The concept of screen music is vast and varied for musician and singer-songwriter Frannie Holder. The artist we discovered as a member of Dear Criminals and Random Recipe has felt a need to step outside of her musical boundaries for several years. But what if all of her outlets are fruitful? That’s true for her.
A hard-hitting, hyper-realistic movie about sexual and physical violence in the context of juvenile prostitution, Geneviève Albert’s first film, Noémie dit oui, features a lot of songs. And rather than commissioning instrumentals for the scenes that required music, the director opted to use existing songs.
“This movie doesn’t contain actual screen compositions. She wanted to use songs,” Holder explains. “The music I actually created specifically for this project are two songs I wrote for the fictitious band that’s in the movie. It’s teen emo-punk-pop, and I grew up with a sister that listened to a lot of that, so my inspiration was quite clear.”
Alone in the studio, Holder wrote the music and the lyrics and produced the demos. Benoit Bouchard, her frequent Dear Criminals collaborator, introduced Pierre Fortin who joined the “band” on guitar. “I found inspiration in the story and what the main character was going through,” Holder remembers. “In your teens, any song is the soundtrack of your whole life. I was like that a lot at that age, like I was living in a music video.”
After easily navigating opposite musical styles with Random Recipe and Dear Criminals, Frannie is convinced that there’s she’s comfortable in any “musical zone.” “I’m not super-comfortable with musical arrangements, however,” she admits. “I played classical music when I was young, and it feels like a mountain of work to me. It’s the only part for which I would hire someone. Otherwise, whether it’s rap, grunge, reggae. . . Bring it, I’m in.”
And as someone who is accustomed to experience art as a member of a band, despite the fact that it involves making compromises, Frannie says the solitude of screen composing is what she finds the most challenging. “Screen composing is quite a solitary trade,” she believes. “You talk with authors upstream, but otherwise, it’s you and your computer alone in a studio. On the plus side, that means I did a lot of it during the pandemic when we couldn’t see anyone,” she says laughing.
Among her other recent contributions to screen music, there’s Patrick Bossé’s Territoire des Amériques, an immersive film about artist René Drouin. The art project was notably presented at Montréal’s Société des arts technologiques in November of 2021. Frimas, a short, and Au nord d’Albany, a feature film directed by Marianne Farley, as well as season three of the comedy Trop are other projects she recently delivered.
As for Pour Toi Flora, a series by Sonia Bonspille Boileau, it will be available on Tou.TV Extra on May 26, 2022. It tells the story of an Anishinaabe brother and sister at a residential school in the ’60s. “Actress Kwena Bellemare-Boivin is also a musician and she was the inspiration for a whole world,” says Holder. “I used a melody she hums in the series as the basis for the rest of the music. The director wouldn’t have asked me if she wanted First Nations music, but it was important for both of us that we hear the roots of Indigenous music and the bridge between it and us.”
Boileau wanted to create this link between art, voices and craftspeople. “The whole point about the dialogue surrounding cultural appropriation is not to avoid working together, it’s the opposite. You just need to do things the right way,” says Holder. That’s why she enlisted the talent of Anachnid, a Montréal-based electronic music artist of Oji-Crie and Mi’kmaq origins. “I’m a fan,” admits Holder. “It was totally out of the question for me to use only my voice on a project that has nothing to do with my history. Anachnid was perfect and she came in with her voice, her flute, and her drums. All of a sudden, I felt a lot less alone.”
Never one without a story to tell, Holder humorously recounts her songwriting process for the animated documentary series Caresses magiques, a collection of five short films by Lori Malépart-Traversy about female masturbation presented by the NFB in May of 2022. “I had just moved into my home studio, and I had no idea how well it was soundproofed,” she remembers. “I work mostly at night, and I would play the same sex scenes over and over. For the longest time, I wondered what my neighbours thought of me,” she giggles.
These days, Holder is working on the music for Sophie Deraspe and Stéphane Hogue’s Motel Paradis, a six-episode series that will air on Club illico later this year. “Sophie wanted the music beforehand to work on the scenes with the existing sound, which is quite peculiar,” says Holder. “I gave her music that I wrote according to the guidelines she gave me, and then I replaced my music while adjusting what had been used.”
Imagery is a living art form, and Holder frequently contributes, including for stage plays and choreography. She sees her role as an essential external component that envelops an existing project. Think of it as a bespoke shirt. She considers it a highly technical trade that allows her to be of service of what someone else has to say. “It’s comforting to work for someone else,” she says. “You see an image, you magnify it, you soothe it, you create a shift, you destroy it, you duplicate it, you make it bigger, or more intimate. It’s the final detail that makes the scene you’re looking at complete.”