19 May 2010

Scots Way-Hay - #16 French Wives

Whenever I first sit down to start writing up the wee intro for any of my Scots Way-Hay posts, I always that writing the first sentence is he most dificult part. There are always so many ideas buzzing about my head, that I often find myself completely lost as to where to begin.
I know I should probably start by giving a synopsis about the band, but that just isn't my style. With the French Wives, it's even more difficult as I find myself in a situation where I could be seen to be a bit 'fan boy' about them. At 31, this isn't the best of looks. Then again I never have been deemed to be cool. It's ironic as about this time last year I was getting grief from my wife for having 'French Wives' listed in my Google search box. After a lot of explaining then, now I could well be in the shit for obsessing over a band ten years younger than me.
Anyway, enough about me and my domestic life, here's the synopsis part I should have started with.
For me personally, they were the highlight of last months Hinterland festival. Shamefully I have to admit that this was my first time catching them in the flesh. They completely blew me away that evening, the memory that will stick with me most from that evening is standing there with the biggest cheesiest grin on my face. I looked to my left and I saw Wull from Define Pop singing his heart out, then I looked to my right and Jim 'Ayetunes' was doing exactly the same. Happy days indeed. Anyway, enough about me, it's time to pass you over to one of the most amazing bands to have come out of this country in many a year. Ladies and gents, The French Wives........

Would you care to introduce yourself?

Good day, we are French Wives, a 5 piece indie pop band from Glasgow. We go by the names of Siobhan Anderson, Chris Barclay, Stuart Dougan, Scott Macpherson and Jonny Smith

How would you describe the music you make?

Ooh a difficult question. I believe the party line on this issue is that we try to make intelligent yet accessible pop music. The party manifesto on this issue is clear... I think that's the case anyway, when we started out we never set out an agenda for what kind of music we were going to make, or what kind of band we were going to be. However, I do think that at the heart of it is simply pop music. Everything else in there just seems to fall into place. Upon further reading this was a shocking answer, but I hope the sentiment remains.

How did you start out making music?

We've all been fairly heavily involved in music from a relatively young age. Siobhan and Chris study music at university, whilst Stuart, Jonny and I have all been in various bands through our youth, with varying lacks of success. I don't think the Renfrew Ferry will let me in again after an incident with a guitar to amp radio transmitter and a 15 year old with too much sugar.

What process goes into the way you write songs?

The processes are all pretty different. I don't think we're set in our ways/have written enough songs to have a real set process. A lot of us have been in our final year of university this year, so meeting up regularly to work on new stuff has been difficult. But that is all going to change soon. Generally speaking though, I think we're just like any band in that someone brings an idea into the studio and we argue about it for three months and then we have a song!

Who are your big musical influences?

This varies incredibly between the band members. Jonny and Chris are into a lot of experimental stuff like Aphex Twin, Squarepusher and Clark, while Stuart and I have groundings in more traditional indie/poppy/rocky music. However, until I met Stuart you would be hard pressed to find me listening to anything recorded after 1974 unless it was Van Halen's 1984- I think I've changed for the better. Siobhan, being from up north and a fiddle player, is really in to a lot of celtic music. In the past we tried to shape her pop music tastes by prohibiting her from going to see the Wombats. It's a work in progress.

Can we expect to see a debut album from you guys sometime soon?

I doubt there will be an album any time in the immediate future. We're all fairly traditionalist when it comes to making an album, and we all like to regard it as a body of work which is fairly coherent from start to finish. However, after Me vs. Me is out this week the intention is to start work on an EP, which will hopefully be released towards the end of the year. It will be exciting to finally have the time to work on some of the ideas that have been floating about practically since September.

You were the stand out band for me personally at this years Hinterland Festival, do you enjoy playing live to being in the studio?

Thank you very much, that's very kind of you. I'm really glad you enjoyed it. I think we do enjoy both. Chris loves recording, because he's very anal about different types of mics and leads, and acronyms that none of the rest of us understand. Being an attention seeking child I really enjoy playing live, but I like showing off and making funny noises while recording too. Frankly I think it's fairly pointless being in a band if you don't enjoy both!

For any non-Weegies out there what is the ‘Hyndland Weather Bear’ that you have written a song about? Are there any plans to invite him/her along to one of your gigs?

Indeed. Stuart stayed round the corner from the Hyndland Weather Bear and was always mystified by it when he passed. He liked passing on the story of it so much he wrote a song about it. The long and short of it is that in the flat above Peckhams on Hyndland road (get it on google street view) there is a bear in the window which, every day, is dressed appropriately for the weather in Glasgow. It's such a nice thing that someone has done that every day for such a long time. I don't think the bear has ever left the window, although he may be clutching a copy of the single in his paw whilst wearing his rain mac sometime soon.

Are you getting a bit sick of all of the Arcade Fire comparisons?

Yes and no. I think we have to realise that such things are inevitable in music. People always look for a comparator with a band and Arcade Fire is the one that always crops up. I always thought it a bit strange, as I've never thought we sounded like Arcade Fire (but then, I wouldn't). People are entitled to their opinion, though! It hasn't always been Arcade Fire though. When we started out people wouldn't stop comparing us to Belle and Sebastian and Camera Obscura, which are two of my favourite bands, but again, not really us. I don't think any of the new stuff sounds like any of the above bands, so maybe there will be a new comparison in the near future.

What can we expect to see/hear from you in 2010?

Our second single, Me vs. Me came out on Monday (17th May), and we shall be making various appearances up and down the country for the remainder of the year, including a few festivals in the summer. Again, hopefully there will be an EP in circulation by the end of the year.

Lastly, do you realise how much trouble you got me into with the my wife for searching for ‘French Wives’ on the Internet?

It is a risky business, sir. When we chose the name we didn't realise that there had been a pornographic film (which none of us have seen, not through lack of trying) made with the same name in 1979. Also, we obtained a follower on twitter the other week from a chap who thought we were genuine French wives, on the internet for sexual purposes. I didn't have the heart to lead him on and then disappoint him with an audio clip of Dogfight. Also when I, in a bout of vanity/self-doubt, end up googling our name there are always a few risque (ironic that I used a French word) results which can catch the eye of the people surrounding me, often in a public library. Fail.

French Wives - Hyndland Weather Bear (MP3)

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