NME Radar: Breakout

Frances Forever: “The song is connecting because of the lack of representation for gay music”

The Boston artist has built on 'Space Girl's astonishing viral success, establishing themselves as an artist that's listening to and growing up alongside their fanbase

Each week in Breakout, we talk to the emerging stars blowing up right now – whether it be a huge viral moment, killer new track or an eye-popping video – these are the rising artists certain to dominate the near future

Frances Forever always knew that ‘Space Girl’ was going to reach more people than anything they’d done before. After growing up in children’s choirs and surrounded by the music of Taylor Swift and The Beach Boys, their 2018 debut EP ‘Pockets’ was a lo-fi collection of bedroom pop gems that dealt with rage, lust and heartache as the then 19-year-old tried to find their own sound.

Inspired by an old episode of Star Trek (they scribbled down the title while watching the show) and full of astrology terminology, the woozy indie rock daydream of ‘Space Girl’ is a cosmic love song that sees Frances Forever step away from those lo-fi beginnings; the 21-year-old from Boston now sounds as confident as they come. “I had a feeling it was going to be bigger than the other stuff I had written just because I liked it so much,” they tell NME. Their partner also joked that the simple but joyful dance routine they’d created for the track would blow up on TikTok. Neither of them were really expecting just how viral a moment it would become though.

First released in March 2020, by August the track had racked up 250k streams on Spotify; then by November, it had broken 1 million listens and currently sits at over 52 million. There was a similar explosion on TikTok with Garret also teaming up with fellow Gen Z bedroom rockstar Chloe Moriondo for a reworked version of the track and soon signed a record deal with indie label Mom + Pop Music (Beach Bunny, Hinds, Tom Morello).

But with a brand new EP on the way, Garret is hoping to prove they’re “more than the person who wrote that one gay song”. They talk to NME about ‘Paranoia Party’, queer representation and why their perfect gig is everyone crying and singing together.

52 million streams on a song is totally wild. Why do you think ‘Space Girl’ has connected like it has?

“A mixture of luck and it being a catchy song. I wrote it with my band instead of writing it alone in my bedroom, so that’s why I think people jam to it so much. It’s really fun to play and I can’t wait to play it live. I want people to mosh to it. The dance really made it trend on TikTok thanks to the magic of the algorithm but it’s still connecting because of the lack of representation for gay music. There’s hardly any songs about same sex or sapphic relationships and I wanted to change that. There’s a real hunger for songs like that. I get so many DMs from people about what the song means to them and impacting people in their daily lives is incredibly special and something I never thought I’d be able to do.”

Has the reaction to ‘Space Girl’ changed your ambitions for Frances Forever?

“Absolutely. Over quarantine I was really struggling with writer’s block and finishing projects. The EP that’s coming out has been in the works for a couple of years but I’ve just been sitting on it, asking ‘do people really want this from me?’. Once that song took off and I got signed, it definitely helped my motivation. The only downside to my success is making sure I’m still authentic in my own music. With so many people listening, it’s important not to cater to everyone who just likes ‘Space Girl’ because I can do a lot more than that one song and I have other aspects of my personality than just being gay.”

So, ‘Paranoia Party’. What can people expect?

“I’m always inspired by Clairo, Rex Orange County, Sidney Gish, Frank Ocean but Hayley Williams has been a big influence, both the self-titled Paramore record and everything she’s done solo. I want to meet her so bad.

There are some songs that are similar to what I was doing on ‘Pockets’ and others are completely different from anything I’ve ever done before, which I’m really excited about. I was nervous for a while, sending the record to all my friends asking if it was any good but I now feel confident that people are really going to like it.”

Lyrically, what do you tackle on the EP?

“I write a lot about mental health or things I’m struggling with. Rather than Taylor Swift poetry and metaphors I’m just like, ‘here we go, this is what I feel’. ‘Eat The Rich’ was inspired by all the minimum wage jobs I’ve worked where the bosses weren’t very nice. It’s me ranting and being passive aggressive through song while ‘Condolences To Myself’ is about past relationships where I had low self-esteem and was just letting people walk all over me. It’s basically me cussing them out.

The title track is pretty much what the whole EP is about though, where you’re trying to find your place in the world and feeling like you don’t fit in. I hope other people realise that they’re not alone in feeling like that.”

What do you want this record to mean to others?

“I want it to create a safe space for queer people and people that struggle with their mental health, where everyone doesn’t have to feel anxious about everyone around them. I think there’s a lot of people feeling how I feel. My ideal concert is everyone crying, being supportive and singing together. It’s incredibly important to have that sense of community.”

Is that why you’re donating $1 from every merch sale to The Ally Coalition?

“I just believe it’s really important to support things like that, especially during Pride Month. It’s been really interesting to have the platform like I do, because it’s happened so quickly and I’ve been trying to figure out what I want to do with it, because obviously I can do more than just write music. Supporting The Ally Coalition who help with LGBTQ+ youth, LGBTQ+ homelessness and everything like that is really important especially now where we’re going through presidential change and our current president isn’t as supportive as he could be. It’s really important to create social change if you can.”

“It’s a little bit scary to have people looking up to me because I don’t have everything figured out”

Why do you think representation is so important?

“I grew up with hardly any gay people around me until I went to high school. It took me a while to realise my experiences weren’t like other peoples, but I couldn’t really talk about it with anyone. Only people that have lived through the same experiences that you have, can understand why you are the way you are and it’s really important to have those open discussions about what you’re experiencing, to have a safe place to ask questions and just look up to people that have gone through the things you’re going through. It’s a little bit scary to have people looking up to me because I don’t have everything figured out but I’ll help as much as I can.”

Does it feel like the indie scene has got a lot more diverse in recent years?

“Definitely. It’s been really cool to see a lot more representation. Willow is doing great things in rock, Phoebe Bridgers has really blown up and Clairo’s been doing cool bits with Jack Antonoff. There’s been that shift because it got boring. There’s only so much of one type of perspective you can listen to, and I think everyone’s trying to find the things that are relatable to them and their experiences. Some parts of TikTok are just 2013 Tumblr, so whatever these alt kids are listening to can be easily shared around and given a huge platform. I remember King Princess and Girl In Red were some of the first people I really heard talking openly about gay love and it made me want to write my own.”

You’ve shifted into indie rock territory with this EP. What’s next?

“Whenever someone is like ‘what kind of music do you make?’ I explain that it’s still bedroom pop that’s also alternative and indie but really, it’s just my music. Listen to it. I want to experiment a lot more and I’m actually about to move to Vermont with my producer. We’re going to hammer out a bunch of songs. Now I’m done with school, I can do music full time. It’s time to get back to the grind. In my opinion, the bigger the discography, the better.”

Frances Forever’s new EP ‘Paranoia Party’ is out July 9