Starting six years ago after transplanting from Washington, D.C. to New York City, the French Kicks specialize in fluid midtempo mod melodies. In a recent interview with NUVO, frontman/band studio drummer Stumpf discussed industry exploitation and why they’re persona non grata in designer jeans boutique Diesel. Q: How did it come together after the move?
A: We had no idea what it was going to sound like. We had no idea, really, what was going to happen or how we were going to go about it … no strategy. We just knew that we wanted to do something seriously and see how far we could go with it.
Q: Is there the one reason why the band’s sound has evolved with every release?
A: You buy new instruments and new toys and they can have a pretty significant impact on the stuff. You feel like playing with it, you do, and you come up with new ideas using it … it’s a matter of just trying to keep it fresh for ourselves, but I think we just had to start somewhere. We definitely were into loud, fun, stuff, especially at 22. We were going out and getting drunk all the time, and having a great time, and that’s what the music was reflecting back. But even at that point you were starting to hear some more complicated stuff … there’s a song that starts out in 5/4 time, there’s a lot of dissonance and blaring of sound. The overall vibe is a big, loud open room. Raw.
Q: It certainly helps against painting yourselves in a corner stylistically, I’d imagine.
A: I think that’s exactly what we have, I hope anyway that’s what we have done. If we’ve done anything, I think, it’s established that we don’t want to do any one specific thing. We’ve reserved the right to do what we wanted. I hope we never get to that point really. It’s more fun to think that each record will be very different from the last. My hope is that we always keep experimenting as much as possible.
Q: My introduction to the band was at a SXSW 2003 set at a Diesel store.
A: Yeah, it was really weird …. a clothing store. They told us it was going to be basically an art opening, but it was just a store. We got in trouble about it actually. My brother complained about it to some reporter, and he told the manager. Then it got reported and we got a nasty phone call from Diesel for complaining about it publicly. So, no more Diesel for us.
Q: It was a pretty bizarre setup; playing at eye level with a mass of industry folk a foot in front of you. Did that make it any more nerve-wracking than already playing a high-profile music conference?
A: Well, really we did it for money. That had nothing to do with a career move, except needing money. We would absolutely not have even considered it otherwise. It’s just one of the ugly realities.
Q: Have you ever had to whore yourself as a band for industry attention?
A: Not really. I think honestly that the Diesel store [set] was the closest thing. Even that was fine, because you just play, and eventually it’s just about playing. If people are into they’re into, if they’re not, they’re not.