Tue, October 17, 2023
Doors: 6:30 pm
There’s something you need to know: There is no Neil Frances.
OK, sort of. Neil Frances is not a solo artist, it’s the name of a duo comprised of Sydney- born Jordan Feller and Southern California native Marc Gilfry. And to help you remember that Neil Frances is not a person, the duo has named its 2022 debut LP There Is No Neil Frances.
Feller and Gilfry met in 2012 and formed the group in 2016, having both relocated to LA from London and New York, respectively, in pursuit of new projects. Feller began his music career back home in Australia as a hip-hop obsessed, self-taught electronic music DJ, while Gilfry grew up in a musically-inclined household and played and sang in multiple bands. With Gilfry’s inherent knack for hooks and melodies and Feller’s encyclopedic sonic recall ability and vast knowledge of production, the pair hit it off and began to develop their brand of beat-driven pop infused with a more organic warmth than most modern music. Putting special emphasis on their enthralling live sets—always performed live with a multi-piece band and never relying on playback—the group quickly developed a reputation as a must-see stage artist. Soon their reputation as a diverse act with a wide range of talents began to build among listeners of all kinds.
“I think there’s a lot of diversity in the people who listen to our songs and come out to our shows, and we feel like that’s the result of something intentional,” Gilfry says. “Jordan and I always wanted to use our music to build a tent big enough for anyone and everyone.”
Steadily building from the ground up since the beginning, the duo has been hard at work on the music for the new album since just before the pandemic took hold but have been heading toward this pinnacle for even longer. The 2018 debut EP, Took A While, with its
blend of psychedelic rhythms, vibe-y, infectious grooves, and a raw, funky spirit put the act firmly on the map and propelled them to tour slots with established acts like Jungle, SG Lewis and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. A number of single releases, remixes, and featured guest spots on their tracks helped implement their fluidity and embracing of a changing modern pop landscape. And now, There Is No Neil Frances is set to expand their reach with its sense of undeniable groove and sunny outlook grounded in realness.
The songs on the LP cut to the heart of what makes Neil Frances who they are and, for the first time, are bound by a common, cohesive thread. The album loosely tells the story of an insect aspiring to find its place in a utopian dreamscape—a story perhaps best
appreciated while in the moment at a NF gig, or in a hazy, red-tinted room with your favorite beverage at hand. The band explains, “Our new album is about self-realization and becoming the person that you dream of. The concept is that we are insects on earth who ascend into outer space to become divas at a galactic ball.”
“It’s Like A Dream” is the “set it off” track, a grade-A jam to blast at full volume and get the weekend started in the spirit of Kylie Monogue, Robyn, Amber, and Jessie Ware. “On A Dark Night” sets the tone for the rest of the record with its smoother-than-silk chorus. “I Can Feel The Pressure” sends us back to the 90s R&B-meets-indie world, while “We’re Falling Up” channels Italo-Disco and flexes a sense of what the band calls “dance music with DHM”: deep hidden meaning, borrowing a phrase from the great Nile Rodgers. Masters at wearing their influences on their sleeves without being overly referential or
obvious, “Everyday With You” is a powerhouse anthem driven by a Bobby Caldwell sample that captures the communal spirit that came from the early days of lockdown when the pandemic forced us all to bubble up. Utilizing vintage drum machines such as the Roland 808 and Drumtraks, and effects processors like the Roland RE-501 Chorus Echo, as well as a myriad of synthesizers and keyboards, the songs experiment within a very defined realm: to be sure, you know a Neil Frances song when you hear it.
“With an album, you have to be able to zoom out and see the bigger picture, and it gives you the chance to show personality and tell a bit more of a story,” Feller says. “We’ve created a journey here. And we know now more than ever what we’re good at and what we love about creating music.”
dreamcastmoe is the recording project of singer, songwriter, producer, and DJ Davon Bryant, a lifelong resident of Washington, DC. His music moves freely between moods and modes, hypnotic, romantic, traversing electronic, R&B, funk, soul, and hip-hop — Resident Advisordubs it “soulful, cross-genre dance music.” This ability to adapt and finesse, to twist in different directions while staying true and coherent in vision, can be traced to his home city and its complex cultural history. “Most Black kids in DC don’t ever get to this point,” he says. “This is what I am making this music for, in the DC tradition of soul and empathy and love that is rooted in this city. My music is for real people dealing with shit every day.” A versatile, modern artist and collaborator, dreamcastmoe has thrived in the underground since his first uploads to Soundcloud and Bandcamp in 2017 and subsequent releases with labels like People’s Potential Unlimited, Trading Places, and In Real Life Music. Bryant’s laid-back personality, emotional honesty, and infectious energy shine through his work and how he talks about it, as Crack Magazine notes in their 2021 Rising feature: “a steady combination of confidence, creativity, and calmness.” He grew up playing drums in church; he’s worked dead-end jobs, had ups and downs, even sold off all his gear one time, but never stopped reinvesting in himself. He is quick to praise his co-producers, rattle off influences — the visual feel of NBA 2K, the comedic timing of Bernie Mac, the savvy legacy of Duke Ellington, for starters — and credit resourceful DC breakouts like Ankhlejohn that showed him the roadmap. His voice, a steady instrument, seemingly connects it all, capable of slow falsetto flow, swaggering talk-rap, and outright croon. His storytelling style is choppy yet fluid, like a mixtape, which is how Bryant sees Sound Is Like Water, his debut on Ghostly’s International’s freeform label, Spectral Sound. The two-part project culminates as a full-length LP release in November 2022.
The first side, released as Part I, opens on the blurred beats of “El Dorado,” which dreamcastmoe dedicates to his journey. It’s a head-nodder, an off-kilter earworm co-produced by Max D (Future Times, RVNG Intl, etc.), with Bryant harmonizing hooks with synth jabs and a pitched-down presence. “This song is a chant that keeps me moving towards the places I want to be. My journey mostly digs into my love (sometimes a lack of) for self and allowing myself that space to grow.”
“Complicated” is the slow jam, delivered smoothly from a Saturday night crossroads. dreamcastmoe is contemplative and committed — gliding and locking ad-libs into skittering rhythms courtesy of co-producer dawson — but also willing to let something go, “acknowledging that everything in life IS NOT easy.”
“RU Ready” takes off from the jump as a tribute, challenge, and promise to his partner and his city (“The times you sat with me when I needed you the most / Told me the things that I needed to see / Young black man, really trying to be what I can be / And I’m really from DC). In its potent two-plus minutes, the sonics (co-produced by ZDBT) press the message, all cymbal crashes, breakbeats, and serrated synth lines.
“Cloudy Weather, Wear Boots” is a blitzing dance-punk track made in collaboration with Jordan GCZ on Bryant’s first trip to Amsterdam. Lyrics land in a dream state; the club is heaven’s gate, and Bryant is shaking the clouds from his back. “Sometimes we just need to hit the dancefloor and let go of everything.”
The album’s flipside opens on “Much More,” the first of two synth-and-beat ballads co-produced by ZDBT. Bryant sees the track as a pledge — “to myself that ‘I’m much more’ and whoever I’m with deserves more. We both deserve the best version of myself. The best version of each other.” Later on “Long Songz,” he claims, “I’m not writing love songs no more,” prioritizing the vibe with “all my day ones.” He calls it “a cry for more normal moments. Everything doesn’t have to be a fantasy love story, more time spent getting to the money, growing, and making a way.”
He saves two of his most propulsive cuts for the finale, co-produced by Sami, co-founder of DC dance label 1432 R. As their titles suggest, “Take A Moment” and “Make Ya Mind Up” operate as anthems for movement, with Bryant free-flowing commands above wildly-styled percussion. Per Bryant, the latter is both “wake & bake jam” and a “dance floor bomb.” His parting line: “Action / You got to show me action / Reaction.”
The world of dreamcastmoe straddles virtual reality and the realness of DC, images both imagined and lived-in. Bryant has a knack for unexpected melodies but what makes his music so exciting is his capacity to defy the expectations of genre and image. A fluid ingenuity and vulnerability bottled by Sound Is Like Water, and this is just the beginning.
2047 9th St NW
Washington, DC, 20001