Name: Frankey & Sandrino
Members: Sandrino Tittel & Frank Beckers
Occupation: Producers, DJs
Current release: Frankey & Sandrino's latest EP &Hope is out now on Sum Over Histories.
Recommendations: Frankey: Two days ago we watched the Quincy Jones documentary on Netflix and it blew our minds. I think Quincy is the most important music legend alive. He was involved in almost everything good coming from the US after the 2nd World War. Everything he wrote and arranged was written the old school way, with writing notes with a pen in a huge score - yet the guy recorded over 2,900 songs, 300 albums and 52 movie scores. This includes the highest selling album and single of all time - everything in the highest quality possible. We still can’t wrap our heads around how that is even possible …
If you enjoyed this interview with Frankey & Sandrino, visit them on Facebook, Instagram or Soundcloud for updates, background stories and more music.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Sandrino: In Frankey's case, it’s hard to think of someone who listened to, played or created more varied kinds of music. It started early on with piano lessons, followed by bass guitar. He spent most of his youth playing in bands from rock, funk and metal bands to jazz big band, symphony orchestra, or simply playing bar piano.
Always drawn to the drums, he even went to the drummer meeting in Koblenz, where the best drummers in the world came together once a year to show off. That love for rhythmic things escalated to a new level when he started to understand the effects of monotonous repetition in electronic music. This, combined with the endless possibilities in sound design and the intense way of celebrating music in clubs, got him hooked. And here we are.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
Frankey: Sandrino has spent so much of his life immersed as deep as possible in “our genre”, while I’ve been all over the place, musically-speaking. We feel it’s that combination which has contributed to the creation of our own voice. Sandrino has developed such a clear vision for sounds and music, which helps channel and filter my sometimes overwhelming influences in a pretty unique way.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
Frankey: We always try to keep our creative process as pure and open-minded as possible. No rules, just let things flow. In the studio, we want to stay away from identities or any commercial considerations.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Sandrino: Aside from the creative process, which never felt challenging, we also wanted to achieve a certain production quality level. As Frankey’s musical education was in playing instruments and learning some music theory, he is completely self-taught in terms of the production part. That bit can get quite time-consuming, and listening to your own music over and over again can also kill the original joy that made us create the track in the first place.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
Sandrino: Technical developments changed everything for us during our musical careers. As described, Frankey spent much of his younger years in bands and orchestras. After some time, you realise that the individuals in these collectives often don’t have the same goals, work ethic or, simply, talent. So getting his first Atari and a cheap Korg Synthesizer in the ‘90s finally gave him the feeling that “everyone is playing what I want, how I want it”. Having full control over the music opened a new world.
Finding each other was also a blessing, as I not only brought different qualities to the table but, most importantly, we take the music as seriously as each other. I approach DJing with maximum passion. I’m so deep into music and show the ultimate respect for the tracks I select in the considered way I play them out.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Frankey: We actually had a chat with our manager today about the new CDJ 3000 which makes a lot of the preparation work for DJ sets unnecessary. Before, we were finding out the key of every track by ourselves because software like MixinKey makes a lot of mistakes, but the new CDJs now do that job for you and show you the tracks that would fit the key of the one that is playing. Crazy times.
Aside from that, the first Native Instruments synths were of course game-changers - the Pro-5 from Native Instruments was my first. The switch from Cubase to Ableton also changed a lot, because we had no idea how much this program, which looked kind of shitty compared to Cubase, would benefit our workflow and creativity.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
Frankey: I can happily spend days holed up alone in the studio. Sandrino is way more in contact with like-minded people, which is pretty important and valuable, both in terms of seeking opinions, and also benefiting from and contributing to a general pool of creative knowledge.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
Sandrino: The pandemic is messing around with any schedules right now. The days usually start pretty late with an indulgent breakfast that goes on for far too long. Then comes the decision whether to deal with real life stuff - like family things, shopping, and answering emails - or dive into music.
And it’s only really possible to get deep and focused in that world when everything else is on hold. Answering the phone or going on social media while being in the music universe is not an option. So to all the people who are wondering why we sometimes don’t pick up the phone or take some time to answer mails: sorry, but that’s why. Music always had the priority in life.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
Sandrino: ‘Acamar' was a breakthrough moment for us. But like everything else, musically-speaking, it was not forced or planned. We still can’t believe it, as people around the world - to this day - tell us their personal stories with this track. It also opened a lot of doors, of course, but at the same time we were sure that we always wanted to develop as artists and will never go the comfortable way of “Hey let’s repeat the hit, that seems to work …”
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Frankey: As we said before, turning off distractions like phones and social media. Feel, don't think.
Apart from that, it’s simple things, like having a good night’s sleep, eating good food and having a generally positive vibe. The last one is definitely easier to achieve when two friends are a duo.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
Sandrino: Music tends to connect us more with healing. More healing than any medicine or doctor can achieve. If we have a really shitty day, and then hear something that triggers an emotion, everything that came before is gone. Not sure if it works for everybody this way, but we’re happy that it does for us.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
Sandrino: That’s a really difficult question. If you are an artist with an individual voice or a unique artistic language, almost everything is legit in my opinion. If you just use/copy things because you don’t have anything to say by yourself, it’s questionable in many ways. In electronic music, there is a lot of copying, simply because people try desperately to reach the goal of making what’s currently cool and hip. If you don’t find your own voice as an artist, your music will not stay.
It’s a lot about intention. If, for example, a music production sounds really bad, it makes a difference if that’s on purpose, part of the artistic language, or just somebody who doesn’t know what he’s doing. It won’t change how much we like or dislike the track, but allows us to respect it from an artistic standpoint.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
Frankey: It would be great to believe in pure music that transports only via audio to the ears. It’s obvious, however, that there are endless possibilities of sensory combinations. Sometimes the visual sense goes hand in hand with certain pieces of music.
Two examples that were huge worldwide successes are ‘Happy’ from Pharrell Williams and ‘This Is America' from Childish Gambino. Both tracks are so closely tied to the video, but in very different ways. Both tracks also have a quality without the video, but with the video, both tracks blew our minds. There is some kind of a connection or even overlap of the senses, which also can be experienced with psychedelic drugs, for example, and it is a nice feeling to not fully understand the feeling it gives.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Sandrino: We always liked that the electronic music scene was pretty non-political, but recently that has changed more and more. We don’t want to be voices for whatever way of thinking, especially in recent times of cancel culture, tribalism and political correctness police everywhere. It gets more and more into an us against the other side, no matter what. Everything is divided instead of united these days which is kind of sad, but the idea of music as a pure art form not attached to anything else is a nice thought.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
Sandrino: Nothing makes us feel more alive than music and it’s still a fascinating mystery why that is. For us, a lot of it has to do with the term groove, which strangely never really got explained in a musically theoretical sense. We think it’s about pulsating symmetric rhythm cycles that get in sync with something in our bodies. And if you are able to sync your body to those pulsations, you feel the groove – if that isn’t feeling life, then we’re not sure what is.