ARCHIS is the artistic pairing of singer/songwriter Dia Frampton and film composer/producer/arranger Joseph Trapanese. A unique combination of her autobiographical lyrics and his spacious, cinematic orchestrations, ARCHIS sees Frampton define and achieve her true musical vision.
“That’s what I love about Joe,” says Dia. “There are lots of spaces in the arrangements. He lets the music tell the story and bring out the emotions. He’s so particular about everything. He can work on a song for weeks on end, with arrangements written out for every instrument.”
Other artists have performed their albums with the backing of a symphonic orchestra, but few have written songs with the sole intent to merge the rich, textured instrumentation of horns and strings to pop vocals. The initial product of this novel concept, a self-titled, six-song EP released by Nettwerk Records in January 2015, starts off with “Blood,” a declaration of intent for the 27-year-old Korean-American Frampton, who has already experienced a lifetime in the music business, but is finally feeling the personal fulfillment of doing what she wants.
“It sure took a lot/ to turn it around,” she sings in “Blood,” an immersive, cleansing affirmation of artistic independence and purpose, which represents a new creative direction for the songwriter.
“That was a song I wrote at my lowest point,” explains Frampton. “And even though it seems downbeat, it’s filled with hope. If I’m going to be an artist, I’m going to go for blood. I haven’t compromised or had to fight for anything with this band. If you’re going to fail at something, fail at something you love.”
Independently, Dia has written and co-written songs with notable names, such as multi-platinum writer/producer Drew Pearson for tyDi “Stay”, Mark Maxwell aka SILAS (Afrojack) for Lindsey Stirling’s “Shatter Me feat. Lizzie Hale” and most notably, the Grammy-nominated Crystal Method on the song “Over It.” So, after either writing or co-writing all the songs on her solo debut and experiencing unprecedented success in Asia, Frampton still felt something was missing; a void that was filled when her manager hooked her up on a session at Henson Studios with Trapanese, a film composer and conductor known for working with artists like Daft Punk on the Tron score and M83 on the score for Oblivion, as well as arranging for artists like Kelly Clarkson, Active Child, and Zedd, his anything-goes approach appealed to Dia.
“Joe doesn’t think like a pop producer,” she says. “He doesn’t care about how long a song is, or whether it will get played on the radio. When we met, I instantly clicked with him. We created something that was kind of crazy.”
"When I first met Dia, I could tell she was searching. From the beginning I hoped that I could help her begin to draw upon the depth of her talent. I think this EP is the first step. In return, she has drawn from me more than I thought was possible. I'm proud of what we've done but more importantly, I'm excited for what's next for Archis,” says Trapanese.
The songs combine Dia’s personal sentiments with Trapanese’s wide-screen production to create songs that have the complexity of short stories. There’s the brassy opening to “Black Eye,” a song Frampton wrote as a protective fantasy for her 16-year-old sister, who was being bullied at school. “Bittersweet” is about “leaving the bad behind, while remembering the good times,” a song in which she is able to say the things to her father she couldn’t bring herself to say in real life. “I Need You” is about leaving the band she had formed with her older sister, Meg & Dia, and going out on her own.
“One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do was separate from my sister,” she says. “Making my own decisions was a scary thing for me. I just kept re-reading Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead to focus on what it would mean to be making all the creative choices.”
Dia sings to a future husband in “Good Love,” admitting it’s about looking back on a full life from the perspective of an “older couple sitting on a porch swing, reflecting on all the things they did together.” “Let Me Love,” with its New Orleans funeral-style marching band, is her own plea for artistic freedom, not only creatively and musically, but in her personal life. “Love is all I have/So let me love who I want,” concluding, “Some things are best left behind.” Indeed, this collaboration is a brand new start; ARCHIS is an important departure from past efforts – both creatively and personally.
The name ARCHIS came to the St. George, Utah, native, during that period before losing consciousness, where the mind is free to drift, allowing outside influences to penetrate. “I thought about the rock arches in Utah, and the one in St. Louis,” she says. “Even the shape of them, with two sides rooted to the ground, making its way to its highest point, the peak, and then coming back down again. You can’t stay up there forever. Your life can have many different arches and adventures. Things change and you need to adapt…taking your failures and learning from them to start anew.”
Each song on ARCHIS has a similar structure, with its own rising and falling narrative arc, as does the “Blood” video, featuring actress Samantha Fox in a bathtub that gradually fills and empties, and threatens to take her down the drain, as well.
ARCHIS has allowed Dia Frampton to finally come to terms with her musical dreams. “What’s a gamble/If you’ve got nothing to lose?” she sings in “I Need You.”
“I feel at home when performing these songs live,” says Dia, who toured with pop violinist Lindsey Stirling. “While on tour, I was so excited to play every night. I felt like I was myself on-stage, connecting with people. With these shows I was just as content to help pack up the drum kit, load up the van and head to the merch table to sell T-shirts. I have skin in the game.”
Look for a full album next summer, along with a tour that will incorporate visuals and an occasional 15-piece orchestra. Dia Frampton is finally on her own, and ready to go for “Blood.”