Teachers ‘band’ together

Members from local band Frances Clare are, from left, Tricia Brink-Jones, Ian Black, Devon de Swardt, Steven Jarvis and Frances Litten.

They’re fresh on the music scene, but the five-piece band Frances Clare have already cracked the nod to play at Grahamstown’s National Arts Festival next month.

The band’s fusion of acoustic and electric instruments is complemented by Table View songbird France Litten’s vocals.

The fresh-faced 20-year-old says it wasn’t her idea to name the band after her, but she rolled with it because the band mates like the sound of it. Clare is Frances’s second name.

The band members are all music teachers at schools in the area. Frances, who teaches at Curro Century City, started performing as a solo artist last year and did an extended play (EP) record of four songs.

She credits guitar player Devon de Swardt with getting the band going.

He got them together for the live recording of the EP launch.

Frances’s music-performance studies have taken a back seat as she learns hands-on about the industry – securing gigs, recording in the studio and working on the band’s brand, among other things.

One of her first live performances, she says, was at a 21st birthday party in Durbanville… nothing too intimidating about that, you might think, other than the fact that one of the guests happened to be multi-instrumentalist Roger Taylor, who was part of British rock band Queen.

It was nerve-racking, says Frances, shuddering at the memory. But she remembers the guitar legend’s sage advice.

“He told me if you want to make money out of the music industry, don’t stop writing your own music.”

She has followed that advice and prefers singing her own songs over cover songs. Her message to aspiring musicians is to “go for music first”.

“There’s no better time to go for your dream than when you’re young and have the energy for it”.

And one of the tracks on the debut album, Clouds Over Gold, was inspired by doing just that – chasing your dreams.

“I wrote the song when I was deciding if I was going to do music or study something else,” says Frances.

The lyrics “I pick clouds over gold” refers to chasing ones dreams over money.

Performing as a solo artist is great, she says, but she also likes walking on stage with a band.

“The feeling of knowing they have my back is great.”

She describes Tricia Brink-Jones, who provides the harmonies and violin, as the “mother hen” who always makes sure everyone is taken care of and fed.

Steven Jarvis plays the bass, and as the only band member from the southern suburbs, travels from Lakeside whenever there is band practice.

Lead guitarist Devon de Swardt is also the musical director. And Ian Black is on drums and percussion.

Frances is on vocals. She submitted Frances Clare for the lists of bands to perform at the Grahamstown festival and was ecstatic when they were chosen.

“I really hoped we would be selected, but I didn’t expect it because we are so new.”

In fact they are so new that they are yet to release their debut album.

Consisting of six songs recorded in two-and-a-half hours, the album has yet to be named and is planned for release after they return from Grahamstown. They plan to perform the album at the festival.

* To raise money for the trip, the band will perform at Cafe Roux at 74 Shortmarket Street, Cape Town, on Monday May 28 at 8.30pm. Tickets cost R110. For more information go to www.