Monday, February 28, 2011

Buck 'er Too

A New Parisian Music Scene Attempts to Muster Enthusiasm For Anything at All

February 2011

When you think of the Parisian music scene, does your mind’s eye conjure a photo of Busy P high-fiving Uffie while Olivier Zahm’s latest girlfriend interviews André from La Clique in the lobby of Hotel L’Amour? Is Ed Banger somehow involved? While this scenario is probably pretty excellent if you’re a billionaire streetwear designer in his mid-30s, I can’t remember enough about 2005 to hold a conversation with anyone who still listens to Justice.

In order to make myself feel like a productive member of the modern French cultural elite, I decided to lower my sights from the gods to the gravel, and have taken to stinky bars populated by a new wave of garage noise bands so dirty and disorganised that I’m able to feel, for a quick minute, like I truly am “one of them”.

Given that the English-speaking world generally distrusts music made by French people, and French people in general, you may never have heard of Crash Normal, Destination Lonely, Catholic Spray, Black Muslims or Teenage Moonlight. However, a year or so down the line from now, once they’ve all split for good, musical history will no doubt rank them alongside bands like the Seeds, the Sonics and the 13th Floor Elevators. Or probably it won’t, but it doesn’t matter what musical history thinks, really—what’s important is that these are the bands that are finally making French music listenable again.

One of my favourites is Catholic Spray (pictured), who cite as influences the Magnetix, the Fatals, Cheveu, and other French garage bands from the 1990s. They also play the Back From the Grave compilations on repeat every night in their tiny flats while getting mangled on bad drugs and having sex with girls before attempting to coax money out of them.

Catholic Spray shit all over the idea of an “emerging 60s garage revival”, primarily because they say they’re not good enough to make it. They prefer to use the term “French lo-fi”, which they think better suits the music they’re making—cracklings that are hard for the ears to tolerate, tidal waves of delay, and choruses (sometimes sung in French) that translate into English as “Ghhhhhhhhhhwwwwwwaaaaaah scrrrch scrrrrch, love”.

The recording quality of this music is awful, so despite the government-imposed 40-percent-French-music-on-French-air quota they’ll never hear themselves on the radio. None of these guys are going to get rich enough to buy Uffie a drink any time soon—some work jobs on the side, but there just aren’t enough halal fried-chicken joints in Pigalle to keep these young Gauls in bad drugs and guitar strings. Luckily the French dole system’s more than willing to pay them 600 euros a month for doing little more than lying around in their pants waiting for pretty Parisian girls to come over and put their hands in.

I recently met up with Catholic Spray at their rehearsal space, a huge cooperative studio in Bastille that’s mostly filled with suburban white guys with dreads playing awful French reggae and dub. I got drunk with the band’s singer, a guy who calls himself Cyprien the Big Nazi, who told me about a new Parisian “scene” made up of more than 50 new bands, all playing the same scratchy, druggy, psychedelic guitar music. Catholic Spray resent this, he said, to the extent that they now live in a hermetically sealed enclave and don’t talk to any other Parisian bands or engage with what they call “the outside world”. Noted!

Later that night, Catholic Spray played a show at Le Gambetta, a small punk bar based in the 20th arrondissement of Paris, an eastern suburb that has a clutch of small clubs. The show was pretty funny. There was a lot of screaming and people pretending to suck off microphones, which, though it made me cringe a bit, also steamrolled any latent Parisian reserve the crowd might have been harbouring, opening the door for a lot of obnoxious fun. A law student and an old punk took the mosh pit too seriously and had a fight at the end. I don’t think either won.

After the show I taped an interview with a couple of guys from the band. Here are the very few highlights.

Vice: When people outside France think about Parisian music they think of Ed Banger, I guess.
Cyprien: I don’t have a fucking clue about this. I guess it must be good, but I’ve never heard any. I’m not sure what it is. We don’t really go to clubs except to pick up little dolls.

Are you friends with any of the new Paris bands? Is it a good scene?
We don’t bear no hard feelings towards our fellow musicians, but at the same time, we couldn’t give two fucks about them or their lives.

I noticed a lot of cute girls at the concerts. You give a fuck about them, right?
[misunderstanding] Girls? There are only two, Claire and Anne-Sophie from Kross Castle. They’re nice. And quite pretty. Shit, man. Oh, hold on, there are another three girls in a band called Eyes Behind, two in Beat Mark, and the Fury Fury Furyzz. And that totals… ten.
Antoine Quincerot (bass): It’s actually a ratio of about 95 percent boys in the bands, but the audience is more evenly split to about 60/40. The little dolls, we like them.

So, the little dolls, the drinking and the drugs. What else is it that you care about?
Cyprien: Nothing? What’s the point? Is this interview over yet? I gotta go.

"Bitches ain't shit but hoes and tricks."
- PhD. Dre


Catholic Spray (Paris): Crackhead Garden
Viscous Brothers (Orléans): Losing You
Crash Normal (Paris): Chrome Crimes
JC Satan (Bordeaux): Loin de toi
Destination Lonely (Montpellier/Toulouse/Perpignan): Mud
Teenage Moonlight (Paris): Border Liners
The Creteens (Paris): Le bon style des noirs, which translates to “Black people have good style”
SIDA (Strasbourg): Boucherie de l’avenir
Plasto Béton (Metz): Femmes du RPR
Anything by the Dictaphones (Tours)
Anything by the Swag (Rouen)
Good labels: Born Bad Records, Plastic Spoons, Inch Allah Records, and We Want Your Mind

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