French Boutik are an incredibly original French Mod band and I often play them on LUCKY BAG SHOW (RADIO). They remind me of a more authentic St. Etienne, but with a mod Gallic twist. When the chance to chat cropped up to meet this really on point outfit, I grabbed it. I met Serge, Gabriela, Zelda, Jean-Marc, Oh… and Toby Kinder of Tiny Flaws (who tickles the ivories when on FB duty) at the Waterloo in Blackpool for a bit of a Q&A before their gig.
(Interview by Russian Rik)
How did each of you find the mod style?
Gabriela: I was 16, a friend became a mod, I loved her look. Soon after, I got a Lambretta SX150. I still have it – and a J50.
Serge: I was about 5, I saw a video of Jacques Dutronc’s “Et moi et moi et moi”. But really, it was The Jam and I loved them at first listen.
Zelda: I’ve never been a mod, but a skinhead since age 17.
Jean-Marc: I wanted to dress like guys on blues record covers, then I discovered the Kinks.
How did you meet?
Serge met Zelda whilst DJing a soul night. He writes songs, Zelda writes lyrics and they teamed up for the demo “Kinky Allumette” ending up on our 2nd EP.
Gabriela and Serge met at another soul night. Jean-Marc turned up at gigs taking photos. When our original bassist left, Olivier Popincourt mentioned: “The cool guy who takes photos plays bass”. We heard him play – and he was in.
Who came up with the name?
Serge. His idea was a French word that English people use, whilst stating we were French with English influences. The “k” is in honour of The Kinks
How are the songs constructed?
Serge creates chords and melody, we take turns with lyrics and arrangements. It takes months before recording or playing in public.
What’s the difference between gigs in England and France?
We mainly play in England! We play Paris about twice a year, where the mod scene is described as “20 people which all hate each other”. To the mainstream “mod” means “60s tribute”. There are no mod promoters, we organise everything, so it’s not much more work to play in the UK. Although we sing in French, the UK crowd “get” us, even singing along by the end! French audiences often offer “helpful” advice… “You should sing in English” or “The bass is too loud”. In the UK, things are more mixed. We played in London with Geno Washington, The Chords UK, The Sha La La's, and others. That wouldn’t happen in France, but it’s nice to gig there – we see friends and the people understand our lyrics. The wine is better too.
Which is each member’s favourite track?
Serge: Ici Paris. It reminds me of my mother. It’s about greedy landlords and real estate speculators, a few years ago she was threatened to be evicted by one of these.
Zelda: Je Regarde les Tigres. It sums up our spirit, serious but funny and the vocal harmonies are good to sing.
Jean-Marc: Strasbourg St Denis. I love the lyrics about gentrification of working class neighbourhoods in Paris, it’s a good example of our style.
Gabriela: Le Mac. I take great pleasure insulting the President, it’s fun and a nice mix of styles – a bit aggressive and very melodic.
Which song is better live, or recorded?
Les Chats de Gouttière from our first EP is fantastic live as we had no idea what we were doing when we recorded it.
L’âme de Paris is good live, but the cool effects on the recording (Radio France / L’Internationale and the protestors) probably make it better recorded.
Any advice for anyone starting a band?
1) Don’t plan on making money, break even and make music you’re proud of.
2) Do your own thing, if you like it, at least one person is happy.
3) Bar peanuts make a great dinner – perfect mix of glucides, fat, protein and salt – which you may need as food is usually not provided at gigs!
Copyright © Mods Of Your Generation, Fab Radar 2019, All Rights Reserved. photo Credit Derek D'Souza 2019, words © French Boutik & Rik. No part of this review may be reproduced without the permission of the authors.