefs and ultimately holding space for celebrating queer voices."
At this point, she's only released a small handful of songs. Each one features an infectious uptempo dance beat paired with her confident, pop-driven soprano vocals. Her straight-to-the-point single "Queer" could easily be the next big club banger, with chantable lyrics like, "It's OK to be queer and proud."
But there's more on the horizon. Simone just finished recording her first album two weeks ago, which she describes as "a mix of dance-y radio pop along with some sexy indie electronic tribal pop vibes interwoven throughout." It should be out sometime early next year.
"The album's overall theme is about fully embracing your uniqueness, about unapologetically being yourself," she says. "We all have demons to face in this life, but generally, I'm a very optimistic and positive-vibed human—a 'love warrior,' if you will. So I've made an album that's positive and that reflects me as a person."
SEE IT: Frankie Simone plays Mississippi Studios, 1001 SE Morrison, with Siren and the Sea, on Tuesday, Dec. 19. 9 pm. Free. 21+