Franc Moody’s New Album Is a “Funk-Fueled Odyssey” Inspired By the Wild West

You know how when you need to pee, all you can do is think about how much you need to pee?

That’s how Ned Franc and Jon Moody, of British funk electronica outfit Franc Moody, spent their pandemics. Only instead of an urgent need to urinate, they were faced with an unscratchable itch to hit the road and go on tour. And instead of ending with the satisfying flush of the loo, they were left with an entire concept album inspired by their adventures of yore, as well as the ones they hoped still hung on the horizon.

“We were longing, craving, to be back on the road in our little tiny tour bus, our tin can tour bus,” Moody told over Zoom. “The reality would’ve been us stopping off in some petrol station ordering a horrible hot dog and fifteen thousand packets of crisps and spilling coffee on our laps. But of course you glamorize it in your head, thinking about going to the next huge party.”

Franc Moody

Ned Franc (L) and Jon Moody (R) hopped on Zoom with to discuss the ins-and-outs of their new album, "Into the Ether."

Out today via the band’s Juicebox Records imprint, Into the Ether takes that un-reality reality and runs with it. Expansive synth chords and head-rolled-back, eyes-closed vocals create the sonic illusion of being on the road, “plowing through like you’re constantly moving, traveling,” Moody described. Video teasers for the album feature Franc and Moody as the heads of FM Travel Agency, waving brochures and taunting men in suits.

“Our little funk-fueled version of the Odyssey, we called it at one point” he continued. “We went into this hyper-dreamlike state, wanting to make a mythologized version of touring with the band,” Franc added. “It was our way of going on tour without going on tour.”

Conceptually, it all takes place in the Wild Wild West, inspired by the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone and the musical soundtracks of Ennio Morricone. One song, titled “The Seven,” pays homage to the seven-person ensemble that comprises Franc Moody on tour, while giving a not-so-subtle nod to illustrious groups like The Magnificent Seven or the Gemini 7. Marked by a sound Franc Moody has dubbed “desert funk,” you can practically hear the big blue skies and the open range in the album’s chicken-picked guitar motifs and soulful disco-pop arrangements.

Luckily for Franc and Moody, the release of Into the Ether acts as a retrospective, following the band’s triumphant return to their tin can tour bus earlier this year.

Check out our candid interview below. Let’s start at the beginning. Tell us about how this album came to be.

Ned Franc: The album started during lockdown. We were midway through a tour promoting our last album, Dreaming Color, and it just stopped. So rather than resting on our laurels and mourning the loss of the tour, Jon and I were just like, “We don’t know how long this is going to be for. This could be forever. Who knows? Let’s start writing the next.”

We started writing it really in April during lockdown from our own respective homemade studios, just throwing about ideas. Jon would send some beats, a chord, a riff. I’d send chords, some ingredients his way. We’d just flesh it out back and forth. Did you have any distinct creative direction guiding the ideas you were sending to one another?

Jon Moody: This idea started developing around the longing to head out west and find whatever it is you’re looking for. Our little funk-fueled version of the Odyssey, we called it at one point, which I thought was quite nice.

We were very inspired by the films of Sergio Leone and the movie soundtracks of Ennio Morricone. And we started exploring how we could use musical motifs to conjure up that imagery: galloping guitars, nice, big, luscious string arrangements that feel very expansive, like you’re in a big, open desert, driving, pumping funk beats behind it to keep it all plowing through like you’re constantly moving, traveling.

Ned Franc: We went into this hyper-dreamlike state, this yearning, and wanted to make this mythologized version of touring with the band. And where better to place that than in the Sergio Leone epic scenery? It was our way of going on tour, without going on tour. It’s about going into some sort of place beyond this realm and creating a reality that we at the time couldn’t have.

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Franc Moody

Franc Moody's New Album Is a "Funk-Fueled Odyssey" Inspired By the Wild West

A candid interview with the electronic music duo, who say they "went into this hyper-dreamlike state" for their new album, "Into the Ether." What about the suit motif in your music videos? All of the characters going on adventures through the Wild West start out at their desks in these bland little suits.

Jon Moody: It’s about being taken from the mundane of your day to day and offered a little escape. In our world, that’s maybe putting on your headphones and listening to the album for a minute, or coming to a show; whatever’s going on in your life in that moment, just being able to be transported for a minute.

Ned Franc: And it’s a nod to our travel agency [laughs].

Jon Moody: Basically, we spend a lot of time on the road, which is fantastic, but the reality is that most of our time is spent on the phones with British Airways trying to chase a lost bag that’s ended up in Hawaii or something. Or trying to book whatever kind of logistical thing it is of the day. We are effectively running a travel agency and just totally ran away with the concept.

Ned Franc: The gift that keeps on giving. Working where I work, I just have to ask about the song titled “Here Comes The Drop.” What’s the story behind that one?

Jon Moody: That was one of the tracks during the writing process where we really found musically a lot of the elements that were conjuring up this expansive imagery we were after. It’s a slow, brewing song. But we also kept on just hearing some narrative on top of it and didn’t want it to be sung or spoken.

Ned Franc: We asked this very old musician from south Louisiana, Dickie Landry, to read a script that we wrote. We put it over the tune. We wanted to manifest the drop as not being “the drop,” but being something in the vein of a monster. We’re not saying literally, “Here comes the bit where the bass kicks in. We wanted the drop to take on this physical manifestation and give it that sense of foreboding. It kind of feels like that thanks to Dickie.

Jon Moody: It’s like this drop is brewing behind the mountain range and you can kind of see the shadow coming. It’s that feeling just before something happens.

Ned Franc: It initially started out as a song called “Fish and Chips.” But the vocal was all wrong. The vocal literally said fish and chips. There’s always the next album though, we could do it, a song about fast food. Considering this album is a musical love letter to going on tour, what are some of your favorite songs to listen to together on the road?

Ned Franc: I’ll answer for Jon, and it’s simple: “In the Bleak Midwinter.” It’s an old Christmas carol.

Jon Moody: I don’t know why, but you know how when your phone connects to Bluetooth and it just starts playing the first song on your iPhone? Mine is “In the Bleak Midwinter” by Kings College Cambridge Choir. So when we’re sitting there in the van, waiting for everyone to pile in so we can get going back on the road, the first verse of “In the Bleep” always comes piling in. That’s definitely been the most listened to song in the van, but I think the band is quite close to killing me. What did you learn working on an album in such a conceptualized way?

Ned Franc: I was thinking about our other two projects the other day actually. Dance Moves is more of a collection of songs that we’ve written. We have a loose style but not a theme. Dream in Color, we wrote it with way less time. And it was still great, but Into the Ether was very much realized in every respect. From the concept to where we are now, we’ve had a long time to get stuff right.

Jon Moody: We’ve challenged ourselves musically and learned that Franc Moody can be more musically versatile than it once was. Hopefully we can continue to explore new corners and rhythms and beats and melodies and keep it progressing. The last thing we want to do is put out stuff that sounds the same as the last album. We want to keep it moving forward and feeling exciting and challenging to us.