Photo Credit: Callum Hutchinson
I felt like Michael Scott discovering YouTube for the first time when I heard “Small Talk” by Francis Karel because I devoted a lot of time to it. You cannot blame me for my instantaneous love of it though. A few seconds in and you’re swept away. I made sure to mention this when chatting with this Jakarta-born but LA-based artist as we approach the release of his debut EP, ‘Handle With Care,’ out on August 26th.
On top of my adoration, we talked about making the move across the world, how his generation isn’t being boxed in by genre, and more in this back and forth.
Kendra: You grew up in Jakarta sort of immersed in huge hit makers from the US. What sort of picture did these artists paint of American music to you at the time?
Francis Karel: As a kid, I think what really intrigued me about pop music from the US was how different it was from the music of my surroundings. As a 10-12-year-old, it really piqued my interest, and diving into wanting to know more only convinced me that I loved it. A lot of the songs’ meanings at the time really felt validating to hear, especially not having talked about my feelings to anyone in my surrounding.
Kendra: So last year I moved from the LA area to Virginia and am still experiencing some culture shock, but you – you went and moved to a whole new country. Did you have any preconceived ideas about living in LA that were quickly proven false, or perhaps proven to be true?
Francis Karel: Honestly, I never even acknowledged the existence of culture shock until getting to LA. Growing up in Jakarta taught me to really keep to myself, so communicating with strangers was clearly not my forte. But it only took a few months to digest and adapt, and I’m really grateful for being able to experience the culture out in LA because I think a part of it helped me pursue a career in music.
Kendra: One truth about you is that your debut EP, ‘Handle with Care,’ is out this August, and with Wonderland noting you are “a significant voice within Gen-Z culture,” I wanted to dive into that. Because I think for Gen-X it was grunge, for millennials emo music, but for your generation, it feels like it’s less about the genre and more about what y’all are saying. Would you say there’s some truth to that?
Francis Karel: I can’t disagree. I feel like today’s music marketplace is so saturated that it’s impossible to just have one sonic theme thriving. I remember when it was such an accomplishment for artists to hit a couple of million views on YouTube around 2010. Today, it’s crazy to think how some videos/songs have billions of views – same applies streaming-wise. It’s so encouraging to see that lyrical content is being appreciated alongside so many people out there who love and give different genres/styles of music life.
Kendra: On this EP we’ll hear “Small Talk,” which I already tweeted about how obsessed I am with it. It gives very plot of a YA novel as you’re a very visual storyteller. We opened this by talking about the hit makers you listened to, but who inspired how you approach music lyrically?
Francis Karel: I’d say initially I was inspired by artists like Julia Michaels and Ed Sheeran, but there are also so many artists today who just know how to tell a good story. I wanted to be able to achieve that lyrical approach mainly because of how much songs like that speak to me. Even if I’ve never experienced what’s mentioned in the song, somehow these songs can take you on a ride that gives you so much more perspective than the one you know. I’m hoping I’m able to achieve that with my music.
Kendra: Then you have “Like All My Friends” which feels like FOMO for the hopeless romantics. Do you think that FOMO in general is driven by the rise in social media?
Francis Karel: I think media/television for sure has a huge play on FOMO. All those early 2000’s romcoms for sure got to me and built a high expectation growing up haha.
Kendra: It’s passed already but I did want to ask about your show headlining Concerts for Good. Do you have any other events lined up like that?
Francis Karel: At the moment there’s nothing on my schedule yet but I’m planning it out with my team so hopefully I can get back to you guys on that one soon.
Kendra: Time for a side note – with it being summertime, I’d love to know your favorite memory from this season whether it was from your childhood or more recent…
Francis Karel: I’d say so far my favorite memory is school ending and getting to be with friends and family. I haven’t been able to do that in a while, and I really do miss it.
Kendra: Lastly, with ‘Handle with Care’ out on August 26th, what else can be on the lookout from you come the fall?
Francis Karel: Let’s just say that “Handle With Care” is only the first chapter of a story. And I’m very excited for the rest of the year.