het Theater Festival

‘Ignorance has allowed us to make what we have now’ – interview with FRANKIE

Fri 13 Sep 2019

How do you get selected for het TheaterFestival when you’re not even theatre-makers? Simon Lynen, Vincent Lynen, Jef Staut, Brecht Hayen & Timo Fannoy are FRANKIE, a group of animators and musicians who ended up in the theatre by accident. Tonight and tomorrow they bring their live animation concert Laguna Beach to CAMPO. ‘It’s funny that people see things in it and try to find some meaning.’ 

Liam Rees & Sanne Stassijns

© Simon Lenskens

How did you come together as FRANKIE?

Simon Lynen: ‘We started more as a band actually. Well not really, we were just messing around in a basement in Ghent. We were playing music together but we weren’t really a band. Vincent was curating an exposition at Gouvernement and that needed live music for the opening, but we weren’t really comfortable performing as a band. I was making animation movies with puppets and so we decided to build a music box with puppets. We were playing our songs behind a curtain so people were watching the puppets and couldn’t see us. That’s the first thing we did as a group. At that expo were two people from arts centre CAMPO, and they asked if we wanted to do a residency to develop the idea and that’s how we ended up in the theatre. There was no plan or anything.’

Jef Staut: ‘A pretty simple concept and FRANKIE was born. When we graduated, doing theatre wasn’t on our minds. And now we’ve taken film and put it on stage. It was a really organic process.’

And why the name FRANKIE?

(They laugh) 

Simon: ‘That was a nickname some of them gave me when we were drunk and it kind of stuck.’

What are your musical influences?

Simon: ‘I always find that difficult because we all like quite traditional bands but we also have our own different musical interests.’ 

How did you develop the music for the show Laguna Beach?

Vincent Lynen: ‘We started as a punk band. Heavy, hard, loud.’

© Philippe Digneffe

Simon: ‘When we were studying animation we asked Brecht (the guitarist in FRANKIE, red.) when we needed music for a movie. So we were doing the same thing as now but back then it was for a movie. And it was a more atmospheric kind of music.’

Jef: ‘For the show we had to make other music that we otherwise wouldn’t make because the installations required something different.’ 

Simon: ‘In the show, I don’t think that the music in itself would be powerful enough to stand on its own but it works because images and music are shown together.’

How would you describe Laguna Beach?

Simon: ‘In the beginning it was described as puppetry but I’m not really satisfied with that description. As a band we’re at the centre of the universe we created. The first time we performed people asked “What are you trying to say?” and suddenly performing felt very serious while, in the studio, it was very playful. That was a strange realization. It’s funny that people see things in it and try to find some meaning.’

Vincent: ‘We just didn’t know it ourselves. The public just have to be surprised and enjoy themselves.’

The show seems to be very irreverent, like South Park put onstage. Do you agree with that?

Simon: ‘We have been compared to South Park and Beavis and Butthead a few times but that feels very nineties.’

Vincent: ‘Yes, that might be the humor or something? We understand the comparison but have never thought of it.’

Simon: ‘At a certain moment we chose not to put in any meaning or story. It was pure improvisation and experimentation.’

Jef: ‘The thing is: we didn’t want to “act”, we wanted to be ourselves and play music.’

Simon: ‘The main thing we wanted to show, is we’re making live animation. But it’s more about the process of us making an animation movie. So we realised it’s important to show us playing with it. In the studio everything was a mess and we tried to move that mess to the stage.’

Jef: ‘You see something on the screen and us doing it in real life.’

© Simon Lenskens

What does puppets let you do that you can’t do as actors?

Simon: ‘I think you’re more free. You can choose how the characters look or be more absurd.’

Jef: ‘It’s unreal.’

Simon: ‘It’s not the same as when real people act. At school, I made films with puppets and when I was bored I’d make puppets out of tape or something. I really enjoyed it and thought: “I have to make a movie using this way of making characters”.’ 

Does everyone has a certain role? 

Simon: ‘I made most of the characters, but some of the mechanisms we built together: how something should move, how we can let the motor run in such a way that the installation moves that way.’

Jef: ‘Everyone found his job in his own way, Simon mainly did the puppets, Vincent and I were mostly busy with the installations and the others – Timo and Brecht – made the music.’

Simon: ‘I think we still all do everything, but now there is more distinction in the tasks or something.

I can also provide a guitar tune but that is usually rejected.’ (rest laughs)

What influenced your aesthetic?

Simon: ‘Do you know Jan Švankmajer? He’s from Czech Republic but he made stop motion videos that are absurd and surreal. In his early work it’s filmed with old cameras and I really like that aesthetic.’

Jef: ‘Also the movie by Alexander Calder, Circus, was a big influence.’ 

Simon: ‘He’s more famous for his sculptures, he lived at the same time as Picasso. He made a small circus with all kinds of material and small puppets.’

Jef: ‘They could move and flip.’

Simon: ‘It wasn’t a film but more like a performance. He’d build this circus out of two suitcases and perform it in bars or cafes.’

Jef: ‘But the aesthetics are really minimalistic and a bit crappy, a bit rough. We liked that.’

‘We still don’t quite understand what being selected for TheaterFestival means, because we have always stood outside the theatre world’

What did you think of your selection for the TheaterFestival?

Simon: ‘We didn’t know what it was, but suddenly a lot of people came to congratulate us and at CAMPO they said it was a good thing. I think we still don’t quite understand what it means because we have always stood outside that world but it helps to stand outside a bit…’

Is there anything you’d like to experiment with after Laguna Beach?

Simon: ‘We are evolving so much I think the thing we have now, all the processes, I see it as more of an experimental phase. Now we see potential in images we made or combinations of music and installations, things that can grow. When we arrived in the theater, all of a sudden we had to work with light, it’s something that we did not think about in the beginning but once we rehearsed in the theater and started to work with light we thought: “Ah actually there are endless possibilities in that”. These are all just things that we just realised. But ignorance has allowed us to make what we have now.’

Vincent: ‘We discovered a way of working. I think we can achieve the same with less construction. I don’t know if we want to do this again. For now I don’t want to! (laughs) I think we have all thought that at some point, but of course it depends…

© Simon Lenskens


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