Falcon Jane Keeps the Faith on Sophomore LP

Photo Credit: Brendan George Ko

Graced with a strangely stunning voice—youthful and emotive, gloomy and perceptive—Falcon Jane (singer-songwriter Sara May) has just released a sophomore album, Faith, the follow-up to 2018’s Feelin’ Freaky, via Pittsburgh-based label Darling Recordings. On it, cathartic verses ascend to soaring heights as the Ontario-based artist ponders existential questions about life, death, and what lies beyond.

The emotional depth on Faith is hard won. In 2019, prior to the pandemic, May found herself attending a funeral nearly every two months—the songwriter lost both her grandmothers, an uncle, and great uncle within a year. “Going to a lot of funerals really makes you think about the afterlife, so it was something that was on my mind a lot when I was making this album,” May explains. “I still have no idea what the afterlife holds, or if there is one at all, but part of my journey of relearning to have faith was believing in an afterlife again. I kept having vivid dreams of people who had passed; my family members, and people I didn’t even know very well. It felt like they were trying to tell me something. I don’t know what it’s like on the other side, but I definitely feel like my family who has passed is still with me in some way.”

These losses set her on the inevitable path that the world, in one way or another, has been facing since the pandemic began. “It’s been a hard year for pretty much everyone, me included,” she admits. “I’ve been feeling a lot of anxiety this year, and I’ve had to find new coping mechanisms now that my usual ones—playing shows, getting together with friends, travelling—are few and far between. I’m staying hopeful though. I’ve learned a lot about myself this year.”

That’s evident in both the sonic palette an lyrical themes throughout Faith, as May explores the transitory nature of life and relationships, as well as the natural cycle of grief—shock, disbelief, sorrow, and ultimate acceptance. The result is an album that is as cathartic as it is hopeful, even joyous at times (“Beautiful Dream”). Tracks like the dazzling “All of a Sudden” are balanced with themes of sadness, regrets and lingering questions that can no longer be answered. Somber and magical, “The Other Moon” evokes the solitude of mourning—while loss is felt by many, everyone must navigate those feelings in their own way. Throughout, Falcon Jane’s courage to tell her story—particularly on “Had Enough”—is spellbinding in its plaintive boldness.

Standout single “Heaven”—a transcendent track imbued with a sense of freedom, with a gorgeous video shot in the reserve of Neyaashiinigmiing 27, Ontario—reframes the idea as one of earthly bliss, not unlike the Belinda Carlisle hit. Though inspired by artists as diverse as icons like ABBA and Fleetwood Mac or peers like Julia Jacklin, Angel Olsen, and U.S. Girls, Falcon Jane’s sound touches on spaces all its own. 

It’s one she’s had to grow into, having no formal vocal training. “I can’t do a bunch of fancy stuff with my voice. I think I am still growing into it. It’s always changing,” she explains. “At first that felt like a barrier for me, so I decided to embrace the uniqueness of it, and that felt like a doorway. That was like 10 years ago, so I’m a better singer now, but I still push myself to keep learning and trying new things. There are vocal techniques I use on Faith that I couldn’t dream of doing when I was recording my last album, Feelin’ Freaky.”

Sara May wrote her first song at 16, which officially opened the creative floodgates. “I think I wrote about one hundred songs that year,” she remembers. “I had been playing guitar since I was about 12, but it never really stuck with me until I could play my own songs.” Later, blogs like GoldFlakePaint, Atwood, and The Grey Estates would situate her sound in the “Plez-Rock” genre (short for Pleasant Rock), a term coined by the band members to describe “chill, groovy music that’s got a harder rock edge to it.”

Feelin’ Freaky marked Sara May’s adoption of the Falcon Jane moniker. “I have always loved the name Jane—wish it was my real name—and I’m also intrigued by the ‘every-woman’ attributes it has, for example: Jane Doe, Plain Jane, Dick and Jane. The first time I said, “Falcon Jane” out loud it just felt right to me,” she says.

Describing herself as “guarded,” the pseudonym has allowed her a gateway into new (and old) unexplored sides of herself. “It’s nice to be able to talk about my musical project with a bit of separation. So, I can say, ‘Oh I’m working on Falcon Jane stuff today,’ or ‘the new Falcon Jane record sounds really good,'” May explains. “It also leaves room for more creative collaboration. Falcon Jane has been a variety of different bands and combinations of people over the years, and the musicians are always part of ‘Falcon Jane’—not just [my] backing band.”

Though this release contains contributions from other musicians and mixing help from Evan Gordon (SLEDD, Islands, The Magic, Skeletones Four), Faith was mostly performed by May and her partner Andrew McArthur. Despite its scaled-back nature, May says there’s “all kinds of music magic to the songs,” including McArthur’s little sister, who makes a “super cute” cameo appearance on several of the album’s songs.

Once completed, May discovered that she had made the album she needed most. “Once the record was done, I noticed the word ‘Faith’ appearing over and over again in the songs,” she says. “I think it was a theme I was personally dealing with a lot over the course of 2019 while we were recording; learning what to believe in, and how to believe in myself.”

Follow Falcon Jane on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

ARTIST INTERVIEW: Nicole Dollanganger


You might not know her name yet, but that’s soon to change. Nicole Dollanganger is the 24-year-old Canuck who set Grimes’ musical heart ablaze and is the very first signee to Boucher’s brand spankin’ new label Eerie Organization. As a matter of fact she’s the very reason behind the label’s creation. Boucher told Billboard in late August she created Eerie because she felt it was “a crime against humanity for this music not to be heard.” Big praise coming from one of the biggest successes in the indie music world in the past decade. Knowing what we do about Grimes’ sound, the relationship seems nearly inevitable. Dollanganger’s polished, airy, and macabre sound is a glove on Boucher’s practiced hand, and she’ll be joining the mercurial popstress on stage opening for Lana Del Rey on select dates during her Endless Summer tour. Thanks to Eerie Organization you too can hear that very music which was just released in the form of a full length Dollenganger is calling Natural Born Losers.

Beyond the music Dollanganger is an enigmatic young creative who’s firmly planted in the digital realm, with an internet presence that’s all but been perfected showcasing her own drawings, morbid stills and low-fi photos. And yet she still cites her family and hometown as having influenced her art greatly. Right now she’s focused on imbuing her work with visuals to enhance the experience of consuming her sound.

I recently caught up with her to chat a bit about her influences, the relationship she has with Eerie and some of her other passions.


AF: So I see you’re from Stouffville, Ontario. Where exactly is that and what’s it known for?

ND: Stouffville is about an hour from the city of Toronto, right in the downtown area. It’s not too far. It would be known for being a bit of a farming community. We have a strawberry festival; I guess that’s the other thing.

AF: When you’re writing music do you think about how you want it be consumed or is an exercise solely in creation and catharsis?

ND: It’s definitely more of an exercise in creation. Initially my thoughts are with making it and only after it’s done do I sort of wonder about releasing it and all of that.

AF: I know your parents are both doll collectors and that that imagery has factored into your art and music. What’s your relationship to the dolls now and what do they signify for you?

ND: Dolls are a big deal to me. I love all different kinds, but especially the ones that I began collecting through my mom. I love the history behind them, dolls especially from the 20’s to 50’s were so delicate, a lot of them were made out of chalk. For them to have survived to this time means that someone loved them and cared about them enough to see that they are here now. I always feel like they come with a deep loving history. The first item ever that I was given was a doll and I still have it. I have a lot of sentimental history with that doll. I always find it kind of weird when people say they’re scared of dolls because I just think there’s like nothing less scary than an object that was made for a kid to take care of, you know?

AF: What’s your relation and fascination with the macabre?

ND: My dad always says it’s the way I’ve always been. Even as a child it was always the horror cartoons I wanted to watch. I guess I was always inclined. I’ve been interested in exploring things that scare me forever, because it makes it less scary to face head on and to try and understand it rather than to put my back to it.

AF: How does your internet persona translate to you in real life?

ND: Sometimes well and sometimes not. I do think that there is a lost in translation nature to it, especially if you’re speaking to someone or getting a question online. At least with me I’m a bit paranoid so I often misinterpret tone or I think someone is meaning something some way and they probably don’t. I’ve kind of struggled with that. But in other respects it’s really fun to be able to explore things without feeling like you have to. It’s a really creative world where you can surround yourself with the things that interest you and you can kind of create something new by putting them all together, and that really helps to storyboard and to create concepts based on art you like.

AF: Where did you draw inspiration for this album?

ND: With this record I was drawing it off a lot from the town that I grew up in, I also spent a lot of my childhood in Florida and that was a huge influence. I didn’t have the best high school experience and I’ve struggled with that. I’ve also felt that a lot of the people that I’m closest to also struggled, and we all came into ourselves post high school. I was kind of rolling of that past and present and the different selves. It’s also where the name itself comes from, like loser is one of the easiest things that someone can call another person as an insult, and I want to almost reclaim it as a positive thing. It was almost like an homage to a lot of really amazing, fascinating people that I know who were the losers of high school. Essentially it’s a sentimental album a lot about the past.

AF: Your music has a very specific visual aesthetic approach – beyond the obvious sonic one – can you touch on how you approach those visuals and what inspires them.

ND: I usually see things, like a song, kind of visually as I’m writing the lyrics. And I read them over or I listen to a freestyled recording and I usually get strong visuals, or even just strong colors and sometimes they’re not the right colors. I know that sounds kinda wonky, but I’ll listen to a song and if I was seeing pink in my head and it’s feeling more like an orange I know that I’ve got to change something. It’s almost more of a visual thing that dictates the direction the song goes. When working with other people I’ve found that it’s easiest to describe what I’m going for with visuals rather than sound because I’m not a trained musician so I really struggle sometimes to vocalize what I’m after.

AF: I know you also create comic books, can you talk about that a bit?

ND: I’ve always liked to draw, but I’m not the best, so for me I avoid realistic drawings. I recently just put out like a comic/zine and I pretty much tried to form a narrative around images that I really just wanted to draw and I created this story around a few specific images that I saw. It was really fun because it was the first time I’ve finished a visual art, hand drawn thing, ever. Normally I get halfway through a sketchbook and give up. This the first thing that I can say I finally completed and that felt really good.

AF: I’m sure you’ve been asked a bunch, but how does it feel to be the first artist signed to Grimes’ Eerie Organization?

ND: Amazing. So wonderful. Claire and James (Brooks – formerly of Elite Gymnastics) are living angels. It’s been a surreal dream ever since it happened. I mean it’s two people that I really admire and respect and that I’m a huge fan of their creative work, so to have them be supportive of mine is incredible in and of itself. But then you’ve also got two people who are really smart, they really know the industry and they’re very interested in helping other musicians that they believe in.

AF: With the album out next month what comes next for you?

ND: The tour’s gonna happen. And then I would love to explore being more able to create videos and visuals to go with the songs. I’ve always felt like the idea’s never been fully baked to an extent so the idea of being able to create things that are 100% what I initially saw is a really exciting prospect. I’m also just so excited to write again.

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