Over the past decade, New York-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Miles Francis has developed a reputation locally and elsewhere as a musician’s musician — and arguably one of the local scene’s best kept secrets. Francis can trace much of the origins of their career to learning the drums when they turned six, then guitar, bass, keys and percussion.
As a working musician, Francis has toured the world with Arcade Fire’s Will Butler, Antibalas and EMEFE — and he has collaborated and performed with Sharon Jones, Amber Mark, Angelique Kidjo, Allen Toussaint, TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe and a lengthy list of others. As a result of their various collaborations, Francis has appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and The Late Show with David Letterman. Francis stepped out into the spotlight as a solo artist with the release of 2018’s debut EP Swimmers, which earned praise from The Fader, Stereogum and KCRW for material that saw the New York-based artist blending an eclectic array of influences including David Bowie, Prince, Afrobeat and a childhood obsession with early 2000s boy band pop.
The New York-based artist has released two singles this year — “Service,” which was released earlier this year and the recently released “Popular,” which features Lizzie Loveless and Lou Tides (best known as TEEN’s Lizzie and Teeny Lieberson). Both tracks will appear on a forthcoming project that will explore and question masculinity, male conditioning — and their own gender identity, presumably informed by Francis coming out as a non-binary. Whereas the Prince meets Afrobeat-like “Service,” is a darkly ironic send up of the over-the-top obsequiousness of boy band pop, “Popular” is its anthesis, featuring an ego-driven, narcissist, who craves undivided attention. While centered around Francis’ unerring ability to write a rousingly infectious hook, “Popular” manages to be simultaneously breezy and full of menacing anxiety and insecurity, evoked through rapid-fire drumming, slinky and angular guitars, buzzing bass synths and twinkling keys. “I grew up with Backstreet Boys posters lining my bedroom walls, floor to ceiling,” Francis recalls. That era of music is dear to my heart, but upon closer look those songs are ridden with anxiety, songs about male adolescence written by grown men. That anxiety and impulsiveness is the place from which ‘Popular’ grows out from.”
Francis goes on to say that “Service” and “Popular” are “my own little Jekyll and Hyde. “One minute, it’s ‘I’ll do anything for you’ – the next minute, it’s ‘I don’t care for you.” They addd “I am interested in man’s two-faced-ness – our ability to show one thing to the world and someone completely different in private.” And as a result, at their core, both songs are about the male ego. “Power is essential to the male ego. That ego is a house of cards, of course, threatened by even the slightest loss of control. These songs and videos are meant to illustrate that delicate balance between control and disarray.” About “Popular,” in particular, Francis says ““Everyone indulges in having an ego and wanting to be recognized, but men seem particularly bent on the power element — whether it’s taking up space in a room or leading a country.”