Effee is the new solo project of Columbus' Fran Litterski. Already busy as a part of Columbus bands Kid Runner and Fields & Planes, and as a touring member of Magic Man, we sat down with Fran to discuss how she is now stepping into the spotlight with her very own indie electro-pop, alt-rock tunes. Having now released two songs, "Lying" and 'Work It Out," as well as being featured on the collaboration "Not You" with Detroit producer Nydge, Fran is preparing for her first full-band live show as Effee, where she will be opening for Hazel English at the Big Room Bar on Thursday, November 16th.
Sean O'Connor, Listen LIVE Columbus: Why did you decide the time was right for you to start this solo project as Effee? You're part of several other bands, obviously, so why was now the time?
"It was a scary leap, but it's also very exciting."
Fran Litterski, Effee: I think it was a kind of a combination of...well, I've been writing forever, so I've had these songs, not these specific ones, but songs and I just never have an outlet for them except when I play these random solo shows where it's just me playing these songs. So I wanted to actually start recording some music because there were only a few songs I had recorded before this big project, so it was that and then also that lining up with me having time to focus on it. I finally kind of dove into the whole music full-time/freelance world. So not only do I have time to do it, I needed to do it. I was like, "if I'm going to do it, now's the time." I finally had the confidence to cut things out of my life that were taking up too much time that I didn't need to be doing. It was a scary leap, but it's also very exciting.
Sean: Where did the name Effee come from? Why choose to release music under that moniker, as opposed to just under your real name?
Fran: I had always thought it was going to be Fran or Frances, but there's actually a pop artist "Frances" that I think is in the UK who creates music that's kind of in my realm. So, I was like alright I can't be Frances. I just wanted to make sure that I was going to be easy to find. And then Fran, I think there's another artist, there's definitely a songwriter named Fran. It basically was just getting into a sticky area. So then I kind of started brainstorming project names and I liked the idea of being able to have this project, but also still be a writer under my own name. But I did want it to be kind of close to my name. We got the idea from Kurt (Keaner, Fran’s husband and guitarist in Kid Runner) whose grandma's nickname was Effie, Effie Ruth. Her name's Evelyn. But it was Effie. And I thought that was kind of cool, we were playing around with "Effie Ruth" first, but thought that sounded kind of country. But Effie was really interesting and it had the "F" in there for Fran. I don't know, I just started saying it for a few weeks just to see and test it out on people, and that was the name that people kind of gravitated towards most. And with the spelling, we were playing around the spelling because there's a few people with "E-f-f-i-e" which was like the first one I was playing around. Then actually I was looking at the word "coffee" and what if use a double "E". So, that's kind of where it came from, and I'm at the point now where I'm just used to it. That's how it was with Kid Runner where we spent months just trying to come up with the name, and when you first kind of settle on one you're like "I don't know," and then a month later you're like "yeah." Effee is just like that now.
Sean: You've released two of your songs so far over the last couple of months, "Work It Out" was first, in September, and then "Lying." Tell me about the writing and development of these songs. You said you've been writing for for years, where did these two songs come from?
Fran: These I started last fall actually. I just had a huge batch of songs I was kind of writing that were mostly just piano, vocal. I kind of created some small demos of them just on my own and met up with Scott (Griffin, bassist in Kid Runner) because I knew I wanted to work with Scott. Me and Scott have been trying to do Fran solo stuff for years. Actually, Kid Runner started because Scott and I had started working on my solo stuff, and then Kurt was there one night and we started writing these indie-pop songs, and we were like "let's start a band." And so the Fran project got put on the back-burner for five years. So, I met with Scott and we just listened through the 10 or so demos that had started and "Lying" and "Work It Out" were the two that made the most sense and their choruses were just the catchiest. They were also the most “me” because there's definitely a lot of songs that I write that I'm like "that's not a me song." That's why I’m getting more into the whole songwriting too, just because there's a lot of songs that I write that aren't necessarily for my solo project, and I couldn't see myself singing them for my solo project. Songwriting is weird.
Sean: What do you do with those other songs?
Fran: I've been writing a lot with other people. There's some groups up in Detroit I've been writing with a little bit which is awesome to hear other people sing your songs because then they finally make sense. I've also been kind of diving into the publishing world. I've been doing trips down to Nashville to kind of get into that because that way I can actually pitch my songs to artists or write with other other artists a lot easier.
Sean: So both "Work It Out" and "Lying" kind of deal with relationship-esque issues. "Lying" sets a whole story of running into an ex and dealing with that. Did either of those have any basis in real life for you, or were those just things that you invented?
Fran: There are definitely past relationships of mine and I've run into multiple exes. In those situations it's never been at the grocery store, but I do have a friend that ran into an ex at a grocery store. But I just kind of liked the idea of this encounter happening in a very mundane place. So yeah, not the full story, but definitely the awkward situation of running into someone where you're not sure what to talk about. So that's where that one kind of grew out of. "Work It Out" - I don't even know how that started. I usually write sad songs and "Work It Out" was more in the direction of like falling in love, so that was kind of a fun one because it was new territory for me. So yeah I think Kurt was definitely like an inspiration for "Work It Out." He was definitely not an inspiration for your "Lying."
Sean: I know it's still early, but "Lying," especially, just screams music video storyboards...
Fran: It could be a very little literal video.
Sean: It could be a very little video, or it could be something completely off the wall. Have you thought at all about that?
Fran: Not really. I talked to a few video people just about maybe starting to concept something. I don't know, music videos are kind of like foreign territories for me, but Kurt is definitely on the video side so he would definitely have a part in that. So, nothing in the works as of yet, but with some of these songs that I haven't released yet I'm starting to maybe concept some stuff for those rather than "Work It Out" and "Lying," just to get more of a push. Because with "Lying" and "Work It Out" I just needed to put these out there. So those were a little quicker releases than I probably would have hoped for if I was trying to line up a solid video and all this stuff. I think I got a little ahead of myself on those. Also I'm a perfectionist, so I was like "if I don't get these out now I'm going to wait another year."
Sean: So you mentioned Scott Griffin from Kid Runner. Who else did you work with to bring these songs to life?
Fran: So Scott was the main guy. He basically helped me produce those two tracks and some of the future stuff I'm doing. Kurt, obviously, just like with input. He's the one I bounce all my ideas off of, and he'll give me honest opinions which is awesome, and terrible, but awesome. But he's the one I trust the most, like "okay, if Kurt likes this, it's going to work." Then Mark Abrams at Vaughan Music Studios, he and Scott kind of tag-teamed the mix for both of them, and then Mark mastered the two songs.
Sean: Now that the two songs have been out for a little while. What kind of reception have you gotten so far?
"It makes me more excited to keep releasing music."
Fran: It's been super cool, "Work It Out" kind of took off. It ended up on a bunch of Spotify Discover Weekly playlists about a month ago. Which is pretty crazy because the way Spotify is set up for unsigned artists, you have your own artist profile that you can track everything. You can see how many streams, how many listeners, where the listeners are, how they listen to you, and what playlists you are on if it's over a certain number of listeners. So there was one day, I think, where "Work It Out" had like 10,000 streams or something, and I went to my artist profile and it said I had gotten like 15,000 streams the day before. It's gotten some traction on a few different things on Spotify, and I honestly have no idea how it happened. I was trying to read up on it and it's very algorithm based. It uses taste-makers that they've picked out and if they're listening to something that got big a couple months ago they'll trust what they're listening to now and put it on a playlist. It's crazy. And actually "Lying" has been getting more streams. In the past like five days it's been on Release Radar playlists and stuff, which is super cool. It's jumped like 12,000 streams in the past couple days. It's really weird, but it's super fun. You can see it being added to people's individual playlists too, which is cool just to think of those random people on there putting it onto their fall playlist of what they want to listen to, or whatever. So yes, the reception has been good, I think. It just makes me more excited to keep releasing music.
Sean: You also were featured on that release from Nydge called "Not You." How did that collaboration happen?
Fran: I was up in Detroit this summer working with a band called Flint Eastwood doing some writing with them, and they actually have the super cool like artist community called Assemble Sound. They bought this old church in Detroit and turned it into a bunch of production studios. And so I'd gone up there, and Nydge is a producer that works out of Assemble. So we started talking and we got a date to just try writing a song. It was in late August, so I went to Detroit and it was literally like within the first five hours the skeleton of that song, "Not You" was almost completely done, and we spent another five or six hours doing some production stuff. I went back up in September to track some different vocals on it and it was done. That was like the quickest, especially from like the start of a song to the release of a song, it was the quickest that has ever happened. And it was hard for me because I am so like, "Oh ok, let's listen to it again. Maybe we can change all of this," and he was super good about being like, "you know what, we liked this yesterday, we're going to put it out." That song actually ended up on the Young and Free Spotify playlist in the past few days so that's been getting a lot of streams. That was fun just going outside my normal writing process because it is normally me sitting at a piano. So this was like walking into a room and him having kind of a synth base kind of already going. And so I kind of sat down and started writing over that which was fun because it made me write something totally outside of my normal writing.
Sean: You have your first real big live show as Effee coming up. On Thursday, November 16, you're going to be opening for Hazel English at the Big Room Bar. What can people expect from a live Effee show at this point?
"I'm like super excited because I can actually move around"
Fran: So it's going to be really fun. We're adding a few things to some of the songs, just like making it a little longer and kind of vibing out on certain parts. We have my friend Austin Nill who's in a couple of bands Castile, Sussman Can't Sleep, and he also plays drums in Kid Runner. He's going to be playing some drums and like different pad trigger stuff because we do have a lot of cool sample drum stuff going on. Scott's going to be playing Ableton Push for a bunch of samples and he's also going to be playing some drum stuff. Kurt is going to be playing guitar and some synth stuff. Then I am playing piano/synth and singing, and I'm really excited because on two of the songs I'm just singing which is like...I don't do that. So that's why I'm like super excited because I can actually move around because every single band I'm in I feel like I just have this little box that I’m stuck in. I can like shuffle my feet a little bit, but that's all, so you can expect me to move around. We played all the way through "Work It Out" the other night at rehearsal and it was just so fun. I got chills. And we're playing some new songs. We're playing all three of the released songs, then two songs that are not released but will hopefully be out by the end of February.
Sean: So you mentioned those two new songs. What's next for this Effee project? Are you hoping to do an EP or an album or just some more singles for now?
Fran: I think I'm going to keep rolling out singles. I might package them in an EP for a physical release, just because I want to have a physical EP. I think that might end up happening but definitely just kind of keep rolling them out, and kind of keep working with as many people as possible too. I think Kevin from V!bes - The Saylor is his new name, -he's going to be releasing a song that we did, I think in the next month or so. I like doing stuff like that where we just co-wrote a song and I'm featured on it. So I'm trying to just get myself into as many areas as I possibly can. You can release stuff faster that way too because it's not just me doing it.
Sean: So since you're involved in all these other projects I have to ask for updates on any of the other bands that you can give me.
Fran: So, with Fields & Planes we have an EP coming out hopefully in February because we have pretty much done. I think Paul Valdiviez is going to be mixing next month. With Kid Runner, we just released the video for "Don't Change Me." We had a remix of that from Magic Man that was released last month. Then we have another remix that we're releasing very soon on Soundcloud that I'm really excited about and then both remixes will be up on Spotify shortly thereafter.
Sean: You've been you've been in Columbus for a long time, you went to school here, live here, and are in a couple bands here. What makes Columbus a good music city?
Fran: Honestly, the affordability is awesome because you can live here and practice here and not be completely bankrupt. Whereas if you are in any other huge music city it's like double the rent and double the cost of everything. So that's super cool. It's also super close to like 15 other major cities, like only half a day's drive. So it's easy to kind of tour around here and then just the community itself. I mean everyone likes going to shows which is awesome and everyone likes listening to music. I feel like it is a pretty tight knit community, for the most part, for bands supporting bands. Which you wouldn't get that much of a community in a bigger city. Also, a lot of bands come through here too, so you get a lot of opportunities to open up for bigger bands. PromoWest is awesome just for local bands getting to open up for more national bands, like Hazel English.
Sean: What music are you listening to right now?
"I feel like 2017 is like the year of awesome music,
but like a lot of ladies."
Fran: Taylor Swift, obviously, I'm trying to get into this new stuff. But the new song last night ("Call It What You Want") it's still in my head, so I have hope for the album. Other than Taylor Swift, I've been listening to this girl down in Nashville called Daniella Mason. She just released a small album and it's super good, it's just really cool. I've been listening to a lot of Julia Michaels. I love her stuff, I think she's doing everything right. And I totally look up to her in the whole songwriting world and being an artist. I think the new Hundred Waters album is amazing. I'm really bummed that I missed them on this tour, they didn't come to Columbus. Actually, I feel like whenever I get this question I like completely blank, I need to look at my fall playlist. What is it that I'm actually listening to? I did really like the new Lorde album. It totally grew on me, and there's a lot of just super catchy songs on there. Have you listened to Tove Styrke at all? She's from Sweden and super cool. Her and Sigrid, who is from Norway, they're just doing these cool songs that are super different. The production is super different, which I really like. Yeah, a lot of girls, I feel like 2017 is like the year of awesome music, but like a lot of ladies. I didn't even notice until just now that I think every single person I just listed is a lady. That's pretty cool. I did really like the new Manchester Orchestra album. I could listen to Andy Hull sing all day.
Sean: Talking about live shows for a minute, you told me that you're going to see Tegan and Sara this weekend in Detroit. Who would you most like to play a show with as Effee?
Fran: I feel like it would be really cool to open for Sylvan Esso. I think that would be a really cool show, and we would complement each other. I think opening for Julia Michaels would be really cool. Probably somewhere between those two. I feel like Julia Michaels is more of my pop realm, and Sylvan Esso is more in my like alternative, cool vibe-y, electronic realm.
Sean: And with the other bands you've been a part of, who has been your favorite artist that you've ever played with in any of those bands?
Fran: With Magic Man, we got to open for All-American Rejects last year and that was really awesome because I was obsessed with their first album when I was in middle school and they played like three or four songs from it and they were the nicest guys ever. It was all original members which is crazy, and they were just so nice and they watched us play. They were like "you guys sounded great," and then they went up and played and then they invited us to come hang out afterwards. So that was a highlight. With Kid Runner, I think we got to open for The 1975 like way back when at The Basement when there was like 150 people there. So, that's like a cool thing, looking back and seeing where they are now. I don't think we hung out with them at all. They were still kind of just quiet and British, just in the green room so we didn't really talk to them. Breakaway Festival, honestly, was super cool when Kid Runner played, and that was like right before Matt & Kim and Tame Impala. That was pretty insane. That was definitely one of my favorite Kid Runner show moments.
Sean: Anything else we should know about Effee?
Fran: I'm just excited. I'm writing a lot of stuff and kind of figuring out who I am as that brand which is a whole different side of the artist world that I didn't really think about until I kind of got ready to release this stuff. Like, who am I? Who is Effee? So it’s kind of fun to sort of blend who I am with this persona of my music. It's just fun to have the reins, like the full reins, on something since I feel like I've had partial reins on a bunch of different things, and now it's like I get to make all of the decisions. And feel fully like I was the person that did this. So, I'm excited.
Effee will be opening for Hazel English at the Big Room Bar on Thursday, November 16. Tickets are only $10 in advance, and can be purchased here. Doors are at 8:00 p.m.