Pop is a dirty word. That’s especially true in a zone where hardscrabble scenes take root, be it punk or rock or noise, and fight for their lives against pop’s gloss and effervescence.
Pop is as polarizing as it comes. But it shouldn’t be.
For all intents and purposes, Columbus invented “shitgaze” of all genres, and agree to disagree, that was pop music, just simply fed through post-modern sonic shredders. Point is, it stuck. Because pop is pop. That’s an edict Fran Litterski embraces full-tilt within her alter-ego, the Top 40 siren Effee, but one she agrees is hard to come by in the city.
“There are definitely a lot of really cool songwriters in Columbus who inhabit that pop world,” says Litterski. “There’s indie pop. There’s plenty of that. When I put together a show this March I definitely picked bands that I liked from here, but it was hard to find the pop.”
Litterski shouldn’t be that much of a stranger to Columbus audiences. For the last few years she’s been an integral part of Kid Runner’s streak, as a keyboardist and vocalist. That band, made up of transplants from around the state (Litterski herself grew up in Cincinnati) had all the trappings of the indie pop spectacle: pure, uplifting, communal—the kind of songs that play equally well at a neighborhood festival in summer and a cola commercial. Effee, the uninterrupted solo project Litterski has crafted, certainly exudes a similar vibe, but it’s stripped of the bombast, relying on playful synths and programmed beats, pastel melodies and an aesthetic that’s more late-night neon, breakfast with ice cream, than “all-join-in” on the open field.
It’s impressive then, that three of Kid Runner’s core, guitarist Kurt Keaner, drummer Austin Nill, and bassist Scott Griffin, now reside as Litterski’s backing band (while Kid Runner takes an indefinite break), as they’ve made a seamless transition from the past to this now glimmering present, hovering in the Effee singles. Fittingly in that pop mold, Effee has only appeared in digital singles and guest features. Her collaboration with the overtly chill electronic artist Nydge, “Not You,” a chance to show her versatility, while the most stunning track so far, “Work It Out,” is the signature sweet spot in Litterski’s songcraft, somewhere between Lykke Li’s noir polyrhythms and Carly Rae Jepsen’s mastery of a saccharine hook. Though there’s a definitive quality to the Effee sound and Litterski’s cloud-busting-in-reverse voice, it’s been hard for her not to flit between reverberations of what’s around her. When we spoke, it was on the eve of releasing “You and I,” a song she described as darker and “muted,” pop more influenced by the environment, the “alternative” bands she plays with and listens to, rather than what’s trending on the radio. That’s indicative of these frequent shifts and bursts.
“When I listen to albums, an album’s cohesiveness is always important,” says Litterski when asked about a full length. “For me, when it comes time to put together an album, I don’t want it to just be single, single, single, I want an arc, a storyline that keeps the record together.”
Effee’s invitation to play August’s nascent Breakaway Festival is a good metric from which to predict Litterski’s future as an artist. Mixing platinum-selling hip-hop with Soundcloud hopefuls, EDM-worship, and bands with old-fashioned ingenuity and creative flare, is a recipe for…. well, pop success. But again, Litterski is not exactly sure where she falls.
“I find myself in between a lot, between trying to be an artist and the songwriting side of things.” says Litterski. “I’m used to collaborating and writing with other people, rather than trying to brand myself. I’m still trying to figure all of that out.” •
Effee will play August 24 at the Breakaway Festival at Mapfre Stadium. Visit effeemusic.bandcamp.com for more tour dates and music.