When did Portland secure its indie rock cred? Was it Elliott Smith? The Dandy Warhols? For a while, that felt like our musical badge of honor. Then came Aminé and the Last Artful, Dodgr, and our hip-hop scene finally claimed some national attention. But what Frankie Simone gives us with her debut single, "War Paint," just released through new, local label Infinite Companion, is what might well be this city's first-ever bona fide, badass pop star—with fashion at the forefront.
The track? Unflinchingly catchy and with pulsing electronic beats as counterpart to Simone's strong, stirring vocals. If that's not enough to win fans, the track's origin story—it was inspired when a family member felt compelled to tell Simone and her wife to “knock off their lesbian bullshit” in a Facebook comment—might do it. Simone incorporated the social media comments into a thumping power pop explosion that's the response we all wish we had to trolls. “I feel so called to speak loudly about this and be open about it, and turn that hate into something,” she tells Portland Monthly. “‘War Paint' is a reclamation song. It's a song reclaiming pain and transmuting it into power.”
Simone, in the vein of a long line of pop icons before her, has a serious look to pair with her sound. During her small, private video release party, she sported fishnets, sky-high boots, and a bra top, with leotard-clad backup dancers behind her. Her wife, Che Che Luna—the brunette dancer in the video—is also the choreographer for the new release and for Simone's stage act. And together they might just have put the Portland hipster stereotype to death at last.
“Honestly, I’m just stepping into the Frankie Simone that I've always known I am," says Simone. "I love dressing funky. I love putting things together that you would never expect to go together. I didn't even think about how I'm going to stick out like a sore thumb in a way because I don't look like anyone in Portland music.”
Simone’s fearless mindset and powerful love-yourself mantra is bringing some serious collaborators to the table. Video director Josh Brine—he's helmed everything from Blitzen Trapper videos to Lyft commercials—says Simone plunked some headphones on him a year ago and played War Paint." "I instantly envisioned the first shot of her walking into the scene," he recalls. "I just saw it, and wanted to do it.” The two tackled the project with no budget—Simone styling, Che Che choreographing, and other supportive friends chiming in where they could. The result? The video debuted on Billboard on March 1 and immediately earned her a legion of new fans. Her debut EP is out June 1, but for now, here's a taste of the next big breakout musical act from Stumptown.