Les Friction

Les Friction returned with the second part of their sci-fi story which is titled “Dark Matter”. One of the band’s masterminds & songwriters Evan Frnakfort talked to Grande Rock about the new album & the fictional story behind it among many other interesting things…
Les Friction band pic
Hi Evan, so glad to have you on Grande Rock for once more. First of all, congrats on the new Les Friction album “Dark Matter”… it’s very atmospheric, inspired, and intense on the whole.
E: Thank you, Thanos! The emotions are always from a very real and vulnerable place. That provides the power to fuel the story and layout of any given song and into the framework of the record. The themes that are written into our DNA are the subject… fear of loss and death, as well as power and triumph are the building blocks of the story.
Well, let’s start with the obvious… why did it take you 5 years to release a new studio album? What held you back all these years (if it did) and do you think this was the right moment for your sophomore release?
E: Making this kind of record moves as slow as frozen molasses... even when cruising at blazing speed. No sounds come out if the box... everything is generated or heavily treated. A sound has to be native to the fabric of the music, support the emotion of the song and be special. This is no place for apathy. If something just feels ok, it’s not done.
The space a song will live in is a journey that is the most time consuming. Building a palette involves lots of mundane and fruitless effort just looking for nuggets of gold. There may be, for instance, a guitar riff or a floor tom that is tuned to a particular pitch on which you play a part... and months you realize there could be gold in them there hills! So, you fully explore mic positions and an endless number of sonic treatments that inform what other instruments could be playing. When that moment is fully built out, you might stockpile it in a file of dozens of other cool moments. Chasing down these moments, even if they never get used, is very inspiring and never seems to get old.
Most people think of making a record as 2 parts... recording and mixing. With this process, the 2 parts really are more like idea generation and assembly. The generation isn’t just writing... it’s recording and mixing. To be in that process requires remaining judgment free throughout. You can’t simultaneously create and judge or you run the risk of squelching everything. Let each idea reach fruition and then put it away. Later, in a fresh headspace, you’ll have a much better idea about where each part of the puzzle belongs.
Perhaps months later when writing a figure on piano or guitar, you might go listen to a bunch of those nuggets or moments to see if any feel like they’re cut from a similar fabric as this burgeoning tune. When a solid connection is made, that’s when the train starts really rolling. You may have to re-record if you can’t successfully reconcile pitch and tempo but that’s never a problem. It sort of resembles the process between making a demo and a record. The record version isn’t always better so you may find yourself redesigning the tune from the ground up just to find a workable meeting ground.
Ideas breed more ideas. While it can be daunting to have this many moving parts governing each micro decision, the best ideas generally come at the point when you think that the last thing this record needs is more ideas.
How was the songwriting process all these years? How easy or not was to make a second part of the story and “dress” it musically and lyrically?
E: For lyrical continuity, there is a general outline of story points. There are phrases that strategically reappear to either develop a theme. The meaning may be different as context grows. There are moments where you feel like you can see the entire chess game laid out 50 moves ahead but those moments usually only come after you've done the leg work done. It’s similar to how I’d imagine the process of writing a screen play. You don’t fill in all the blanks with words… you keep space available for the instruments to tell the story. For example, if the vocal line is “We have to get out of this place”… you can write that as determined or fearful or some other way, but the music will either support/enhance or play against the vocal delivery. At any given moment, there is a seemingly endless number of ways to structure it. And the fun is in exhausting all those ways before deciding what works best. If you don’t hear it, your imagination will always run the risk of not translating well.
We are in the year 2051, three years later and the story takes a whole different course. What is the second part of the story all about?
E: Well, without giving it all away, it’s primarily about a force of nature that threatens to destroy the home dimension. If we are out traveling in other dimensions, how do we protect our home?
What is that unexpected force that’s threatening the three persons who are fighting to save the home dimension?
E: Dark Matter is growing and consuming everything in its path. We don’t know what it is except for the fact that whatever goes in does not come back out.
Do you believe that it is possible to survive from the “Dark Matter”?
E: That really is the question at hand but not the larger question. I can tell you that solving the problem of stopping dark matter does not solve the problem… let’s just say that without light, there can be no dark. The whole story is written. The songs sequence to tell it in its entirety.
And why did you choose the title “Dark Matter” for the new album? What’s the secret meaning behind it and how is it connected with the cover artwork?
E: “Dark Matter” is the straw man we chose to give ourselves. If we don’t create an enemy, we go to war with each other. It is our destiny to conquer. If we can learn to examine ourselves under the same lens we use to view the rest of the world, perhaps some day we’ll learn to conquer ourselves. The cover was a piece of art by Viorel Scoropan that we found and had it photographed by Stacy Gleason. It felt as if it told the story of a life in transformation. And it looks like it’s sort of pixelating like it's transporting to another dimension to boot.
Will the story continue after that? Do you have in mind to release a third part of the story at some point?
E: Absolutely! As long as there is suffering, the story will continue.
The album also features Emily Valentine on “I Remember” and the famous Lara Fabian on “You Always Knew”. Emily has also participated in your debut album, but how did the cooperation with the famed Lara occur?
E: Yes, they’re both very special. Emily’s character is woven into the fabric from the beginning. Lara reached out to work together a few years ago. We were honored to have her on the record. We wrote this song specifically for her to sing. It has an important place in the story where we reach an impasse with our 3 characters. The duet with Paint is a very proud moment for us.
Tell us a couple of things about each track…
E: “Your World Will Fail”: We can’t stay on this unsustainable path. Grabbing and hoarding are desperate acts. Enlightenment is the cure for corruption.
“Who Will Save You Now”: We can save each other.
“Dark Matter”: There will always be an enemy. Is it necessary? Maybe...
“I Remember”: We punish ourselves harder than anyone else ever could.
“Love Comes Home”: It’s our nature to prevent things from being “just right”.
“You Always Knew”: Denial drives us to ends we would have no hope of reaching.
“This is a Call”: When a bigger enemy than our enemy threatens us, our enemy becomes our friend.
“Firewall”: Sacrifice does not make you a martyr.
“Your Voice”: The best way to amplify your message is to have it delivered by a powerful messenger.
“Make Believe”: Times were best when they were hard.
How did you decide to cover Led Zeppelins “Kashmir” and to end the album in that way?
E: Well, there are really only 2 reasons to cover a song; either you can do it better or different. Obviously, no one will ever beat the original, but we felt the lyrics gave the messenger the weight needed to deliver the message with power and authority. Paint connected so easily with it… it couldn’t have felt more natural.
Where did the recordings take place and who did the mixing, the production and the final mastering?
E: Helmut and I pass recordings back and forth and we inspire each other throughout the process of writing and producing. Then I mix and master at my place.
What are the differences between your debut and “Dark Matter”?
E: We tried to expand a bit further with palette, arrangements and approaches. Hopefully it feels native to the project but doesn't feel repetitive.
Do you have in mind to release any lyric or concept video for a couple of tracks or not? To be honest almost all of the tracks are on YouTube as we speak.
E: That is the plan… we’ve had some great starts but nothing has been completed. We’re looking for talented folks to collaborate with because picture isn’t our wheel house.
Have you discussed the idea of giving a special live show at some point, or you prefer to stay a studio band/project?
E: That is absolutely the plan. We have most of the broad strokes complete. We will need partners for financing, etc. because it would mostly likely be an installation show using 4D and many theatrical elements.
Any certain expectation from “Dark Matter”?
E: We can’t really expect anything, but we hope it resonates with people.
It’s time for our “weird questions”!!! If you could “erase” one thing from modern music, what would it be?
E: Nothing really. There’s music I hate but it makes me appreciate music I love more. I’d erase the idea that intellectual property is free… it’s very sad that people can’t make a living making music because most people don’t want to buy what they can get free.
Which is that band that you’d like to be part of (any time & era)?
E: Alt J.
Which are the best 3 Prog Rock albums according to you?
E: Beatles – “Sgt Peppers”, Radiohead – “The Bends” and Zombies – “Odyssey and Oracle”. I know those are old records and I probably should have included “Dark Side of the Moon” but you’ve opened a pandora’s box and I had to just put the 1st 3 down that came to mind. I’d also include Flaming Lips – “Soft Bulletin” and Beach Boys – “Pet Sounds” and a ton of others.
Fill in the phrase… “Prog Rock music wouldn’t have evolved the way it did, if it hadn’t been for…”
E: Bob Dylan. He was the reason the Beatles and everyone else started digging deeper lyrically.
Top 3 sci-fi movies of any era?
E: Mad Max, The Terminator, Wall E.
Which is the record you wish you had written and why?
E: “Dark Side of the Moon”…
Were you obliged to give just one album to extraterrestrials that would represent the whole human music, which album would it be and from which band/artist?
E: “Dark Side of the Moon”!
Which do you consider to be the best male & female vocalist in rock history?
E: Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin.
If you had the chance to travel in time… where would you choose to go? To the past or the future and why?
E: I have no interest in visiting the past… there was no golden era to return to. If I bounce to the future, I face the real possibility that it’s apocalyptic and I drop dead instantly from radiation or something worse. I’d choose to be here now with the ones I love and have us all meet our fate together.
Which character from the “Game of Thrones” would you have been – if you lived in the Seven Kingdoms? The other guys from the band?
E: I know I should watch the show but I don’t. Regardless, I’d be the most evil of them all… if that’s not Nihl Finch, you’ll have to tell me who that is.
That’s all for now Evan! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. Wish you the best for the future to come. Take care, dude!
E: You too Thanos! Thank you for your continued rulingness!!