Why I ended up enjoying a Justin Bieber show
Editor’s Note: Florence sent me a link to this blog entry by way of making-up after a misunderstanding involving Iceage. I liked its directness – I always find it interesting when musicians tell their stories in such direct fashion – so I asked if I could reprint it here. Florence and her boyfriend are in a French punk band I like a fair amount, Sugar & Tiger.
Yes, after the « Iceage incident of a Sunday morning », I’ve decided to address this to you because you’re the anchor that reminds me what values I was made of. And because you’re the only active music writer whose opinion makes sense. I wrote it on a Word document last week. I just added some links on bands’ names.
- this is NOT shared with the secret wish to get another article about Sugar & Tiger -
- there is no secret wish, only words that came from my mind to this page, with no other goal than trying to find an explanation of WHY I ENDED UP ENJOYING A JUSTIN BIEBER SHOW although I spent half of my life digging noisy music with guitars -
* Who are the members of Sugar & Tiger.
In 2011 there was just me and my boyfriend, Didier, singer of the french yéyé punk band Les Wampas since 1984. In 2012 we were asked to play live in Rennes (west of France), we went there the day before to make our second rehearsal, and we were with the two teen sons of Didier who were in holidays, and the guitarist of Bikini Machine who lend us the studio. Five minutes before reaching the studio, we asked the three of them if they wanted to play with us just for this show we thought would be the only one. Back in Paris we had to play other shows and they played too. We never asked for or organized any of the show we played. Each time it’s people asking us to come, which I see as an encouraging thing, we don’t have to fight to play somewhere, we just wait. We have a new bass player, who’s also in the band Les Wampas. So now, the band is: Didier 51 yo (guitar, vocals), Arnold 16 yo (guitar), Diego 19 yo (drums), Jean-Mi 49 yo (bass)
* How did I get to become a singer.
From 1999 to 2006 I was playing bass in a band from west of France, inspired by Sonic Youth that we were listening all the time. And we watched 1991: The Year Punk Broke on videotape. The boys asked me to sing, I never did. I preferred staying hidden behind my instrument with my short dresses.
Our first show in 2000. We thought we were like on Brighton Beach in 1985:
In 2005 my ex-boyfriend (singer/guitarist of the band) and I recorded three of four songs in our tiny Parisian apartment just to pass the time, the rule was: five minutes to make the music and write the lyrics, five minutes to record, five minutes to mix. Here is the result: Blind Kats.
In 2008 I was close to Daniel Darc (singer of french band Taxi Girl in the 80s, and solo singer in the 00s) and one day he encouraged me to sing, I answered I would never dare, so he offered me his Runaways vinyl so I can take inspiration and think about it. I kept living my life, not thinking about it.
In april 2011 my actual boyfriend was recording his first solo album in Brussels with American musicians. Between two takes he often took a guitar to make some noise (the producer didn’t allow him to play guitar on this album, to try a new musical direction), and one day he asked me to sing. I couldn’t dare to let a note go out of my mouth. So he played louder, still nothing. So he played louder and sang a classic French song from the 70s, ‘Qui Saura’ by Mike Brant. And then I sang. So he kept playing and invented a song (he can create a riff + melody in a few seconds) and we sang together on it. Lyrics went like “Baby, I’ll never let you go hohoho”.
A few days later I saw on Facebook that the fashion brand The Kooples was looking for couples making music together to put on their next sampler. I thought it would be fun to be featured on this sampler made by a total hype brand for rich Parisian people, because we are not like them. Kind of a challenge. So I wrote lyrics on the little jam song we made in Brussels and it became “Henri, jamais je ne te quitterai ohohoh”. We recorded it on Garage Band and sent it to The Kooples. They asked us to do it in studio, which we did, then they finally chose the first demo version as a ghost song on their sampler. We were glad to be featured as a ghost song that almost none of their hipster clients would listen. One month after that we were road tripping in the USA and I had the idea that we could make a video clip with our iPhones. In September, I sent Everett True the YouTube link, then he asked for all of our home demos and wrote an article about us. I was plenty happy with that. I didn’t need any other music critic approval.
People liked the video clip and song, and asked for another one. So before Christmas 2011 we made a Christmas song inspired by Justin Bieber who I’d just listened to with some attention for the first time (and only time before 2013).
Then people asked for more, so in March 2012 we made a video clip for ‘Chat Uranium’.
Then we had our first concert in August. Then a second one, and another one, and another… In February 2013 my boyfriend had a tour organized by a friend in Asia and we played three Sugar & Tiger songs in the middle of each show. In March his record company paid us four days in studio to make four songs with the whole band. We made nine and re-made ‘Henri’ and ‘Noel Christmas’. In the next weeks we will have a meeting at the record company to talk about what could be our first album.
So, I had to force myself to not be shy and go onstage, and write lyrics, and sing in studio. It happens that every show we make, even the ones with an awful sound, people ask for more and more. They like the fact that Didier is playing in it, they like the contrast between his rough energy and my sweet voice and feminine appearance. And the more it goes, the more I like making people enthusiasts with our songs.
* What are the three main periods of music/culture leading my life.
This is too long to explain, as for every music listener I guess.
Part 1, from 0 to 14 years old: I listened to what my dad listened (american blues and rock’n'roll, from Chuck Berry to The Doors) and I listened too to modern music that my friends made me discover when I was 11 (the era of dance music and boys band).
Part 2, from 15 to 27: I fell into Nirvana, then Sonic Youth and I was very strict on what my music world was. Going further and further into no wave artists, and Nick Cave, Joy Division, and experimental stuffs like Keiji Haino who fascinated me. At 21 I settled in Paris and enjoyed going to live shows very very often.
Part 3, from 28 to now: I left my boyfriend after eight years together, went through a liberating year full of decadence, and after kissing a 14-year-old boy at a concert of friends who were 18-years-old boys playing wild French rock, I decided I had to leave this city of perdition for my dream city: Seattle. Or Vancouver (easier to get a visa). But, a few weeks later, my actual boyfriend who was 47 at this time, told me he wanted to live with me in Paris. I’d known him for three months. I decided to stay. We settled down together, I left all my CDs, vinyls, and computer in the basement in order to start a new life, leaving my music world behind and all the emotions linked to them. All this music is so deeply etched in my mind that I didn’t need to listen to it anymore. I wanted to dive into a world where everything would be new and exciting. So, in 2009 and 2010 I searched and searched, I listened to tons of new bands, trying to find the one that would light the sparkle again. Good stuffs came down, but none of them excited me enough. These two years were a bit hard.
My life was super great according to external views, but from inside I was totally lost. I then discovered the band Salem and loved it. This is what I was looking for: new sounds that made me ecstatic, and charismatic and weird members. But it was not exactly for me. I am not that dark. Later I discovered Iceage and this was it, finally. Rough, energetic, unique, young, cold and free. I keep digging this band. And in 2012, another exciting band hit me: Holograms. Same energy that Iceage, but with strong melodies. So here I am 2013, I’ve replaced Nirvana and Sonic Youth by Iceage and Holograms. Maybe it’s the beginning of another more than 10 years long period. I don’t know.
The thing I do not understand is why my secret dream is to make this kind of music (Marching Church) as I can only make bubblegum songs.
* Why did I go to the Justin Bieber concert.
I wanted to see this kind of show once in my life. I could have chosen Rihanna or Lady Gaga, but the only one in pop and mainstream culture to really capture my interest is him. And I appreciate this break from rock’n'roll for one evening. Nothing to think about, just watch and discover. Listen to the girls screaming, being amazed by how gigantic the show is. I had never seen that. Except for the KISS show maybe, when I was working for a big French producer. But KISS is not very nowadays. At the JB concert, it was like seeing with my eyes the real face of what young girls are deep into these days. Like if I traveled in another dimension. That was interesting. And I don’t regret of having killed a huge part of my DIY punk rock principles because it can open windows on a larger world of experiences. I listened to JB’s music for three days in my life, I don’t need more, oh no. But now, I know why this is not for me.