To understand ritual pop artist Francine Thirteen, one must open up to ideas of feminism that would make the virtuous cringe. Francine Thirteen wants to recontextualize and redefine lust and power, two aspects of womanhood that have been exploited in centuries past.
Ahead of her performance next week at the Standard, we were able to ask her a few questions about how she carries the weight of her role as a witch, what goes into her performance, and her new EP, Lust Heals, Give Me My Sin Again.
“Thirteen has the exact same grin as her grandmother, minus the elegantly placed gold tooth,” according to your official bio. Gold is a consistent image throughout your music and visual pieces too. Do you think of your grandmother as ubiquitous?
Francine Thirteen: Absolutely. It’s also a nod to the alchemical process; the journey from ignorance to pure awareness.
You sing of sins and taboo in a way that glorifies womanhood, destroying the idea that only straight-laced rule-abiders deserve love and respect. Why was it important for you to address this nuance of feminism?
F13: I live that nuance. I can remember being a virgin and still being perceived as and accused of being ‘fast’ because of my shape and my mannerisms and the clothing I was drawn to. When I finally acted on my sexuality, that early perception and those early accusations affected me in ways I didn’t anticipate they would. Guilt rushed in after pleasure and I knew I had to save myself. Pleasure is the true inheritance, not shame.
Your collaborator Dom G. Jones also mentions in an interview with Radio UTD that if women were to get a role like the ones you’ve laid out in your music, they are typically only for white women. Why was it important for you to put Black women at the forefront of your narrative?
F13: In the realms of beauty, sacred mythology, sacred sexuality, and so forth, it’s quite natural for Black Women to be at the forefront. It is rather unnatural that society is by and large programmed to think/feel the opposite. It’s more comfortable for some to see Black Women as ‘the sidekick,’ ‘the mammy,’ or some other subservient role. History tells us that our story is much richer, much deeper than many will acknowledge. In terms of my own work, I’m only doing what is natural.
There is an old marketing maxim that we all know: “sex sells.” What is your take? Can we sell sex and still reclaim it?
F13: Sex absolutely sells. But, it’s very important to be clear about who’s getting paid. I think it’s also very important to develop the intellectual/spiritual fortitude to withstand the judgement that comes inevitably, because no matter how we choose to express or not express our sexuality, women are judged automatically.
You call yourself a witch, in the sense that you are “a wise woman, a healer, and a mistress of energy.” Were you called to this role or have you always felt you embodied this spirit?
F13: It’s in the blood, really. I have a strong legacy of midwifery in my family. I’ve witnessed my Grandmothers heal others with their food and their tones.
How does this role shape your life?
F13: I honor the Earth and the Cosmos, no matter how chaotic that may look to the outside world. For me, healing is a daily choice and a daily exercise. I ritualize a lot of things most see as mundane. My altar practice, what I eat, the way I work is all to the glory of healing. I owe this to both older, wiser women who helped to shape me and to the sisters who support me and hold me accountable to my path.
Crystals appear on your Instagram, in videos, and onstage. What is the specific symbolism behind the ones you use and how you use them?
F13: They each mean something different. They each help me to channel certain archetype, character, or emotion. I work with obsidian a lot. Obsidian is great at absorbing negative energy and I generally use it as aid in protection. I’m a big believer in spiritual technology and crystals are a cornerstone in that regard.
When you perform, what is the correlation between your ritualistic choreography and the lyrical content of the songs?
F13: I’m bringing the dominant archetypes of that particular show to life with my body. Sometimes there is a correlation between the lyrical content and sometimes not. When I orchestrate a show, I generally spend time meditating on what energy I want to flow in. Whatever the case, I’m a Priestess onstage, there to call up and direct certain energies.
What does the future hold for Francine Thirteen?
F13: I’m always working and I’m excited to share some pretty big things in the months ahead. That’s all I can say for now.