Tuesday, May 04, 2021

‘The vaccine people didn’t know they needed’: The Bandeliers tell us why their debut EP is the antidote to 2020

The road to success has been unpredictable for international alternative rock band Bandeliers. Formed in 2019 after a serendipitous meeting in the smoky depths of a Parisian bar, the four-piece group have used lockdown to experiment with their sound and write new material.

Released in February, their 6-track EP ‘Marco Polo’ is a confident debut, showcasing a variety of influences and soundscapes without losing the unique voice of the band.


Reminiscent of the hazy dream-like soundworld of bands like Incubus and Candlebox, bandmates Declan (vocals), Jeff (drums), Fany (bass) and Malcolm (guitar) have struck a delicate balance between defining their niche and experimenting with unexpected choices, like the addition of a Japanese harp in title track Marco Polo.


Claiming to have written an EP that will liberate the listener and open their eyes to a new world, we were keen to talk to the band and find out the story behind the songs, who inspires them as musicians, and what they’re planning next.


1) Thanks for taking the time to talk to us! For anyone who hasn't come across your music, can you introduce us to the band?

Fany: We are an international alternative rock band hailing from Paris, with British, French and American origins. Our music is an amalgamation of the garage, psychedelic and surf rock bands of the 60s and more contemporary, experimental indie rock.

Declan: Myself and Jeff met through a mutual friend in Paris in early 2019. He knew we were both musicians who were looking to start something up, so he arranged a sort of musical blind-date for us to get to know each other. We eventually met in the back of this strange bar in Paris, I'm not sure if it’s still there. We could smoke indoors and play records, and we just sat there for hours talking about music. Things just snowballed from there, really. We had a few line-up changes in the beginning, but we finally landed on our feet with Fany on bass guitar and Malcolm on lead guitar. We spent most of 2020 writing and recording furiously, culminating in the release of our first EP “Marco Polo'' in February 2021. 

2) Your sound has been described as a mixture of genres from psychedelic rock to shoegaze - how would you describe the Bandeliers sound?

Malcolm: I think originally, the idea was to sound American, we were picturing the desert in our minds and we were after something that would feel very cinematic like the Paris, Texas film. We used Stratocaster guitars with a lot of reverb, we also got Tom VanDeven to play slide guitar on 3 of our tracks, including an amazing solo on Breaking Two Hearts. We were really happy about that, but we didn’t want to sound too classic-rock either so we chose to experiment with effects pedals and try out different instruments. We have an electronic Japanese Harp on Marco Polo and we want to incorporate more interesting instruments for our future projects. We’re still a young band and we’re still working on finding our own identity sound wise, we’re always pushing for new ideas and this EP is a good starting point. 


3) How has the last year been for you all? Has the experience of lockdown had an impact on your music?


Malcolm: It’s been difficult for obvious reasons. Having said that, I think it’s been also hard for everyone else, it’s not just us musicians who suffer from this situation - you have to put it in perspective. We don’t feel we’re in a position to complain too much, of course it’s not easy but it did give us a chance to write a lot. We have so many songs now, I think it brought us closer together as a band too


Fany: It was not easy, but I guess it was the same for everyone. But it gave us time to really work on our EP & arrangements, to experiment with our sound & we used this time to write new songs. It allowed us to really focus on the creative part.


4) Music has seen us all through some dark times lately - if you could sum up the memories of 2020 in one track, what would it be? 


Declan: That’s an impossible question to answer. We had some good times last year despite the world temporarily falling apart. If you mean one of our own songs, I would go with Breaking Two Hearts. It’s a sad but rewarding ballad, much like our year in 2020. 


Jeff: Someday Never Comes by Creedence Clearwater Revival


5) You obviously draw on a huge variety of musical inspiration when writing new material - what sort of music do you love to listen to when you're relaxing at home? 


Declan: To relax I like to listen to Motorhead.


Jeff: I’m not sure he’s lying. As far as I’m concerned music gets me excited, even when I listen to something calm like Erik Satie, or some smooth Miles Davis jazz tunes, I end up tensing up and kicking to the beat


Malcolm: Lately I’ve been listening to the same song over and over, it’s called Flux by Bardo Pond. I’ve only just discovered this band and they’re really insane.


Fany: Babe Rainbow, Foxygen or The Beatles - always a good choice to relax.

6) Your debut EP ‘Marco Polo’ was released in February this year - what was it like to launch during a pandemic?


Jeff: Our EP is like the vaccine people didn’t know they needed. They’re sceptical at first but once they’ve experienced it the world opens up to them, they’re liberated. Seriously though, the silver lining to this pandemic is how much time we’ve had on our hands. We were able to write many songs and work pretty extensively on arrangements. That being said, we’ve had enough and can’t wait to be able to share our music live. Currently we’re looking for people to work with, and it’s hard to get folks on board without the opportunity to invite them to a gig and showcase our live performance.


Fany: It was of course not the ideal way to release our first EP, not being able to share it directly with people on stage. But we worked on our online presence, trying to find new ways to still connect with people via social media.


7) Our favourite track is ‘Desert Rain’, what's the story behind it?


Declan: I sort of kickstarted the idea after I was listening to the Sandinista album by The Clash. In that record you can hear a lot of reggae/dub influences in the bass that caught my ear, so I started with emulating that and I found the chord progression to sing over. We worked on the rest over time in rehearsals and with our producer, Jack.
Sonically this song sounds like it belongs in the desert - it runs along the same theme of our band name. We pictured it being part of an old western film or maybe even a Tarantino movie. The desert can be a desolate place, so lyrically the protagonist is put in his or her own empty desert, longing for salvation.


8) After so long away from the stage, what would be your ultimate live gig?


Jeff: We were joking about this at our last rehearsal but at this point we would perform at the public restrooms of Châtelet-les Halles metro station if that meant we could have an audience. It seems like venues won’t be opening for a while here in Paris and we’re looking into opportunities to play abroad this summer.


9) If you could pick any artist or band, who would be your dream collaboration?


Jeff: A Zouk music band from the French island of Guadeloupe called Kassav. 


Malcolm: I would really enjoy working with The Orielles, I’ve been in love with their band for the past year now. I really love their sound.


Fany: I would go with Sleater-Kinney.


10) What's coming up next for you?


Declan: We are releasing our new music video for the title track from our EP “Marco Polo” on May 7th. It’s a really great video with some funny surprises and an interesting message. 

We worked with a talented director named Max Train and the guys from Chinook Film Co. who have worked on all of our videos to date.
After this we are hoping to get clean, get mean and get back out into the world so we can play some shows.


Kate Relton

Image source: Provided by The Bandeliers

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