After touring with singer-songwriter and producer Sia last fall, the London-based duo AlunaGeorge — singer Aluna Francis and producer George Reid — has nabbed another prime opening spot. The band will open for Coldplay when it performs at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 19, at Quicken Loans Arena. A second opener, Izzy Bizu, will start the show off.
“It’s been a massive learning curve,” says Francis in a recent phone interview when asked about playing in front of Coldplay. “We did do the Sia tour last year, year but that’s about a third of the size of a stadium. The audiences have absolutely no idea who I am. Don’t forget. There’s a crowd of people waiting for Coldplay to come on. It’s like we’re the tease before the thing they’re waiting for. You have to do some intense getting-to-know-you activities to warm them up. That’s been my challenge.”
The duo first met in June 2009 when Reid remixed “Sweetheart,” a track by Francis’ previous band, My Toys Like Me.
“George found us on MySpace,” she says. “The song we worked on together turned out really good and got played on Radio One. When George and I wrote the song together, we didn’t want to change it all and really liked working together. We decided to continue to work together at that point.”
The duo had released a few tracks on SoundCloud that established it as a force on the British dance scene. Mixing hip-hop and soul with dance music, the group draws from different genres.
“We were just always very musical in our communication,” Francis says of working with Reid. “We would just start working without much discussion. When we started out, we did dance tracks and slow jams and things we didn’t understand what they were. We were just like, ‘I don’t know what this is, but it’s something.’ That became our identity. We’re a band that makes music that no one is making. It’s weird but accessible.”
The two share some influences that suggest the origins of their unique sound.
“We have some crossovers like Jeff Buckley and Radiohead,” says Francis. “He goes more Motown and I go more LCD Soundsystem. We come back around to 2000s hip-hop and pop.”
The band issued its full-length debut, Body Music
, in 2013. Songs such as the album opener, “Outlines,” sound like mid-’90s British acid jazz/funk acts such as the Brand New Heavies and Soul II Soul.
“It just felt really natural,” Francis says of the recording process for Body Music
. “We already had the idea of an album in mind. We weren’t sure what that album would be like. We made tons and tons of music and then collected the music that had a kind of sound and could be associated together. There are a lot of tracks on it, and many more that didn’t get on there.”
Francis says the band didn’t intend to do anything differently with last year’s I Remember
, but the songs sound more contemporary and less retro. The rattling percussion and soaring vocals in a song such as “Full Swing” sound ready made for Vegas style dance clubs. “My Blood” features dub step-inspired beats and soulful vocals, and deep bass grooves propel “Not Above Love.” The album centerpiece, “Mean What I Mean,” has a brisk horn-like riff and features some rapid fire raps courtesy of guests Leikeli47 and Dreezy.
“It’s a cathartic antidote to myself,” Francis says of the song. “I went through a situation where my boundaries had been crossed. I wanted to find something that instead of being angry and preachy and strict, I wanted it to be fun and sexy. I realized that those scenarios happen at a moment when you don’t say anything because you don’t want to kill the vibe. Young people get caught in that moment. They say ‘yes’ to going to someone’s room even though the people aren’t treating them right. People might not know what the song is about, but it’s about sexual consent.”
Given the steady touring, the band hasn't had time to start on the next full-length, but Francis says she's given the next album some thought.
"I have a theme for a body of work that I’m keen to start exploring once we have some time.”