By Danielle Boise
Bohemian cabaret never sounded so good as when Frenchy and the Punk performed their 1920s Parisian flair spiked with a punkish twist, at Dragon*Con on Saturday September 1st on the Concourse stage at the Hyatt for a teaser set that consisted of 30 minutes of cabaret style music as a prelude for their bigger show Sunday night at midnight. “Let’s start this off with a bit of sonic foreplay” said Samantha Stephenson, aka Frenchy as they kicked the set off.
Frenchy and the Punk performed “The Magician and the Dancer” followed by “The Confession of Jack Bonnie and Sally Clyde” which is a new song off their latest album, Hey Hey Cabaret, which was released in July. Up next was a song from their 2007 cd, which is currently out of print, “Le’ Train” followed by “House of Cards” in which Tempest came out and performed her belly dancing routine for the adoring fans as both Stephenson and her partner, Scott Helland performed a pulsating drum routine. Frenchy and the Punk then had the crowd interact with them by singing along the chorus of “Hey Hey Cabaret.” “Make Out” wrapped up their set in the perfect way with its vibrancy and cheekiness.
I had the chance after the show interview the duo that makes up Frenchy and the Punk – Samantha Stephenson, aka Frenchy and Scott Helland, otherwise known as the Punk.
How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you before; that’s a real interesting name, but what kind of music goes with that name?
Helland: Cabaret Folk Punk. That’s what I say, what do you say? (turns to Samantha)
Stephenson: That sounds good to me.
Helland: There are a lot of different elements to what we do. There is a definitely a little bit of Steampunk in some of the lyrics and imagery. I use some gypsy jazz type melodies and rhythms on the guitar and also some punk type rhythms on the guitar. It’s acoustic; it kind of combines all of that. Samantha was born in France, so there is that cabaret dance aspect to the sound; so cabaret folk punk sums it all up.
Stephenson: It’s very upbeat, very spirited; I always say that.
Helland: We play Steampunk shows, Faerie festivals, events like this (reference to Dragon*Con), massive Geek fun fests, Folk festivals, Arts festivals, so it runs the gamut.
Stephenson: It’s pretty eclectic.
You’re New York (Helland) and you’re Paris (Stephenson), so how did you meet and when did you decide to collaborate together and how long have you been performing together as a duo?
Helland: We’ve been a duo since 2005. We meet in New York City in ’98.
Stephenson: We were collaborating, actually starting in 2000 creatively, but it wasn’t until 2005 that I actually joined Scott on stage. It’s really evolved, our sound has evolved. It was very instrumental based in the beginning. As the years have gone by it’s become more and more lyrical content. Now it’s definitely put more in it with his punk background and my French and cabaret kind of feel to it.
Helland: The first time we meet, she was an artist who was doing a show, doing an art opening and I was a solo musician.
Stephenson: I was doing painting and sculpture and all that kind of stuff.
Helland: I think the first time we actually hung out we did drum together.
Stephenson: Yeah, as you obviously saw we do drumming instrumentals. It’s like a really fun part of our show. It’s really eclectic feel to it because it’s so different. I spent some time in Brazil as a child and I was obsessed with drumming, like the Samba school, Carnival and stuff. I always had this big dream that I was going to join the Samba school and dance in the streets of Rio when I was five years old. Like that was my goal (with a chuckle). It’s funny, it’s so ironic that now we are doing these drumming instrumentals and you (referencing Scott) played drums when you were nine.
Helland: Yea, drums, bass, and guitar – the drumming thing was meant to be. We meet in ’98, but we didn’t start playing music together ‘til 2005. It took a long time. I had a whole solo instrumental career, Samantha helped me with that. I was rigid, I wanted to do my solo stuff and then I heard Samantha sing. She jumped on stage at a solo show of mine and it was like wow.
Stephenson: I have a dance background. I started dancing when I was four years old. I did ballet, modern, jazz, tap, hip-hop – I was very heavily into dance, it was my passion. So that’s why I could jump up on stage and join him for some instrumentals and do a little percussion. It’s just snowballed from there.
How does this year at Dragon*Con live up to previous years so far?
Stephenson: Dragon*Con is freakin’ amazing.
Helland: It gets better every year. Every year is awesome, so it’s like how do you up the ante. We’ve been here four years, we’ve played three years. I think one thing now is more people are psyched to see us back. They are like “do you have a new cd?” whereas the first year they hadn’t heard about us as much or saw us at other festivals maybe, but never here.
Stephenson: That’s the really fun part, where people are like “Frenchy and the Punk” (exclamation), the recognition and the excitement of the new cd, so they are coming to get it. That’s a really fun part for us. The whole Con is always amazing time; the energy here is so fun and spirited. Everyone has so much joy here. You can’t not not be happy.
Helland: The other day a big tall guy, like three feet taller than me, said “I come to Dragon*Con for three things, the Cruxshadows, someone’s picture/autograph, and to see Frenchy and the Punk.” I was like wow, I love you man. It was really sweet. It’s cool stuff like that.
Stephenson: It’s like a big family coming back together every year. It’s like a really frickin’ big family reunion.
Helland: A good family reunion.
Without the drunk bad uncle (laughter).
What are you most looking forward to experiencing the rest of the weekend here at Dragon*Con?
Helland: I feel like for me the first thing I think of is more continued fun.
Stephenson: Yea, it’s just the people. What makes Dragon*Con are the people. Just seeing everyone dress up in their favorite character, I saw some guy holding up a sign, I won’t remember what it said. You know how people do that, they have a sign over their head and they are walking around with some saying related to some show or whatever. It’s like he is making people happy because people recognize what he has written there and they are like “oh yeah” making that connect. He’s just walking around with that sign just because he knows it’s going to make people happy to read that saying from whatever show. You know what I mean? It’s like people making other people happy.
Helland: That’s definitely what this world needs more of. It’s like 40,000 people (here at the convention) here in Atlanta and there’s smiles everywhere. I’m getting goose bumps thinking about it. It’s so awesome.
If you get a chance to see Frenchy and the Punk on the festival circuit, then do so. They put on a dynamic set that fill the senses with a smorgasbord of delightful music. For more information on Frenchy and the Punk or to see where they will be performing next, visit www.frenchyandthepunk.com.