- Tue, 2010-03-16 10:09
Plasticines are four French girls who like rock and roll. A lot. Emerging from a Parisian scene known affectionately as les bébés rockers, they released a debut in 2007 before inspiring NYLON magazine to set up a record label, through which album number two, About Love, was delivered.
I Like Music chatted with guitarist Marine Neuilly and bassist Louise Basilien about being captivated by rock ‘n’ roll, having a record label founded for them, life as a bilingual band, and the genius of Eels.
"I Like Music because… it makes me smile.” Plasticines
ILM: How did the four of you become the Plasticines?
Marine: I met Katty in high school, we were in the same class when we were 17. We met Louise at a Libertines gig in Paris. We were just trying to go out and seeing gigs. We were all really curious because we didn’t like what our friends were listening to.
Louise: We created a little family of people from different places and we were all meeting each other to go to gigs and that’s how a lot of little Parisian bands started.
ILM: So what kind of thing were you listening to that set you apart from your friends?
Marine: Just 60s and 70s stuff to the Strokes and everything.
Louise: Like, White Stripes and the Libertines. We were like “oh my god this is amazing, these bands are so rock ‘n’ roll! We love it!” Everyone else was just listening to French stuff, or not even French, but hardcore or rap music. That’s really huge in France. It just wasn’t really rock ‘n’ roll, and we were listening to rock ‘n’ roll so we didn’t feel close to these people. We needed to find people to share this music with. So we decided “ok, we’re gonna play, and we’re gonna do the same thing.” We saw the Strokes and Kings of Leon at the Empire. It was just one gig, and we were like “this is it! We wanna be on stage and look at the people down there!”
ILM: Now that you’ve made that happen, what’s the drive to keep on going?
Marine: I think we just wanna keep on doing our music and working with people that we love. We like to work that way. We have a crush on a person, or a person has a crush on us and we start working together. That’s how it happened with our producer Butch Walker. We just want to keep doing the music under the best conditions, which isn’t always easy! So maybe if we had more people working for us we’d be better! We’d be better off for some more organisation, so I’m gonna say we need to get a tour bus, and at least two assistants each!
ILM: You’re now signed to Nylon Records. How did that come about?
Louise: It’s actually a long story. Marvin Scott Jarrett, the director of Nylon, was in France for fashion week and he saw a cover of a magazine we were in at the time. Our first album was just out in France, and he thought “I’m gonna listen to what these chics can do.” He decided he wanted us to play New York, so he invited us to play at one of his parties. That was two years, maybe three years ago…
Marine: That was crazy! He paid for everything and we were staying for a week in a beautiful hotel. We were like “oh my god, are we dreaming? what’s going on!” I think he just had a crush, and he believed in it. Nylon has always been kind of musical in a way and he loves music. He’s a huge fan of a lot of bands and he was just like “I think Plasticines really represent what I’m doing in my magazine.” So that’s how he created the label.
Louise: Then he asked us to play more and more in the US, and when we came to the end with our French label he was like “ok, I’m setting up my own label, do you want to be a part of it?” We said “of course!”
ILM: What’s your writing process like as a band?
Marine: I think it’s different with the second album, because for the first Katty and I were writing really separately for all the songs. Now we have Anna, who’s our new drummer, and we’re all really like a family. We know each other and we’re all completely friends. We can swap instruments and be adventurous. We like to be at band practice and I’ll play drums and Anna will play guitar, and Louise will sing, and that’s how we try and make our music. Because we don’t think “let’s write a song girls,” it’s just really natural. So we start something and someone is like “how about we try this.”
ILM: How do you choose between writing songs in French and writing them in English?
Marine: It’s really weird because naturally when we write songs it starts off in English. It’s because all we listen to are English bands or American bands. Rock ‘n’ roll for me is in English. It’s hard in France ‘cos they want us to sing in French, and if you want to be on the radio you need to sing in French. It’s totally different.
Louise: It was good for us to be signed in the US before we were signed in France for the second album. That way we didn’t have any pressure to have at least half the album in French. But we do really enjoy having songs in French as well. When we write in French we want to enjoy it, we don’t want to feel forced.
ILM: So it’s not a case of writing a song and then translating it?
Louise: Exactly. Sometimes you feel like you want it in French and sometimes you think “nah, let’s keep it English.”
ILM: Is there any reason that it sometimes works better in one or the other?
Marine: I think it’s the words. What is really melodic and poetic in English is so different in French. You can’t just translate a song, the words are really different. I think it’s harder to write in French.
Marine: We have this culture that if you write, you have to write about something clever. Maybe it’s clichéd to say, but if you want to talk about love, you can’t say it in French. Because you need to be really talented to do it like Serge Gainsbourg or Jacques Dutronc. They’re really iconic to me because they’re really talented, and it’s really hard to be that talented in French.
Louise: I think it’s harder to make words sounds good with the music in French, especially when it’s rock ‘n’ roll. Sometimes the sound of the words just doesn’t work. The other reason is that most of our influences aren’t French. People like Serge Gainsbourg or France Gall or Francois Hardy were pop artists. Maybe they were rock ‘n’ roll in their way of life, but musically they weren’t guitar-bands. But that doesn’t mean it’s not hard to right an English tune! To have amazing lyrics in English is still tough! But the sound of it is easier. It sounds better. In French it instantly sounds stupid.
ILM: Do you play any of your French songs when you play in England?
Marine: One or two.
ILM: What can the fans expect from your live show?
Marine: I think people tend to be quite surprised. When you see us in pictures we always look sweet, nice, good looking, and they don’t expect us to be really wild on stage. But we are; we have some fun! We just enjoy it, so we like to play loud and we like to scream. I hope people are gonna be ready for rock n roll tonight ‘cos some will be happening! I know it’s hard to play here, as it is in France, ‘cos sometimes people don’t really move. I’ve been to a lot of gigs and people are just kind of bored! So tonight I just want everyone to rock out! I so pissed off I haven’t had time to have a shower, so I’m gonna be really mad!
ILM: Do you have any advice to give to someone who might be thinking about forming a band?
Louise: You shouldn’t be too scared to just to do what you want to do. It’s not an easy life ‘cos you never know what’s going to happen, but as long as you’re having fun it’s all good. We didn’t go to college or anything ‘cos we were really young when we started the band. Just keep at it though. Sometimes you might feel like you missed out on your college days, forget about it. You never know where you’re gonna be the day after, or even two months after. You don’t know what you’re gonna do or where you’re gonna be. It’s an amazing experience. We’ve been lucky enough to travel with so many amazing people and we’ve been travelling all over. Not Asia, but maybe one day! Europe, the States, South America…It’s amazing! It’s worth it, totally.
Marine: You need to think about it a lot. My advice would be to write a lot of songs. Lots of bands create a Myspace and put three songs on it and think it’s gonna come like that! I’ve seen a lot of friends do that. But it’s not like you’re gonna be the next Arctic Monkeys tomorrow! That’s not happening any more. It’s not a rule, it was an exception. If you really want people to get interested in your band you need to have lots of stuff. You need to play, to have gigs, and so on. Ignore the superficial stuff. I think people get lost, and they don’t know where to focus. It’s the music!
ILM: What music have you been listening to recently?
Marine: At the moment I love Be Your Own Pet. They’re one of my favourite bands, even though they don’t exist any more. The second album is just awesome. And I love Eagles of Death Metal.
Louise: We’ve been listening to a lot of Atlas Sound too, and Memory Tapes, who makes really good pop songs.
ILM: Have you been to any live gigs that have just blown you away?
Louise: There’s an artist I’ve seen three times, and every time it’s been completely different. He’s called Eels. I saw him once in New York, once at an acoustic gig and one time that was really rock ‘n’ roll. Although he played the same songs it was a totally different mood each time. It was amazing. The acoustic show was quiet and funny, the one in Paris was kind of ZZ-Top-ish - they were all wearing beards and black outfits - and the other one was a big proper pop-rock thing. I like the fact that he can change the songs every tour however he wants to.