“I’d like to say it was because I had a dream where I saw this bird, it was a Francolin, but that’s not true,” says Staffan Guinnane, singer, guitarist and principal songwriter for local indie pop band Francolin. Guinanne is explaining why the band took the name of a relatively unknown bird closely related to the pheasant. “Actually what happened was that I went to Wikipedia and got a list of the coolest sounding bird names, and I presented it to the band, and they liked Francolin, so that’s the name we went with”.
Guinnane grew up in Sweden to a Swedish mother and an Australian father. “One of the things I remember most about Sweden is that the seasons are really distinct – in winter it’s all white, and in summer it’s all green and sunny, and in spring there’s blossom everywhere. But in Melbourne it’s like one thing, with variations,” Guinnane says.
Despite growing up in Sweden Guinnane said he only felt ‘half Swedish’. Once he’d finished high school, Guinnane jumped on a plane and headed out to Australia, initially moving to his father’s home town of Newcastle before travelling south to the fertile music territory of Melbourne. Guinnane was already writing his own songs, and after playing a few tracks to some friends, was encouraged to form his own band.
The newly minted Francolin was able to take advantage of Guinnane’s already rich catalogue of original pop tracks. “All the songs are basically finished by the time I bring them into the band,” Guinnane says. “The members of the band add their own instrumentation, the lead guitar breaks, the trumpets and the bass lines. The songs might sound a bit different when we finish recording them, but they’re still the same songs that I had originally,” he says.
Like so many legendary pop songwriters Guinnane thrives on writing a happy pop song based on a sad situation. “I really enjoy writing pop songs, and having lyrics that are sad is a really good contrast to the happy pop music,” Guinnane says. “I think that sad lyrics really bring out the happy music, and the happy music really brings out the sad lyrics.”
Guinnane admits that some of his lyrics are written from a close personal perspective, but others are a more abstract collage of characters and events. “The people in the songs are a mish-mash of people that I’ve met,” Guinnane says. “Only a few of the songs are really specific to me – most of it is just made up.” Guinnane tries to write regularly, but says his output has dropped off in recent times as he’s focused on getting the Francolin record finished. “I used to write songs every week, so I might try and get back to that,” he says. Last year Francolin travelled to Nick Huggins’ Pocket Full of Stones studio in Richmond to record the band’s debut album. “Nick’s got a studio set up on the ground floor of his parents’ four-story town house, with one whole wall covered with hay” Guinnan says. “We really liked working with Nick. He’s very enthusiastic – whatever he’s recording at the time is the best thing he’s heard,” Guinnae laughs.
Guinnane is also balancing the release of a solo record, which he says is more about capturing a moment than creating an album, as such. “I basically recorded the songs, made the cover and got it out,” Guinnane says. “The songs are just me with a guitar, and they’re more stripped back, though some of them have now become Francolin songs.”
Guinnane says his career aspirations are modest, and hopefully achievable. “I guess my goal is to make lots of good albums, to keep everyone together while also allowing everyone to do their own thing, so they’re not just ‘part of the band’,” Guinnane says. “Other than that, my objectives are really just to make a modest income out of music. Just enough to have a little house.”
BY PATRICK EMERY
FRANCOLIN launch their Single Suddenly Painlessly as part of the Brunswick Music Festival on Saturday March 24 at Phoenix Public House. Tickets are on sale now via moshtix.com.au or phoenixpublichouse.com.au.