Celebrations were in order this Weekend, as Rock en Seine rounded off 15 years by bringing the music festival season to a close at Domaine Nationale de Saint-Cloud in the outskirts of the French Capital. Featuring notable acts from home and further afield, the six stages of the festival offered much to digest along with exhibitions, disc villages, and street art to compliment the main events.
On the opening day, it was The Pharcyde who brought the hip-hop and energy to kick start the Weekend. They were not the only ones to bring the Californian sunshine and sound, as Allah-Las played unphased by the previous week’s events and Grouplove’s Hannah Hooper proved a dab hand at conversing in fluent French with their audience.
As night descended, it was two Scottish bands that invaded both the Cascade and Main Stages as The Jesus and Mary Chain ran through tracks from early albums like Psychocandy and latest edition to their discography, Damage and Joy. Franz Ferdinand on the other hand did much of the same but with a bit more pep, as frontman Alex Kapranos proved to be jovial in both dialects of English and French. The audience was expectant of a complete recap of their albums, and that is indeed what they got with sing-along versions of ‘Michael’, ‘Do You Want To’, and of course, ‘Take Me Out’.
There were anticipated performances from Norwegian pop artist MØ, whose occasional stripped back version of tracks and confetti filled finale added to a buzz that paved the way for Australian producer, Flume, with an intro and stage design that did not disappoint as he brought the day’s proceedings to a close.
DBFC brought their mechanical, club sound to get things started on a glorious Saturday afternoon. If you like Jagwar Ma or Hot Chip, then these guys are right up your street. Member Dombrance and David Shaw have the perfect mix of Parisian and Mancunian club culture behind them to fuse these influence into a set of songs such as ‘The Ride’ and ‘Jenks’.
French beatmaker Jain knows all about tempo. The sunshine blazed down on her set and was the perfect atmosphere for the audience to consume the mix of beats that stem from her time in Congo, Dubai, and further afield. Quite clear that these places influenced the playful and rhythmic movements of African culture heard in ‘Makeba’ and ‘Dynabeat’.
Following the untimely passing Simon Carpentier, one-half of France based pop duo Her, it was always likely to get emotional at the Bosquet Stage Saturday evening. Though the set was triumphant and sensually wonderful among the treelines and raised garden terrace wall that gave the space a warm and intimate feeling. Behind Victor Solf, the screen showed a photo taken from La Garo Rock festival a few weeks ago, showing the shadow of Simon performing at was his last show with the band. There were tears of sadness among some fans, but also tears of joy at a band who have long championed the elegant style that comes with the feminine image they demonstrated in their live shows that Victor declares will continue into the near future.
Columbine lived up to the name of their debut album, Enfant Terrible. This duo (with an additional troupe and guests on occasion) have been dubbed with the title of “new French rap”. Not afraid to mix with numerous vocal effects, pop/electro sonic aspect or with the classic lyricism devoted to the genre of rap of a popular time in French culture, they proved popular. A group that showed they have the skills to give it as good as they are expected to be on stage. Columbine will no doubt become a regular sight in venues across the land.
Opening the day on their first visit to Saint-Cloud, Amber Run master the indie-pop as best they can. The Nottingham outfit gave a strong performance as the crowds began to flow into the festival arena from the nearby entrance. Soon after the swinging and dancing group that is Deluxe gave us their finest example of what a flamboyant pop band can do if they mix a jazz element with a brass section of any size. Moustached and mad.
If ever there was a solid standard performance, George Ezra usually delivers the goods without question. Riding high on the back of his second album release, the UK songwriter boasts a big band of brass too. If you wanted to find an act that would keep you entertained on a hazy sunny day in a national park, then there could not have been a better man to handle the task. Renditions of ‘Barcalona’,’Budapest’ and some earlier work put in a good day’s work for the young man.
The xx arrived a few minutes later than planned on the Main Stage, but all it did was give a more fulfilling sensation to witnessing them live. The three childhood friends arrived on the top of the bill at various festivals after stellar work on three albums and a solo record from their shyest member, Jamie Smith. The band’s lyricism is symbolic of their own past and dealing with various social anxieties. The audience loved them for that reason. A humble and gratuitous bunch, their sound is almost for the kids that grew up listing to dance records and that of old ones from their parents and grandparents. Opening with the early minimal sounds of ‘Intro’, ‘Crystalised’, and ‘Islands’, they turn effortlessly into a more electronic-indie outfit that anyone could relate to. Having dropped the steel drum sound accustomed with Jamie xx’s solo releases, The “I See You” tour is a perfect blend of The xx to date.
Interview: Girls in Hawaii
Speaking before their show, frontman Antoine Wielemans told us “It is our first time we have been at this festival. For us, it is really exciting since we have the album in one month. For this album, we didn’t spend more than 48 hours on the record and we wanted to be more direct with each song. We wanted something more minimalist.”
They are also about to hit the road soon for a tour with a new album from which their set was part comprised of, and while Brussels offers the band a gateway throughout Europe whether it’s bordering countries or across the channel. How do they find touring and experiencing different cultures on the road? “To go from Belgium to France is very easy because we share the same culture. It is always quite easy and natural to tour there. After that, we go to Italy and Germany and it’s a different experience, different people, venues and yeah I guess since we’re not that famous in Germany for example, we play small venues for 300-400 people and it is totally different conditions than back home.But we like that as it’s always something different. Not always the same way to tour and same mood.”
As I meet the members of DBFC, catching the end of a previous interview wheone-halfalf of the anglo-french duo, David Shaw, is in full flow speaking fluent French. Thus it was a surprise to find a strong Manchester accent still present when he greets me. After, David explains he’s lived here for 25 years or so and despite the adaptable Parisian image, he is still rooted to his homeland.
In a time where Brexit brings uncertainty for expats, David knows a thing or two about finding your niche away from home. His mum moved over to France a few years before he did and found a career in modelling that allowed her to travel back and forth before eventually settling in Paris with her son.
Having worked on solo projects such as David Shaw and The Beat, a chance encounter through their agent lead to a collaboration that later formed DBFC. From there, they played a few shows including the showcase of Transmusicales de Rennes two years ago and they have continued on an upward trajectory ever since. “Both of us worked together as a duo to work and write the songs in the studio. Live we have a four piece so there’s a chemistry there. The way I see it, Dombrance offers that traditional side of a verse and chorus [in songwriting] in a typical pop tradition.Then I would bring the more offbeat and the things that make you find the weird side in the production.”
For their name, DBFC does have a meaning of a club, but they add that soon all will be revealed with a poster, that includes the original meaning as well as ways for fans to find their own interpretation.
Speaking of being in a club, the guys do have a vision of unity and of course that is part inspired by club culture that was hugely popular in both Manchester and Paris where many people found their identity and socialised with the same interests; “Playing guitars or being in a band, be it rock or punk or whatever, you have so many influences that we don’t really think of what we do. We just do it, we like synth, guitars, and just put the two together like many of the bands we love and the idea of dancing and having the audience dancing is about having the two become one which is what we are going for.
Interview: Little Dragon
Little Dragon met each other at different stages of their lives, a few of them met in high school before Håkan Wirenstand, their keyboard player, met drummer Erik Bodin at Art School around 2004 before joining the line-up in 2004.
Catching up with the four members earlier that day, we asked them how they would describe their 11-year journey right until now? “Fresh, funky, tasty, sexy, fun, joyous, fantastic, magical, and even a little sad,” says Yukimi Nagamo, “we’ve had lots of bumpy roads but we are still here standing”.
As for their new album, Season High, Yukimi went deep on what the sessions meant for them by saying, “Smooth and bumpy at times, I mean a process is a process I guess, I mean it is not supposed to be one sided. Mentally, there were many different pockets to jump down and explore. Collaboration wise with each other, we evolved as people through the music and through our conversations with each other. Sometimes the road is like a Mount Everest, you climb slowly, you have some water or cliffs, but you just make it through.”Erik then opens up; “Going back to the first time we played music together, we were on a music high, we have always been but we wanted to go back to that unknown.”
Describing their hometown Gothenburg, Yukimi paints the scene of an industrial town, or at least their quarter; “There’s a lot of trains, you can hear them outside our window, a little canal, a little cafe called The Rose Cafe where we spend some time outside of the studio. It’s a bit industrial, city vibe too, we have dancers downstairs and a Brazilian club next door. We’re in our little bubble, the Little Dragon Bubble.” Håkan adds; “occasionally you have the samba rhythm seeping through the floor though”.
Interview: Le Villejuif Underground
Based in the suburb from which they take part of their name, the three Parisians and one Australian of Le Villejuif Underground founded from a shared interest of underground culture. Not entirely inspired by The Velvet Underground, the band met through different playing partners and the underground movements like The Weather Underground and other anarchist groups.
The band are due to release an album to follow up last year’s live release on SDZ Records. Taking their inspiration from multiple genres of garage, disco, and lo-fi sound. The interview trails off and the excitement can only be contained by asking them to answer the myths and crazy stories that follow their founding years on the road. For this, we played a game of true or false, which created a scene of huddled members around a microphone and keen to hear what our resident writer, Noémie Lecoq, had uncovered about their past. Such questions were that their singer used to live in a squat before the band offered him space in their garden shed, that they own a baseball cap with “Make Villejuif Great Again”, and offering on Facebook to perform an “acoustic strip show” for anyone who could help them with van troubles on the Spanish freeway. Stories to which they all answered, “Oh oui, yeah it’s very very true.”