Search The Line of Best Fit
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Francis of Delirium Holly Whitaker 2

On the Rise
Francis of Delirium

22 March 2024, 19:00
Words by Hayden Merrick

Original Photography by Holly Whitaker

Francis of Delirium generates tremors of excitement across the indie rock world – and ‘world’ is the operative word for the Luxembourg-based, UK-signed, Canadian songwriter and her American drummer/producer Chris Hewett.

“I like to go on the Sufjan Stevens subreddit a lot,” Jana Bahrich admits with a sheepish smile. “People are nice over there – I think that’s what I like. He’s kind of the ideal artist for me.”

Jana Bahrich’s admittance to Sufjan sleuthing exemplifies her humble outlook and genuine love for music. When recalling how she signed with Dalliance Recordings, the London label that has trusted her vision since nearly the beginning – home to Ailsa Tully, Common Holly, and Sloe Noon – Bahrich still beams with gratitude. “I remember exactly where I was when I got the email,” she says. “I had just watched my French horn teacher perform in a church, and I went out to my bike and checked my phone before getting onto my bike and there was an email sitting there… which was very exciting.”

Following a string of incisive, grunge-splashed EPs – All Change (2020), Wading (2021), and The Funhouse (2022) – Francis of Delirium’s debut full-length arrives at a creative zenith. “This felt like we were writing our second album. We didn’t get that opportunity to have the debut album be a collection of my whole life,” she explains, referring to the adage that an artist spends their whole life on their first album and a few months on their second. “It’s much more concentrated. Every time we wrote an EP, I thought, this one’s gonna be the album. And it just didn’t happen. I couldn’t write in each of those worlds for long enough. Like, there was just a full stop at the last song we’d write for each EP. This album was the first time it felt like there were a lot more songs that were connected to each other.”


Thematically cohesive, Lighthouse drills into juxtapositions of quiet beauty and loud ugliness – butterflies and breakdowns – something communicated during the first minute of the first song. “Twirling ballet dancers on the corner of a 7-Eleven / At the end of our lives we’ll say we loved each other forever / And when it ends, I will never love again,” Bahrich sighs in a reticent whisper before she’s interrupted by a roar of thick guitars reminiscent of contemporary acts such as Bully and Mannequin Pussy. The song winds back down towards the end, a mournful cello line dovetailing with her vocals, revealing the album’s polar ends.

Lighthouse marks a gentle departure from the grunge sounds of the band’s EPs, something set in motion while they were supporting The Districts on a 2022 US tour. “I had all these hopes and dreams of how we’d start every day listening to the Simon & Garfunkel song ‘America’ and starting the day with the Willie Nelson song ‘On the Road Again,’” Bahrich recalls of her road trip playlist, “because I really wanted to have a song I could listen back to and go, oh yeah that makes me think of being on tour in the US, which didn’t really happen. But I was listening to more of that folk/Americana stuff, just because we’re going to be in a car driving across this huge country and I wanted to have something soundtracking that.”

As well as Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, and co., Bahrich gleaned songwriting inspiration from her garage-rocker tourmates. “This hopeful sound – I’m sure it infected what I was writing every day,” she says, referring to The Districts’ music. “I really loved what they were doing, and when you watch someone perform that much, every night, you can’t not have it start to influence you.” When it came to writing the album, then, not only was Bahrich manifesting these sounds and experiences – a song like “Blue Tuesday,” the album’s fastest, surely nods to the aforementioned “hopeful sound” – she also got another shot at choreographing her memories, which didn’t go to plan while on the road; the album makes red eyes and drunken kisses sound like they look in the movies, undercut by sweeping instrumentals that surge and soar and then slump in on themselves.

Francis of Delirium Holly Whitaker

“Starts to End” is particularly cinematic, a ballad whose rhythmic component comes not from Hewett’s drum kit but from cellos that apply Bernard Herrmann’s Psycho-staccato to a forlorn major key. “We had this cellist come in and we just had them improvise on a song, which normally classical musicians don’t do, but this guy was very chill and down to try anything,” Bahrich shares of the studio sessions. Antithetically, “Cliffs” produces moody minor-key distortion for disaffected teenagers to sway to, à la that iconic “Homerpalooza” episode of The Simpsons. Arriving towards the end, “Something’s Changed” is the strongest cut of all – or at least the album’s quintessence – with its thundering, half-time chorus and layers of gossamer vocal takes and sucker-punch guitars.

“I’m writing pop songs with Not Pop instrumentation,” Bahrich summarises, “and that kind of lends itself to songs where the choruses are simple. I took this Adrianne Lenker songwriting course last month. She was like, the verses should give the choruses their meaning, and your relationship with the chorus should change as the verses move forward. So I guess I’m trying to let the verses do the work.” “Alone Tonight” is another notable example of this theory put into practice. The lyrics in the chorus are mostly just the song title, but in the verses, Bahrich delivers this tumbling stream-of-consciousness monologue: “I was thinking about Briston and wondering how he’s been doing / Been thinking about getting older, what my parents believe in / And I worry about my future, how to make it stop / But all the worrying does is clog up all the love.”

One thing that doesn’t worry Bahrich, though, is how her debut full-length will be received. Not because she’s overly confident, but because she’s more interested in the things a music fan – a Sufjan subredditor? – would be interested in, like how she got to play a hollow-body Gibson guitar that the Smashing Pumpkins had played! And – more pressingly – how to up the live show ante in accordance with, and out of respect for, this new batch of carefully sculpted pop passion.

“I want it to feel different,” she says, explaining that a new EP adds four or five songs to a live repertoire and therefore fans won’t be expecting a big shake-up when they come to a show. “But this time, because there is a whole body of work out there, I want to make sure that the live show reflects that change. And we have such a limited palette to work with live because we’re only three people on stage,” she continues before almost allowing herself a compliment: “Part of our charm is that we’re a little rough around the edges when we play live. At least, that’s what I tell myself.”

We return to talking about Sufjan, and I ask if Bahrich would consider writing a concept album about Luxembourg, in the style of Stevens’ Illinois and Michigan projects. Probably not, though she did have a go at writing one about Parisian artists in the 1920s. “It’s a real challenge to do that and have the music still feel like something you can connect with,” she laments. Thankfully, Lighthouse – the one about a Canadian artist in the 2020s – easily fulfils that brief.

Lighthouse is out now via Dalliance Recordings

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