Creative Director: Michelle Rose Cagianese
Photographer: Jason Roman
Photographer Assistant: Gabrielle Dominique
Fashion Stylist: Engie Hassan
Makeup: Chris Lanston
Hair: Jason Kessler
Floral Design: Ellie Wetherbee
There’s something magical about sisters forming a band. Be it the hereditary harmonies or the sheer unlikelihood of two family members spending that much time with each other without a resulting murder, sister bands tend to be great, and Frances Rose is no exception. Consisting of sisters Michelle Rose and Sarah Frances, this New York-based outfit offers a lot to love. I could spend a few sentences describing their “sound” by throwing out pretentious genres and making a lose “this band meets this band” comparison, but you’re better off just listening to them. I’ll just stick with “magical.”
Anyway, we’re proud to premiere the duo’s latest, a remix of their track “Read My Body” by Small Black. This here is a female power anthem that would make Robyn and/or Sia proud. This here is magic.
I also chatted with the girls about what it’s like to be sisters in a band. TBH, Frances Rose makes it sound pretty dope.
Tell me a bit about this remix – why was Small Black a good fit? How did that connection come about?
Michelle Rose: Two years ago Ryan and I met through mutual friends. Small Black were about to go on a spring tour and for their hometown show in New York City they wanted to add an extra element. I ended up playing cello with them on a Sirius XM session, and then sang with them at the Bowery Ballroom. For the encore, we covered one of my favorite songs from high school, Broken Social Scene’s “Anthem for a seventeen-year old girl”. It was a A TEEN DREAM. Ryan Heyner is an incredible producer, and multi-instrumentalist. As the main producer for Small Black, Ryan has created a really unique, and authentic sound palette. He’s also one of the most talented, and down to earth people! When it comes to production, his sound mirrors our influences of synth pop, alternative R&B, and New Wave. It was exciting to take an alternative 80s’ influenced pop song like “Read My Body” and mash it up in a dance remix with the essence of a psychedelic rock like Small Black.
Sarah Frances: Small Black are an amazing band, a founding pioneer in the genre known as chillwave.
What can you tell me about the song?
MR: The song was actually written as a placement song for JoJo in at Warner Chappell, in the studios in Midtown with Larzz Principato & Allie Crystal. It was written in mid-February around the time “Jealous” by Joe Jonas came out. We were trying to create the female version of that anthem. I felt that the female take on the song should resonate feminine agency. Allie thought of the phrase “Read My Body”, and I just started remembering times at Cabin (R.I.P), a lower east side haunt. The bar was a private back room under a restaurant. Anyone reading this in NYC knows it was an intimate space, and a lot of communication was done via body language. Dating in New York is rough, especially for empowered females. I was thinking about a particular night when these verses came to be..
SF: It’s an anthem of sexual freedom. It’s about new love and feeling fresh and in control.
Do you guys ever fight?
MR: Nah, never…
Did you always get along/like collaborating on stuff or did that come as you got older?
MR: Sarah and I were inseparable as children and teenagers. We were natural born companions, and she and her “older friends” initiated me into the indie music scene when I was literally twelve. We have always had similar taste in music but it’s always been on a spectrum. In our adult lives, she opened me up to mainstream Top 40 music, and I exposed her to a lot of underground music. First and foremost we seek out great songwriting in the music we experience together. We also love 80s’ influenced analog production. We started writing music together when I was in ninth grade and she was a senior. We started taking it more seriously and formed a band when I was 20 and she was 22.
SF: We were always very close growing up, and moving in together after college kind of tore us apart for a little while. Until we actually lived apart again, did we truly begin to appreciate one another. As we grow older, it becomes more fun.
When did you start working together in an official capacity?
MR: We started gigging around the city acoustically. When we met Neon Gold records and they signed us to a publishing imprint within Warner Chappell that pretty much sealed the deal. We only had a few songs recorded at that time, and nothing officially released. Kitsuné released the first song we ever made, “Vampire,” on their first Kitsuné compilation, and then again on Best of America. It was always a childhood dream to be in a girl group with my sister. That has evolved over time, just taking opportunities as they came and continuing developing as artists. We finally released our first official single (available on all platforms!) through a new Lower East Side label, 169 Music. It’s a singles boutique label similar to Neon Gold, with an emphasis on alternative female artists. It’s authentically indie, not an imprint of a Major, and a great fit for us right now.
SF: When signing to a major publishing company, it’s hard to know how to navigate, especially without management. We had a few managers that all wanted to “break” Frances Rose, but in reality, we just needed to release our music and develop our live show. Our lawyer at the time told us “You can do it wrong once, and never do it again, or you can take your time and do it right and have longevity within this industry,” and he was right. We were afraid to release music for a long time and now with 169 Music, we will start to release the music we made over the past 5 years. In addition to a brand new EP of very raw recordings, we are moving into a new direction live. We can’t disclose too much, but we are pleased to be evolving sound wise and excited to share this next chapter with our fans.
What was your first gig?
MR: Our first gig as Frances Rose was at Bennington College. I drove to visit Michelle, my sophomore sister at school. It was my first year out of college, and it felt natural to make time to sing together. We played with a band called THE FRIENDS and it was a great crowd, silent audience, lots of art kids and we played completely acoustic. Our first gig in NYC was at LIT Lounge, and we packed it out…R.I.P Lit. We used to play a lot of underground venues, like Party Expo.
Did you grow up in a “creative household” or are your parents more traditional? What do they think of your “career choice?”
SF: We grew up in a very artistic household. Our mother is a poet, photographer and French teacher. She also makes quilts by sewing by hand using vintage fabrics from the 60s, 70s and 80s that she has collected since her hippie days in Mendocino, California, Washington D.C., West Africa and Europe. She continues to inspire us. Our father is also an artist, he is an incredible musician and he plays almost every string instrument, focusing on guitar and violin, as his heritage is the Greek guitar makers who invented the Epiphone guitar model. He knows every Beatles, Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan song that exists, in addition to his repertoire of Django Reinhardt and jazz standards.
MR: It was a complex, artistic, and dramatic household. Extremely non-traditional, and in their eyes it was a natural career choice.