Coming off the release of their double-sided single “Song X” & “Bad Girl,” we caught up with the dynamic alternative pop duo known as The FMs. A project that started in high school, the team of Matte Namer and Frankie Rex are making a name for themselves, unafraid to create music exploring gender fluidity.
We had the chance to catch up with the New York natives through Zoom. It was a fun and interesting interview and both had a lot of fun stories to tell.
BTS: Could you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard of y’all before?
Frankie: I would say it’s dark wave with a mix of alternative synth-pop.
Matte: That’s not a bad description, but I feel like if you tried to imagine what that is, it still wouldn’t really be…maybe if A Perfect Circle, Sharon Van Etten, Trentmøller, and Nine Inch Nails had a bastard orgy, demon baby that only wore rainbows. That would be what we sound like.
BTS: Haha I love it! And how did y’all get into music?
Frankie: For me personally, I’ve always loved listening to music. Growing up, it was almost a bit of an escape for me to just visualize myself as being a professional performer. [It’s] just something I always knew I wanted to do. As I became a teenager, it was like, you know what? I wanted to also learn an instrument. So I started playing guitar, teaching myself how to play. That’s how I kind of got into music.
Matte: I feel like I always had a real natural draw to it because I started playing music when I was like 13 or 14. Pretty soon after that, I really decided it was the thing I wanted to do in my life. I’m really into performing live, but I’m also totally a studio rat at the same time. There’s a lot of different elements of music that I really love. But the thing that drew me to it most was its ability to reflect or even influence cultural change in our society. I think that was the thing that just really drew me to it most, just seeing its kind of power.
BTS: You mentioned performing live get, did y’all have the chance to perform live before the pandemic?
Frankie: Oh yeah. We played a bunch of shows before the pandemic. We played a few shows on [a] boat that we did our first recordings on and our last show was literally a month or two before things got shut down at a venue called Gold Sounds in Brooklyn.
Matte: Yeah, we actually used to produce a lot of our own shows. Some of the more fun things that we did were like really underground events where we would tie in a lot of these other elements of community into it. So it’d be a lot of live bands, might be fire performers or we might set up a kinky play space in one of the rooms, tarot card readings or burlesque performances. We really were into this idea of not just getting up on stage and performing to an audience, but like having everybody participate. One of our songs is called “Hit Yourself” and we would invite the audience to just hit me during the song, which was an experiment that still hasn’t yet resulted in an injury for me, thankfully. We’ll see how long that lasts.
BTS: Do they hit you in the face?
Matte: We usually tell people not to hit me in the face.
BTS: Okay. That’s good. Y’all are into making it a really immersive experience when it comes to performing.
Matte: Yeah, I would say so. I think, from an art perspective, there’s something interesting about breaking down that fourth wall. As an audience member myself, I like to be able to move. I like to be able to sing along, to get my blood flowing. So I just feel like people enjoy themselves most when they have some element of participating along with you.
Frankie: And it makes it a more interesting experience all around, you know, it gives, it gives more to the show with all these different elements to it.
BTS: Who are your musical inspirations?
Frankie: Well for myself, Nine Inch Nails, Elliott Smith, Maynard James Keenan (and all of his projects), St. Vincent. Those are just the top ones for me at this moment in time.
Matte: Yeah. I would just add a little bit of that. I would throw in some, Depeche Mode, some Cure. Trentmøller is somebody that I really love. I’ve been listening to this artist Mitski a lot lately. We listen to a lot of 90s grunge as well, stuff like the Pixies. Joy Division was a big one for both of us. We actually covered a Joy Division song in our high school band. We covered “She’s Lost Control.” I’ve always been a huge Pink Floyd fan also. The influences go back to the 60s even.
Frankie: I’ll go into “Song X” because it’s kind of like my little child. The musical composition was written by Michael Butterly and sent it over to us — they’re also another member of the FMs. I listened to the music for a couple of days and I was like, you know what, I’ve never really spoken about how I feel with how I identify gender-wise [and] within my own sexuality. At that point in time, a lot of people were coming out as non-binary. It was just out there, which I didn’t have growing up or at least wasn’t aware of it. So I really just wanted to write a song which expresses these ideas that if other people who are struggling with or thinking about or just want to be recognized or seen. It’s that type of anthem where it’s like, we don’t fit into either the black or the white area. We are the gray area.
Matte: And then “Bad Girl” is kind of related to it. It seemed like the songs just went really well together. “Bad Girl” was kind of like tying in this concept for my own life, which is wanting to strive towards being or wanting to have more of this feminine nature in my life but not really kind of coming to terms with the fact that there really is no perfect feminine, gold standard, right? It’s trying to free people like myself, who were always interested in being more feminine or having more traits of women or femininity. So that’s kinda what that’s meant to be. I think both of these songs are really just about freedom from these gender constructs. We have these rigid concepts of what boys or girls are supposed to be in our society and we’re saying take those definitions and throw them out the window. Anybody can be whatever they are and just free yourself from all that.
BTS: What has been your favorite accomplishment so far?
Frankie: Favorite compliment accomplishment would definitely be just all the response we’ve been getting from these singles that we’ve put out for “Song X” and “Bad Girl.” Working with Matt Mahurin on the music video was amazing because he’s worked with so many well-known artists — U2, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden
Matte: …Metallica, Tom Waits and all the people he’s working with.
Frankie: It blew my mind because I grew up watching these music videos and being able to be in a music video that he directed and everything was just like, all right, this is awesome. Like if I get hit by a bus tomorrow, I’m okay. I’m okay with this. And just knowing that people are listening to it and it has such a positive response. Like from something that I was able to be a part of and really put my heart and soul into, like definitely. That’s it for me.
Matte: All the things Frankie just said is exactly what I would’ve said. But we’ve also had some really cool things in our band history. We were in this movie on Showtime called Fluidity. There’s a lot to be proud of with the FMs and the release of “Song X” and “Bad Girls” was really cool. It was the first time we printed stuff on vinyl, which is really fun. I’m proud of the fact that we did this merch collaboration with Star Callahan where we’re donating the proceeds to the Black Trans travel fund. But the thing that I honestly am most proud of is literally the fact that we have fans that are outside of our friend group. I know it sounds so dumb, but honestly, that is the real answer.
BTS: I wanted to go back to Matt Mahurin. How did that collaboration come about?
Matte: Matt is friends with our manager, basically it’s how that worked out. He just really connected with us. Matt is somebody that is just a really brilliant artist. He’s a painter, photographer, journalist. We got to hang out with him all weekend. We got to go hiking and dress shopping with him. We kind of became good friends. And Matt really resonated with our concept around gender fluidity. I think he really appreciated us coming to him with this concept and everything. [It] just really made him think about gender fluidity and what it meant to him and his life. We’re just really lucky that we got to work with him and got to draw on his creativity in all these different ways and to become friends with him. He’s an awesome guy.
BTS: What’s next for The FMs? What does the rest of the year hold for you?
Frankie: Well right now, we have two new singles we’re working on releasing that’s in the mix. That’s also going to be pressed on vinyl. So exciting! There’s also this cool time warp video, we could talk about this? Can we talk about this?
Frankie: Why don’t you go into it?
Matte: For pride month, this month we did a collaboration with our oftentimes collaborator Miss Cherry Delight and we are basically collaborating with this awesome nonprofit, The Chosen Family Law Center, and we wanted to do something cool for pride month and support a nonprofit. So, we did a cover of the “Time Warp” from Rocky Horror and basically, we’re trying to help them raise money. They’re a really awesome nonprofit that helps alternative families with legal services. You can help participate by watching the video, sharing the video. And if you have like an extra $5 or an extra $5 million, $5 billion dollars, $50 billion dollars. I don’t know, who’s listening to this. Maybe Elon Musk is listening. Then, maybe consider donating to The Chosen Family Law Center.
Check out Beyond The Stage Magazine for more music news!