When I stumbled upon the absurdist electro-garage of France’s Cheveu, specifically their latest record Bum, I knew I had to track down the madmen responsible for it and figure out just what the hell was going on. This was back in January. Roughly three months later, the loopy appeal of Bum has yet to wear off…even if my hopes at a successful interview had. With the interview more or less written off, you can imagine my surprise to see an email in my inbox from the lads in Cheveu earlier this week, containing the responses to the 14 questions I had penned some three months prior. And let me tell you folks, it was worth the wait; much like Bum itself, the interview turned out very odd, yet very interesting, easily one of the most entertaining interviews I’ve had the pleasure of carrying out. So here we are, ladies and gentlemen: the long awaited (by myself, anyway) Interview with Cheveu, featuring (gloriously unedited) responses from band members Étienne Nicolas and David Lemoine.
1. To all our readers out there who haven’t heard you guys yet, describe your band in five words or less.
Étienne: Food, Love, Brutality.
2. Let’s learn a little bit about you! How did Cheveu come into existence?
É: Been 10 years the band exist. Cheap equipment vs big noise would be a good way to describe our sound at the beginning. We tried to make as loud and powerful as possible. They called us weird punk: kind of a dirty garage rock with a psychedelic dimension and drum machines. Now it sounds a little bit different.
D: initial feelings were mainly boredom and fear. just do something with your life, though your scared as hell by the idea of putting a foot on stage.
É: for us it’s just a joke, you have to say ‘the new album Bum from Cheveu”… album bum… bum bum… sounds good, isn’t it?
D: the rest makes sense though..
4. I’ve read that Bum as a whole was inspired by the creation of “Polonia”, the extremely epic and ambitious third track on the record. How did this song come into being and how did it serve as a muse for the rest of the album?
É: We started to work on that track after a “lost too many brain cells” UK tour. We were a little bit pissed off by speedy garage rock and tried to compose something more downtempo as usual. Kind of Ennio Moricone from the east european steppes, the song you get at the end of a really depressed movie. No happy end.
D: yep this song really blew our fast and fun composing dogma. i wouldn’t say the whole album came after it though, there is more than an polonian (rather than polish) dimension to it. but i believe that we really found something nice with the vocals here, and the specific use of french. not that every band should have it’s vocal way, but it’s been a while we wander around something we might touch here.
5. Your songs often contain a combination of French and English lyrics. How do you decide which language is appropriate for each lyric?
D: french is not impossible but it’s a battle, a battle we tend to win more and more often, and we’re happy we do.
6. Bum continues your ongoing relationship with Born Bad Records. What is it about the label that keeps you guys coming back for more?
É: We released our 3 albums on Born Bad Records, it’s like we grew up with the label. Back in 2008, our first album Cheveu was one of the first Born Bad rcds release. Now JB, the owner of Born Bad rcds, got the money to act like a real producer.
7. All of the songs on Bum are highly creative, borrowing elements from across the music spectrum to craft your distinctive, unique sound. Do you guys follow a standard formula for songwriting or did the songs on Bum come together in different ways?
É: since we started the band, we got the same songwriting formula which consists to record our long jam and see after what we could expect with this material. We choose together which parts of those jams would work together to be a hit, or not.
D: hehe .. and the process takes time too.. three years since the last one..
D: this might be rule n°1 ..
9. Bum sounds a lot more polished and catchy than your previous releases. Should we expect you to go all out pop on your next album?
D: style doesn’t really mean much to us in terms of intentions, we just went a little down tempo on this one. if you ask we’d say it remains “rock” though. and live we try to keep it really raw.
É: First time for us we recorded Bum stuffs in a real studio (one two pass it studio) like real professionals.
10. Many of the songs on Bum are based on different characters (“Johnny Hurry Up”, “Juan In A Million”, “Madame Pompidou”, “Monsieur Perrier”). Are these actual people you know or are they fictional?
D: johnny came out of nowhere. “Juan in a million” is a restaurant in Austin we saw while on tour. This guy Juan was riding a tricycle downtown with his picture on the box. They have some reall sweet tshirts and mugs you can get online. “Madame Pompidou” refers to one former french first lady. There was a big story with her at the time including sexy pictures, a couple murders and all sorts of secrets services and mafia leads to it. “Monsieur Perrier” is a crazy guy guided by inner voices we found about in a historical study on homeless people in Paris. Some other characters to be found in the record, that “albinos” for example, taken from Harmony Korine’s Gummo. In “Slap and shot” a girl named Bravo who hosted us one night in New Orleans. I guess putting all these people together may mean something, don’t really know what though.
11. Cheveu is primarily based in Europe. Are you guys interested in breaking into the North American scene? If so, what do you feel has held you back so far?
É: We already did 5 US tour since 2006. We played at PS1 in Brooklyn, SXSW in Austin and Gonerfest 3 in Memphis. And we released lot of stuffs on different good US label (SS records, Permanent records, Kill Shaman Records…).
D: Yep, the US life of the band is behind us. In the begining it made sens with the more garage approach, the friends we had found (like Tyvek from Detroit) and the releases we did. But after a while we finally found great bands in France to play with, a label, and all sort of advantages the country gives to it’s musicians (like a crazy monthly wage of public money for example if you do enough official shows a year). We really want to go to Asia now, maybe South America too, ..
12. Can we expect to see Cheveu on the road anytime soon?
É: Yes Monsieur! We planed to tour in US and Canada next spring, in 2015…
13. I’m Canadian, and I’ve always heard that people from France hate Quebec. Is this true?!?
É: Never heard about that, it’s more like lot of young people here in France move to Québec to get a better quality of life. But few months later some of those folks go back in France to mumie’s house.
14. Are there any other acts in the French art rock scene that us North Americans should keep our eyes on?
É: There are a lot of very good french bands, Metz scene (Feeling of love, Scorpion violente), Bordeaux scene (Magnetix, JC satan).
D: Headwar, Antilles.
É: and all our side projects!
Bum is out now on Born Bad Records.