(Review + Interview)
'Flairs' a french lad who's been living & working in the world's electronic music capital 'Paris' playing bass for numerous bands/artists including (Hush Puppies, Alex Gopher, & Benjamin Diamond), in 2006 Flairs released his tracks "Better than Prince" & "Trucker's Delight" on a limited edition 7" through 'Muddy Trench' but unfortunately it didn't get the attention it deserves… later in 2007 'roXour' records boss 'Alavi' accidentally heard the track & immediately a fat, hairy clown in his head screamed "FUCK, Sign this record Mr. Alavi", so he did!
'Alavi' sent me the 5 tracks promotional disc (2 weeks ago) & I haven't been able to stop listening to it ever since. Here's a description of the whole package:
01. Better than Prince
A cynical electronica piece disguised in a form of basic indie rock, the quirky music lags like wamdu project's 'king of my castle' on methadone & the unsynchronized too-cool, drowsy vocals compliment the disco drive giving it the authentic drunk-fag strut signature with proportions of bold bass, crisp claps, loud bleeps, xylophone simulated keys & synth hums sprinkled all over it. 'Better than Prince' is mixed & co-produced by 'Etienne De Crécy' & 'Alex Gopher'.
02. Better than Prince (Alavi ReroX)
Complete demolition & re-construction borrowing merely a line form the original lyrics with an itsy-bitsy monstrous vocal manipulation of it & a tad of the bass-line but renovating everything else. The bass here is thicker & jitterier & it bounces atop of a chaotic machine gun triggered claps with a tidy progression, a rusty snare & couple new vocals (words) of a guy yelling (C'mon) & a hot chick answering a phone (Hello?) along with a jumpy elasticated beat to give it that futuristic tribal dance feel to it.
03. Better than Prince (25 Hours A Day Remix)
'25 Hours A Day' have found the lost un-identical twin brother to The Teenagers's 'Starlett Johansson', the DNA test results said they both have the same stop-start Pavement-style fuzz guitars & drum machine settings + it doesn't lack any of the cheese!
04. Better than Prince (Benjamin Remix)
Like the work of an amateur, a professional amateur... Benjamin here doesn't drift too far from the original; he sticks to the textbook basics of remixing by using effects & adding elements rather than reworking the whole thing. It's kind of a sleazy alternative version with fewer lyrics, twisted vocals (literally) & audio tricks at every appropriate chance formulating an alter ego to the original.
05. Truckers Delight
Too good to be just a bonus & my personal favorite, An instrumental fuming with faux synths smoothly sliding over shipshaped bass & keys interrupted by fluky wooden clacks & claps; But what boosts it's characteristic is the delicious live drums played by 'Cosmo Vitelli'. It's somehow a made-for-the-catwalk cosmic music with a videogame approach; this is probably what 8-bit music sounds like in 3D. You only get the best out of the experience when you play it loud… REALLY LOUD!
I say it mouthful "These are the best & most exciting disco-pop gems I've heard so far in 2008", I'm even going to buy it when its out just for the support.. 'Flairs' is definitely one of the artists to watch for in 2008.
'Better Than Prince' is set for Re-Release on the 1st of February as a 12" & Digital Download. The stunning animated psychedelic video is made by award winners 'Jonas & Francois' (Justice "D.a.n.c.e.", Kanye West "Good Life", Unklejam "Stereo") & will premiere sometimes in January. 'Flairs' is currently working with 'Alex Gopher' & 'Etienne De Crécy' on his awaited debut album due for 2008.
Interview : Flairs
I'm very happy to be able to have some of your time to do this interview & I really admire your talent & appreciate your music! I have a lot to talk about, so I hope you're ready!?
Geee, yes sir!
Before getting into all the details of your new music outfit, throw us some bits & details 'Flairs' the bloke from Staines, Middlesex Uk!?
Born somewhere in the 70s…But I'll have to stop you right there, I'm a true French person, despite the name….So, brought up in Paris, one brother, two happy parents and 2 poodles, happy childhood, and first bass guitar owned aged 16.
Sounds that came through your speakers while growing up?
To give you an idea, and name a few… anything between Talking Heads, Sex Pistols, AC/DC, Prince, Depeche Mode, Kraftwerk, The Cure, Public Enemy, The 80s, Red Hot Chill Peppers, Panthera, NWA, Nirvana, Rage Against The Machine, The Orb, & then Pavement, which is a huge influence.
What about your studies, do you have a degree?
I won't tell you anything about my degree because… I didn't take the exam! Instead I escaped to the UK in order to fulfill my craving for British Culture.
I got to admit, I don't get hyped about any artist easily & yet you got me all intrigued & obsessed about you! I think you have what it takes to join the league of the "next big things"!?
You're too good to me, thanks a lot. I don't know much about you, but you're email address tells me you have to be a great person…
(He's referring to my Hollywhore/Purple Vagina Email) *laughs*
Now my guess, you began your journey by moving to 'Paris', did you like just woke up one day and thought "Hmmm, I'm craving croissants... I should move to Paris permanently"?
Well, no… as I was saying earlier, I was craving for Fish 'n' Chips. I simply slammed my parent's door and went off to the UK for 3 years, even though I already knew a little about the place, as I went to boarding school there as a teenager from age 11 till sixteen I was going to the same UK Boarding School every summer, in June and mid July. It was great, I made some really good mates there, smoked my first fags, discovered a lot of music I would have never heard of back in France.
I love England since I was really young; I always found the British culture really sexy.
Wait a second, so you actually lived all your life in 'Paris' & then later moved to UK! Not the other way round?
I lived in Paris till I was 22 then moved to the UK to be back in France 3 years later.
How's life there in general & the music scene in Paris compared to the UK?
So, life in Paris, uh? I think it's pretty cool nowadays… Ok, it's way cheaper than London, so it allows to do lot's of things you couldn't afford as a Londoner; The music scene's pretty vivid, not as much as London, but it's very busy and creative, compared to what it was back in the 90's I think Paris is a great place to live in!
You sir, have played bass for a buttload of great bands including (Ben's Symphonic, Orchestra, Mellow, Axe RiverBoy, Arnaud Fleurent-Didier, Hush Puppies, Fabio Viscogliosi, Bless, Alex Gopher, Benjamin Diamond, Travis Burki, Notre-Dame, Bel-Air, Purple Helmets, Morning-Star, & Liquid Architecture)… Didn't you realize you could've used the time to yourself, I mean why haven't you already started a solo career instead of jumping from band to band?
Gosh, I needed €€€€€ (Money)… & also playing for other bands is pretty natural for me, it's a great way to make new friends, improve my musical knowledge, and meet tons of people on the road.
Well, Did it contribute in enriching your experience & improve your talent & taste in your music??
Definitely! Playing lots of gigs, squatting studios, & rehearsing for hours enabled me to learn a lot, play better, & feel like it's very natural to be on stage.
Guess what, my favorite indie band instrument is the bass guitar! Unfortunately, most of the time the bassist gets overshadowed by the lead guitarist (Sigh)… anyhow, what made you embraced it as your key instrument?
I just love the fat sound of the bass, and the fact that you build a sound Highway with the drummer, playing with good drummers makes me cum!
Now that you're focusing on your own project, are you going to be toying with any other instruments beside bass guitar?
Actually, Apart from the drums I can play most instruments… not very well, but good enough for the music of Flairs. I mostly play guitar, synths, percussions, & the flute. I also love vintage sequencers or crappy old organs or synthesizers that go through a cool effect pedal called the 'Electro Harmonix Bass Micro Synthetizer', basically this pedal can make anything sound like a Moog.
So, does this mean you actually produce your own songs?
Yes, I do everything by myself and when I think something would sound better with somebody else, I'll give Him/Her a call to get a better take.
Impressing, though where did you learn music production?
I self-taught myself, living in the basement of a studio for 4 months, like a freak… I got dumped by my girlfriend at the time, I was very sad and lonely; perfect time to start writing songs and learn how to record & mix them.
Gosh, if that was one of the main reasons that resulted in you making your own brilliant music, then you should consider getting dumped more often! *laughs* (Joking, you know what I mean)
Yeah, getting dumped is a shit feeling but sadness and loneliness is a state that improves creativity; let's call my missus so she dumps me right now!
Serious business time, let's talk about your brainy music… you originally released 'Better Than Prince/Truckers Delight' in 2005 on limited 7" through 'Muddy Trench' even though I really don't recall hearing it back then! Was it badly promoted or it just wasn't the right time for it? What's the reason?
I produced this 7" a year and a half ago, sold a few copies at Paris, and a lot more in London… I didn't promote it too much, and pretty soon after it's release and was on MySpace, Alavi proposed a license deal.
Ohh so the line on your MySpace "Sweaty Armpits, Muddy Trench Geezer" is not a taunting insult to 'Muddy Trench'?
It's just cockney Rhyming slang nonsense.
*laughs* were the 2005 versions any different form the RoXour re-release?
Same, but the RoXour version includes 3 remixes on top!
I'm glad you're re-releasing it through 'RoXour'. Alavi is a great man; he knows what's good when he sees/hears it! How did you receive the offer?
Alavi found me via MySpace, sent me a message and hey presto! I received a contract and a royalties advance! I was very happy, thank god MySpace exists, it changed a lot of things for indie bands!
(Amen To That)
But is this a deal to just re-release 'Better Than Prince' or you're sticking with RoXour for the album too?
It's a possibility! Hope he likes the album!
"Flairs" is a one man band consisting of you & it's named after your last name?
What about your live shows? Do you get any extra sets of hands, anyone famous?
We're three on stage, Jacques on Guitar, Danny on Synth and Synthetic Drums, and Flairs on Bass & Vocals. The two of them are called 'Housse de Racket', they have a really cool band that's getting more and more famous in France, we met when we played with 'Benjamin Diamond' while traveling the world… really cool guys. They also play with Darkel (one of the 'Air' guys), Phoenix, Fugu, and lots of other cool French bands.
Listening to your music I can sense pop, disco, electro & indie rock, what can we file it under?
Oops, hate to say Electropop, but I guess I can file my music under this field.
As Patrick Alavi says, my music has a real balance between classic pop and electronic music… I like both styles; I love guitars, fat basses, and electronic sounds. That's the color of the album, one can jump from very different colors, but always find a link between every song, and I'd say the voice and the use of very few instruments helps creating this link. When I started producing on my computer, I had so many plug-ins and applications, it was nonsense… So, I decided to use very few of them, mostly always the same presets or sounds, and my good old Juno 60 (80s synth) that has a very particular sound, I also mostly always use the same bass drum sound, snare, Hi hat…etc. The mixture of all these ingredients creates great sound unity!
That's what I'd say to people who want to start music and find it hard to create their own sound: "Impose yourself limits, pick the sounds you like, just a few of them, in order to create your identity!"
Do you listen to other artists for inspiration or influence when in the process of making music?
I tend to listen to a limited amount of music in order not to spoil my ears, but I guess the three main influences would be Prince, Kraftwerk & Pavement.
Talk to me about 'Better Than Prince', how it came to life?
Generally when I create a track, I start by composing drum with my MPC 2000, then bass, then synths and then guitar and various arrangements, Lyrics always come in the end and pretty quick. I hate to spend weeks writing lyrics, That day, I had this thing with Prince (As I was saying earlier) he's a very big influence for me, 'Dirty mind' or the Black albums are goldmines...The thing is he nowadays makes music that's pretty lame, So the song's a bit of a "Hey Prince, hear this vintage Juno 60 synthesizer… haven't heard this in a while, huh?", "Hey, Prince, dig that bass!"
It's a non-sense track! Of course I can't make love, scream, and play bass better than him… It's a call for him to come back to his old sound! Enough of this Rap Jazz cheesy crap!
Alavi told me it's mixed by the golden fingers of 'Alex Gopher' & 'Etienne De Crécy'! But weren't you afraid Alex Gopher's style would un-intentionally dominate yours?
The idea of Mixing with Alex was just to make the tracks better, after listening to the songs, he said they did not need add production, so I just exported every track onto his Pro-tools, and then mix the whole lot in his vintage Trident 80s desk which sounds amazing. Alex has diamond ears, and I feel more than confident when he mixes my songs, he also brought structure changes but didn't add any of his own production.
Why them though?
Basically, my girlfriend was sharing a studio (she's an illustrator) with 'Marie De Crécy', wife of Etienne De Crécy (she's a photographer and a film/video director)…That's how we met. Then Etienne offered to mix one of my tracks, I was very honored since my stuff at the time sounded a bit crap. He mixed 'Football What a Waste Of Time' (available on iTunes), part of my First EP, white vinyl 'Non PC EP' (through microbe records)… Then Alex Gopher, whom I didn't hang out with, offered me to play bass for his pop band. It was a great experience; we became really good friends… I then asked him if he's been interested to mix "Better than Prince" and "truckers Delight", he was very excited about it (he's a huge 'Truckers Delight' fan) & I think he did an amazing job!
Remixes of 'Better Than Prince'… It makes sense to get a 'ReroX' by Alavi since it's being released under his label, but what about "25 Hours A Day" & "Benjamin Theves" what made you choose them to remix it, & Who's '25 hours A Day', there isn't really much info about him on MySpace?
Benjamin is Alavi's best friend, and I really love his sound, so I was really happy when Patrick told me he was eager to remix the track & I think he did an amazing job!
'25 Hours a Day' is a really good friend of mine, we met playing for Alex Gopher. He's the former assistant of 'Julien Delfaud' (Sound engineered for Cazals, Phoenix, Herman Dune…etc.) and did some great tracks and remixes for bands such as Phoenix, Alex Gopher. He's also a very talented guitar player, what a booming sound, you should see him!
"Truckers Delight" which btw I'm absolutely in love with, It's the best instrumental track I've heard so far in 2008! Tell us a little bit about it?
Thanks! It's a great reward to hear you love it. It's a pretty special song because I don't really do instrumental tracks. There are lyrics to this song, but they were not helping it, and I much preferred the instrumental, I thought there was already enough matter!
Lyrics! Damn it why did you tell me that, now I'm curious to hear the vocal version! Is it ever going to be available for everyone to hear?
Possibly, but that will happen after I pass away, *laughs*! Honestly, these vocals sound too crappy; I'd be very ashamed to let people hear this!
Ohh, I read in your press release that the live drums on 'Truckers Delight' are by 'Cosmo Vitelli'! It gives the track even more edge & originality!
Actually, he only recorded the drums… the actual drummer is called Bogus, a brilliant Scottish friend of mine, who works with Cosmo Vitelli on his album!
It actually works; will there be more instrumental tracks in the future?
No, it's a bit of an accident… I usually like to stick lyrics to my songs!
Damn it… Ok, let's go a bit back to your 'Non Pc EP' which I didn't know about till you mentioned it! Details please, Is it good?
'Non PC EP' was released in late 2003, by a French label called 'Microbe', really good friends of mine. 'Non PC Song' was some kind of a minor French hit, and we released it in White Vinyl (very beautiful). It was my first EP, I was still trying to find my musical identity, so when I listen to it Nowadays, I think to myself "Oops, OK… I was pretty young then..."! I think I have a much better sound nowadays But it was great, very fresh and surprising and that's what matters.
I know it's on iTunes but for those of us who don't have it in our region, where can we find it?
You can ear it and buy it from microberecords
Is it a serious matter to you to sound BETTER, rather than just GOOD?
Making a track is like inviting friends for dinner and trying to serve the best food ever. I think trying to reach the best sound possible is really important to me.
Video talk time, as if having 2 gems released with a bunch of amazing remixes wasn't enough, you have no idea how crazy I became when I realized 'Jonas & Francois' are doing the 'Better Than Prince' video! Whose idea was it to hire them? What's the concept?
I was lucky enough to meet Jonas & Francois a few weeks before they started working on the Justice D.A.N.C.E. video with SoMe (the Headabnger's official graphic Designer). Basically, I tend to think that throwing a vinyl EP is cool, but the help of an efficient video (nowadays), is a must, thanks to YouTube and DailyMotion!
I contacted Greg Panteix, J&F's producer (who's an old friend), asking him if he knew young directors that would be interested in my very indie project. He replied within 5 minutes, telling me he knew the guys I was looking for, and that he was extremely keen on giving me a hand. I met J&F three days after our mail exchanges; they already had their idea in mind & were very excited about it… We organized the shooting shortly after this.
The idea was to make a psychedelically animated film, 12 images per second, For 'Better Than Prince' they would film me doing various actions like singing, playing bass, dancing, and lots of little secret things you'll discover when you see the video - after this they imported the film into a PC, drew the rough effects straight onto the images, then printed about 2500 images in black and white. Then turn the pages and re-draw on the back of them (in black & white), once it's all done they have a special scanner that imports 1 image per second, re-import the images, and there you go, you have yourself a video!
I was so glad to do this with them, instead of a classic 'band that plays and tries to look cool' video. I was already very impressed with their work on Kavinsky's 'Testarossa Autodrive' video and I was even more impressed during the following months by the Justice & Kanye West videos.
I'm a very lucky boy! And I'm very proud because my girlfriend also worked on the opening of the videos, doing about 500 drawings for it!
That sounds so original! But… Wait a second, you just said fishy things like "FOR Better Than Prince" & then said "my girlfriend also worked on the opening of the videoS", Is there another video beside 'Better Than Prince"???
Sorry it was a mistake! Only one video!
When to expect it?
Very soon I hope… They're very busy guys.
Have you chosen an artist/illustrator to do your artwork?
My girlfriend, Sophie Bouxom! She did an amazing work on my first EP, "The Non PC EP".
Is this the same girlfriend who years ago dumped you?
No, we've been dating for 5 years now, and always together!
I know 'Alex Gopher' is also helping out with your album! How's the progress?
I've just finished mixing 90% of the album (9 tracks out of eleven), all mixed by Alex Gopher, it sounds fantastic. I'm really proud of it; it's a real cross over between electronic music & indie pop… Can't wait to have it released!
I have a few options for the title so far, but nothing definite!
Ooh, like what?
Some Cockney Rhyming Slang and French mixture… See, my label's called Muddy Trench (French in CRS), and my name is Lionel Flairs, which is also a CRS joke. When I lived in Staines, I was so in love with the accent and the language "Awe Rrooight Me Ol' China, Les Gan the Rubadub for a Pint of Oh!", so in proper English, this nonsense means "Ok, My Friend, Let's Go To the Pub for a Pint of Beer!".
In the end of my stay in the UK I had a very good west Landan accent!
Approximate album release date?
June I hope, if not September.
There is a set of photos from a Photo-shoot session on your MySpace where you look pretty beat up & all sweaty... What's with that? I'm just curious.
These photos were shot by Marie de Crécy, Etienne's wife… I'm a big fan of her 'Superdiscount' Videos. She's nowadays a lot more into photography, and this was the first shooting for this concept (she then shot a lot of famous people using the same idea).
Basically the concept is to shoot in the dark with the subject's chosen track, very loud… One doesn't know when she's going to shoot, so the result is very raw and natural, no retouching at all! She's a great artist.
How able are you in the 'Remixing' department?
I've already done a few remixes, the last one I've done (with a friend called Ramshackle) was for (singer of Tahiti 80) Axe Riverboy's 'Roundabout' for a Japanese remix album. Hopefully I'll be remixing more stuff in the future.
What about producing, would you consider it if asked? What if it was a mainstream artist like… let's say 'Britney Spears'?
I'd love to produce albums. Britney, my god that would be fun, wouldn't it? No seriously, the good thing about albums nowadays, even though the CD sales are falling down big time, is that they can turn into business cards: "I can do this and this and that with my small studio, and if we go to Mixing studio, this is the sound we can get if you work with me."
The indie scene is being swamped with new artists (not necessarily good) growing in numbers everyday, Name a few of your favorite new artists & tell us why you like them?
At the moment I listen Troy Von Balthazar's album, I really like the way he writes. Otherwise, Soulwax, I love their ideas and booming sound, the last LCD Soundsystem album 'Sound Of Silver'… Fabio Viscogliosi, a great Italian artist I used to play with, and my brother's band Ben's symphonic Orchestra, for which I play the bass on stage.
Are you still going to be playing with other bands during this year when you have aot of work to do for your own project?
I'm still playing for other bands, but I guess a bit less so I can spare sometime for myself!
What's next for 'Flairs'?
Very quick second album, made with friends in two weeks in a country house!
Also, we're having a few gigs by the end of February, showing the video and selling the artwork (we've got thousands to sell), that's going to be very exciting! Also I'm going to Thailand with a band called Fugu in April, can't wait for this!
Hope I can throw out a new EP in April or May, I can't say much, it's pretty secret so far…
Then You better watch out, because I decided to become your newest stalker!
YEAH?! Can I be your stalker too??
(Review + Interview)