Today, New York City singer, songwriter & multi-instrumentalist Miles Francis announced their new album Good Man, debuting the video for title track “Good Man” with Under the Radar. Resulting from a project during which the artist experienced a complete unraveling of conditioning that helped them come out as non-binary, these are works of gorgeous paradox: nuanced explorations of masculinity and all its trappings, presented in a sound that’s joyfully unfettered.
Francis explains the title track, which came from conversations with “progressive-minded” men who still had blind spots around issues like the #MeToo movement: "‘Good Man’" is about a particular patriarchal phenomenon that I've grown increasingly mindful of in the men around me. It's sung by a man who preaches progressive values, who identifies as ‘one of the good ones’ - yet he fails to recognize his perpetuation of patriarchal behavior in his own life. There are lots of outwardly 'bad' men out there - but it's the ones who claim their ‘good’-ness that can be particularly troublesome and capable of causing real harm. The songs on my album follow someone wrestling with their true nature, and at the heart of that process is the question of what ‘being a man’ even means.”
Francis will be playing a show at Brooklyn Bowl on November 13 with Afrobeat band Antibalas - tickets & more info here.
Playing into the album’s themes and storyline are previous singles “Popular” (feat. Lizzie Loveless & Lou Tides - formerly of TEEN - on background vocals) and “Service,” complete with mesmerizing boy band clone choreography that mirrors Miles' own recording process in quarantine. “Everyone indulges in having an ego and wanting to be recognized, but men seem particularly bent on the power element — whether it’s taking up space in a room or leading a country,” says Francis. These were followed by remixes of "Popular" by Future Generations and “Service” from Overcoats, to love from KCRW, Earmilk, The Wild Honey Pie & beyond.
Produced by Francis and recorded in their longtime studio (located in the basement of the Greenwich Village building they grew up in), Good Man arrives as the most visionary and elaborately realized output yet from a polymathic artist known for collaborating with the likes of Angélique Kidjo, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, and Arcade Fire’s Will Butler.
“I grew up with boy-band posters from floor to ceiling in my bedroom, and that music very much dominated my life when I was young,” they point out. “Later on I studied Afrobeat music and started playing with different groups in that world, which helped me to get to a place where I could be totally free in my musical expression.” Also naming shapeshifters like Prince and David Bowie among their essential touchstones, Francis ultimately alchemized those inspirations into a highly percussive form of art-pop, both lavishly orchestrated and visceral in impact.
Francis also worked in close collaboration with filmmaker/photographer Charles Billot on the album to create such striking visuals as the album’s surreal cover art (a wonderfully warped photo that features their mother and father alongside their own doubled image): “It’s the idea of one person embodying all different types of people, and the idea that we don’t exist in a vacuum: we’re created by our families and our trauma and the whole world around us.”
As an artist indelibly informed by the kinetic energy and eclecticism of New York City, Francis drew immense inspiration from their hometown: “At the start of the protests and the resurgence of Black Lives Matter last year, I realized the most direct way I could help was to get a drum and go out to marches and keep a beat for organizers,” says Francis, who soon assisted a friend in the founding of a New York-based collective called Musicians United. “In the beginning the goal was to get involved with anti-racist work, but the experiences I had and the people I met through the Black Trans Lives Matter movement opened up my whole world. It gave me a new mirror to see myself in, and helped me to find my own queerness and nonbinaryness.”
Francis finally realized: “When I’m in my studio, it feels like being completely free of the outside world, free of gender, free of everything except me. I feel like I’m finally figuring out how to take that freedom beyond my musical expression and bring it into every aspect of my life. Now I want to share that feeling with everybody.”