The track starts with an easy, bright groove, the keys bouncing. Percussion joins in, and suddenly the song has a heartbeat. In the background, vocalist Fernanda Franco gives a little cheer, and then a purr. She steps up to the mic, and a listener can hear the sun coming out after a long winter. Franco is ready for it, her voice warm and muscled as it wraps around the lyrics.
“Bougie moments catchin’ lawless/Ain’t no love there,” she croons. “Beggin’ for us, hearin’ from us/Better prepaaaare/Oowee!/ Look at me/Wearin’ these minis now what do you see?”
It is available on Bandcamp and features Franco on vocals, Alex Patrie on keys and synthesizer, Zack Rosenberg on guitar, Zack Ross on bass and Nick Morcaldi on drums. Franco said it is one of three tracks that the band will be dropping in the next few weeks.
“This was my redemption song,” she said in a recent phone call. “It was my song reminding myself that I'm here for me. It wasn't for anybody but me. It's really uplifting and it's really bright, and it's about not having any shame in who you are. I'm so excited to release it.”
Franco first wrote “Only Me” a few years ago, when she was in the process of parting ways with “these negative people in my life.” She remembered what putting herself first looked and felt like, she said. When she left the house in short skirts and booty shorts, “it wasn't for anyone else,” she said. “It was just me enjoying myself.”
After writing the lyrics, she whipped the song out at a jam session and the band put music to it. She and Patrie are tinkerers by nature, she said—they’ve been fine-tuning it ever since. Before Covid-19 hit New Haven last year, the band performed it in almost every live gig that it had. There was a version soaked in synth, and a version where Phat A$tronaut’s Dylan Olimpi McDonnell jumped in with a horn. Because of Covid-19, the band was not able to record it until earlier this year.
Maybe because it has been in the works for so long, the finished track feels triumphant. On keys, Patrie is mellow, easing into the song with a politesse that lets a listener roll right into it. Franco, whose background ranges from opera to pop to jazz and bossa nova, comes in ready to make a statement. Rising over percussion, her voice soars, suddenly layered on itself. She wails and growls, her voice dancing. When she declares that “all of your drama just isn’t for me,” it’s full of sass and moxie.
It’s a bright spot for her, too. For 13 months, Franco’s musical calendar has been eerily quiet. In the past year, she has done a few virtual sets, including for TheaterWorks in Hartford and the Shubert Theater in New Haven. Meanwhile, FaTE hasn’t been able to perform for a live audience at all. In the midst of working and mothering in a pandemic—she is a special education and ESL teacher at Booker T. Washington Academy—Franco also contracted Covid-19 last year, despite following masking and disinfecting protocols. She called herself “blessed” to have recovered as quickly as she did.
“It's been a lot,” she said. “It's been hard, I think, for every creative. It's heavy. It's just all us dealing with the pandemic, and the decisions we have to make during a pandemic. There are a lot of changes, and a lot of difficult situations. And there’s a lot of positivity too. I have a wonderful partner. I have a wonderful roommate who is my best friend. It’s finding that balance.”
She said she sees the song as a promise that spring and summer—and in-person gathering and gigging—are closer than her pandemic-weary listers may think. When she was recording it, she thought about the friends and family close to her who have been struggling with pandemic fatigue and the weight of Covid-19 as it enters a second year. The song, which was originally written as a gift to herself, is now a gift to them.
“That's what I want for everyone,” she said. “To come out of quarantine, and to have this. As we start acclimating to the new normal, everyone is going to have to find themselves again.”