Singer Gabriela Giacoman takes time out to give us the latest from the world of French Boutik
SBD: It's been nine months now since the Front Pop album launch at The 100 Club. How has the reaction been to the album?
Gabriela: It’s been incredibly nice. Not only did we sell out all the first pressing, but had great feedback from fans and very enthusiastic reviews, even for the first time in the French press. That sounds strange to say, but things are very closed here and usually there is no point contacting anyone if you do not have a friend or family connection or a fancy label. We’re really pleased: we worked so hard coming up with the compositions and arrangements.
We were proud of our of ‘no filler’-type songs on the EPs before, and didn’t want to break that with a long player. I was singing everything on my bicycle to work and back to make sure the final melody was just right, and sure everyone else was doing similar things on their end for the months leading up to it. We’ve had far more reviews than for the previous records, and seriously not one negative thing cited (so far!).
SBD: The fastest selling CopaseDisques album is a nice achievement. Tell us about the plans for a repress
Gabriela: Yes !! :-) It’s a small label, but they only work with quality groups so that is really nice to hear. We were really so nervous that we would not be able to sell them for the simple fact that an LP is much larger than an EP and as we play abroad quite a bit and have no van space - and weight considerations are very important. But in fact people bought them more, both directly from us and via the label site. I think all the nice reviews helped as must be new people listening to us as well.
Since it sold so quickly and we’d like more people to hear the record on vinyl we decided to do a repress, one slightly different than the first run. It’s red, to match the cover, but without the pull-out poster that was in the original pressing. They have just arrived here too in time for our next UK shows!
SBD: The promo videos to accompany some of the Front Pop songs looked like a lot of fun to do. What can you tell us about making them? Will there be more?
Gabriela: They are mostly from our friend Fred Eagle who had done such a great job on ‘Mieux comme ça’ and others filmed most of them -- at the house (‘Je regarde les Tigres’ - where else can we paste fish all over the wall and chase cats around? - and for our nasty family dinner in “Costume Italien” to go along with the murder theme song. There’s no way we could get away with pushing someone off a metro platform!), at the studio a bit for ‘Les Tigres’, our friend’s bar (for my disaster internet dates on ‘Sur mon écran’ - that one still makes me laugh), and our friend Martin’s shop for the break-in ‘Le Casse’ (which is actually based on a real story of a failed factory break-in). We went all around town to costume shops and now have a nice collection of cat masks and fake beards!
The two more normal ones are ‘Impitoyable’, which I put together from photos Derek D’Souza took at the 100 Club show, they were something like 500 fantastic shots and thought a pity to waste them, especially as putting them to that song seemed to work quite well. The song is also a bit theoretical so an easy one to imagine a silly video for, and one of our favorites on the record, so I was pleased that worked out.
And then our first big production one, for the Françoise Hardy cover ‘Je ne suis là pour personne’. There is a quite famous sailing navigator here in France named Loïck Peyron with whom Fred works and who really likes our music, so Fred asked if he would be interested in being in a video and to our very pleasant surprise he agreed. Fred went down to Loïck’s house in Brittany for a couple of days, directed it, and had some help from real sailing video experts who put it together. Unfortunately Loïck’s very nice Vespa would not start, so no riding around but he looks great and the coast is so beautiful there.
We had already done two really nice clips for the crowdfunding single videos ‘Le Mac’ and ‘Hitch a Ride’, from Florence of the group Sugar & Tiger. She even had her boyfriend and bandmate who is a French punk star, Didier from The Wampas, eating popcorn at the end of ‘Hitch a Ride’, which was a very cool surprise for us.
So that just leaves ‘La chemise déchirée’, ‘l’Expert’, and ‘The Rent’. The first is one of my personal favorites on the record and would love to do it but it’s quite serious about the HR manager from Air France getting his shirt ripped off by workers so hard to figure out what to do, apparently airport security is too tight to try to sneak something in there. Plus Fred is now back in California and Florence has moved to the south of France! Maybe we will figure something else out with photos for those as have a bunch of other nice concert series.
SBD: You seemed to have really made a connection with UK audiences in particular. Any idea why? There can't be many Brits that follow French-singing bands the way they do French Boutik!
Gabriela: Honestly I can’t say for sure but I would guess that the biggest reason is that we’re obviously a mod band and the UK is not only the birthplace of the scene but it still has the biggest in the world. So there are a lot more compatible bands to play with over your way and nights going on, and people seem to “get” the music as something clearly mod-oriented but different than to what they may have heard before. Even journalists that aren’t mods at all will know The Jam and other groups we listen to a lot, that is not the case in France and some other places where we are like outer space aliens and people are confused.
But it’s not just that, because even when we play shows over there that have a more general audience that don’t care about any of that they like us too! I know it’s not just exoticism: as you say there are plenty of other French bands and it doesn’t seem to go over the same way. I guess maybe the English musical influences mixing with not just the language but also French music and culture make it just enough similar to not be too much of a shock, but different enough to be a nice change. I think we would have to ask someone English to explain it really!
SBD: You came to the UK in May for shows, how did they go? Does everyone know the words now, and try and sing along?
Gabriela: They were all fantastic, which is not always the case, usually there is one clear highlight and the others OK, but this time we loved all three nights. The first was in Cambridge for the Alley Club with the Galileo 7 and King Mojo who were quite different to us and both really good so that was fun. And we even got to see a bit of Cambridge the next morning before heading off this time. After that was Albert’s new club in Brixton The Hand in Hand with friends Dr Bird, we love their music and they are good company and Albert’s crowd always so nice, and got to play with Dr Bird the next night again at the Pelton Arms in Greenwich.
And at least a few people travelled to all 3 nights ! And yes, some of the audience were singing along :-) We always put the lyrics on YouTube and they are in the album sleeve too; we figured even non-French speakers would be interested. It is a real pleasure to see that from onstage.
SBD: You helped picked the line-up for the London show on July 14. What can you tell us about who you're playing with, and why anyone should care.
Gabriela: Yes, we can’t wait! From the UK are our friends The Sha La La’s, we have played with them quite a few times over the past few years, and even sat in with them for a few songs in March. Excellent upbeat soul, with a very charismatic singer and original songs. And also Proper, who we have not seen yet and are dying to, the singer Ivano was over in Paris a couple of times so we met and talked about his new band, and got to hear a demo which was great and have heard only good things about their live set. They have a record out now too which we are waiting to receive, hopefully will have at the show.
And also another group from our way, a female duo called The Buns, we had not played with them here but had a look and listen and seems very cool, and their first show in London so I think it will be a great night!
SBD: After this trio of UK gigs what's next for French Boutik?
Gabriela: We get to take a summer break and actual non-band vacation time in August, and then September right back onto shows, at least two in Paris the first couple of weeks in September. The Sha La La’s are coming here to play finally! We don’t know which club yet but will definitely be a fantastic show in Paris 2nd September, lots of UK friends already booking, almost certainly with our friend Popincourt too. And the weekend after our friend Francis from Paris surf group The Wave Chargers is putting on a festival of local bands which should be very fun.
And then...that’s it for now! We are waiting for dates confirmed for autumn in Spain and Russia (we were meant to return to Moscow in late July but can’t now make it), and Brazil and possibly more of South & Central America looking likely for 2018. And of course we’re always thrilled to be back in the UK, so anyone who wants us please get in touch! :-)
French Boutik play The Water Rats in London on July 14, The Ruby Lounge Manchester July 15, and The Wightman Theatre Shrewsbury July 16. Front Pop can be ordered here
Waves Of The New (The John Colby Sect)
Despite a sombre gestation, Costa Rica’s flower punk trio impress on third album
The San José based noise pop trio consists of drummer Fabrizio Durán, guitarist and vocalist Mercedes Oller, and bassist and vocalist Sonya Carmona. This record was recorded, produced and mixed by Jon Greene (Dum Dum Girls, Crocodiles, Best Coast) early last year - who then passed away unexpectedly last November.
I’m not sure if this is his final work, but if so can be rightly proud of his achievement. His production is second to none, allowing the melodic subtleties of the songs to shine bright against their residual wall of noise. The indie/garage/slacker pop here is often reminiscent of mid-period BJM or even Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, which on it’s own would put many people off, but every so often their love of classic psychedelia (notably The Seeds) can be heard, and this tension works to the record’s advantage. Lead single ‘Not Enough’ (watch below) illustrates this, it’s slinky chuggin’ riffs being just the right side of hypnotic to warrant repeated plays. ‘Golden Visions’ is, similarly, the sound of a ‘68-vintage, acid-altered garage band taking things to the next level.
There’s plenty more pop archive-raiding elsewhere too. ‘Dream’ divebombs back and forth between two time signatures, recreating some classic My Bloody Valentine dream-pop vibes that make sweaty summer nights that little bit more special. ‘Flower Child’ brings the proper old-school indie noise to the playground, proudly displaying its Jesus & Mary Chain badge (and with the new Sonic Youth LP tucked under its arm). The title track meanwhile, with its ferocious intensity, is good enough to fit on any The Pains of Being Pure at Heart album. I should also mention C86 somewhere too, shouldn’t I? ‘Sun Haze’ is a pure dose of that sound, and just glorious in every way.
If you’re a fan of the bands mentioned in this post then definitely spend some time and money on Waves: there’s plenty to enjoy here. And let’s not forget: a bittersweet triumph is still a triumph.
Waves Of The New is out now on vinyl via John Colby Sect (Spain) and Buen Dia Records (Mexico), plus all download and streaming sites
Haunted Heart (Damaged Goods)
It's a case of if it ain't broken don't fix it as London rock'n'roll duo continue to quietly please third time around.
They say third time's a charm. No one knows why, but they do. Proverbial witterings aside, we're back here with Jack Sandham (guitar slinger, organ grinder, smokin' voice) and Wednesday Lyle (barefoot drums, sultry voice) worshipping at the alter of well-crafted, polite-ish rock'n'roll. They've quietly built up a nice following via previous outings 'Beat Stampede' and 'Skeleton Soul' and they continue to refine their art on this latest LP (notice the two word album title thing? More minimal than Kings Of Leon's five syllables anyhow).
If you like your garage trashy best look away now. This is soulful rock'n'roll that looks to the blues/gospel/Southern 50s/60s version of rock'n'roll served up by heroes like Ray Charles, Roy Orbison, and Dusty Springfield. In that sense they have more in common with the Black Keys and aforementioned KOL than, say, Royal Blood and the White Stripes. Having said that they definitely know how to testify and kick up the dust on a tight-as-a-nut rhythm once they start revving that engine. The title track does just that, and is destined for a modern Hollywood soundtrack somewhere; with it's slightly distorted organ chugs, insistent handclaps and spiky short melodic guitar solo. 'Downlow' pulls off a similar trick, with Lyle's deadpan vocals doing their best to keep up with the high speed train going on beneath.
'Doom Train' has a loose rockabilly/boogie stop-start base that actually touches on The Cramps rough'n'ready psychobilly, though I suspect it's come to them via the influence of voodoo master Jim Jones. But it's on their delicate, Americana moments that Cowbell are most affecting. It's a lost art for modern rockers to deliver genuinely, whiskey-in-chair-at-midnight tender moments. On 'Neon Blue' the slide guitar is thrust centre stage as the dancing partner to Sandham's whispered urban blues tale, and 'Something's Gotta Give' channels Lou Reed on the VU's sparse-sounding third-album with delightful success. Closing track 'No Trouble' is five minutes of authentic southern soul that could have been presented to Solomon Burke for his final album. It's stirring stuff, and deserves a wider audience.
If 'Haunted Heart' falls down anywhere it's that it moves very much in its own comfort zone: it knows what it likes and doesn't deviate from it's prime influences. If you can live with that then you'll be humming this shit 'til the cows come home. And Christ knows in these troubled times you take your comforts where you can.
Haunted Heart is out now on LP, CD and for download via Damaged Goods
BY PHIL ISTINE
A blog to pontificate upon music both new and old: mostly reviews, some news, interviews, thought pieces, and exclusive content.