Interviews

Trading city for country: why Edward Francis left the pressures of Melbourne behind for life in Alice Springs

Beatmaker Edward Francis has been around the world, but lately has been finding musical solace in the stress-free environment of Alice Springs.

Wide Open Space represents the yearly culmination of that local scene, a coming together of the talent Northern Territory has to offer as well as guests from around the world. With the festival kicking off this weekend, we caught up with Francis for a quick chat.

edward francis wide open space festival

An ambassador for Australian electronic music and the local Alice Springs scene, Edward Francis is an artist you can’t miss at Wide Open Space.

HAPPY: Hey, how are you doing? What are you up to at the moment?

ED: Hi. Just getting things together for this weekend. The week before Wide Open Space is always a reminder of how much work the Alice Springs creative community puts into this festival. People are running around like crazy trying to get everything in order.

HAPPY: How strongly do you think your jazz training fed into your music?

ED: I think it had a large impact in two ways. Firstly, the music I make is largely a response to what I felt was missing from my training as a jazz saxophonist. I personally felt a bit creatively limited. I love the instrument, but didn’t feel I could communicate what I wanted solely on a saxophone so wanted to explore other music avenues.

However, I also don’t think it would be possible for me to make the music I make now without the training I had. While I record my music there is a strong improvisation element that draws on that training.

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HAPPY: Recently Resin Moon named you as one of his top five acts out of Northern Territory. Do you have any favourite artists of your own from the region?

ED: Resin Moon is certainly one of mine. We share a studio space together here in the NT. It’s great to work so closely with someone making interesting electronic music and to bounce ideas of someone with such great production skills (also occasionally having access to his growing collection of vintage synths).

I’m in awe of the hidden talents of a lot of people in this town. I’ve recently had the pleasure of working with Ms Xavia, an incredible cellist and singer who features on a track coming up on my new EP. I also really love seeing Apakatjah play. They recently had an excellent EP launch.

HAPPY: Can you talk a little about the choir you two run together?

ED: Yeah it’s great. It keeps taking over my life because it’s stupid amounts of fun. It started out as a small gathering of people singing pop songs on Sunday, and now we are regularly getting 50 to 60 people turn up each week.

Basically it’s a free choir for anyone in town to come and join. It just keeps growing and so do the performance opportunities. As someone who loves arranging music, it’s really great to know that you have 50 people turning up on a Sunday to try out your three part arrangement of Mariah Carey’s Always Be My Baby or Bowie’s Heroes.

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HAPPY: What fed into your decision to move to central Australia? How does the music scene there compare to somewhere like Melbourne or Berlin?

ED: I came here for work as a teaching artist in a couple of different primary schools. Like a lot of people that move here, I came for six months but then fell in love with the place and can’t imagine leaving any time soon.

As a musician it’s very different. There is a lot more space and time to work on things. Less pressure to be at every gig and working on the next best thing. I think that sits well with me and the slowness of my process. I do miss the opportunities to go and see incredible bands or shows every week like you get in  bigger cities, but what the community lacks in touring artists, it makes up for with an unbelievable number of events that are really well supported by the town.

HAPPY: Wide Open Space Festival is coming up. What can we expect from your set there?

ED: Im pretty excited for this one. Making my music live has always been a challenge because I add so many layers in production. This year I have a seven piece band including three vocalists, two saxophones, and one excellent synth player of Resin Moon fame. It’s going to be pretty fun. Hopefully I can convince them all to get in the back of a van and come on tour with me sometime.

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HAPPY: Any other artists you’re looking forward to seeing on that lineup?

ED: I’m of course excited that Hiatus Kaiyote are making the trip up here. As a band, what they do is incredible. I’m also really looking forward to Kardajala Kirri-Darra (Sandhill Women) and am certain that the Cutlery Crew are going to throw an excellent pool party for us on the Saturday.

HAPPY: It’s been a while since we’ve heard any new music from you, is there anything you’re working on?

ED: Yep. Turns out I’m just really slow at making music. I am always working on new music, but also really love my work in schools and running a community choir, so things take time. I have basically finished a new EP though. I’m pretty proud of this one. No details on the release just yet, but there will certainly be more music coming from me this year.