Francis of Delirium: The Best of What’s NextPhotos by Pit Reding Music Features Francis of Delirium
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Francis of Delirium’s Jana Bahrich and Chris Hewett cut odd figures at first glance. They look more like a father-daughter pair than a band, though that’s mostly due to their age difference, rather than any imagined family resemblance (Bahrich has dark, curly hair, while Hewett’s is ginger and close-cropped).
Vocalist and guitarist Bahrich is 19 and grew up in Belgium, Switzerland and Canada before moving to her current home of Luxembourg. Her parents are teachers and moved around frequently for jobs. Drummer Hewett grew up in the Seattle area during the height of grunge—Peter Klett of Candlebox was in his brother’s graduating class—and has a son who just left for university. He moved to Luxembourg for his wife’s Amazon job and decided to focus on music full-time, specifically nurturing young musicians. Bahrich attended the same school in Luxembourg as Hewett’s kids and the two ended up connecting over their shared love of Pearl Jam, specifically the music video for “Jeremy,” which follows a troubled kid who kills himself in front of his classmates.
“It was really shocking to me, because it’s like, wow, that’s pretty much my generation of high school music,” Hewett recalls.
“That’s what everyone your age loves to do,” Bahrich responds jokingly. “Like, ‘Whoa, you’re so young. How do you listen to music that is beyond your time?’”
Hewett’s accent is pretty clearly Pacific Northwestern, presuming to be neutrally American, but with words blending together occasionally and vowels either swallowed or colored with a Midwestern twang. Bahrich’s is harder to place thanks to her well-traveled adolescence. Despite usually saying she was Canadian growing up, these days, she feels more Luxembourgish, since it “feels like a neutral country because it’s in the middle of so many countries and kind of just gets squashed in with everybody else, and feel like I can relate to the little squashing of everything together.”
She speaks with her hands a lot over the video call, her physical expressiveness reflecting the overwhelming catharsis baked into Francis of Delirium’s songs.
“We’re so opposite in so many ways, but yet, somehow are really similar in this music that we’re making,” Hewett says.
Bahrich cites Smashing Pumpkins and Caroline Polachek as influences on their sound, which tries to “merge this grunge, ‘90s, guitar-driven stuff with more pop melodies.”
They’re also informed by the complexity that makes Nirvana so engaging to listen to. “What I love about what they do with their music is it’s so dynamic and that’s always something that I’m trying to put into these songs so that it feels interesting when we play them live,” Bahrich says. “We think about live music all the time when we’re writing stuff.”
The two started off playing covers in local bars, their repertoire consisting of songs like Alabama Shakes’ “Hold On,” “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley, “Give Me One Reason” by Tracy Chapman and their showstopper, “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin.
“We had to appeal to the audience of Luxembourgers,” Hewett says.
“Who are so hard to please,” Bahrich adds.
They’re eager to clarify that the tight-knit Luxembourg music scene has been good to them, even if you do have to “work a lot to get a more engaged audience.”
“You go to three local shows and by the end of those three shows, you know everyone who makes music in Luxembourg,” Bahrich explains with a laugh. “But it’s kind of cool because everyone’s really supportive of one another.”
Bahrich and Hewett have played beyond Luxembourg, performing an outdoor gig in Trier, Germany in September. They even came up with the name for the band on a drive to Brussels with her parents.
“Francis is the name of this woman who is at my grandmother’s old folks home. And when we were younger, we would go in and she would always yell at us and be like, ‘Oh, you motherfucker. Blah, blah, blah,’” Bahrich remembers. “And we were probably five years old at the time when she would do that. And so she was just in the back of my head all that time.”
Francis of Delirium are finding support far beyond Europe now, though. A month ago Sunday, on April 9, the pair released their searing four-song EP Wading, which looks at that “transitionary period of moving out of high school, trying to approach the world on your own now and also what it means to break away from people that you’ve had relationships with,” as Bahrich puts it. They received praise from the likes of Pitchfork and The Line of Best Fit, and were highlighted in numerous Paste pieces.
“Lakes” opens the EP with Bahrich’s rich, layered harmonies before guitar crashes in with full force. Since Wading is about “this journey of losing yourself,” the song starts us off “pretty solid in an understanding of the self.” There’s something Lucy Dacus-esque about the rip-roaring way Bahrich proclaims during the track, “It’s immortalized in sound.”
On “Red,” which they wrote in early 2020, Bahrich channels “this angrier version of myself who feels cheated by someone in my life and, and is approaching people with anger instead of love.” Her voice is honeyed as she sings, “And it all turned red,” but her soured feelings come across when the unyielding guitar and drums charge through.
“Let It All Go” is the EP’s high point, with Bahrich and Hewett putting their all into the song and expertly controlling the energy. “I think that’s one of the things I love the most about playing rock music and playing with a guitar is that you can put your entire body into everything that you’re doing,” Bahrich says. “It’s my chest, and it’s my arms, and it’s my legs moving. It feels really freeing.”
The lyrics depict “the simultaneous breaking off of a relationship and also an attempt to let go of a version of yourself that you don’t want to be a part of.” When she lets out that last, reverberating yell of “But aren’t you tired?” on “Let It All Go,” you feel her all-consuming emotions wracking you from head to toe.
That intense vulnerability is part of why Hewett loves playing with Bahrich. “I have jammed with other people before, but I’ve never experienced playing with someone like her,” he says. “The emotion is just completely raw and right there. It’s really satisfying to me to see that happen, and be able to be a part of it.”
The final track, “I Think I’m Losing,” was written over lockdown and recorded at Hewett’s home studio. The two formed a bubble and Bahrich would bike over to Hewett’s house, taking advantage of the balmy weather.
“Chris would do drums in the morning and then I would come back in the afternoon and then mess around with guitars and stuff like that,” she recalls.
Even though they haven’t had a proper live gig since the EP’s release, both of them have pictured their ideal first show back. Hewett, ever the Pacific Northwesterner, says he’d love for them to play at the Gorge, an outdoor venue in Washington state overlooking the Columbia River and nestled between green hills.
“It’s just the most beautiful place for a show,” he says.
Bahrich envisions them at “a little venue in Paris, and a stage dive would have to happen.”
At the end of the day, though, they’re just excited to connect with an audience again. When I ask Bahrich why she wanted to start playing professionally, she answers, “I just would wake up all the time and want to make music and create a bigger space around my music through videos and art. I felt like I had this vision that I wanted to achieve and bring into reality.”
She adds, “Now playing live seems even more appealing to me. I just love playing my songs for other people. It’s the most fun thing in the entire world.”
Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast, hibernophile and contributing writer for Paste’s music and comedy sections. She also exercises her love for reality TV at HelloGiggles every now and then. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.