Exposure: Les Bof!
Les Bof! - Vielle 2CV
Les Bof! formed just three years ago as Edinburgh-based French sixties garage rockers composed of Marseilles-born Laurent Mombel as frontman backed by a team of Scottish musicians. Not one English word is to be sung or spoken when they're onstage as they recreate an atmosphere authentic to the days of Jacques Dutronc, a niche era so sought after that retro festivals have had them globetrotting every year since their debut. With a festival performance around the corner at The GO-GO inside the Gilded Balloon, The List caught up with Laurent between gigs to discuss their unique approach to rock 'n' roll.
It's quite a niche you have there. How did the idea of a French sixties pop band transpire?
First of all, pop is too much of a general term. I like to call our music sixties French garage or sixties French garage rock since what we play is less mainstream than the classic sixties French pop or yé-yé, like it was known in France. Well, to answer your question the great honour of starting Les BOF! goes to our guitar player Angus McPake. As a big fan of sixties French music and talented musicians, he told me one day that he had this project of a French sixties band and got me enrolled with two other guys in this great adventure. This opened me to a great new world since I had never been a singer nor a musician before. The fact to keep our shows all in French is also one of his great ideas and probably the reason that the band is so special in the UK and other countries.
How far do your retro gig travels take you?
Aaah this is perfect transition! We have been lucky enough to be noticed by a German label CopaseDisques who realised our first EP and will also issue our first album soon. Alex, the man behind this label, got us some gigs in Germany over the last two years - in Berlin mainly, but also in Dresden - but the real European launch happened following a gig in April 2008 in London where a few international promoters offered us gigs for their sixties and garage rock festivals. We played in Italy for the famous Festival Beat (Parma) in July 2008 then Paris and Le Havre in October. This year we played in Helsingør and Copenhagen (Denmark) then we were on stage in Rotterdam (Holland) for the great Primitve Festival Vol. 6 last month and we are expected in Oslo for the Guterball weekender at the end of September. And this is just to name a few. There is more to come next year. In fact, Les BOF! international recognition in this specific musical style has been exponential: everywhere we play we get offered more and more gigs thanks to the web, promoters and the word of mouth.
What does Les Bof! mean?
Bof! is a French expression that literally means 'don't care'. For example, if you play some music to a French person and ask: 'What do you think of it?' He/she may shrug his/her shoulders (in a way that only French people know how to do it) and say 'Bof!'. This means the music isn't that great or not very interesting. 'Les' (pronounce 'lay') is the article 'The', if you can remember your school French lessons. So the closest translation for the band's name could be something like the 'the who don't care'. This is the first French word that came to the mind of our guitar player which is great because we didn't have to spend hours thinking about a name for the band. The simplest stuff are very often the best and it worked for us. It is easy to remember, and funny in French to turn an expression into a noun, and on top of this we don't take ourselves too seriously so that's perfect.
What other like-minded bands do you recommend?
Interestingly enough there are other bands like us abroad with a French singer and local musicians. A good one to catch is Les Responsables. They are from Porto Alegre, Brazil. The singer, Erwan, is from French Brittany and the musicians are all Brazilian. They play the same kind of music with a lot of covers from the great Jacques Dutronc (they got their name from one of his songs). There is also Les Tragiques from Mexico. The girl who sings, Eloise, is from Paris I think and the rest of the musicians seem to be all Mexican. But the band you guys should try is Les Terribles from Paris. They have a great sixties sound and cover a lot classic French sixties garage and yé-yé tracks. Rudi, the female singer, has a good presence onstage. We had the pleasure to meet them in June in Rotterdam at the Primitive festival. That was really good fun. So basically we are not unique on the international sixties scene but definitely unique in UK.
Favourite song that you cover?
As far as I am concerned my favourite cover is 'Chante' from Ronnie Bird, a French garage/yé-yé singer from the sixties whose real name is Ronald Méhu. This song is a cover from the famous 'I Can Only Give You Everything' from Them that has been covered by so many artists, especially a lot of garage bands from the US. This is basically the first track we ever covered and I just love the way we modified it with a longer intro with me playing harmonica, some interesting breaks to make the song even more powerful than the original one, and a use of great fuzz guitar and tambourine. This track really demonstrates all the power of Les BOF! Almost everything we can do on stage is in this song. We used it for a while as an intro to our show because after playing it, it keeps people wanting more and more.
What is in store this festival season?
As far as August is concerned, we will be playing at the Henry's Cellar Bar on the 8th, a common place for Les BOF! since the Suite 69 club took off there. We will be playing with The Brutes, a raw garage rock band from Glasgow and El Toro from Liverpool . In case you don't know, The GO-GO club will move to the Gilded Balloon during Edinburgh Festival, Teviot Student Union, Teviot Place, and we will by playing there for Tall Paul in the basement club. That's all for the gigs next month, and we need to finish recording our first album.
Les Bof! will play August 8 at Henry's Cellar Bar, Edinburgh and August 13 at The GO-GO inside The Guilded Balloon, Edinburgh