I was absolutely delighted when Feu! Chatterton agreed to answer a few questions via email for vive le roq.
The band have been firm favourites of this site since they came to my attention thanks to coverage in Les Inrocks, and their debut album Ici le Jour (a tout enseveli) was a perfect package that surpassed expectations. Literate, intelligent and distinctive, they've become one of the most exciting voices to have emerged in France in recent years
Needless to say, I wasn't the only critic to welcome their album, a reaction which delighted the band. "It has been such a great pleasure to see how well received it was by the media but also by the people.
"By the time we started our album tour (that we called “Ici le Tour”, if you get the very subtle wordplay here...), almost all the main French national media had already talked about us, and apart from a very few of them, in such a positive way that we couldn’t think it was real.
"We still had quite an apprehension about going on tour with this kind of media hype pressure, and maybe not fill up all of our gigs, or even find some empty concert halls...but we quickly found out that people were here, coming to the gigs, and now we’re really happy about it."
The band have been attracting attention for a while before the album emerged. Were they concerned about the weight of expectation?
"Let’s say it took a while, but not that much. Yes, a whole year between the debut EP and the debut album is quiet a lot, but in the meantime we did a lot of things!
"We actually recorded a second EP called Bic Medium, that had been released in April 2015, right between the first EP and the album. And it was quiet a piece of work for us, because it’s a 14 minutes track, played in live conditions, and recorded one shot.
"30 takes for one winner and it took us weeks just to rehearse the track...We wanted this track to be kind of collection track, a submarine track, that would be know just by a few, that’s why we made it with a limited 300 ex edition, only in vinyl.
"But to answer the question, we were definitely having had expectations for the first LP, and we didn’t want time to be our limit for our experimentations in studio. That’s part of the reason we signed an artist contract with Barclay, they would offer us time to do exactly what we wanted to to.
"And even with these three weeks we spend in a Swedish studio and the two next months in Paris for the additional tracks, we had to postpone for a month the release of the album because we weren’t satisfied enough with the mixing part."
The band has been around since 2011, how has Feu Chatterton! and their material developed in that period?
"In 2011 we were just three people (Arthur, Clément and Sébastien) and we were a bit tired and upset of the music we were playing with our previous band. It was a mix of slam, jazz and funk music, but everything was complex, from the music itself to the rehearsals. When Arthur and I decided to play a more simple music, trying to sing our lyrics - not tell them as a slam music - without being afraid anymore of doing a regular rock and sometimes pop music, Feu! Chatterton was really born.
"So at this moment when we kind of split the previous band, we composed and wrote a big amount of songs. Then Seb who was abroad for his studies came back, I had myself to leave too and they kept writing with Arthur, many new songs. At the end of the year, we were back the three of us, with a shit load of songs that we wanted to play live. We found among our friends Antoine playing the bass, and Raphaël the drum player, and we started to play gigs all around Paris for about two years, still composing and writing as much as we could."
Feu! Chatterton seem very aware of past influences, whether in art literature and music. I was keen to know What particular artists, whether working in art, music or literature etc were an influenced.
"We are indeed aware of past influences, and contemporary ones too. In literature, Arthur who writes the lyrics had been influenced as much by Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Fante, Bolano as by Booba, a kind of hardcore rap singer.
"For the music, it’s even wider I think: as each of us has many different personal tastes, we kind of mixed up Apex Twin, Miles Davis, LCD Soundsystem, The Beatles, Boards of Canada, Radiohead, Television, Chet Baker, Portishead, Fela Kuti...From time to time we end up agreeing about something, and we do a song!"
There is also a very modern feel to the album, how does balance this with older influences?
"It’s not really an effort to balances things together, old influences and contemporary music. When you compose music, or record it, you need to listen to things you like, and it can be from you personal CD collection, or from your friend who really needs to make you listen to this amazing track.
"At the end, you just do as your emotions tell you to do, no matter if you took a Brahms type melody and played it with a Roland SH101 right back from the 80es. On the top of it, if Arthur wants to speak about an “amour courtois” with a slice of hardcore French slang vocabulary, let’s do it if it sounds good."
Feu! Chatterton sing in French, does that make you them accessible to a French audience, and do they consider it a barrier to an anglophone audience?
"It’s not even something we take in consideration actually. We started the band with the only intention of playing music with Arthur’s lyrics, and they were in French so we did with what we had!
"But stepping back a little bit, we realise now that music in French is truly much more appreciated than in the 2000s or even the early 2010s. It’s a chance for us, but we didn’t really think about it when we started the band. As for the anglophone audience, come on, learn French guys!"
So would they ever consider recording your songs in English,like Christine and the Queens did recently?
"No, it would twist our songs to try to translate them by ourselves. We are not native speakers in English (as you can see in this interview...), and our lyrics is 50% of our work: we would be screwed in doing this. However, if we have hell of a good text that we love in English, maybe we’ll do a song!2
So will we see them play in the UK? "For the UK, we’d love to come over and play gigs, would you invite us?"
I love the use of a painting by Redon on the cover. How did that come about?
"We were looking for a good cover for months. We tried so many things, ask so many people, and suddenly, our manager came out of nowhere with this painting, saying: what about that?
"As we are five people in the band, constantly debating for every single thing, the fact that everybody liked it in the first place made us know that we had the right cover. It was simply beautiful and made sense at the same time: this melancholic woman, who could actually be a man, was all we where telling in the album. And these colours, yellow and blue were definitely the colours who where looking for our music."
2016 sees Feu! Chatterton play monthly dates at Le Trianon in Paris. Why that particular venue and what can we expect?
"The dates in the Trianon started in October and should end in May. We wanted to create a monthly meeting with our city, Paris, in order to offer something familiar to the audience during our tour. For us it’s also the occasion to see our family ! We love to play there, the gigs are sold out and we feel that people feel pleased as much as we do, to see us playing at home. For the upcoming dates at Le Trianon, I think we will try to make some surprises, guest stars, unreleased songs, helicopters..."
Finally, the album the viveleroq.com album of the year 2015. Congratulations! What message would you have for an anglophone audience?
"I’d say I know we weren’t the best in rock music, and you guys had always the creme de la creme in the UK, but please listen to French music, it’s not that bad ! Come on, en plus le français c’est facile mec ! And thank you Viveleroq! "
Picture credit at top: Xfigpower Creative Commons