Q&A Scene: Francesca Mountford

Tell us about your new single/ album/ tour?

My new video is called Cosmic Raven. It’s from my latest album release Swift & Raven, in which the Raven plays a bit of a theme as a cosmic being. Tom Hume, my long time visual collaborator made the video. All the footage he filmed himself, and used some pretty awesome techniques to make it animated. We wanted to convey the dream-like quality of our live shows, the theme being that the Raven is a cosmic spirit creator.

What’s your favourite work at this point in time?

Probably my latest album, Swift & Raven. I wrote the music over a couple of years, a lot of it was written when I was in Prague in the winter. I recorded it with Joshua Delaney from Smooch Records. Josh really understands my sound, which is not the classical sound one might expect from the cello. I like to use quite a bit of reverb and some nice delay to make the cello sound a lot more atmospheric. I think compositionally and quality wise, this is my best work so far.

How would you describe your sound in food form and why?

This isn’t about food, but someone once described my live show as being like soaking in a hot tub. I would say it’s like velvety dark chocolate, about 70% coco. It wouldn’t have any other flavours added, just pure chocolate, where it’s more about the texture as it melts in your mouth than the flavour. It’s the type of chocolate that you would savour slowly, you would miss the nuances if you devour it too quickly. My music is about appreciating the space around the sound, closing your eyes and letting it take you over .

Tell us a quick, on the road or studio, anecdote.

We did a lot of touring in 2012-13, and one of the more unusual places that I played was in the Gibraltar Botanical Gardens. I think it’s the most incredible performance experience I’ve ever had. I was playing in the middle of a lake, it was a beautiful, clear, still night with a full moon. For the duration of the show, I was looking at the reflection of the full moon in the water below me, and had a chorus of frogs that would crescendo with the intensity of the music, as well as a chorus of some other mysterious animal calling from the surrounding bush. Bats and moths were constantly circling my spotlight, which was perfectly fitting since a lot of the visual content of the projections was of bats and moths, and the occasional fish would flick it’s tail out of the dark water. I will never forget the feeling of playing my cello in the middle of the lake that night!

What, or who, inspires you?

Nature inspires me, especially bird song, as does the feeling or atmosphere of a place. Human history and ancient architecture also inspire me, imagining people’s devout believe systems and spirituality. When I travel, I often carry a zoom with me and record the sounds of a place. It’s a nice way to feel like you’re back in that place when you hear the recordings, and I often use the sounds as atmospheric samples in my music.

Which song do you wish you wrote?

Opening by Philip Glass. It’s a simple and beautiful piece of music for solo piano, that uses the 3 over 2 polyrhythm for the entire duration of the piece. It uses dissonance and harmony in such a beautiful way. When I am noodling on the piano, and sometimes the cello, I often like to explore my own version of chord progression, playing with dissonance and harmony in the same 3 over 2 style as Opening, but I’d never turn it into a composition because it would sound like a complete Philip Glass rip off!

What’s next for you?

An album release tour of NZ that I haven’t got around to planning yet. I’m a New Zealander, and have lived in Melbourne since 2005. It’s really important to me to maintain my connection with NZ as best I can. Other than that, I’ll be playing an afternoon show at Open Studio on the 29th of July, opening with Mindy Wang on Guzheng (Chinese harp), and Mouthtooth who I play with sometimes and who are also on the Smooch Record label.

What’s your scene?

To be honest I don’t feel like I have a scene. The beautiful thing about the city I come from, Wellington, is that it doesn’t really have ‘scenes’ as such, people are just really creative and you get all kinds of unexpected collaborations. Playing an instrument like the cello in a more alternative context, I end up collaborating with all kinds of different people, from avant guard folk to psych rock, Balkan music or Chinese influenced ambient electronic music, like the band I play in with Mindy Wang and Joel Ma. It’s called The Yellow Peril Symphony and we recently played at Dark Mofo. I play any kind of music I like the sound of, and I just like to be around nice people, or no people at all except for my nearest and dearest if I’m spending time in nature.


New Zealander Francesca Mountfort is a classically trained cellist and composer based in Melbourne, Australia. Her unique brand of music incorporates classical, electronic and ambient elements into a melting pot that transcends time and place.

The origins of Francesca’s compositions go all the way back to the electroacoustic studios at Victoria University of Wellington in 2002. Finding herself in a very male dominated environment, she was inspired to make music that was feminine, fragile and emotional, and so began experimenting more with sampling her cello and voice, looping and effecting them. She first performed in 2004 as Nervous Doll Dancing, which remained her stage name for over a decade, and under which she independently released three solo albums Eidolon (2012), Aphelion (2009) and Nervous Doll Dancing (2005).

Francesca’s latest release, Swift & Raven (2016), which she recorded at Smooch Records with Josh Delaney, is the first album to be first released under her own name. Her music and live shows have always been about delving deep into the spiritual side of imaginary worlds. This album is no different. The music is an exploration of raven spirituality, inspired by folklore beliefs that the raven is a mythical creature, a mediator animal between life and death, able to pass between realms.

Francesca’s compositions range from minimal and spacious to dramatic and expansive. The classical nature of the cello is embraced and built upon, using subtle electronics and recording techniques, adding complex layers and effects. In performance, Francesca has collaborated with many artists in different mediums including dance, puppetry, illustrated animation and live video projection.

Throughout 2012 and 2013 Francesca toured her music extensively across Australasia, Europe and Canada with an award-winning cinematic show titled Eidolon. This was a collaboration with visual artist Tom Hume which incorporated music from all three of Francesca’s albums set to original animations, film and illustration.

Her music is broadcast regularly on national radio in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and has been featured in recent New Zealand short film releases. ‘The Tidekeeper‘, by Alyx Duncan, was screened at the 2014 Melbourne International Film Festival and won the best animated film award. The film used music from all three of Francesca’s previous albums. ‘David‘ and ‘Memory House‘ are recent collaborations with dancer / choreographer Loughlan Prior from the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

Francesca’s cello playing and string textures have featured on many recordings across diverse genres and styles, including recently on Nicholas Allbrook‘s (Tame Impala / Pond) latest album ‘Pure Gardiya‘ (2016).

Francesca studied cello with Rolf Gjelsten from the New Zealand String Quartet and with David Chickering, principal cellist of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. She graduated from Victoria University of Wellington with a Bachelor of Music in 2002, majoring in electroacoustic composition.

For more information, and upcoming tour dates, go to http://francescamountfort.com/

About Mary Boukouvalas 1299 Articles
Mary is a photographer and a writer, specialising in music. She runs Rocklust.com where she endeavours to capture the passion of music in her photos whether it's live music photography, promotional band photos or portraits. She has photographed The Rolling Stones, KISS, Iggy Pop, AC/DC, Patti Smith, Joe Strummer, PULP, The Cult, The Damned, The Cure, Ian Brown, Interpol, MUDHONEY, The MELVINS, The Living End, Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against The Machine, The Stone Roses –just to name a few - in Australia, USA, Europe and the Middle East. Her work has been published in Beat magazine, Rolling Stone magazine, Triple J magazine, The Age Newspaper, The Herald Sun, The Australian, Neos Kosmos, blistering.com, theaureview.com, noise11.com, music-news.com. She has a permanent photographic exhibition at The Corner Hotel in Richmond, Victoria Australia.

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