“We have given up jobs, torn relationships apart and been made homeless, but we have always seen these things as the minor setbacks that we would have to face in order to achieve our goals… However, it is time for us to call an end to Francesqa; it’s the hardest decision we have ever had to make but we feel it’s the right one.”
This small section of a much larger statement on Facebook from the band Francesqa signalled an end to, in my view, one of the most promising rock outfits for nearly five years. Since losing a member the band struggled to cope in a world which seems to be getting harder and harder for young musicians. Platforms and career springboards for rock bands just don’t seem to exist, and without a lucky break are fresh guitar-based rock bands destined to struggle through for limited success and left to doubt if it was ever worth it?
Since forming in 2009 the path looked bright for Francesqa. Their brand of indie rock had radio potential, it was refreshing, youthful and energetic. Since hearing the tracks ‘Hopeful’ and ‘Ghosts’ I instantly adored this band, who seemed to pack just the right amount of punch to rock out to, without alienating my chart-obsessed friends. Their debut EP We Lived proved so popular a deluxe edition was later released with various acoustic performances and remixes. As beginnings go, this was a good one. I was lucky enough to see the band in March performing at the Kingston Peel, and despite the short set (I should give them some chance to actually write some more songs) their performance was lively, intimate and portrayed the band as nice guys, writing strong music with much more to give. They were even watched by members of You Me at Six, undoubtedly scouting for support acts.
In October Francesqa spread the word further when embarking on a tour with Kids in Glass Houses. All the steps were being taken to growing success, and surely their own headline tours would follow. But as the full statement described, the shift from a five-piece to a four-piece earlier in the year and the lifestyle required to be a full time touring outfit took its toll. The statement came out of the blue for fans, but obviously frontman Ashley Wilkie and Co. had been struggling for much longer.
With money tight and music changing, is it still plausible for young bands to tour all over the country, living in near poverty just to spread a name and hope it catches on? Obviously for some bands this does work; Deaf Havana are a prime example, finally reaping rewards for stressful years of lineup changes and touring. But if the luck never arrives, can creative young musicians really make a career like this? The feeling must be horrendous to pour heart and soul into a project that never takes off, and the costs would inevitably mount. It seems, then, that bands may have to find work and supress their creativity for a number of years to fund their everyday lives, only to start again when it is too late and the imagination has vanished.
There can be many parallels drawn with talented sportsmen, having to sacrifice education or work to pursue a full-time career performing their skill or sport, not knowing if they will ever reach the big time. How many teenagers shy away from university to play football for professional clubs only to be let go a year later?
In such times it seems increasingly difficult for those with a talent and passion to fulfil their dreams. Being realistic may draw a line through hundreds of potential bands and musicians, leaving an empty unsigned music scene. Surely then, in five to ten years time, there will be far fewer young rock bands coming through the ranks to replace those who move on. When the current generation of bands call it a day, who will follow? Only those with such dedication that they risk everything to get to the top, and the success may only be brief.
I don’t blame Francesqa for splitting: the decision between a dream and reality will hit us all. But with the music industry changing, maybe for their individual needs they made the right decision. Sadly, the fans will just have to savour the EP and recently released ‘goodbye’ demo Before I Break Your Heart, on which both tracks are absolutely brilliant and show even greater progression and a larger sound. With a debut album never made, this is a sad loss to British rock.