BEG FOR MERCI BEAUCOUP
Faux Faux Amis launched their new album Beg For Merci Beaucoup in November last year.
Combined with X, it represents a near-complete documentation of the band’s musical output (I think there’s only two songs we’ve played out that now don’t have a proper recording). Pulling back the curtain for a second, here’s the press release I wrote:
JUST SAY OUI!
***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***
Faux Faux Amis drop their second album Beg For Merci Beaucoup
Listening to the new FAUX FAUX AMIS album Beg For Merci Beaucoup is a dizzying experience. The band cartwheel between scuzzy r’n’b, French-sung pop, garage rock and swampy blues, all delivered with passion and smiles on their faces. ‘Muppet Rock, I like to call it’, laughs lead singer Luke McGrath, ‘it’s heavy but it still sounds happy’.
The band have been performing in Canberra since 2013, already releasing an album on experimental label Early Music. ‘Our first album was very conceptual – it was ten one-minute songs, designed to give you a full album experience in a concentrated burst. This time we really branched out – some songs are even over three minutes!’ smirks McGrath, adding ‘three minutes feels like some prog-rock epic to us’.
Beginning as a humble (but noisy) three piece, their ranks swelled to seven before settling into their current five member configuration. ‘We’ve always had guitar, bass and drums as the foundation, but now with Claire Leske on trumpet and Catherine James adding vocals, percussion and keyboard, it adds so much texture and variety to our sound’, says McGrath, ‘It allowed us to lean into our soul and r’n’b influences on this album’.
After initial sessions at Merloc Studios, the band’s drummer/renaissance man Darren Atkinson produced this new album, drawing on his years of experience with bands like The Ups & Downs and Big Heavy Stuff. ‘Darren is basically Oz Rock royalty, so we knew we were in safe hands. Darren drums but he also sings, so he is uniquely sensitive to both rhythm and melody – he had a lot of ideas for extra percussion and vocal harmonies that made us sound more polished than we actually are!’ says McGrath.
It was celebrated poet CJ Bowerbird (who contributed liner notes) who noticed that despite the upbeat tempos and sunny harmonies, the album possesses a darker undercurrent. ‘Yeah, trust a poet to zero in on the lyrics – I hadn’t even realised that myself until CJ pointed it out, but it’s true’, remarks McGrath. ‘There are several songs about mortality and the passing of time, not to mention a song called Take A Chance On Murder! Even our feel-good summer hit (and upcoming single) is called Summer Frownz, so I guess a melancholic thread is woven through the album’.
The album’s high watermark is its final track, a Pogues-influenced ballad which builds to the repeated coda ‘If I’m going down, I’m going down swinging/And if I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die singing’. The song is gilded with swooping violin melodies, played by special guest Emma Kelly (aka Happy Axe). ‘It was a treat to have Emma on the record’ says bassist Kevin Lauro. ‘The clapping at the end of that song – it was actually the band spontaneously applauding Emma after she did her first take! We left the first take and the applause in’.
And finally, what’s with all the French, both the band name and the punny title of the new record, Beg For Merci Beaucoup? ‘I was going through a Francophile period when I started the band,’ explains McGrath, ‘watching Godard and listening to Gainsbourg, and their influence crept in. France and the French language is perceived by outsiders as very cool and sophisticated, which I thought would make a curious contrast with the hot-blooded rock’n’roll I wanted to make. Now it’s just part of the band identity – I plan to have a song sung in French on every release we do.’
Listen to Faux Faux Amis’ new album ‘Beg For Merci Beaucoup’ at fauxfauxamis.bandcamp.com or pick up a copy at their album launch November 19th at the Phoenix, supported by Hi New Low and Kilroy.
Photo by Adam Thomas
We were blessed to have new faves Kilroy, and Hi New Low support us – special thanks to Hi New Low who came up from Melbourne for the launch, bandleader Ramsay being ¼ of Fun Machine and one of my vocal inspirations (that’s me doing my best impersonation of him on Sno-Globe).
Suffice to say, I am incredibly proud of the record – the best sounding and most polished suite of my songs so far. I have to single out the stellar artwork by Fiona McLeod – I asked Fiona to draw inspiration from the cover of one of my favourite albums, Love’s Forever Changes. As you can see, she knocked it out of the park – it was the final touch, the one that made it feel complete, like a real album to me.
We were pleasantly shocked to find we made both BMA’s and 2XX’s year-end best-of-Canberra lists, for the songs The Last Hurrah, and Faux Amis respectively (both songs featuring uber-violinist Emma Kelly, perhaps not coincidentally).
I am especially chuffed to see The Last Hurrah honoured, as the song has had a long gestation – the title and chorus lyric have been floating in my head for at least a decade. The song didn’t coalesce until I was writing tracks for my shelved musical L’Assassiner de Faux Faux Amis three years ago. The musical was as much about mortality as it was ‘murder’ per se, and in the show, The Last Hurrah fulfilled a similar role as on the album, an exultant and passionate finale, urging us all to not go gently against the dying of the light, to remember to find joy where we can, no matter how absurd and meaningless life can seem. It’s a rare ‘mature’ song from me, a resolutely playful artist – its execution and delivery on the album is everything I wanted it to be, and the reception to it has been extremely satisfying. It’s first public performance was at the launch, where we played the album in its entirety.
For 2018, we’ve been discussing some themed EPs – I look forward to getting stuck into those soon!