Newly-formed Melbourne pop duo FancyNormal are launching full throttle across romantic 80s synth soundscapes with their subtly profound debut EP, Starters & Appetizers.

Although the Australian pop outfit is fairly recent–officially nearing six months of age–Noni and Jules are no stranger to playing music. Jules’ first foray into the art form was classical piano lessons as a kid. Later he played with a number of people, including a hardcore punk band, as surprising as it might sound. Noni discovered her appetite for singing early on; “I’ve never really thought about the fact that I could sing, and I just sort of did.” 

As the world shut down this time last year, both decided to act on an idea they’d talked about for years: “We really honed in and decided this was the right–well, wasn’t necessarily the right or the wrong time; it was just the time to do something like this. If we weren’t going to do it now, when would we?”

They surprised themselves by going the electro synth-pop route, worlds away from the acoustic folk-pop Noni used to perform live and Jules’ past gritty punk venture: “I actually didn’t think that I would be making music like this until we sat and made music like this,” Noni admits. “It’s been a steep learning curve for both of us,” Jules adds.

Packaged in scintillating retro production, their first EP, Starters & Appetizers, draws heavily from inner demons both have had to overcome together as a couple and individually. They offer honest depictions of real moments in time, knowing those snapshots go beyond their own experiences: “Heartbreak, self-esteem, doubt and depression and all of those things we sang about, they are highly relatable no matter what stage of life you’re in,” Noni offers, “We left them quite raw and unfiltered for that reason.” 

FancyNormal values authenticity for a better chance to connect with fans and make music that emotionally impacts not only prospective audiences but also (and perhaps first and foremost) themselves. “I feel like, especially in the pop world, there’s so many fake filters and plenty of stories that have already been told,” Jules explains. “We just wanted to do the opposite, I guess by making music that was about imperfect situations that don’t necessarily work out how you think they would if that makes sense. We wanted to have a genuine heart and soul behind the lyrics and the music that we wrote.”

The band’s music radiates a soft hazy glow that softens the blows dealt by the lyrical exploration of past and present struggles. One of those “hard to swallow pills,” ‘Sober Spaceman,’ the second single they released back in 2020, was born out of a period of intense introspection and self-doubt that came with the isolating circumstances of the past year. “That entire song was like a microscopic look into my existential crisis that I had to go through in 2020. I’m sure a lot of people went through it too in isolation,” Noni reckons.

The song addresses the crippling fears that prevent individuals from taking chances; anxieties FancyNormal know all too well. “I live on the peripheries of my days,” Noni admits in the track’s lyrics. There’s solidarity in the melodic surrounding warmth and hope that things will, truly, get better. After all, in hindsight, Noni remarks: “It was like I finally stepped into a moment, and then I wrote a song about stepping into the moment.” She adds, with amusing sincerity: “When we eventually finished the song, it was quite liberating: I’ve just put my soul out onto Spotify, and hopefully people like it.”

Discussing the complementarity between the heavy topics and the accessible pop compositions, Jules offers an analogy: “it’s kind of like most people might remember high school. There was some really cool stuff that happened, but it was also a terrible time.” His smiling voice turns more serious, and he adds: “It was laced in nostalgia, and you look back on the pain with some appreciation almost; because it made you who you are today.”

The maturity needed for the kind of retrospection Jules describes is not lost on Noni, who volunteers: “We hope to look at things like that all the time, but I think the brain kinda plays tricks on you, doesn’t it?” It brings back to mind the cognitive dissonance exhibited in ‘Sad Champagne’. Noni recalls a specific time in her life after she and Jules broke up years ago: “I just need to be alone, but I don’t want to be alone,” she sings about diving into new relationships when she probably shouldn’t have. She now explains, “sometimes that short-term gain is all you can think about. The struggle is very real.”

In their home Australia where sanitary restrictions have been lifted one after the other, FancyNormal is looking forward to playing their first live show, hopefully, sometime in September/October. “We’re working on four new tracks at the moment that are a little bit more live-centric,” Jules teases, “They have guitars and not as many [production] layers as the EP does with the sort of intention that we can replicate that on a stage.” Expect some collaborations in the near future, including an intriguing new one in May. “It’s not quite the Fancy that you know, but it’s so fun, and we’re really excited,” Noni states. 

Things are certainly looking up for the Melbourne duo! As truthful in person–well, through the phone–as she is on tape, Noni reports: “I have to say, it doesn’t come without the arguments. It’s not all smooth sailing in the background.” Balancing the romantic and creative sides of the relationship has been a juggling act, but they’ve managed to make it work. When asked if the project would have seen the light of day if it weren’t for last year’s events, Jules instantly replies, “I think it would’ve eventually happened.” Seconds later, he backtracks: “Well, actually, I don’t know if it would’ve happened to be honest. Both of us as people very easily get swept up in the rhythm of things and life. [2020] got us to assess what we really wanted.”

FancyNormal was born out of the liminal silver linings of a, particularly trying time. One song at a time, they’re proving you’ll find beauty in everything if you’re willing to dig deep enough.

THIS COVERAGE WAS CREATED VIA MUSOSOUP #SUSTAINABLECURATOR.

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