Aluna Francis of electronic duo AlunaGeorge has a voice that is meant to be heard. Her honeyed, wispy sound lays over creative partner and producer George Reid’s “future-pop” beats from another dimension — and as the group progresses in their career, Francis has proven that her music is a platform to vocalize what matters to her most.
“I’m not the kind of person at a dinner table to start throwing my opinions around loudly, and so a song feels like the person at the table being like, ‘I believe in this!,’” Francis tells Billboard. ‘It took a long time and a lot of processing to feel confident enough to put something in a song like that.”
Now that Francis has made songwriting a space where she feels comfortable directly exploring her opinions, the British singer refuses to hold back. Rather, she hopes to create a body of work focused on issues that she and other women face to dismantle the expectations of society.
“I want to talk about how we have these challenges that we see as fixed, existing barriers,” she says. “For me, those big ones would be sexism and racism. They feel very solid, like you can’t change anything. But then if you look into the magic in life, there are ways that you can almost just leap over those barriers. The more often we believe in that, the more often those barriers will cease to exist.”
She explains that she has a “theme” project revolving around these topics in mind, which she and Reid have yet to start working on. But whether it is a full album or not, it’s a new idea she holds onto dearly. She says, “If [we don’t speak out], all we will are going to be doing is fighting the barrier and reinforcing its existence. So, I want to explore some of the ways that I have managed to go through those barriers and what’s been good about moving through it.”
Throughout AlunaGeorge’s career, debuting as an eclectic R&B and house-influenced dance act and now inching closer and closer toward pop’s mainstream with an opening slot on Coldplay’s North American tour, Francis has grown increasingly comfortable putting personal opinions and anecdotes to song, like the duo’s anthem “I’m In Control” off 2016’s I Remember. Over thrilling synthesizers and boombastic dancehall bass, she asserts the title phrase with authority.
The message that radiates from the song is an important sentiment to her that resonates with the entirety of AlunaGeorge’s discography, as she says, “A woman needs to be constantly reminded in this day and age — especially if she’s working in a career that’s surrounded and ruled by men — that they’re in control of something, and that’s themselves.”
AlunaGeorge’s songs of self-confidence and Francis’ ideas for new music come from a place of educating herself, personal growth, and evaluating where she hopes the industry will go. “It’s strange because I don’t necessarily see my life as a story, but some of the things that I go through, I feel other people go through as well, and that often interests me and the idea for a song,” she says.
In the meantime, AlunaGeorge also have trickled out a number of singles which were recently recorded in Jamaica — like “Turn Up the Love” and “Last Kiss,” both released via Universal earlier this summer. “Kiss” is a smooth, alternative track influenced by the deep, humid percussion of the Caribbean, and “Turn Up” is a flamboyant song just left of pop’s center, with an experimental dance chorus and message of positivity — a perfect set-list staple as the group gears up for their month-long tour with Coldplay. “Neither [George or I] would have imagined the success that we’ve had,” Francis says of the duo’s already impressive accomplishments — which also include a Hot 100 top 20 hit in the DJ Snake-remixed “You Know You Like It.”
AlunaGeorge — who made down-tempo, hip-hop-powered beats when the rest of the U.K. electronic scene was immersed in heavy dance tracks — believe they are bound to infiltrate the U.S. Francis says, “[George and I] definitely knew there was something special about the way we worked so quickly [when we first met in 2009]. I think the most we knew about each other at the end of a day of writing our first song, was that we both liked tea and Radiohead … We just knew that we had this musical language.”
Though the duo’s first two records Body Music and I Remember both peaked within the top ten of the Billboard Top Dance/Electronic Albums, and they are slated to open on tour for one of the biggest bands in the world, the “future-pop”-dubbed act continues to be fixated on staying ahead of the game, and proving to themselves where their artistry can take them.
“I always have something prove as a musician,” Francis says, “and I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like I’ve proved it because it’s kind of fun. It’s like moving the carrot a little bit further from the donkey. I think you just do it automatically because you achieve one thing and then you’re [onto] your next carrot to catch.”
As for AlunaGeorge’s next carrot? The thematic project Francis has brewing in her mind — a seed planted set to blossom into a collection bursting with zeal for a better tomorrow with her powerful voice at the center of it.
“It doesn’t mean that you’re going to jeopardize the funness and frivolity that comes with pop music, necessarily, if you do it well and you weave your message in there,” she says. “When young women are writing music in the future, they will see the songs that we put out [now] as something of an inspiration, and see that it is okay to write songs with meaning.”