Frou Frou (band)
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|Origin||England, United Kingdom|
|Genres||Electronica, ambient, trip hop, downtempo|
|Labels||Island Records (UK)
|Past members||Imogen Heap
Frou Frou // was a British electronic duo composed of Imogen Heap and Guy Sigsworth. They released their only album, Details, in 2002. Both of them write, produce and play instruments on the tracks, while Heap also provides the vocals. Frou Frou amicably disbanded in 2003 to go their separate ways musically, but have more recently stated the possibility of new Frou Frou collaborations.
Heap and Sigsworth met in the mid-1990s on the London music scene, Sigsworth coming to the attention of Heap and her record label due to his writing/production/keyboard-playing work with Seal and Björk. Their first work together consisted of Heap providing extra vocals for Sigsworth's band Acacia. She subsequently contributed to the live Acacia lineup at several concerts, became a significant "floating member" of the band (although never a full member) and sang on all but one track on Acacia's ill-fated debut album Cradle.
Sigsworth subsequently contributed to Heap's debut album, i Megaphone, which was released on the now defunct Almo Sounds in 1998. Together they wrote the first single to be taken from i Megaphone, the angst-ridden "Getting Scared," which Sigsworth also produced, and the B-side to the album's second single, "Shine," entitled "Airplane."
Heap went on to tour i Megaphone internationally, promoting the record, while Sigsworth (following the split of Acacia in 1997) continued to write and produce for other artists, including Madonna and Lamb. Having remained friends, the pair kept in contact.
In 2001 Sigsworth began to put together an album under the project name of "Frou Frou". The initial project outline was for a collection of tracks written and produced by Sigsworth and added to by singers, songwriters, poets or rappers. The name "Frou Frou" (pronounced "froo froo") was chosen by Sigsworth himself, a noted Francophile. It derives from the 1870 Rimbaud poem, "Ma Bohème," and is French onomatopoeia for the swishing noise made by skirts on dancing women. Frou-Frou is also the name of Count Vronsky's tragic horse in Tolstoy's Anna Karenina.
One of the first vocalists Sigsworth contacted was Imogen Heap. Heap relates that Sigsworth invited her to his studio to write lyrics for a four-bar motif he had, on condition that she included the word "love" somewhere. The first line she came up with was "lung of love, leaves me breathless"; thus the Details album track "Flicks" was born. A week later, Sigsworth phoned her again and together they wrote and recorded "Breathe In", which would eventually become the first Frou Frou single.
At the time, Heap was in career limbo. Her record label had folded, been bought, and subsequently disbanded, leaving her without a record contract (despite her second album being written and ready to record). Having been stalled for a year, she welcomed the opportunity to begin collaborating on new tracks with Sigsworth.
Further collaborations continued throughout the year with both Heap and Sigsworth playing equal roles in writing, instrumentation and production until nearly half the album was completed. In December 2001, Sigsworth and Heap made the conscious decision to establish themselves as a formal duo project. Heap approved of the name "Frou Frou", and it was kept as the band title. The first official Frou Frou release was a remix of "Airplane" (renamed "Aeroplane") which the duo had completed for the Japanese re-release of Heap's debut album.
In 2002 Frou Frou signed a record deal with Universal Records on the Island Records imprint in the UK and Europe, and MCA Records in the USA. They released their first and only album, Details in August 2002. An album of electronic music with elements of trip-hop, pop and rock, the eclectic, intricately produced tracks use a wide range of traditional instruments including cellos, autoharps, guitars, keyboards, and Indian drums, with layered vocals from Heap.
The album received critical acclaim, but this did not translate into mass sales the duo had hoped for. "Breathe In" was released as the first single internationally. It reached number two on the Italian radio airplay charts, and debuted in the Top 50 in the UK Singles Chart. The follow-up singles "Must Be Dreaming" and "It's Good To Be In Love" were shelved from commercial release in the UK, however, through lack of radio and TV interest. "Breathe In" and "Must Be Dreaming" did become minor hits in Asia, particularly in Indonesia, where both singles made Top 10, peaking at number 7 and 5 respectively on the Indonesian Airplay Chart.
A video was made for a fourth single from the album, the closer "The Dumbing Down Of Love", directed by Joel Peissig (who later directed Heap's solo video "Hide and Seek"). After touring the record extensively across the United States, where the duo had established a cult fan base, Frou Frou disbanded in 2003.
The chorus to "Let Go", the group's most popular song
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Life after disbanding
Despite disbanding to rest after a hectic touring schedule, Heap and Sigsworth reformed temporarily to record a special cover version of "Holding Out for a Hero" for the Shrek 2 soundtrack. The duo were approached by the music director of the film, who had been a fan of Details and wanted them to try their hand at the track. The result is played during the end credits of the film, as well as appearing on the soundtrack CD. Frou Frou also experienced a resurgence in popularity in 2004, when Scrubs star Zach Braff chose "Let Go" as the key track for his independent film, Garden State, bringing attention to the band from American fans who may never have heard of Frou Frou, and later the same track featured briefly in the 2006 release of the movie The Holiday. A Static Lullaby covered "Let Go" on their self-titled album in 2007.
Other Frou Frou tracks have been included on television series such as The O.C., CSI: Miami, Dawson's Creek, Roswell, Malcolm in the Middle, Wonderfalls, Six Feet Under, Saturday Night Live, Laguna Beach, Birds of Prey, So You Think You Can Dance, Sugar Rush, Bones, Grey's Anatomy, Queer As Folk, Smallville, Army Wives, Gilmore Girls and Criminal Minds.
The duo also worked together in 2003 on a track for Britney Spears's fourth album In The Zone, entitled "Over To You Now". The track was written by Sigsworth, Swedish pop star Robyn and her long-term songwriting companion, and Sigsworth asked Heap to come in and make the song more suitable for Spears, adding backing vocals and making the track more electronic music-infused. Despite not being used on In The Zone, the track was released in late 2005 on the Japan CD single of Spears' single, "Someday (I Will Understand)" and on the UK and Japan bonus CDs of the DVD release of her reality TV show, Britney and Kevin: Chaotic.
In 2003, Heap returned to working on her solo career, taking a year to write, produce and instrument her second solo album, entitled Speak for Yourself, which was released in 2005. Sigsworth, a successful and esteemed producer prior to his work with Heap as Frou Frou, has also continued to write and produce for other artists, including with Britney Spears on her 2004 UK no. 1 single, "Everytime". as well as work with Sugababes and Kate Havnevik. Heap has also written and produced for UK Fame Academy winner Alex Parks and Nik Kershaw, and both Heap and Sigsworth have remixed tracks for UK electro-rock band Temposhark. Sigsworth also produced Alanis Morissette's 2008 album Flavors of Entanglement. Heap released her third solo album, entitled Ellipse, in 2009 and began working on her fourth solo album in 2011.
Possible future releases
In September 2009, Sigsworth tweeted that he and Heap would release the two remaining unreleased Frou Frou songs, "Deal With It" and "Guitar Song," in 2010. As of February 2011, an unfinished demo for "Deal With It" has circulated online, but no official release of either track has surfaced. Heap has also stated in articles that the duo will be collaborating in the future, though no concrete details have been given.
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