Francesa Belmonte is the soulful songstress with an all consuming drawl. We talk influences, inspirations and ambitions with the Londoner.
With vocals that are hearty and haunting in equal measure, the electrifying new track “Stole”, from Francesca Belmonte, will have your fingers hovering above the repeat button. Described as the kind of ‘vampish babe’ we aspire to be, her electro sound is moody and just a pinch twisted. Precise tech instrumentals and glitchy beats will kickstart your dancing muscles into action. Twitchy electronic hits and whispery choruses, Belmonte’s appeal is infectious.
Stepping out on her own for the first time, she’s not new to the music game and we hope this added experience will only elongate her longevity. Perfect for the (not so far off) stretched out summer days that melt into warm nights, “Stole” is seductive enough to soundtrack your party and chilled enough to turn the city into a paradise while the sun’s still up. Take your pick. We can’t wait until we’ve got enough material from Belmonte to fill the whole day.
How would you describe your unique music style?
Its a difficult question. My taste is very eclectic and I’ve been immersed in the music of one of the most experimental musicians out there for the last six years which has had an inevitable effect on the way the album came out. Someone called it alternative blues the other day which I related to and there’s definitely a ‘pop’ thread going through it as well. It’s really early days for me as a solo artist, the album is done and I’ve been completely immersed in it but its like I’m still getting dressed, still getting my head around this new identity. Ask me again when I’ve been touring the album for six months and you will probably get a clearer answer!
Who are your biggest influences, musical and or otherwise?
There’s many many influences. The main ones I always come back to are Patti Smith, Polly Harvey, Billie Holiday obviously and Nina Simone. I love Marianne Faithful’s voice, I sometimes listen to her and only her for days on end, her voice does something to me, goes right through me. I like Malian music, Vieux Farka Toure, Amadou and Mariam. I watched a beautiful documentary about Kathleen Hanna the other day, I wasn’t really familiar with her music until then but really been getting into it since, she’s a special woman.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I think its important to stay open, if you remain open anything and everything becomes an influence or an inspiration whether its a personal traumatic event, a piece of music, a scene in a film or your lovers chest rising and falling as they lay next to you. My mother’s bookshelves have been a huge influence over the years. From Samuel Beckett and Carl Jung to Picasso and Matisse, she’s a fascinating woman with endless material to draw from. I’m influenced by films as well. Angel-A by Luc Besson for example triggered a few good days of writing. I went to see a Samuel Beckett play at the Young Vic recently , ‘Happy Days’ starring Juliet Stevenson. We were moved to tears. It was a harrowing performance, she laid her guts out, such a brave performance. That stayed with me for a while and definitely inspired my writing over the next few weeks.
Who would be your dream collaborator?
Obviously Patti Smith, Marianne Faithful, collaborating with living legends like that would be a thrill. I’m really enjoying Alt-J’s music. Me and my flat mate play both albums really loud, quite often; I’d like to get in with them for a day to see what came out. Maybe Young Fathers too. I just played Convergence festival as Tricky’s guest vocalist along with Tirzah who features on Adrian Thaws. We talked about doing some work together which would be pretty cool, I love her voice and she’s a wicked girl too, straight up and down to earth.
How was it stepping out on your own for your first solo album?
It feels good, I’m excited and ready for it. I’ve been in a privileged position playing big shows and gaining experience without being in the spotlight. Naturally it’s scary, any change or transition is challenging. Being Tricky’s singer has been a part of my identity for such a long time and stepping out of that role felt weird at first. I was completely and utterly committed, sacrificed a lot, perhaps too much at times, I took it to the edge. I think when you’ve given that much of yourself to something be it a job, a relationship or any other commitment, you have to take some time to note the inevitable differences in yourself having been through those experiences. That’s the process I’m in at the moment, its all very positive. I’m very proud of the album and I cant wait for people to hear it in full.
What are your big plans for the future following your imminent success?
I’m learning Ableton at the moment and playing a lot more guitar with the aim to have the skeleton of the next album finished by the end of the year. Other plans… just getting on tour. Playing live as many places as possible. I’m missing the road, you don’t have to face any of your problems on the road, your only worry is playing a good show, everything else melts away.
If you could pick one song to listen to the rest of your life, what would it be?
“Pissing In A River” by Patti Smith.
Where did your inspiration from for your new album come from?
Tricky produced the album and I think some of it was inspired by our journey. Not in a literal sense but indirectly from our time on the road, on stage in studio etc. We were watching documentaries about war during some of the recording which inspired a song called ‘Your Sons’. It highlights the suffering of Mothers and Fathers losing their soldier sons and daughters and questions the purpose of it all. There’s a couple of songs on there that are taken from dreams I had. ‘I sing for the Joker’ was a dream I had about a trickster like character who I went around causing mayhem with. ‘Hiding in the Rushes’ is a dream I had about my mother and I being on the run from something armed with AK47 guns, ‘Brothers and Sisters’ was also inspired by a dream.
What’s your biggest musical guilty pleasure?
I don’t think there’s any such thing as guilty pleasure. Adam and the Ants – Dog eat dog came on in a cab the other day and I asked him to turn it up, the cabby said ‘Oh is this your guilty pleasure?’ I’d never thought of it like that, I just think its a wicked song.
Life on the road or life in the studio?
Life on the road… with a portable studio.
Francesca Belmonte’s debut album ‘Anima’ is out June 1st