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Frances Luke Accord to play Lakeside, LangLab — but not Legends

| Thursday, April 14, 2016

new-FLA-for-web-Susan Zhu | The Observer

As an inconsistent South Bend spring breeze rolled through the windows, Brian Powers of Frances Luke Accord talked about his band and their upcoming album, tour and South Bend shows over the steady tick of his flashers in a black, five-seater car parked illegally in Library Circle.

Brian Powers and Nicholas Gunty formed Frances Luke Accord during their senior year at Notre Dame. They played a secret show with fellow Chicago-via-South Bend act Ratboys at Bond Hall that year, along with frequent performances at AcoustiCafe and Legends … until they didn’t.

“We got banned from Legends, actually,” Powers admitted, pulling at the zipper on his worn navy hoodie. Their senior year, the duo opened for Girl Talk at SUB’s now retired B1 Block Party concert series (a lineup that is painful to acknowledge with the recent announcement of The All-American Rejects for this year’s spring show).

Powers babysat contributing violinist Christian Rougeau during Powers’ freshman year at Notre Dame. Although Rougeau was significantly younger than Powers, the two started to play music together. Rougeau’s family moved to Boston while Powers was still at Notre Dame, but they flew him back to play Girl Talk’s opening set.

“Since it was his first time back in South Bend after moving, he wanted to invite all his high school buddies to hangout with him — he’s a 17 year-old. The Block Party was 18 and up, so we snuck all of his friends in with our backstage passes.

“One of his friends walked in the front gate with our backstage pass and the Legends people yelled at us. Then they called us in three weeks later to tell us we were banned from Legends for good.”

With one of two on-campus music venues off limits, the duo turned to South Bend for exposure and playtime.

“That kinda forced us to do more at Fiddler’s Hearth — we did some house shows. The South Bend music scene was not even close to what it is today. It’s unbelievable to see how much it has blossomed in the last three years, and even though we went to Chicago, we’ve been able to capitalize on it. We’re from South Bend, we went to Notre Dame, we played The Pool a bunch of times — we have that connection. The scene is awesome now and we’re super stoked on it,” Powers said.

Powers and Gunty quit their jobs at the end of last summer to tour this fall and work on their album in Chicago. They moved back to South Bend a few weeks ago.

The band will continue their South Bend music scene ventures at their April 30 LangLab album release party. They plan to play songs from their new album, but the sound will differ from the recorded version.

“We have different live arrangements — mostly because we both play a decent number of instruments but only have two hands. And there’s the crowd interaction, there’s so much that goes into a live performance,” he said.

“Fluke,” Frances Luke Accord’s debut full-length album, is set for national release on May 20, but it will be available on CD at LangLab on April 30. The physical copies feature artwork by Nicholas Gunty, a Notre Dame Studio Art major with a concentration in painting. With live shows and merchandise making up a large portion of artists’ profits these days, the duo is hoping to get a good showing for the event.

The band joked about Spotify’s minimal returns in a recent Facebook post: “We’re hoping the 0.006 cents per play we make can buy us a candy bar to share by the end of the week …”

Although the joke brings to light the consequences of today’s music consumption norms, Powers doesn’t scorn streaming.

“I use Spotify, too, because it’s awesome. It’s tough because the money right now comes from touring; you have to be a live touring act … For me, if I really like an artist, I’m going to listen to them on Spotify — but I’m also going to shell out 30 bucks and buy their vinyl,” he said.

However, tours — especially the one on which Frances Luke Accord are about to embark in the same car where the interview was conducted — are not a sustainable or even healthy model for profitability.

“We’re not sleeping in hotels every night, we’re not getting fed well — we’re still in the grind phase. Our mindset is to hopefully tour really hard for 7 or 8 years and kinda see what happens,” he said.

Powers spoke on the playlists that will accompany them on their drive across the country.

“Nick and I are both huge suckers for ambient music. One of my favorite Pandora stations is the Native American flute station. Listen to that shit. Oh, and if you’re looking for an ambient artist name drop, Steve Roach,” he said.

Their eclectic instrumental tastes shine in “Fluke”: ambient car music floods the intro to the fittingly named “On The Road” while “Stones I’ve Thrown” features the Native American flute Powers recently bought in Denver.

“Ultimately we want to play the kind of music we listen to — and we listen to a grab bag of stuff,” Powers said.

Their range of influences leaves Frances Luke Accord’s new music in a transient dance between worldly ambient, Americana folk and instrumental. “Fluke” features humming, whistling, snapping and clapping in the same space as samples of a moving train atop dramatic orchestral-esque layering.

“When you put yourself in a category, which is what a genre is, you’re absolutely limiting yourself. When people see us play we definitely have a singer-songwriter, folk persona — but we don’t ever want to be labeled just as a folk band,” Powers said.

Not signed to a record label, Powers and Gunty funded a successful Kickstarter for “Fluke,” allowing them to upgrade microphones and equipment for a higher quality sound. However, their self-production still has an endearingly low-key accessibility.

“I definitely think you get a DIY feel from our recorded music, because it’s made in our apartment. We obviously go and record like a grand piano and drums in a studio, but everything else is recorded in our apartment,” he said.

The album’s name, “Fluke,” pulled inspiration from their band name and their Chicago-based house concert and video series Fluke Takes — they also don’t want people to take them too seriously. However, they are more proud of this album than any of their previous work.

“I think our songwriting process is one of the biggest reasons this album is different than our previous work — and also the reason we feel so strongly about this album.

“When we first met in college, I was a singer-songwriter and Nick was a singer-songwriter, so we would both write our own songs and then just play on each other’s songs. But for the first time on “Fluke” the writing process was more collaborative. A song’s initial melody always needs to come from one of us — about 50% of the song — but it’s almost always finished together now,” Powers said.

Powers and Gunty live together, allowing them to capitalize on their often spontaneous songwriting inspiration and bursts.

“When you’re not trying, you’ll pick up an instrument and a melody come will come you. You’ll like a little part of it so you decide right then and there, ‘That’s the spark, this needs to be hammered out’ — and that’s when the labor really comes in,” he said.

Powers encourages any aspiring Notre Dame musicians to join a band and give it a shot.

“The music industry is a tough place to be and, if you’re savvy at pushing your own music, no one’s going to be more committed to the goal of getting your music out there than you are.”

Frances Luke Accord will be headlining Lakeside outside Carroll Hall this Saturday at 4:05 p.m. Tickets are $3 presale and $5 at the door. All proceeds benefit The Boys and Girls Club.

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About Erin McAuliffe

I'm Scene's editor and a senior Marketing & Journalism student. To quote the exquisite Sadie Dupuis, "I'm not bossy — I'm the boss."

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