The Brooklyn-bred (and now Ithaca-based) duo of Matte Namer (they/them) and Frankie Rex (they/them, he/him) known as the duo The FMs are looking to use their forthcoming double-single release (“Song X” and “Bad Girl”) to help extract the stigma & continued ignorance embedded in society’s gender experience.
Merch will also be available in conjunction with the release of these tracks (with all profits being donated to the Black Trans Travel Fund). Their goal is to embrace androgyny and amplify the voices of “the other” (their band name is even a play on the gender binary).
The forthcoming double release of “Song X” and “Bad Girl” was recorded at Greenpoint’s ADIM Studios with Grammy-winning engineer Brian Forbes and John Siket (Sonic Youth, Blonde Redhead and Fountains of Wayne).
Though officially formed in 2017, Matte Namer and Frankie Rex have been friends since their high school years growing up in NYC — a time in both of their lives that was rife with moments of self-reflection/analysis, ostracization, depression and experimentation. Both Namer & Rex found their journeys of self-discovery and identity weave with one another, and with a shared musical bedrock of artistic inspirations (artists that unapologetically march to their own beat like Nine Inch Nails, St. Vincent, A Perfect Circle, New Order, Elliott Smith, to name a few), The FMs were born. They started their career through self-curated immersive live performances in Brooklyn (intimate and inclusive underground art performances that took place on a historic boat docked in Brooklyn) which led to their 2017 debut album ‘Machinacene Epoch’ (which took cues from glam, synth-pop, industrial, stoner rock, dance music, and beyond).
Connect with The FMs Online here: WEBSITE
Learn more about The FMs in the following All Access interview-
Thanks for your time! So first things first, how did you all start this band? What made you all think that you could work together? How difficult was it to come up with a band name that you all agreed on?
Frankie and I actually met in high school growing up in NYC and played in each other’s first band, so we have a long personal and musical history together. As we got a little older both of us realized we didn’t fit into the gender binary. Spinning this concept of duality on its head is what we’re all about and our name The FMs is a perfect representation of that (Female Males) (Frankie Matte). Once we thought of it, we both knew it was perfect.
How are you all feeling at this point about the pandemic and the recent openings?
Sad about the tragedy of the past year but also hopeful that we are entering a new era of awakening, a new explosion of culture if you will. At this particular moment I think we are feeling lucky to be placing our stake in the zeitgeist right on this precipice of these times of incredible change.
Let’s talk about your newest track, “Song X.” What was the inspiration for this song? How is this song different or similar to anything else you have put out before? How does it compare/contrast to your other new single “Bad Girl”?
The lyrics of Song X were written by Frankie and the lyrics to Bad Girl were written by me, so both address gender identity issues broadly speaking but from both of our different perspectives. Bad Girl is about the futility of trying to adhere to a feminine gold standard whether you are a cis or trans woman, non-binary person, or anyone else and celebrating the freedom from that construct. On a truly deep level, I think Song X was a song that Frankie wrote as a message to their younger self, something they wish someone sang to them as a teenager. I feel the song is a celebration of freedom and is meant to abolish the expectations of traditional gender roles. Out of all the material we’ve released thus far as a band, we’re most proud of these songs. I think it’s our most powerful material to date and really encapsulates the message behind the ethos of our entire band perfectly well.
How did it go about getting created? How involved were you all with the making of it? What was it like having legendary director, Matt Mahurin direct it?
The experience of working with Matt was utterly surreal. Besides the fact that he’s done music videos for so many of our musical heroes (Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Tom Waits, Marilyn Manson) we have such a deep appreciation and fascination for him as a multi-disciplinary artist. I have a fond memory staring into a painting in his studio in Topanga Canyon transfixed at the layers of texture and meaning. I believe Matt remains a legend to this day and people still consider his work ground-breaking after multiple decades of an output of masterpieces because of the time, attention, and personal passion he delivers to each of his projects. We spent hours upon hours discussing this project, this song and what it meant to each of us personally. Part of his talent as a music video director was to acquire a deep understanding of our personalities and vision and to develop these into brilliant visual concepts and narratives that were executed flawlessly. I also really appreciated how the methods of deep intention and improvisation were woven together with the production. Matt and I had a really fun afternoon going dress shopping at his favorite vintage store in Topanga Canyon, which led me to finding a particular dress that made me feel like I should be holding a cherry pie in the video. That led us down a whole rabbit hole of a concept around domesticity and gender roles deeply ingrained in the persona of modern American history. All in all, the experience was profound and truly memorable; we learned so much from Matt and left with so much inspiration. The gifts he left us with extend far past the amazing video we made together.
Can you elaborate on how the merch will available and will be donated to the Black Trans Travel Fund? How did you learn about this non-profit and why is this specific one important to you?
We had this opportunity to work with this amazing femme POC artist named Starr Callahan who created these striking conceptual images around the idea of gender that we were able to use for this limited merch run. At the time we were planning and launching the campaign, the BLM protests over George Floyd’s murder were taking place and it just seemed completely obvious to everyone involved that we should try and donate any proceeds of this merch towards marginalized groups in our society. Once we discovered the work of the Black Trans Travel Fund it seemed like the perfect fit.
How excited are you all about getting back out there to perform live? Do you have any future dates already scheduled yet?
We constantly dream about our first live performance back after all this time. Unfortunately we don’t have any dates planned yet. It’s pretty hard to plan anything right now still honestly. I keep trying to convince everyone we should do a Queer Kool-Aid Acid Test Summer Extravaganza type thing with a bunch of school buses we can convert to stages for outdoor shows but I suppose “Kooler” heads have thus prevailed haha. Turns out organizing something like that is easier said than done.
What do you think makes for an ideal show for this band? What have been some of your favorite shows and venues?
We used to host an underground event series called SUBVERT on an old ferry ship in Brooklyn with live bands and queer friendly play spaces. I truly love anything where the fourth wall breaks down and the audience becomes part of the experience. I love playing in small packed rooms where we can bounce off one another and I can sing in the middle of the audience while they chant along to our choruses. That’s always the most fun and that’s truly the magic that we miss from not getting to play shows this past year.
How do you think your hometown has influenced the sound and how you all carry yourselves in this group? If not, why do you think that is?
Frankie and I have lived our entire lives in NYC so it’s a deep part of our psyche in so many ways. I think it comes up most often lyrically. Personal experiences like when I kissed my first boy on the steps of the Dakota where John Lennon was shot or watching the cruise liners from under a pier while on acid as a fifteen year old are things we can draw upon. I think watching the LGBTQ+ artistic community blossom around a place like the groundbreaking Brooklyn nightclub House of Yes is also inspiring in terms of understanding our role in the development of our culture as a whole.
How would you say that this group has grown as musicians over the years? How has your sound matured and developed? What has remained the same?
I feel good about the fact that I do feel like we have grown as musicians and that our music is all around better now than when we first started. I always felt that both a band and each album that band produces should have a unique signature associated with it. Our first album Machinacene Epoch is something I’m still proud of and you can definitely tell it’s us, but also you can tell the works on that album have a certain style that is unique to that time period for us. Our older stuff is kind of rawer, a little heavier at times, and a little sloppier at times. Song X and Bad Girl are definitely edgy rock making use of analog synths, but they also have a certain hope and celebration to them and the overall production, singing, musicianship, songwriting etc is really a level up for us.
Where do you think you are all happiest- in the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere? With all the negativity out there today, what else in life truly makes you all happy?
I really think of ourselves as a live band, but I’m also definitely a studio rat (no offense to the rats, who are a wonderful and underappreciated species by the way). We’re incredibly lucky to be getting to release our music to the world right now and to have opportunities to do interviews like this; doing this interview is one thing that makes me happy 🙂
With all the different social media platforms out there, how do you balance it all? How do you think that social media has impacted this band? How often are you all on your different sites interacting with fans? How have you been able to utilize them through the years? Which of you handles them mostly?
Oof. I have a lot of feelings about all this. I used to be all up in the business of social media and to be honest I’ve really struggled to motivate myself to engage with it during the pandemic. I know that must sound a little backwards to most people. I’m kind of a person that gravitates to extremes. I’m both an extreme extrovert and an extreme introvert. Social media was so much easier for me to navigate when I could go out once or twice a week wearing fabulous androgynous outfits and take photos at parties and then have private personal time at home the rest of the time. So like for most folks the whole concept of social interaction has been a bit of an adjustment in a sense this year. That said, some magical things have happened for us. Because of the extra time people do have to spend socializing online, we’ve developed personal connections with fans in places we never would’ve otherwise. As far as which of us does it more, I’d say we kind of switch off and that not one of us mostly handles the social media. We go through different phases with it. At the moment it’s more Frankie than me.
What musicians have really been inspiring you all since you first started making music? Who would you all love to work with in the future?
Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) and Maynard James Keenen (TOOL, A Perfect Circle, Puscifer) would be at the very top of my list with David Bowie as a type of fairy godmother that comes out in visions when staring at the stars seeking guidance.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
This sounds so unbelievably trite I almost cringe writing it, but I think at the heart of it, we honestly are just trying to be ourselves. This rather than being too preachy or lecturing everyone about how they are doing it wrong. By us being us, we are hoping to pave the way towards normalcy for anyone to love, understand and accept people who are gender fluid. In a way as musicians, and artists we almost didn’t really have a choice, we had to focus on this part of ourselves in our art because not to do so would’ve been dishonest and dishonest art is the worst type.