Serge: Guitar and vocals
Gabriela: Lead vocals
Zelda: Drums and vocals
2012 – Les Chats de Gouttère EP
2013 – Ici Paris Double 45
2014 – Mieux comme ça double 45
01. How long have you been active for and how did you get together?
Serge and Zelda met at a soul night he was DJing in 2010 and started songwriting together. I (singer Gabriela) started with the group in 2011 and Jean-Marc joined us just this past year in 2014. We’re all more or less active in the mod/ skinhead scenes here in Paris so met at various shows and DJ nights.
02. What influences do the band members have in common?
We all love classic pop, rnb, soul, jazz, rocksteady, Britpop and powerpop, but then as our members are so varied it goes all over the place!
However, we’ve been listening to more and more new powerpop recently, due to sharing the stage with lots of great bands like Paul Collins and The Riots, and are really trying to create a brand new sound vs being retro.
03. Are there any other bands you’d recommend from your area? Why?
Yes, also from Paris is a great latin boogaloo band called Paz Antiguana and a new garage/pop group called Jon & The Vons. Also there are lots of great bands in France right now, it’s really exciting: Les Grys-Grys, Gemma & The Travelers, The Gentlemen’s Agreements, Tower Brown, Les Kitschenettes. The sounds are all different and they tend to be a bit more “retro” than us but they are all good. More rock oriented but also excellent from Paris are Les Soucoupes Violentes, and our friend Popincourt will be releasing an album soon, Zelda and I guested on backing vocals so have heard a bit and it’s great so far.
On the less underground side, also in France there is a really good group called Archimede. Kind of Britpop in spirit but in French.
04. What’s the 60’s/underground scene like where you’re from?
Small but dedicated: Friends have soul DJ nights – Paris Magic City is always fantastic and worth a trip over, there is Bam Bam 007 for regular reggae nights, and bars like Le Tiki Lounge and the Pigalle Country Club are small but have good DJs regularly. Les Minets were putting on absolutely incredible allnighters for a while there, hopefully again soon.
However as the mod scene is so small here live gigs tend to be focused on garage and soul as those can get a more general “60s or soul dance party” audience.
05. How would you describe the style you play?
Pop Moderniste. For us it’s a short way of summarizing: Pop, French and Mod but Modern! We tend to be pretty varied in different songs: some more lighter and jazzy, some psych, some straightforward powerpop, some a bit garage… We get bored easily and don’t like to repeat ourselves.
06. What are your live shows like?
I would say they are surprising to people who expect us to be aloof and posing: we play a lot with powerpop bands and also mostly to non-French speaking audiences who may not know us (as the scene here is so small most of our shows are international – mostly in the UK but we have played in Spain, Ireland, the US, Germany, Canada, Russia, Denmark, Sweden and Italy), so as our songs can be a bit complex on the records we try to do a more powerful and straightforward show where we really connect with the audience even if they cannot understand the lyrics.
07. What are your main influences in music? Who do/would you play covers by? And who do you despise?
Honestly it’s really hard to say as we really are trying to create something new. I can say just what we listen to – besides classic soul, rnb, soul, 60s pop etc for French sounds we all dig Jacques Dutronc, Henri Salvador, Nino Ferrer and Bertrand Burgalat but are pretty varied within the group. Serge is a huge Kinks, Jam and XTC fan, while Zelda is extremely varied with Oi, soul and Britpop, among my favorites are The Zombies, The Everly Brothers & Herbie Goins, and Jean-Marc loves the Beatles and The Most. We also like Blondie, The Damned, The Clash and other punk and new wave bands.
We do adaptations of Madness and The Clash for the Specialized compilations benefiting the Teenage Cancer trust but while we tried to remain true to the spirit of the originals the arrangement is quite different and also they both have new French lyrics. We also do In The Meantime pretty faithful to the Georgie Fame version, but in French of course!
Hmm for despising it is harder: I guess really anything that is manufactured top 40 pop or mainstream rock radio.
08. What are your main influences outside of music?
Serge is a graphic designer so really nice images are important to us and we are all clothes horses which makes band photos easy (apart from never matching)! And a few of us are politically active and we spend a lot of time debating politics which is reflected in the lyrics of our songs. Zelda being a language teacher, Jean-Marc a journalist and my father having been a poet and author also probably all contributes to making lyrics very important to us.
09. Who writes your songs and what subjects do you deal with?
Serge composes almost all of the music, while we split lyrics duties. Zelda has written all of the English language songs (but she also writes in French), Serge some, myself (Gabriela) some, and it is great when all 3 of us can collaborate. And we are really happy as Jean Marc has just written his first text (about the useless journalists that you can’t escape here) so we won’t be short of ideas from now on!
Our subjects tend to be either funny or serious observations and critiques of society, we only have one love song, and most of them are in French as that’s the language that we speak to each other in.
10. What’s your favorite song in your repertoire currently? What’s your favourite song by another artist?
I think for ours I’ll have to go with Le Mac, about a detestable French politician, coming out very soon. But for other artists so hard to choose, maybe Billy Bragg’s Greetings to the New Brunette? Or Waterfall by Jimmy Cliff always makes me happy.
11. How would you describe the current underground scene? Do you participate?
It seems that the mod scene is coming out with lots of interesting new sounds internationally which is really exciting, for a long time bands were stuck in retro or copycat mode and now are mixing things up a lot. There are cool bands not just in the UK but in Sweden, Russia, Brazil, Argentina and all over the place. We are trying our best to keep up with them all!
12. What has been the biggest challenge to date?
I’d have to say the lack of places to play in France, a problem common to all of the groups here, which means that we go abroad to play most of the time and we love to play live so we end up arranging lots of trips. Of course that is absolutely wonderful for us, we love to travel and meet people and it is so cool to see the enthusiasm in the UK and other places where normally foreign language groups don’t do so well. But it presents financial challenges, we need to cover the cost of travel each time and also get time off work.
13. How often do you Rehearse? Play Live? Record? Anything interesting coming up?
We rehearse at least once per week and sometimes twice, and play live as often as we can, that usually means one big weekend abroad with 2-4 shows per month.
We record about once a year, and hopefully will release our first album in 2016! We love 45s but everyone has been asking for an album, it’s a bit tough for financing but we hope to be able to crowdfund as we did our last record. We have tons of new songs, 3 already recorded, 4 in almost final shape and a few others in the pipeline and they are all over the place as far as subject matter and style.
14. What do you think of the music coverage in the media?
It sucks, outside of small sites and fanzines, always the same groups and especially in France it seems very controlled by the music industry, people are afraid to like anything different.
15. Do you rate any current mainstream or underground bands?
All of the French bands we mention above, and for international mod scene bands our favorites are The Riots, The Most, The Shalalas and The Sound of Pop Art. And we recently picked up the new album by Paul Collins and it was just as good as his older classics with The Nerves and The Beat, definitely go to see him if you get the chance. In the UK recently, we also got to play with The Boss who were fantastic, and we will soon again play with Trambeat which is always a treat.
16. Who/Where would you most like to record with and why?
We love where we currently record whenever we have the chance, Yeah!Yeah!Yeah! Studios in Hamburg, they have a perfect combination of old and new for recording and mixing. Dennis Rux is the engineer there and he seems to perfectly understand what we are trying to do, does not over-engineer out “flaws” and has great suggestions for little touches that really make the song. If we were to change, we would go with Gavin Linch and Graham Lentz at Rocket Studios in Croydon, they just mixed a demo for us that we are really happy with, also a natural sound but with finesse.
17. What should we expect from you in the future? What are your plans and ambitions? What interesting gig dates have you got coming up?
As mentioned before, hopefully our first album next year, followed by more records that we are proud of, other than that and playing lot of fun gigs with cool bands that’s pretty much all of our ambition.
We have a rare gig in Paris this Friday with our friends The Most from Sweden which will be a nice boost during a rather sad time here. And for 2016, we’re really excited to play with Graham Day’s new band The Senior Service in Putney in January, and after that back for March of the Mods Reading with Geno Washington, Trambeat and the ShaLaLas and 2 dates with SlimShack from Brighton over the weekend, and then MOTM Margate for our first show there which should be really fun. And seems back in the UK in June too now!
(By the way, thank you New Untouchables, we played our first UK show ever for your night in Camden and as you can see now the UK is where we play the most)
And, if we can swing it, we’d love to get to Latin America next year. We are not really sure why but if you look at the countries of the fans of our group there are lots in Argentina and Mexico, they are right after France, the UK, Spain and Ireland. We got to go to Montreal in August for the Modtreal weekender and the US before that but it takes a lot of planning and is very expensive so we’ll see!
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To buy our current releases:
To buy Mieux Comme Ca: www.copasetic.de/french-boutik-mieux-comme-ca
To buy previous vinyl: Sold at CopaseDisques, search: www.amazon.co.uk for French Boutik
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