In the Spotlight

The EBBA Award winner: French Films

Nuorgam, the snazziest little music site in Finland, takes a long look at the bands we are carting off to Eurosonic. The last episode presents the EBBA Award Winner French Films (episode 9 includes also an interview).

17. French Films

Video: Convict (dir: Sándor Vály)

What is it?

French Films is an indie band of the chiming guitars variety, founded in 2010, and it has since become one of the most successful Finnish bands in its genre. They have toured Europe relentlessly and established reputation where talking about energetic live shows is more than just idle blather. This spring a new album will follow their promising 2011 debut.

Why do we care?

French Films’ sound can be placed on a very tradition-conscious axis that runs from post-punk to modern guitar-based indie. Its edginess brings to mind early Cure, though singer-songwriter Johannes has stated he has actively listened to a mere couple of songs from Fat Bob’s band. If French Films were a British band, no one would have to waste their time hyping up bands like Vaccines or Palm Violets. Any comparisons to early The Drums are rendered null and void by the obvious fact that French Films has so much more vision and has proven conclusively it’s more than a blogosphere hit.

Lineup:

Johannes Leppänen - guitar, vocals
Joni Kähkönen - guitar, vocals
Santtu Vainio - keyboards
Antti Inkiläinen - drums
Tuomas Asanti - bass

Releases:

Golden Sea EP (2010, Gaea Records)
Imaginary Future LP (2011, Gaea Records)
When People Like You Filled the Heavens 7” (2012, Gaea Records)
TBA LP, March 2013 in Finland and April Europe/Asia

A Nuorgam Small Talk interview with singer, guitarist and songwriter Johannes Leppänen.

What record have you listened to the most in your life?
Hellacopters: By the Grace of God. Listening was so much more intensive when I was younger, so I’d end up listening to one record a lot more. Hence, Hellacopters…”

What classic pop song have you never really understood?
”I can’t pick a single song, but I will say that most of Bowie’s songs have always gone right over my head.”

If you had to, what band would you record a tribute record of?
”We’ve played around with the idea of doing covers, but a whole tribute record would be a bit much, admittedly. I can’t think of a single good tribute record. But if we absolutely had to, I think it’d be great to do a French Films plays NEU! Record.”

What’s your favorite line or verse in pop music?
”He not busy being born is busy dying” - Bob Dylan: It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)
And:
“The public wants what the public gets” - The Jam: Going Underground

What’s the most annoying interpretation of your music or you that you’ve ever run across?
”Nothing’s really annoyed me that much. We’ve been amused by many of the comparisons. Music journos seem to always know where we stole everything from.”

What’s the most rock’n’roll moment in the history of French Films?
”I guess we’re not rock’n’roll enough to share it in public.”

Which musician would you like to sing or play on your record?
“When we were recording in Porvoo, Joni said we should invite Remu (of legendary Finnish band Hurriganes) stop by and do something for the new album. Remu knew Joni’s grandpa, who played drums in Jorma Kalenius & His Rock Devils. But in the end Joni didn’t have gumption to get in touch with Remu. Maybe someday.”

What do you think of the concept of forbidden or guilty pleasure in pop music?
“It’s totally ok if you listen to dorky stuff every once in a while. Its not that serious.”

What band that broke up or artist who died that you never saw would you like to see live?
“Any band like Beatles, Kinks, Jimi Hendrix or even Pink Floyd around the time of their first albums. Canonized bands before they hit that spot that gets so thoroughly picked over for nostalgia kicks these days. I’m a part of that, admittedly. Maybe I’d get Bowie, too, if I’d seen him when he was young. The Ramones I’d love to see and of the more recent vintage The Libertines.”

What’s your favorite French film?
”I don’t watch French films, but I probably should. One of these days… It’s more Joni’s thing.“

What’s your favorite release from 2012?
“Rumba asked us if we wanted to take part in a listing of the best records of 2012. We realized we’d listened to only a couple of new records this year, so we just skipped it. TOY’s record is great!”

What’s the first song you recall liking?
”A friend in second grade recorded Black Sabbath’s debut album on cassette. The first half of the eponymous song was missing on the tape, so I only heard from the part where the famous riff takes off. I loved it. I heard the complete song for the first time a couple of years ago.”

What band or artist are you most likely to recommend to a new acquaintance?
”I think I’ve gone a bit overboard in talking up Kaleidoscope’s debut album Tangerine Dream lately. Awesome 1960s psychedelia.”

What’s the last record you bought?
”It’s been a while, but I think it was The Raveonettes’ first album. Good record, good band. One of the best of this century.”

What song do you ask the DJ to play when you’re really drunk?
A-Ha’s Take on Me.”

Which music video do you most vividly remember from your childhood?
”Pretty lame, probably, but… Sabotage by Beastie Boys or Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony.”

If you had to mention one thing you’ve learned over the last two years, what would it be?
”You can learn a lot in two years. My perspective has broadened on a general level. We’ve also learned that making money playing music is fucking hard.”

Who or what is definitely overrated?
”The National Coalition Party of Finland.”

Whose singing voice makes your skin tingle and whose makes it crawl?
“So many. Barry White has a great sound. So do Harrison and Lennon. And Joey Ramone. And Matt Berninger. And the Sune Rose WagnerSharin Foo combo works, too. If I have to dis someone, I’d say all the incredibly clinical sounding singers you hear on hit and rock stations now are really annoying. It’s all the same bullshit, so let’s just put it all in the same pile. No hard feelings!”

Have you ever lied about your taste in music to seem cooler than you really are?
”No. I don’t have to, because my taste is impeccable.”

What’s the most embarrassing record you own?
”The most embarrassing and also one of the best records I own is a compilation of Judas Priest’s biggest hits.”

What style of music have you never really understood?
”Trance and reggaeton, for example, are two styles I’ve never understood and they’re far enough from my general taste that I probably never will.”

What record to you play to get over a hangover?
”Depends on the hangover. If it’s really horrible, you can take advantage of the state you’re in. Then it’s Popol Vuh or Godspeed! You Black Emperor. If you’re hungover, but need to buck up, then it’s Black Lips or Oblivians.”

Who were your first idols as a teenager?
”I never had any posters on my wall, except maybe a Led Zeppelin sheet. But Nicke Andersson or Deedee Ramone was my first musical idol. And early Mando Diao was great, with their melodic garage pop songs. Now they’re totally gone. In 2007 before all this Dance With Somebody, etc. business, when they were a real rock band and not some wannabe big band, they played what is probably the most energetic and tightest club gig I’ve ever seen. Youth and ecstasy. Tavastia’s legendary doorman Pokla let me in after some begging and pleading, even though I was underage. He was fair. R.I.P.”

If you weren’t a musician, what would you be?
”I’d probably try to be an astrobiologist or something. Or anthropologist. Or maybe I’d do visual arts, poems or movies. I can’t say, but I’m pretty sure it’d be something that involved creativity.”

What’s your favorite way of wasting time?
”I rarely feel I’m wasting my time. Before the band I used to work at deadend jobs. That’s when I felt like I was wasting my time.”

If French Films were a place, what would it be?
”An old amusement park, maybe. Amusement parks are cool, a lot of people having fun. Lots of colors and maybe some light psychedelia, too. Or we’d be an island in the Pacific.”

Which musician’s death was the last one to really touch you?
”I’ve never really been touched by the death of a musician. When Jay Reatard died, I talked about it with a couple of people. And even though I’m not a huge fan, when the part of Bruce Springsteen’s show in Helsinki where they talked about their Clarence Clemons memories came along, I almost cried.”

What’s the last really good song you heard?
”I tend to just surf YouTube when I’m looking for new music. I don’t have Spotify or anything. Recently I listened to a 1960s garage psych band called Lemon Drops. I loved I Live In The Springtime by them.”

Jim Morrison – genius or buffoon?
"He was probably both. More genius than buffoon."

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