From Seattle, WA, the pop-bound artist, and singer-songwriter FRED releases their deeply emotional and conceptual single entitled "I'm Not Better."
FRED (Gabriel Molinaro) felt inspired to take on a solo career after two years of touring with Motopony. With a deep connection to the women in their family, FRED, unfortunately, faced the loss of their mother in 2016 after a three-year battle with cancer. Also, coming out as non-binary a year after their mother's death, FRED delved deeper into their music to pay homage to the beautiful woman their mother always was.
A month after losing their mother, FRED began to write his single, "I'm Not Better." An emotional yet vibrant pop song that touches on our capitalistic society and its incompatibilities with mental health and wellbeing, FRED also brings us deeper into the song through its dynamic electronic elements that explore sonic celestials.
Taking a spin through "I'm Not Better," the track opens with heavily conceptual lyrics like "Do you think I'm better because I sound better? Did you take my word?." While the sonics cascade over our speakers with gentle Flume-like synths and a steady yet driving electronic beat, FRED continues their vocal journey while expanding on various scenes of watching someone close to them cry in despair and wishing they could be by their side.
We absolutely adore the sonic depth of this single, as it's not only in line with the modern pop aesthetics, but it undeniably complements FRED's groaning emotions towards the loss of their mother and dealing with the pain day in and out. As the song ends, FRED leaves us with a transcendent synth arrangement and vocals that gloomily repeat, "I don't wanna come back."
Find a piece of yourself in FRED's latest emotional single, "I'm Not Better," now available on all digital streaming platforms.
Welcome to BuzzMusic, FRED. We're truly enamored by the overall feel and concept of your latest single, "I'm Not Better." What inspired you to write a song that elaborates on individual healing processes that don't align with our capitalistic society?
My mom died about a year ago, and during that period I was spending a lot of time with my family. It’s generally accepted that when something like that happens, we get a pass, at least for a period of time. I was pretty lucky and had a lot of support from my employers, so the period of time I had to grieve and just be with my family was longer than many people get. But even then, I began feeling the pressure to return to work. As a culture, we have this stunted understanding of grief as if it takes up a blip on a timeline and then ends. But of course, grief is more unpredictable and comes and goes with varying strengths throughout our whole lives. When I wrote this song, I was trying to process how it’s possible to be human in a culture like this. I felt this push to return to work, even though I knew I wasn’t ready and wasn’t really sure when or if I would be. Capitalism as a system tries to force all of us into the most efficient and productive versions of ourselves, and we feel the strain in a very concrete and personal way whenever our humanity tries to assert itself. That tension has always existed for us, but it seems like it’s become particularly evident in a corporate way during this pandemic too.
What was the most challenging aspect of creating your single, "I'm Not Better?" Was it difficult to remind yourself of such saddening memories when writing this single?
I am currently in a love affair with pop music, and it’s been really fun to play around and figure out how to produce the sounds and beats that I love to hear in other people’s music. But when it comes to writing lyrics, it’s really important to me, to be honest, and vulnerable - I like using my music as a way to work through what I’m feeling and experiencing. That emotional labor is probably the most challenging aspect of writing any song and committing to writing a song about grief that I was still feeling seemed especially hard. The difficulty wasn’t really in reminding myself of the feelings, because the feelings are always there. It just takes a lot of time and emotional energy to turn them over and explore them from a place of groundedness. Meditation and journaling are a huge part of my writing process.
Why did you want to fuel the sonics for "I'm Not Better" with a vibrant and synthetically potent electronic atmosphere? How do the sonics complement and enhance your lyrical message?
Ok, I’m going to nerd out for just a second. Almost every sound on this song comes from a particular synthesizer - Dave Smith’s Prophet 6. I hear this synthesizer on so many of my favorite songs and records, so I was really excited to get one. This is the first song I wrote when I got the keyboard. Honestly, I kind of stumbled into these melancholy sounds, which triggered that melancholy hook that anchors the song. But I definitely gravitated towards that sound and melody because it resonated with what I was already feeling. One of my favorite writers is the author M Freeman, who has this beautiful line about our bodies being tuning forks. So much of my songwriting process is intuitive, where I audition different ideas and wait for the one that makes my whole body resonate with vibration. That’s what happened with this song, and the lyrics followed.
How do singles like "I'm Not Better" allow listeners to get to know you more personally? How do songs like this represent who you are and your brand?
Early on, I was processing a lot of who FRED was with my close friend and art director, Adam Kendall Woods. He came up with this amazing description for FRED: “a grand opening-closing sale.” It made me laugh and still does, but I LOVE it so much. I think it captures the very vulnerable, tenuous, and uncertain nature of who FRED is - this hazy middle ground between who I’ve been and who I am becoming. I appreciate songs that are written from other people’s perspective, but that’s just not something that I do. My writing is very confessional, and so this song and all the ones coming after it are direct windows into what I’m processing right now. It’s about grief, it’s about me coming out as queer, and it’s about how these two experiences informed and shaped each other. I don’t know what’s going to happen, who FRED is becoming exactly, but I’m inviting you into that uncertainty with me.