Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Streets Are For Keeps - the first Francis Friday album

click HERE to get to Francis Friday's "Streets Are For Keeps" bandcamp page!

The Streets Are For Keeps is my first solo album after the break up of Nerve Generator. For those who don't know, Nerve Generator was a band I was in for 8 years (!) that finally came to an end in 2004. The Streets represents a good cross section of the types of songs I was writing that weren't making it onto the Nerve Generator albums. Most of
the music has a relaxed, care-free nature to it, usually accented with a bit of humor. The songs came naturally to me and I went through a prolific period in the early half of '05, recording either quietly in my apartment or bashing the drums in the hourly-rate studio down the street.

I played most of the instruments myself, but got a little help from my friends on certain parts. In fact, bringing in special guests was part of the fun and helped to diversify the sound a bit. Thank you to Matt Carlin, Rob Markoff, Jon Cole, Dave Rozner and Pete Tunney for contributing. A few of the songs were already recorded by the time I decided to put out a solo album, but the majority I wrote during the winter and spring of '05. I used a combination of cassette 8-track (Tascam) and Pro Tools, using little outboard gear (like the lexicon reverb) and only a few choice plug-ins (mostly for limiting and compression).

The artwork was silkscreen on recycled kraft paper. I'd never silkscreened anything before but I knew it was the look I was going for (thanks to John Mathias for inspiration). Luckily I got a lot of help from Chad Silver, silkscreener-extraordinare and the process was mercifully painless.

I knew I didn't want to use my real name for the project. I like it when solo artists use an alternate moniker for their performances (Cat Power, Bonnie Prince Billie, Smog, etc). So I came up with a bunch of ideas and emailed them to a few friends f
or input. At the time I was about to go on a trip to France and stated at the end of the email, "send your ideas soon because I leave for France on Friday." That's when Brett Burton sarcastically quipped, "why don't you just call yourself France Friday?" And so Francis Friday was born.

Here's the tracklist:

1) Subway Girl (world)
2) Downtown Radio

3) Break the News
4) Lax n' Loud
5) The Most Disturbing Kind of Love
6) Honest Way
7) Architects Unite
8) Everybody's Got a Little Secret
9) It's the Only Way to Be

10) No More Summer
11) Wasting the Years
12) Some Roommates
13) The Right Time
14) Way to go Charlie
15) Torn Cup
16) You've Gone Insane

The entire album is available for free. Download the zip file below.

Or if you want the CD and packaging, just email me at and I'll send you one for free. Or, if you have an album (or anything else interesting), maybe we can trade.

***This is going to be the first of many free downloads I will post on this site. I've got a few hundred songs col
lecting dust under my bed and this was the catalyst for starting this blog in the first place.

I love my Mini Twin!

I bought this great little amp as an impulse buy this past summer. I was at Main Drag in Williamsburg, picking up some guitar strings and picks, when I saw this on the counter. Cute, adorable, was calling out my name! From the retro-knobs to the tweed cabinet, it definitely has the look.

To my amazement, it also has a sound that lives up to the Fender name. Never totally clean, this amp has a mid-rangy, dirty tone, and when you crank up the drive, it sounds like a Stooges record. The Mini Twin cost me 50 bucks and runs on a 9V battery. Bonus kicker: you can get great feedback without blowing out your ears by placing your guitar's pick ups up to the speaker.

No, I'm not in the reviewer business and I'm not intentionally sponsoring Fender. Just wanted to rave about my new little amp, that's all.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

McKim, Mead and White: Titans of their time

One of my favorite architecture firms of all time is the partnership of Charles McKim, William Mead and Stanford White. Their stoic, grandeoise beaux arts buildings rise up to the skies as impressive granite titans of the turn of the 20th century.
Buildings they are responsible for include Penn Station (pictured above, RIP), Manhattan Municipal Building, the original Madison Square Garden, the University Club on 5th ave, and the north & south wings of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Tragically, their greatest work of art, Pennsylvania Station, was torn down in the mid-60's leaving behind a hideous underground transit hub.

One of the things I find most fascinating is the story of
Stanford White. He was a self-indulgent, sex-obsessed playboy that, behind the back of his wife, threw scandalous parties with scantily clad women and lavish entertainment. He had a red velvet swing hanging from the golden rafters of his audacious tower apartment, from which he would swing his nubile girls to his ravenous delight.

One of those girls, vaudeville actress Evelyn Nesbit, cost him his life as her husband shot White in the face at close range in the Madison Square Garden restaurant of his own design.
Below: the beautiful Nesbit

Pacific Ocean Blue-unexpected delight of 2008

My big surprise of 2008 was Dennis Wilson's Pacific Ocean Blue reissue by Sony BMG. It's a triple album in glorious translucent blue vinyl and I have to admit it was the packaging that made me buy it initially. I knew little about Dennis aside from being the Beach Boys drummer that didn't even play on their albums and who drowned in the early '80's.

The music within is so heart-achingly beautiful as well as timeless that I can't believe I've lived without it all these years. However, I'm also not sure if I would've appreciated it as much as I do now. Hearing it at the same age as Dennis was when he recorded it, and having been through an emotionally tough year, it really moved me. I've listened to it a bunch of times this past summer and every time I go into a sort of meditative trance.

It's the Bambu sessions on the second half of the album that I enjoy the most. Those were the aborted sessions that followed the release of Pacific Ocean Blue and I find this to be the strongest material. It's astonishing that it was never released until now.

So here's to Dennis Wilson, rest in peace.
Since I don't know how to embed mp3's on this blog (is that even possible?) all I can do is include a link to the official site...

My trip to Big Pink

One fine afternoon in early October I visited Big Pink, the house where The Band lived and practiced throughout much of their early period. I was traveling through Saugerties that weekend and it was on my list of places to see. Many notable musicians hung out and jammed here in the late sixties, including Bob Dylan and George Harrison. The Basement Tapes were recorded at this house on The Band's own recording equipment (I can't find information on specifics but it was most likely a portable tape deck by Ampex or the like using a 2 or 3 microphone set up). Rent for the house was $125/month.

The house still looks almost exactly the same as it did back then. The trees are bigger and the current tenants appear to have finished the attic for living quarters. It's on a small dirt road called Parnassus Lane off of Stoll Road that winds away from Route 212. It's a beautiful location with a field of soft-white, cottoney flowers across from it. Must've been a great get away from the chaotic 'summer of love' of 1967.
Notable nearby landmarks include Opus 40, a unique sculpted earth composition by Harvey Fite. Opus 40 is the subject of one of the songs by Mercury Rev on their Deserter's Songs album.

Check out The Band's music on

Happy to be here!

Hi there. I'm James Botha. I'm an architect & musician living in Brooklyn that's decided to start a blog about my experiences, philosophies and travels. We'll see where this takes me. I may update a lot, I may go through periods of no entries. Depends on what goes on in my life outside this ol' computer. At any rate, I hope you can stop by from time to time and see what I'm up to.
All the best!