New York artist JW Francis boasts a joyous lo-fi catalogue that finds pleasure in each subject that it turns its attention to.
Recent sophomore effort WANDERKID entered the world last month, with RIOT’s album review claiming “The charm of JW lies in his ability to be deeply personal and penetratingly observational whilst remaining whimsical.”
Although remaining undeniably JW-esque, WANDERKID uses a singular character, through which to channel his observations – via the energetic bounce of the title track, to the wistful ‘Only With You’ and the unapologetic groove of ‘Holy Mountain’.
Perhaps the trait that makes JW so unique is that he is a music fan first, and a musician second. As he took to the stage at London’s MOTH Club recently, there was a palatable sense that Francis was fully in the moment: radiating an infectious sense of appreciation for the occasion. You can search festivals, arenas, or dingy basement shows; but you will not find an artist who shares a more affectionate rapport with their audience than JW Francis.
The NYC-via-Paris songwriter released his first two albums within a year of one another, alongside an album-length audiobook in which the artist talks us through hot takes on life. During a lockdown release period where many acts understandably fused their introspection with a kind of melancholy, JW served his up with irreverence and genuine warmth, which may be why his pockets of intercontinental fans have such a steadfast affinity with the guy.
New album WANDERKID is loosely based on a singular anti-hero, whereas your past stuff has been so personal. How much of JW Francis is in the anti-hero? And what sparked the decision to write from a character’s perspective?
I wanted to write from the perspective of an alien super hero that falls to earth and just wants to roam around. I had a whole vision for a comic book and a super hero costume. I ended up making a small book with my dad that’s available in one of the limited edition versions of the vinyl, and I did actually get a really cool WANDERKID jacket made by some people in Austin called Fort Lonesome. All of this to say that it turns out 1. It’s really hard to make a comic book, 2. It’s really expensive to make a super hero costume, and 3. It’s nearly impossible to not put yourself in your songs. I’m very proud of the album, the book, and the whole releasing process I’ve got to do with Sunday Best Records. This feels like my first ‘big boy’ record.
You’re trekking across the Appalachian Trail in the run-up to album release; what headspace do you get into whilst you’re on the hike? Will there be a new JW album recorded in your voice-notes before you arrive at Elsewhere?
I’m in a very meditative headspace while I’m walking. I’m effortlessly focused on the task at hand so it’s very easy to daydream all day long. There will 100% be an Appalachian Trail inspired album coming.
We became obsessed with your audiobook-album, almost to the point of over-dissection! How much planning went into the dialogue on each track before pressing record?
Well I was actually reading from a small book of poetry that my dad and I made. It was to go along with my first album that came out last year. Each album (including the one coming up) is accompanied by a written work which includes my dad’s illustrations.
Did you receive any fun correspondence after sharing your email address at the start of the We Share A Similar Joy audiobook?
Oh yes some very personal notes that I cherish.
NYC holds such a presence in your music; do you find your songwriting style alters when you spend extended periods of time away from the city?
I think my style is always changing, just like the city is always changing. Living in New York the past year has not been like any other year I’ve lived in New York (the same is true for a lot of places). While I was away from the city I actually didn’t have a guitar at all. I made little voice memos but I basically let it all build up until I got back.
The NYC indie scene carries a ‘moody’ archetype overseas (Velvet Underground, Strokes, Interpol, etc), whereas your music has so much joy in it. Was it a considered decision to showcase the outward pleasure that you have in your work? Or is this just JW shining through?
I try not to think much at all when I’m making music. Thoughts get in the way of the feeling, which is all that matters to me. If I started to think more about how to present myself in the context of being a NYC indie person I think I’d get very self conscious.
You’re in England currently, can fans expect the the setlist be a double-filled Oreo of albums 1 & 2, since you didn’t get the chance to tour WSASJ?
Oh yes expect a smorgasbord of JW tunes even some off the first EP. I haven’t played in over 500 days I have to remind the people what’s going on!
WANDERKID is out now via Sunday Best Recordings