In first LP, Frances Forever creates galaxies all their own

Frances Forever likes the bubbly synth line featured in their track “Nobody’s Daughter” because it makes them feel like they’re underwater. The song, released last month on the 25-year-old indie pop artist’s debut album, isn’t about drowning as much as it’s about disappearing, like a genderless sea creature in a great expanse of darkness: “Don’t wanna be somebody’s daughter/ I wanna live under the water/ Where no one can call me ‘her.’”

That whimsical escapism connects the songs on “Lockjaw,” despite a range of personal topics — their therapy assignments, severe bouts of romantic pining or, in the case of “Nobody’s Daughter,” their nonbinary identity. The singer-songwriter, whose real name is Frances Garrett, says that their penchant for fantastical getaway plans comes from dissociating and “not feeling quite right” in their body.

“It definitely helps to write about that feeling,” Garrett says on a Zoom call from their Boston home. “It’s almost like a sort of daydream.”

We’re chatting on the day their album drops, so even Garrett’s sadder comments have a triumphant undertone — the 11-song debut had been in the works for three years, and Garrett has spent its first hours of life celebrating with collaborators and watching fans react. The singles they released as a part of the record’s promotion were upbeat and slightly silly, about getting hit on by creepy dudes in a Trader Joe’s or their deep-seated desire to live as a troll under a bridge. “I wanted to hook [fans] with the fun summer bops and then make them feel a little something,” they say, referring to the album’s heavier themes.

It’s a tactic Garrett has long employed, layering lyrical sadness, longing or anxiety over peppy, bedroom pop beats (often literally made in closets and friends’ apartments). That was, for many fans, most apparent on “Space Girl,” the pandemic-era earworm that launched Garrett into the cosmos of TikTok stardom and came with its own cute dance trend.

Though they say they can’t listen to the song anymore, it did help them gain almost half a million TikTok followers. For Garrett, that visibility comes with drawbacks, like vitriol from transphobic commenters.

“It’s very weird to be perceived by so many people online,” they say. “It’s nice to sort of think about yourself in the context of how big the world is, like climbing a mountain and just feeling so small. It’s beautiful to have that contextually in my brain, because I’m always writing songs about myself and what I feel internally. It can feel very self-obsessed sometimes.”

With “Lockjaw,” they’ve channeled that attitude into fantasies that feel both playful and hollowing; on album closer “Jupiter,” they sing: “Float up to space/ Taking Jupiter’s place/ Touch down, escape/ Disappear in the haze.” But since cosmic journeys are out of their reach (for now), they’re settling for a tour — their first string of headlining shows began this week.

They’re excited, they say, to bring their new sound to audiences across the United States; in this first full-length album, Garrett veered from the DIY pop that defined their early works in favor of raging guitar breaks and a full band sound, complete, on a few tracks, with strings.

“Because ‘Space Girl’ got big during covid, I didn’t really think about what a live show would be like,” they say. “When I started touring, I was like, ‘I wish I had a song with a giant guitar solo, or a song that people could jump up and down to and sing this one phrase over and over.’ I tried to add those little bits in the album specifically for the live show, because touring is kind of, like, the reason to make music.”

July 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Atlantis, 2047 Ninth St. NW. $20.

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