Soon enough they will also be releasing their ambitious ‘Zen Ghost’ album – their seventh to date, set for release on the EA Recordings label on October 28. While the most obvious association here is Siouxsie and the Banshees and their offshoot project The Creatures, other artists who come to mind are The Divinyls and Mephisto Walz. Yet, in regards to the vocal timbre itself, Grace Slick is worth mentioning and that is a seriously high compliment. Enveloping intrigue and haunt within a vibing danceable instrumental coating with rhythmic groove, this is one artist who knows how to peak one’s interest.
Frenchy and the Punk is vocalist, percussionist and lyricist Samantha Stephenson and guitarist-composer Scott Helland, who was co-founder and bassist of Outpatients and also Deep Wound (along with Dinosaur Jr. founders J Mascis and Lou Barlow). Influenced by The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Blondie, Concrete Blonde and The B52’s, the duo thrive in their trademark blend of post-punk and dark folk music.
About ‘Come In and Play’, Samantha Stephenson says, “I was named after the character in Bewitched. My mom was a fan of the show. It sparked a curiosity and enthusiasm for all things mystical and magical from an early age. I could be quite solitary and eventually dove into a meditation practice. That feeling of going inward and exploring the inner workings of the esoteric realm always felt very comforting.”
Earlier, the band released the lead track ‘Mon Souvenir’, an unapologetically new wave nugget, propelled by chugging acoustic chords, that reflects the album’s central theme of transcending ‘mind phantoms’ – the experiences from the past that linger within all of us.
Dark times make for dark songs. ‘Zen Ghost’ was written and recorded during the downtime of 2020-2021. Here, the duo’s shadowy sound takes an even darker turn. An inward spin, into the pair’s previously unexplored personal planes and interpretations of the insanity of our increasingly tumultuous age. But despite its more pronounced moodiness, like the rest of the band’s oeuvre, ‘Zen Ghost’ offers plenty of opportunities to dance in the darkness.
Tapped as one of the Top 25 duos in the US by Yahoo! Music, the freewheeling pair has released numerous recordings, including the acclaimed albums ‘Happy Madness’ (2010), ‘Hey Hey Cabaret’ (2012), ‘Elephant Uproar’ (2013), ‘Cartwheels’ (2014), ‘Bonjour Batfrog’ (2014), and ‘Hooray Beret’ (2019).
French-born, but raised in the UK and USA, Stephenson’s study of piano and dance ignited her eventual rejection of corporate conformity and fueled a quest to lead a truly autonomous life through art and music. A son of jazz-loving teachers, Helland grew up in Western Massachusetts and was a vital player on the region’s fertile early hardcore punk scene.
Helland and Stephenson met in NYC in 1998, when Stephenson spontaneously jumped on stage to accompany Helland during his solo guitar performance. The artistic union was immediate, powerful and undeniable. The two began to tour with fevered zeal, turning heads with their striking aesthetic, steadily building fervent fans on the mystical-folk/steampunk festival, coffeehouse, convention, and club circuits with their boisterous, revival-like live shows.
Since then, they’ve performed live with Dead Can Dance’s Peter Ulrich and Dresden Dolls’ Brian Viglione, and opened for Thomas Dolby, Dinosaur Jr., The World Inferno Friendship Society, Rasputina, Cruxshadows, Hurray For The Riff Raff and The Young Dubliners.
‘Come in and Play’ is now out everywhere, including Apple Music, Spotify and Bandcamp, where ‘Mon Souvenir’ can also be found. The ‘Zen Ghost’ album will be released on October 28 and is available for pre-order digitally via Bandcamp and on CD directly from the band’s website at https://batfrogs.com/product/zen-ghost-cd
All songs written by Samantha Stephenson and Scott Helland
Samantha Stephenson – lyrics, lead vocal, percussion, keyboard
Scott Helland – guitar, bass, drums, backing vocals
Jason Sarubbi – upright bass on ‘Church of Sound’
Braxton Bellew – additional electric bass on ‘Church of Sound’
Recorded and mixed by Jason Sarubbi at Split Rock Studios, New Paltz, NY
Mastered at The Cage, Coventry UK by Martin Bowes
Album cover photo by Alice Teeple
Pen and ink drawings by Scott Helland
Album cover design by Scott Helland and Samantha Stephenson
Oct 08 Poughkeepsie, NY – Gallery 40
Oct 15/16 Shepherdstown, WV – Shepherdstown Fae Festival
Oct 22 Nyack, NY – Prohibition River Live
Oct 28 Baltimore, MD – FaerieCon
Dec 2 Camden/London – Black Heart (with Beyond Victoria & Flesh Tetris)
Dec 10 Exeter, UK – Yule Ball
Feb 4/5 Manchester, CT – Stupid Cupid Steampunk Festival
Feb 18/19 Gettsyburg, PA – MythiCon Festival
April 01 Galveston, TX – Galveston Steampunk Festival
April 8-9 Baltimore, MD – Between The Worlds
April 15/16 Chicago, IL – Chicago Steampunk Expo