Aluna Francis' soothing vocals may sound cute and gentle, but her attitude is sharp and distinctly assertive. One half of AlunaGeorge, the award-winning electronic two-piece, 28-year-old Aluna first met her production partner and band husband George Reid four years ago. Working on the remix of a track Aluna wrote with her previous band, My Toys Like Me, the two artists clicked instantly and twelve months later released their Brit-nominated debut album, Body Talk, on Island Records. Three years on and the duo have announced the forthcoming release of their second LP, I Remember, which is set to land late this summer.
Channeling a strong and empowered mission statement through the cultivation of pioneering new material, the lyrics of I Remember creatively recount Aluna's coming-of-age through emotive metaphors and distorted memories. Exploring moments of her life when she found it hard to speak about what she wanted out of a relationship, the importance of a female perspective being recognized as being relevant as a man's expectations—physically and emotionally—boldly play out through standout tracks “I Mean What I Mean” and “Full Swing”. The tropical-pop, dancehall-licked “In Control” is the first single off the new album and features Jamaican bashment star Popcaan, and AG look set to outdo their acclaimed debut album, 2013's Body Music, with this forthcoming set.
Recording the blissed-out music video for “In Control” in the Dominican Republic, Aluna stands proudly from shot to shot. Expertly styled, she's surrounded by local, bare-chested lads and hot pant-wearing Caribbean queens. The message is simple but strong: surrendering yourself to the power of a woman can feel incredible, and sexual dominance is not just a male prerogative. Staring defiantly down the camera, You gotta go deeper than deep to get me off teases the 5 ft 11 beauty. Dispelling the dated depictions of a woman being 'bossy' and 'slutty', prejudices commonly forced upon sexually-empowered and ambitious females in modern society, “In Control” is an important moment in music history. Women add more than just the W O to a man's realm—they add a world of liberation and bold, new experiences. Read on to learn Aluna's life lessons.
Interview by Milly McMahon
You retell your own stories through the music; how different do you find working with George as opposed to being a member of the band My Toys Like Me, who you previously recorded with.
First of all, George is a nice person and that is always helpful. I've worked with some absolutely narcissistic nut jobs, which was a real eye-opener and I learnt a lot but it certainly wasn't enjoyable. This time around, it's a lot more fun; we communicate easier. People can have crazy egos in music, but me and George tend to keep egos aside. Nobody is free from the constraints of an ego, but we tend to find it much more fruitful to be considerate of each other's creative process.
Would you ever want to write in longer form?
I'm not very good with the English language. I wasn't that great at school with English, so I don't know if I could ever write a novel. It doesn't stop me from being curious about it, though. I'm reading a Murakami novel at the moment. He has an endless supply of almost sci-fi but human-based stories. He's a magical writer. Sometimes I wonder if what I'm reading about at the time leaks into the lyrics. All of the stories I write about in my songs are real stories, so I won't necessarily get influenced by fictional ideas. I'm very inspired by a writer's ability to use decorative language to describe something really mundane.
I really like the concept behind “In Control”, challenging the misconceptions behind what women desire, placing more multi-dimensional focus on control and stimulation. Why was that chosen as the debut single off the new album?
I think it's a standout point for me. I forget that I know best about something or that I have an opinion about something or that I can stop something from happening. So the concept behind I Remember is all about songs that can help you navigate your way around situations. You do have the skills to do it, but just forget it the moment you get flustered or scared.
I have conversations with girls about the concept of modern men, the typically high expectations some have of the female's role in the relationship—both physically and emotionally—and the low level of input some men deem as commitment. Your song identified a few of the feelings we discussed.
What I was trying to bring out was, often, there's a fear that a woman being in control is them being bossy. There's a negative spin on it and I think it puts a lot of young women off. I wanted to share the fact that it can be really good fun, because we often have really good ideas about what can be done in intimate situations and if you just trusted yourself and took control, it's not going to be a strict ma'am thing. It will be amazing! That's what I was trying to bring out in that song.
I tried to do things outside of music, but there was always that itch for it.
“In Control” remembers a moment in your life when you really felt like you were undermined in a relationship. The sentiments prevalent throughout I Remember focuses on you trying to reinstate a sense that power. How did you manage to find your control again?
Trial and error. Experimenting in my personal life to see how it felt telling someone what to do, which came from some ideas I have in my head from another point and then realising that people are very open to what you may have to say. I think the fear is that you won't be listened to, or that people won't like what you say. People react well to it, and we all need direction. Most of the time we're all making stuff up—especially in relationships—so if someone has a good idea and is confident about it, that's great.
Are any of the tracks quite pointed with regards to certain people or situations?
“I Mean What I Mean” definitely is. That certainly is a direct reaction to a person I've experienced. “Full Swing” is more imaginary—I'm imagining a couple. I usually don't put a boy and girl theme in my lyrics; I try and leave my lyrics open to everyone. I'm a heterosexual female so maybe some of my imaginary relationships are based on that, but that isn't what I'm trying to say in the song itself. For me, the inspiration was a very ambitious woman doing the Olympics and her boyfriend is really supporting her and turning up at all her sporting events and really battling the fact that she's putting all of her energy into achieving something. That, for me, was something I didn't think could happen as a woman in music because so much of your attention is not focused on a relationship. You see a lot of couples but it's usually a very successful man with a female who is quite happy to get little scraps of attention when she isn't doing a “big job.” You don't often see that the other way round, or you don't imagine it even exists the other way round, so it's just writing a story from the other perspective.
Are your parents still together?
They never were. My mum raised me. Some people think it's fine to be raised without a parent being present, but just because women are good at multi-tasking, the male perspective on things is as important as the female perspective on life. They are all existing on the planet. Anyone raised in a single-parent family has to relearn how to create a secure loving dynamic between two people, from nothing.
If you had a little girl, what would be the number one value you would pass onto her?
I think children have a lot to teach us in the end, so mainly, I would just want to listen to what my child needs and how they want to learn and have faith that child knows how to navigate its way through the environment that you expose them to and support them. I don't know about passing down wisdom.
Would you encourage her to go into the music industry?
It's whatever holds your attention. I do music because it holds my attention. I don't think about anything else while I'm doing it, so whatever is the equivalent for that individual, that's what they have to do. If they can't do it, they will just get bored. I tried to do things outside of music, but there was always that itch for it.