Taken from Canwest News Service (Apr 12, 2008)
Franti's winning way: Catchy beat, fine lyrics
Spearhead's ongoing desire for change means next album will be different
by Kat Angus, Canwest News Service
Michael Franti is incredibly eloquent. For his fans, this isn't a surprise. As the leader of Michael Franti and Spearhead, the musician has always used his music to combine politically charged lyrics with catchy hooks and beats. But writing eloquent lyrics over time is very different from being articulate at the spur of the moment -- amazingly, Franti excels at both.
He speaks to me from Missoula, Mont., the latest stop on Michael Franti and Spearhead's North American tour. Even though he only has a few minutes between sound check and a local yoga class, Franti has no problem describing his band's next album, All Rebel Rockers, due out in September.
"The war and the dangerous place our economy is in right now have been in the minds of everybody and sometimes we get frustrated with how things are going," he says. "This record is one that is just to help people stay inspired and not get down and not feel so discouraged about their lives or the world around them that they don't want to participate anymore."
Another one of Franti's many talents is his innate ability to detect what audiences are missing and find ways to bring it to them. It's what drove Franti to visit Iraq, Palestine and Israel in 2004 so he could discover the personal stories the news didn't cover. His experiences in the Middle East are chronicled in his 2005 documentary, I Know I'm Not Alone, a film that is finding renewed interest in the current political climate.
"I feel really excited," Franti says of the upcoming U.S. presidential election. "I feel that after eight years of Bush and, having personally visited the war in Iraq and spent time with people there, [I think] it's definitely time for a change. I've travelled around the world, to Asia and South America, and I think Obama symbolizes more of a change. The last several years we've had two Bushes and a Clinton and people don't want to see two Bushes and two Clintons. They want something completely new."
Franti's own desire for change is what led him and Spearhead to once again go in a different direction for All Rebel Rockers. While they want their audience to learn from their music, they also don't want people to get so caught up in the world that they forget to enjoy themselves.
"I think people are more eager today to listen to music about what's going on because it's a difficult time we're in, but at the same time people want to dance and they want to let go and they want to release the energy that's built up," says Franti. "That's what we're trying to do with our music. We try to make it the most fun and energetic and danceable music that it can be. (All Rebel Rockers) is primarily that. It's a dance record, but a revolutionary dance record."
In their live shows, Michael Franti and Spearhead also try to create a different experience from that of their albums -- not only to entertain their audiences but to entertain themselves, too.
"When you make a record, you're kind of capturing a moment in time, but then when you go to do those songs live, they change because there have been new experiences that have taken place since you wrote it. Mainly we try to get people excited and dancing and energized -- feeling like we're all together in the music. That's the goal, to create that intimacy with a couple thousand people."
His fans are so dedicated that they frequently attend his concerts barefoot, a nod to Franti's own habit of never wearing shoes, though the singer warns against searching for a deeper meaning within the gesture.
"I've been barefoot for the last eight years and I've only worn shoes onstage a couple of times," he says.
"I don't do it out of any form of protest. I just prefer not to wear shoes because it's more comfortable."