A Natural Progression: Francis Of Delirium Interviewed

Luxembourg songwriter on her wonderful new album...

It’s hard to believe that ‘Lighthouse’, the debut album from Francis of Delirium, only became part of our world in April. It feels confident, mature and already familiar. That might be because Jana Bahrich has tried to make it many times; yet only now, has the time been right for the project to come to full fruition.

CLASH sat down over coffee with Jana to discuss the album, the songwriting process, and how FoD’s music of hope and vulnerability has proved to play an important role in helping people through difficult times.

“I just woke up!” jokes Jana Bahrich with a smile, as she contemplates my first question. We’ve been talking about the mix of musical and cultural influences which make her the musician she is: Canadian roots, long-time residence in Luxembourg, signed to a UK record label and with an American producer and studio drummer. I ask how important she feels her background is to Francis of Delirium and their music.

“It’s a good question. Normally I get asked how my moving around impacts the band but the mix of cultures influencing the band is not one I’ve thought about much,” she begins. “Perhaps it’s subconscious? I mean all of these things are bringing something different to the table.”

Jana goes on to describe how living in Luxembourg allows her to connect easily to nature, which brings her a sense of freedom (which can be sensed distinctly in ‘Lighthouse’). She then explains how she and Chris Hewett, her producer, bonded over a shared love of 90s music. 

“He grew up right in the boom of grunge in Seattle in that time period. That was where we met each other, musical-influences-wise.”

Meanwhile her British record label, Dalliance Recordings, brings stability and a book of contacts, while remaining relatively hands-off. Getting signed to that label in 2020 was a memorable moment for Jana and has opened many doors for her. But, I wonder, what exactly does being signed mean to modern artists. Is it really so important these days?

“I think to some extent no, it’s not important any more, but for me it’s just useful to have the support,” Jana muses. “Dalliance have been great because they’re hands on when you want them to be and then hands off where you want them to be as well. But I feel like people signing to a major label… I just have no idea how helpful that really is when you’re a small artist.”

“It comes with pressure and album sales expectations that just are probably impossible to meet unless you have a huge online thing happen,” she continues. “There’s just so many examples of artists who are unsigned and doing great work and have distribution deals. I think to some extent, there’s always probably a way to get what you want to happen, happen, with or without a label. But it definitely made our lives a lot easier having Dalliance on board to get some other really key team members in to help us.”

FoD’s debut album ‘Lighthouse’ was released in April ’24. It’s a rich record, reflecting that range of influences which make Jana who she is. It also feels open, and softer than the band’s previous records. 

“It’s kind of pulling from a lot of different sources,” she comments. “I see it as a natural progression.”

Jana reflects on why ‘Lighthouse’ seems to have landed so well with so many people. 

“I would hope it’s because of the vulnerability of the songs. Especially on this tour you can see people are having a really tough time right now; and maybe having songs that point more towards hope and vulnerability is important in some way. To me, playing the songs feels more important on this tour than it has in the past.”

FoD have three EPs in their back catalogue, but only recently have things fallen into place to form a full-length album. That’s not for the lack of trying, Jana explains.

“There’s always been kind of a full stop where I can’t write any more songs – there was kind of a natural resolution to it. The first EP was kind of ‘just go for it’, and not really thinking about it. The second and third were a bit more considered. But it just always came to its own natural resolution. In my brain we were going to make an album each time … And then it was like, ‘Oh no, these are literally just EPs, they work so much better as a smaller collection of songs.’”

So what changed this time?

“I think there was definitely a conscious feeling of, ‘OK, now I’m writing an album.’ But it was totally possible that the same thing was going to happen again like with the past three EPs, where I think I’m writing an album but it’s just another EP. 

“I think the well I was drawing from kept working out. The songs kept coming and it felt like they were making sense together. I could see them all fitting together. And we had even more songs left over as well, which isn’t really something that had happened with the past EPs.”

Jana is coy about her plans for those unreleased songs, explaining that she is in a different frame of mind, for now.

“Right now my brain is not in writing mode at all – just touring, playing, trying to take care of my body as much as I can to make it last for the next month!”

The tour has so far taken in Europe and the UK, with North America next. Jana describes how being accompanied by “the boys”, bassist Jeff Hennico and tour drummer Denis Schumacher, has helped mitigate the relentless pressure and fatigue of touring, with its 6-hour drives and countless faceless hotels. 

“We’re good at sharing the burden of touring. It’s really important that we’re all there supporting each other.”

Staying away from alcohol, keeping physically exercised (“Ibis Hotel parking lot workouts” play a key part) and prioritising sleep have also helped make the process positive, Jana says. 

“I love touring, especially when the audience is really present – it’s the most amazing thing. My favourite part of making music is getting to have people who are really there with you – it’s such a cool feeling. But obviously there’s the con that it’s taxing …” says Jana. She recounts a particularly memorable – and human – moment which could only happen on tour: a woman who walked into a soundcheck in Leeds to find somewhere to charge her phone, and ended up in tears hearing Give It Back To Me for the first time.

“She ended up coming to the show and was just like, ‘Wow’. We’ve been lucky to have some really wonderful moments, like big scale, small scale, really impactful.”

But the touring will inevitably end, bringing Jana back to the writing phase of the cycle: one which is full of promise. 

“I’m excited to see what writing again feels like after this touring period, because I’ve no idea what it’s going to feel like. So that’s pretty exciting how wide open everything feels right now,” she says. “I really love the ritual of writing every day in almost a spiritual way: I’m going to go practise something that’s healing and vulnerable and kind of doing that every day. You can pick up on so many more things in your daily life as well, just by being in a really reflective space – it’s pretty cool.”

There will be many waiting to see what that practice and ritual will deliver next.

‘Lighthouse’ is out now.

Words: Phil Taylor
Photo Credit: Holly Whitaker

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