Meet Plain Jane Francis and Tony Q, Dallas' Most Creative Musical Collaborators.
Dallas isn't exactly lacking for especially creative or hard-working artists at the moment — and certainly not in the hip-hop realm, which these days seems to provides content for sites like ours and others to highlight on an almost hourly basis. But while some of the region's bigger musical names — hip-hop or otherwise — have stood rightly as the greater talk of the town in recent months thanks to their own many notable accomplishments, a new content-creating juggernaut started to take shape in the form of two largely ignored collaborators who were sick and tired of seeing their efforts passed over.
Over the span of 20 weeks starting in October, this twosome — rapper/producer Plain Jane Francis and singer/producer Tony Q — unveiled unto the world their musical partnership, which found them releasing an actually visually compelling music video to pair with their musical creations on a weekly basis. To reiterate: They released 20 videos in 20 weeks, every one of them coming on a Monday. That effort then culminated in the January 1 release of their 14-track collaborative OLDKIDS mixtape, a product that packaged a number of those same songs as a completed, compelling whole.
But OLDKIDS is more than just a collection of loosies tied together with a bow. Though they'd each released music on their own previously, the release finds each act at the top of his creative game: On it, Plane Jane Francis (born Kalan Briggs, who, full disclosure, is a former Central Track intern) firmly establishes himself as a clever, adaptable emcee and honestly raw lyricist; Tony Q (born Tony Quarles), meanwhile, showcases greatly his own impressively nimble and controlled vocal talents, as well as an obvious knack for earworm hooks.
It's as impressive a release as we've heard locally in 2015 — and the start of bigger things to come, it seems. This coming weekend, the twosome will continue their absurd pace with the joint release of two new and separate solo mixtapes, Tony Q's five-song Q and Plain Jane Francis' six-song goodnight francis.
Even more exciting: They'll release those new efforts while representing Central Track at one of the more interesting events we've seen go down around town in some time.
On Saturday, April 25, roving DIY space Vice Palace will hunker down at the 2516 North Beckley Avenue warehouse space in West Dallas to celebrate its first full year of merrily meshing the Dallas music, visual and performing arts by asking five local entities — Lower Greenville venue Crown & Harp, independent record label Dallas Distortion Music, independent concert promotions agency King Camel, underground arts zine THRWD and yours truly at Central Track — to curate the night's five musical acts, who'll also be joined by a night-opening fashion show.
Electro-popper Rat Rios will perform for King Camel, electronic noise-makers iill will perform for DDM, ambient soundscape artists Lily Taylor & Sean Miller will perform for THRWD, Pleasant Grove rapper $kaduf will perform for Crown & Harp, and Plain Jane Francis and Tony Q will perform on our behalf as part of what should be among one of the more diverse bills this town's seen in some time. Tickets to the show are $15, with all of the money raised going to support the artist themselves; neither Vice Palace nor any of the entities behind the night's curation stand to make a dime off of the event. Find more info on this show right here.
Then, before Saturday night's affair, meet the men behind the Plain Jane Francis & Tony Q monikers below.
I know you've each done separate projects previously, but you guys seemed to really come together well on this most recent joint-release. Can you tell me how you came to meet, and how you came to collaborate on this level?
Plain Jane Francis: I was hanging out at a friend of mine's loft on a random weeknight, taking pictures of girls, and he had a couple of friends come over. [My friend] Rico, who knows everybody, brought Tony to chill with us. And, long story short, we all had some drinks, and I started doing my typical drunk freestyles. And Tony was into it.
Tony Q: Yeah, I walked in the door and all you hear is Plain Jane rapping about this and that, and I was like… this dude has some skills. So I invited him to our The Tony Q Project show at Pizza Lounge the following day, and from that point on, the respect in regards to music was mutual.
Plain Jain Francis: True that. And Tony helped me finish Redtape and Finders Losers. But it wasn't until after he moved to Hawaii that I really wanted to work with artists on a more collaborative level. That’s how the Cool Cool project and Leeway MGMT came to be.
OK, so, Leeway MGMT. It's the greater banner you're flying under, I see. But what can you tell me about it?
Plain Jane Francis: Leeway MGMT is freedom. Right now, it's Tony, Corn and myself on some music shit. But, in it's final form, I see it as a group of cool kids who make art in all shapes and forms. None of that clique shit. I would let Brain Gang be in it. I would let any crew or group of artists be a part of it. I envisioned Leeway as an outlet for creativity and collaboration — like short films, podcasts, art shows, parties, etc. I could go on forever.
What do you think meshes well about your styles and tastes?
Tony Q: What I think allows us to mesh well is an understanding and a respect for the creation of art. Whether it's music, photography or videos, I feel like we both love to collaborate and be the instigators of that collaboration. From the beginning, it's been a seamless transition into each others styles.
Plain Jane Francis: Yeah, my favorite thing about working with Tony is when we don't even work. We just meet up, have some drinks and browse the Internet for the best and the worst of what it has to offer. And then, at the last minute, we’ll be like, “Oh, shit! We should make a song!” OLDKIDS came to be because we were watching a bunch of videos from Heems, Kool A.D. and Lil B. And we just loved how much fun and lack of structure their songs and videos had.
What's the process of composing a song between the two of you like?
Tony Q: Typically, one of us will have a skeleton of a song or some sort of vibe, and we'll begin to form a concept and let the song show us the way.
Plain Jane Francis: Tony makes it sound beautiful. I don't know how it works. Every time, it comes together differently, and it's always in the final hour.
Among the many admirable things about your collaboration was the decision to make music videos for pretty much everything you've done. What was it, 20 videos in 20 weeks? That's an insane amount of work. First of all, why do this? Second of all, how difficult was it to keep up that pace?
Tony Q: Yeah, somehow we made 20 music videos in 20 weeks. Most of those weeks, we would make a beat on Friday, write the song, make a video, edit the video, master the song and then release it on Monday. I still don’t know how we pulled it off.
Plain Jane Francis: So, back when I worked on Cool Cool, myself and everyone involved spent a weekend at my friend's dope ass house, and we had a weekend long party and recorded videos for every song. There were nine in total, I believe. The videographer who recorded it all ended up only finishing two of the videos, and then disappearing for a while. From that point, I knew in the future I would have to be more hands-on with video creation and editing. When Tony came back from Hawaii, it wasn't even a question; we just knew we had to do something crazy like that so that outlets like Central Track would notice!
Well, it definitely worked, so kudos on that. And now you're gearing up to co-release solo albums just four months since OLDKIDS was released and now you're show. First of all: How much music are you guys creating right now that you can pull this off? Are these new releases at all collaborative? How would you describe each? Where will people be able to hear them?
Plain Jane Francis: Tony makes, like, 12 beats every day, and his new mixtape is better than mine.
Tony Q: That's not entirely true — although, he is right, my tape is dope! We both have a capacity to work at a fast pace when it comes to creating new content. It's one of the reasons we work well together. If we haven’t finished a song within a week or so, it probably won’t be heard by anyone else but us.
Plain Jane Francis: Yeah, I think we have, like, four to six songs we finished but just didn't do anything with. I know one we made a hot video for with Lindsay Higgins, but we all got too drunk and the material just wasn't something we wanted to put out. It's probably mine and Tony's fault — definitely not Lindsay's. I heart her.
Tony Q: [Laughs.] Oh, man. I would say these tapes are collaborative, but not in the sense of us being featured on each other's songs. This time around, our roles were more so being a second ear for each other's solo creations. Since we produce, record, mix and master every song ourselves, it’s nice to step away from a project and let someone else listen. There's nothing more valuable than an opinion you can trust.
Plain Jane Francis: Indeed. I would say Tony's tape is a celebration of sorts. Something you could play at a party or at home or in your car alone and just jam to. It's smooth and fun.
Tony Q: Plain Jane's tape is a glimpse into his reality on a day to day basis. As raw, entertaining and unpredictable as life can be, you'll find it in his tape. Our EPs will be on Bandcamp and Soundcloud. They'll be name-your-price downloads after Saturday.
What's next for Plain Jane Francis & Tony Q, together as a unit?
Plain Jane Francis: I just wanna get famous and act like I don't know nobody.
Tony Q: [Laughs.] Really, though, we want to continue to create dope shit and to collaborate on a larger level with as many artists as possible.
Plain Jane Francis: That, and I want to do more behind-the-scenes stuff — producing, shooting more videos and starting up podcasts. Also, I'm sure I speak for Tony when I say we want to find more artists that are self-sufficient enough to work with on Leeway MGMT.
Tony Q: We also want to continue the momentum that Dallas music appears to have at the moment. We want to help bring the spotlight to the city and illuminate all that it has to offer!
Plain Jane Francis: Yuh! Get at us if you're on some real shit. Also? All the pretty ladies, let me take your picture and twerk for the vine. I don't even use vine, though. So just twerk. Also, respect yourself!
Plain Jane Francis & Tony Q perform on Saturday, April 25, as part of Vice Palace's VP: Year One celebration. Find more information here. Cover photo courtesy of the artists.