After a three-year hiatus, the duo Freddy & Francine — Lee Ferris and Bianca Caruso — is coming back strong with a move from Los Angeles to Nashville and a new EP, Moonless Night, whose soulful opening track “Half A Mind” premieres below. It also gave the couple a chance to firm up their focus on music after other endeavors in TV and theater.
“We've been a band for about 10 years,” Ferris, who appeared as Carl Perkins in the musical Million Dollar Quartet, tells Billboard, “but with that three-year gap we re-collected and have just been making our lives and making our living doing music for the past four or five years. It's what we like doing best.” Consequently they view Moonless Night, Freddy & Francine's third EP, as a step forward, more stylistically diverse but still rooted in the Americana realm where they've staked their musical claim.
“I think as a folk/Americana band you start to make music you can fit in a box,” explains Caruso, who recently sold a TV pilot for a series starring Seth Rogen to ABC. “Folk Alliance seems appealing. Your peers are all in this world. Then you find who you are and what you really want to do. I think our music lends itself to more a broader vision. This new (EP) is the most 'me' I've ever been able to put out as far as music and what I want to put out into the world. We're leaning into the idea that we're more a pop band. We don't want to be just one genre or pigeonholed as one thing. It sounds like us. I don't think I want to be anything other than that.”
Ferris adds that, “This stuff starts to sound sort premeditated on some level, when you start to talk about genre and target market and all the things that get thrown around the room from a business standpoint. But everything we do is sincere and our music is rooted in joy. How broad genre-wise we can be comes from a real sense joy. Maybe that's the genre, joy.”
“Yeah,” Caruso follows with a laugh. “We just want to be an annoying pop band!”
The Memphis soul-flavored “Half A Mind,” meanwhile, is about “making lemonade out lemons,” according to Ferris, inspired by his unhidden battles with addiction and mental illness since he was a teenager. “The idea behind the song is given what I have, given what a human has in regards to their struggles, is how to make truly the best out that situation and find purpose and meaning in relationships and people in order to overcome those things in the moment,” Ferris explains. “I think it's a joyful expression that's reflective about the shortcomings that I have, or any person can have, and yet really treating it joyfully and treating it as a means to getting through to acceptance and positivity and positive change in one's life.”
Produced by Dan Knobler (Lake Street Dive), Moonless Night is due out Sept. 7. Freddy & Francine will be touring to support it — including a release show Aug. 29 at the Troubadour in Los Angeles — and in the meantime they're continuing to write new material for a fourth full-length album, immersing themselves in what Caruso calls “the Nashville inspiration train, 'cause it's just everywhere. Being in Nashville is so inspiring. Everyone's game to write a song and we're getting to write with amazing people and we're excited to write with more people in town. We're trying to record as soon as possible and maybe get something out next year.”