Brooklyn songster Franke dominated the independent circuit with a musical cell phone memo-turned-viral ditty. The one-take record, "Home Alone," has garnered more than 3 million streams on Spotify alone.
Franke's upbeat effort made the power of the internet transparent, as "Home Alone" was waxed from the comfort of his bedroom. The memorable change-of-heart track is the first of many. His trap-tinged pop song "Bad Tattoo" follows with lovesick lyricism and an animated audiovisual. Billboard chatted with the ascending millennial singer about his new chapter in Hollywood, how his flirtations fuel his songwriting, and the significant shift on his soon-to-arrive EP Internet Heartbreak.
We Are Instrumental named you as one of the "top five pop artists in the world." How does it feel to have garnered this much attention as an independent artist?
How does it feel? Well, it does not feel like really anything. I have to be on top or number one before I feel something. I mean it is interesting. It is kind of hard to put into words. Sometimes it is hard to connect when music is doing well.
I have been stopped in the street before, and people have been like, "Hey, I love your music." I am a little taken aback by it. Apart of me just feels [developmental], because most of my stuff is made right out of my bedroom. So, I am sitting inside all day. Being isolated, I become a little bit disconnected from the effect that the music has on the outside world.
I've been stopped before. I've had moments where I am confused about what they are talking about. It takes me a minute to be like, "This is what you are doing. People are engaging with this." So, yeah, to answer your question about how it feels, I don't know. It just feels like just another day. I am not going to feel [great at] top 5. I am [aiming to be] number one.
So you are pleased, but you still have charting aspirations.
Yeah, I am definitely pleased. The word I guess I have been looking for is humbled. Something that I am making inside of my house is having an impact on people across the world. I think it is incredible.
You've accumulated 103,000 Spotify monthly listeners. Still, the single "Home Alone" is what pushed you well-over 3 million streams. Describe your at-home session for its recording.
I wrote "Home Alone," in five minutes. The first thing that I played and sung was the exact thing that ended up being recorded. Like, I played the entire song in one take. I was jamming out. I had my phone set to record a voice memo. I literally played the whole song in one take. The final song maybe has like one lyric changed from the original idea.
Where did the mustache in the video come from?
The mustache! [Laughs] So, the song is about self-acceptance. The video essentially [depicts] the character being forced to shave his mustache by a girl. He had to make a choice, either the girl or the mustache. I think what is really important is sometimes you have to choose yourself. That is the message of "Home Alone." Sometimes the only person you want to go home with is yourself.
Your music is ordinarily upbeat, but your latest audiovisual "Fast Life," is a bit dark and eerie. Who conceptualized its storyboard?
So, the storyboard for that was inspired by a good friend of mine. Her name is Kelia Anne. She is an incredible photographer. She makes eerie things like that. It was [an] idea she had ran by me. I am just in a significant stage of experimenting right now with my sound. The EP that I am putting out is going to be a different vibe. Essentially, my thing right now is experimenting as much as possible.
Like, I know, "Home Alone" was my most successful song, so far. However, I really believe that there is a much deeper side to myself and the [forthcoming] project. That is what I am exploring on future music that I am putting out.
The song "Bad Tattoo" details a hot and cold relationship. Do you write all of your music from real-life experiences?
[Laughs] Yes, absolutely! Every single song is tied to a girl in my life. It is funny. [That is how] the best songs are written. Every single song that I put out has been written in ten to fifteen minutes. The entire thing. Well, [for example, the song,] "Bad Tattoo," [was after] I had just gotten off a call with this girl that I was seeing. I found something out that I didn't like. And, I just sat at the keyboard. The song is just me beatboxing, the piano and a couple of other little things. I wrote the song in fifteen minutes.
You were born and raised in Brooklyn but now work in Los Angeles. In your opinion, how is the energy throughout the industry in both cities?
So, you know I am from South Brooklyn. It is very [different]. Where I am from, we have so many different cultures. Growing up my situation was not ideal. My family was on food stamps and all that stuff until I was like fifteen years old. So, it created a survival instinct in me -- that I have to be great, no matter what.
I have that mentality while here in LA. I find things in LA a little slow. The advantage of being from Brooklyn, New York, is that if you can come out to Los Angeles, and have that killer instinct -- the mentality of do or die, success is found. People in Los Angeles, spend a lot of the time wanting to be super cool, but not enough time actually working. A few people are working. I think those people all recognize one another. They kind of bond with each other. So, I am in LA, but in my head, I am in my apartment in Brooklyn.
More specifically, the "Girl from LA" music video portrays how things aren't always what they seem. There was a bit of a comedic spin on it. Do you feel that resonates in real life?
Things are not always what they seem. That is probably the biggest lesson that I have learned, in the past year. Well, in LA, it has not even been a year [of living here]. That is probably the biggest thing I have learned in my time out here. Things are not always as they appear to be. Yeah!
You write one song a day. How imperative is discipline in your creative process, given that you are not recording in a professional studio?
I have recorded in studios before. But, I prefer to work at home. My house is kind of like my safe space. I have my friends come over that also make music, and we can all work together. Music is just such a vulnerable natural process. When you go into a studio, sometimes it is cold. It is unwelcoming. Music is just about having fun. I want to be able to chill at my house and make a song. I am comfortable in my socks, and in my shorts. I am lounging out. I do not want it to feel like I am working.
Also, yeah, I try to make a song every single day. There is not much discipline required, because I do not do anything else. I wake up and do what I would naturally do. It is like breathing. I guess it is my work. Still, it does not feel like work. I just get to have fun.
What will your forthcoming EP Internet Heartbreak give fans sonically that is different from your prior records?
So, I am going through a huge sound change right now. For example, [the song], "Home Alone," right -- I am going to bash my music right now completely. "Home Alone," is an incredibly generic pop song. Moreover, when I was making it, I knew what I was making. I am pretty conscious about the type of music that I make.
I want to honest; I do, do well. It is because that is just the standard pop song. As I have gone through all these stages of experimenting, essentially, that is not the type of music that I am proud to make. I have to be able to one hundred percent stand by what I am creating. So, my EP, Internet Heartbreak will be a completely different sound. I am building from scratch. I think it is fresh, innovative, and not commercial pop. It's [about] a kid getting unmatched from a dating app called Sinr.
The EP is going to represent the new sound I am venturing into, and the artist that I am becoming. At the end of the day, I have to be proud of the music that I am making. "Home Alone," and "Girl From LA," are great songs. I cannot say that if my favorite artist were to ask me to show them a couple of my tracks, those would be the ones I would show them. Yeah, they are great pop songs. I think that is all that they are, commercial pop songs. They are not really [my best]. This EP I am about to put out has my [soul] on it.
So in light of straying from commercial pop, will you still be recording in the pop genre? Are you branching out?
It is just going to be Franke. I can't really [specify]. I have never thought in that sense. I can make any genre of music. You know? It is just going to be Franke.