By Shannon Gormley
You wouldn't think a group whose main motivation is getting bodies moving on the dance floor would know much about sonnets. But AlunaGeorge frontwoman Aluna Francis has a lot to say on the subject.
"I read a book by Stephen Fry about poetry, and he did make a very good point," she says. "If you squeeze an idea through certain limitations, what you get on the other side is obviously more creative."
Francis and her partner, producer George Reid, are in the final stages of recording their second album, and they've been thinking a lot about the challenge of writing three-minute pop songs. While AlunaGeorge certainly has an experimental streak, the duo was wary of producing "something that was so sort of strange and artsy that it's kind of shrouding a lack of substance," Francis says. But too simple is a problem, too. "Straightforward songs with a nice simple beat and a piano backing—that was just not something I was interested in," Francis says. So the goal is to see how creative you can be when there are structural rules to follow—as with, say, sonnets.
Calling from Miami, Francis talks about poetry with as little pretension as she talks about shoes—a worthy topic to discuss with Francis, whose sense of style extends from chunky sneakers with pearl chains to bra tops printed with the words "OH SHIT!" Her wit is particularly helpful since she has only 10 minutes to talk. AlunaGeorge, which first broke through in its native England via Disclosure's smash single "White Noise," is in the middle of a tour, and with its next album "near the finish line," this is a hectic period for the Londoners. The new album follows 2013's Body Music, which was filled with strange synth noises, catchy lyrics and layered, idiosyncratic beats.
But for all the anticipation and hype preceding the follow-up to a well-received debut, Francis says she and Reid are just continuing to do what they do. "We haven't done that thing that some bands do, which is, like, do an album in one genre and then basically switch genres," she says. Perhaps that's because there's enough to keep searching for in their usual format: The sound of AlunaGeorge is a constant struggle between the ingenuity of experimental electronic music and pop-song immediacy. So when Francis names Etta James as a source of inspiration alongside the likes of Flying Lotus and Aphex Twin, it actually makes sense.
"I just have to go back to the classics like 'A Sunday Kind of Love' or 'At Last,'" she says. "The first time you hear it, you get it. That's sort of what I'm always pitched up against. It's a bar I'll never reach, but it's a good bar to go for." SHANNON GORMLEY.
SEE IT: AlunaGeorge plays Doug Fir Lounge, 830 E Burnside St., with Rome Fortune, on Friday, Oct. 16. 9 pm. $20. 21+.