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They don’t need instruments to make good music! Using a laptop with a MIDI controller, Kids Without Instruments has been making chill pop tunes since 2011. The SoCal duo consist of FrankJavCee (Frankie) and Marion, two self-described socially awkward children who met through the social media site Tumblr. Together they are Kids Without Instruments, and they need to be on your music radar. Check out the exclusive GroundSounds interview below.
What’s goin’ on guys, hows it hangin’ ?
Marion: Things are pretty cool, thanks.
Frankie: Like that poster from the Simpsons with a cat on it. That cat is the physical manifestation of how I feel.
You guys actually met on Tumblr, how did that come about?
Marion: One of my friends that lived in the same dorms as Frankie followed him, so I would see some of his stuff reblogged on my dashboard from time to time. I checked out his blog, decided he was really cool because he played guitar and sang, but I didn’t know how to start a conversation with him without sounding creepy, so I just waited for an opportune moment, which presented itself to me in the form of a video of him singing in his dorm room, so I messaged him something like, “OMG you dorm there too?! I have friends at those dorms …I think you know them…” I know I said I didn’t want to sound creepy, but I ended up sounding creepy anyway!
Frankie: Yeah. I used to have this Tumblr URL FuckYeahFrankJavCee… and we kinda met there. I actually deleted my old Tumblr account cause the pressures of being Tumblr Famous got to me. Now I have a new Tumblr, just FrankJavCee. I try not to post as much on there, except original content.
Frankie, you were in the marching band in high school…what instruments did you play?
Frankie: Originally I started off on Clarinet. I was a pretty stereotypical Clarinet player, then later I evolved into an Alto Sax player and my sexiness went up a couple points. I’ve always played woodwinds in orchestra and stuff like that; also I played Marimba for drumline for two years that was pretty intense. Then my senior year I picked up trumpet and marched in this giant LAUSD all city marching band, that was pretty rad cause I marched in the 2010 Rose Parade… those were some good days.
Where did the name “Kids Without Instruments” come from?
Marion: One of our friends had a dream about all of us performing, back when we called ourselves The Dangeraffes and back when our friend’s stage name was The Last Straw!berry Daiquiri and she called all of us, collectively, Kids Without Instruments. Inception at its finest.
Frankie: Whatever Marion says. I don’t even remember it really. I remember by friend J being all like… “You’re name is Kids Without Instruments” and it was quirky and I liked it. Cause it’s true…. I mean I have a bunch of stolen guitars and guitars I borrowed from school but other than that we just use my Laptop. Cause as we all know our little robot companions we carry around with us are the future tools for art… man.
How do you guys create your music? Do you start with a beat first or lyrics?
Marion: Usually Frankie will make a beat then I’ll take several thorough listens to it before I come up with something. Personally, I can’t really write lyrics and then make a beat.
Frankie: It’s a mixture of both depending on the song. Pas Desolé for example was written way before I met Marion, it was an acoustic song of hers that was already structured out. I just made some funky retro beats to go along with her lyrics. Now for songs like Velvet Lights and Stardust, those are made kinda together, we wrote lyrics while we wrote the music out, it was like one of those inspirational sprints where we write a song in a short amount of time and its sounds good to us. It’s like getting possessed by the spirit of jazz then when you wake up you have a 4 minute song about the stars.
What inspires you guys when you’re making your music?
Marion: So many things. Lyrically, they’re painful past experiences, or things we’ve seen or heard about, or about people we’ve come across.
Frankie: Video Games. I got my start by going to VGmusic.com everyday as a kid and listening to MIDI’s from different games over and over… Like I did that instead of listening to contemporary music. When I did start listening to what all the cool kids listened to, I felt a connection with Nirvana. So basically there’s a weird nostalgic part of my brain that especially on our first EP that channeled melancholy SNES RPG music. A sound I further want to look into.
Also another huge inspiration when making music is just jamming out to it in my room pretending I’m playing like a huge crowd and they’re digging it… I do that a lot, a lot more than I should actually.
All of your videos are very creative where do you guys come up with the concepts and ideas for the visuals to your music?
Marion: For our last video, Nausea Nostalgia, our director, Nina McNeely, asked us to send her things that inspire us. I sent her stills from Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette and Frankie sent her stills from Chrono Trigger.
Frankie: Actually Marion and I are film majors at CSULB. So we are inspired by film and its use in music. I also really like music visualizers. I downloaded like a ton to watch when I listen to music. We are currently in the process of filming short videos for each song on our EP and suggest our fans do the same for whatever song they like. Velvet Lights, like when I listen to that song I can picture like a city skyline at night and someone driving on the with tears in their eyes while this song causally plays on the radio… or sometimes I picture like a bunch of people at a protest and a child scared and confused lost in the crowd in a sea of people. Or like a video of a bunch of cats being cute in a bounce house with strobe lights.
Since you don’t use instruments to create your music, why use them on stage?
Marion: It’s ironic.
Frankie: It’s a political statement.
How did you guys feel when you signed with Kobalt Music Publishing?
Marion: I was this mixture of nervous and excited. I was nervous because I didn’t know what would follow after the signing but I was excited because I’ve always wanted this since I was little.
Frankie: Honestly, I was a bit skeptical at first. I don’t know anything about the music industry or entertainment world. All I know is… I wanna be in the illuminati with like Kanye, Beyonce, and Lady Gaga and cause they’re some talented people I look up to that are still alive, and I just wanna pick their brains for musical secrets.
But in all seriousness… I was a bit uncertain seeing that I signed a music contract almost immediately after moving out of my parents’ house going to school full time and surviving on financial aid in a city I had never lived in before. But at the time of signing it felt like those football players that say they’re going to Disneyland.
What are each of your hobbies outside of music and film?
Marion: I like reading books, swimming, and yoga. I also love to travel to different places and countries. A new perspective is always refreshing. We also like to cook together from time to time and that’s fun.
Frankie: I like listening to music. I like playing video games. I like playing D&D, if I ever get the chance to!!! Um… I make 8-bit, but that’s a part of my music hobbies again. Outside of music… I don’t really do much beside whatever interesting adventures Marion and I get into.
What are your guys’ favorite video games and why?
Marion: Kingdom Hearts has a special place in my heart because it’s one of the video games that my cousin introduced me to and taught me how to play. Since I’ve started college, though, I’ve grown to love Super Smash Bros. I won’t turn down a round.
Frankie: Chrono Trigger, I remember I played that when I was like 5, I had to learn how to read just to play that game! I don’t play video games as much anymore, because I don’t own anything after PS2. So basically N64, SNES, PS1, those are favorite era of video games. I do play PC games I torrent. Any game that is a work of art like Chrono Trigger, Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, Portal, etc… are my favorite.
If you guys could pick an artist or group to collaborate with who would it be?
Marion: I think collaborating with Vampire Weekend would be really cool. I think the sound would be amazing. It would also be super awesome to collaborate with a rapper like A$AP Rocky or Tyler, the Creator .
Frankie: Crystal Castles, Purity Ring, The Knife, Sleigh Bells, The White Stripes… Every single Male/Female duo ever… ever. JK
Probably like Crystal Castles, Ethan Kath is an idol of mine. Also like Kanye, or Lady Gaga or both at the same time. Maybe even Sonny Moore, only if he sings on a track.
Would either of you ever consider a solo career?
Marion: Not right now, no. There’s so much I can’t do without Frankie!
Frankie: Yes. I have my whole side project/producer name FRANKJAVCEE. I’ve been making music of all styles for a while. I don’t like being stuck with one particular sound. I am open to trying new styles and playing in bands. I’ve always wanted to be a singer/keyboardist for a band, but I don’t think that’ll be anytime soon. Also Marion sings way better than me, so it’s fun making music for her to sing.
If you had to choose between ice cream & unicorns or hot dogs & clowns, which would you choose?
Marion: Ice cream and unicorns because hot dogs and clowns aren’t as magical as ice cream and unicorns!
Frankie: Hot dogs and Clowns sounds like some sorta repressed Freudian thing. Sounds like a turn of the 90’s punk band from Minnesota. Definitely going with Ice Cream and Unicorns.
What’s better…In-N-Out or Jack In The Box?
Marion: Jack in the Box only if I want something cheap or something with more variety than In-N-Out, but I really like In-N-Out…sometimes.
Frankie: The first time I went to In-N-Out I was like 18 and didn’t have that nostalgic Californian reaction. Although In-N-Out burgers taste a little better, I go to Jack in the Box for .50 tacos and curly fries.
What is next for “Kids Without Instruments”?
Marion: Coachella? No, just kidding. Although that would make me really happy. But if I had to predict what we’d do next, I think it’d have to be more promotion and maybe playing shows outside of Long Beach and Los Angeles?
Frankie: I already wanna release new music. We have so many demos from the past two years as a band, it’s ridiculous. Also, CONCEPT ALBUM… I’ve always wanted to make one of those… I think the next step for Kids Without Instruments is just touring seeing the world and making new beats and getting inspiration from seeing new things.