Like the recently profiled Blessed Feathers, Tic Tic Boom!’s Leilani Francisco (vocals/keys) and Mike DeLay (instrumentation/engineer) are not only musical partners, but real-life partners. The LA-based duo make a highly infectious, sugar-coated, and synth-heavy brand of dance pop that is equally indebted to artists of each of the past three decades. It is nearly always danceable and when it’s too emotionally heavy to warrant dancing, it’s at least very existentially romantic. Their latest LP, It’s The Heart That’s a Fool, dropped last month and displays the band at their most accomplished. I recently got a chance to chat with Leilani Francisco, who answered pretty much every question you could have about Tic Tic Boom!
Izzy Cihak: This is still relatively new project, so I have to ask, what have been the highlights thus far?
Leilani Francisco: SXSW 2012 was great for us. We were official artists and played at a really cool outdoor venue, plus the endless amounts of free beer and food didn’t hurt the experience! SXSW is such an amazing way to connect with other artists and people inside the industry. We skipped 2013, but we’re hoping to make it back for 2014. We also played at the Musician’s Institute tent at Coachella 2012, which was pretty nuts and tiring and fun. Hearing our music being played on KROQ Locals Only and being added to KCRW’s music library were really exciting and we’ve also had several of our songs placed on different television programs. It’s pretty cool turning on the TV and hearing your song!
IC: And what do you feel is most important for fans and potential fans to know about Tic Tic Boom!?
LF: We try to be as DIY as possible. Mike is an audio engineer and we’ve spent the last few years building up our studio. We record and produce everything in our own space. We’ve been burned a few times when we’ve relied on outside people to produce videos and engineer our music. We’ve learned that if you want to get it done, do it yourself. That’s why Mike went to audio engineering school and I bought and learned to use a Canon 7d. We screen print our own merch, too.
IC: You released your fourth EP in October. How do you feel like it compares to your previous releases?
LF: As far as the process, it was similar to our previous EPs. Since we are able to record everything in our own studio, we basically are always writing, recording, and producing. The inception of each song is different. Sometimes it comes from an idea Mike has. Sometimes I’ll sit and write lyrics and melody at the piano and we’ll flesh it out together. We just write what we like. As far as the sound and mood of this EP, it’s a combination of our last two releases. It’s melody-driven, but with a heavy dance element as well, coming from the synths and drum loops. Our last release, Before the Sun Rises, had a decidedly heavier, darker feel. With It’s the Heart That’s a Fool we’ve created a lighter mood (with the exception of “How It Ends”) but, even when the music is brighter and dance-inducing, there’s always a darker influence living in the lyrics.
IC: What were the album’s biggest influences?
LF: We’re influenced by the synth-driven sound of the ‘80s, but also grew up loving the grungy alternative sound of the ‘90s. I think those eras are always present in our sound. Mike also draws a lot of inspiration from hip-hop, starting a lot of our production with drum loops, beats, and samples.
IC: Do you have a special affinity for EPs, in particular, or is it just simpler to think about and deal with than a full-length? I’ve always quite liked EPs.
LF: We’ve always thought that it was important to keep pushing out material. In this day and age, when people’s attention span is so short, an artist can’t afford to go away for very long and recording an album is a lengthy process. All that being said though, we definitely feel like it’s time for us to make the leap to an album, which obviously might mean holing ourselves up for a minute, but we won’t go away for long. Leading with a seven inch single prior to the album release is very likely in our future!
IC: While we’re talking about EPs, are there any EPs from throughout musical history that you think are especially amazing? Nine Inch Nails’ Broken is definitely one of my favorite works of art of the 20th century.
LF: Broken was a great one! There are some other great EPs in the 90s as well. Jar of Flies by Alice In Chains was the first EP ever to debut at #1 on Billboard Top 200. I really thought At The Drive-In’s Vaya was a great lead in to their full-length album, Relationship of Command. More recently I’ve really dug the CHVRCHES and Phantogram EPs. I think more than anything it seems to be a great medium to introduce an upcoming album. Even Foster The People released three songs on an EP that would all end up on Torches later that year.
IC: Have you noticed any commonalities among the people who most “get” and enjoy your sound?
LF: I think our music appeals to people who like to dance, but still want something to sing along to. Lyrics matter to us as much as every other element in the song. We’re definitely a pop band at heart.
IC: For that matter, do you have any LA musical peers that you’re especially fond of, or that you think are doing really interesting things?
LF: Max and the Moon have a great sound and are fun to watch. Little Red Lung are also great. They have an almost sinister, at times cabaret folk, edge that’s really interesting and beautiful.
IC: You have a few upcoming live dates on the West Coast. What can be expected of the live experience?
LF: You should be ready and willing to dance and enjoy yourself. Being from LA, we are used to people who stand there and think continuous tweeting is synonymous to clapping. We always really appreciate an energetic crowd, who isn’t afraid to move a little! We like to keep our set moving and keep the energy up. We’ve never really been fans of too much stage banter, and don’t think the audience cares, in that moment, if we wrote such-and-such song on the drive between California and Austin in 2012. People are there to hear music and that’s what we give them.
IC: What are you planning and hoping for in 2014? Any chance of a full-scale tour?
LF: Although Tic Tic Boom! is, at it’s heart, Mike and I, we can’t do it all live. We recently had to replace our bass player and drummer, so the last couple of months have been spent getting everyone up to speed. We’re really excited about the possibilities in our new line-up and are looking forward to playing as much as possible in 2014. No plans for a full tour, yet, but you never know! We’re starting work on our first full-length, planning on heading to SXSW in March, oh and last but not least, Mike and I are getting married in June 2014. All in all, 2014 is looking like it’s going to be a pretty rad year.