Interview: We Were Evergreen
Published on August 1st, 2011 | Jonny Abrams
In the absence of any prior knowledge, you’d be hard pressed to deduce that We Were Evergreen are from France just by listening to their music.
Incorporating ukulele, banjo, toy piano, kazoo, glockenspiel and, er, “llama nails”, the trio conjure up a playfully innocent and nostalgic sound that has more in common with Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci than, say, Daft Punk, Air or Saïan Supa Crew.
If their recent, enthusiastically received appearances at Lovebox and Secret Garden Party are anything to go by, Francophilia on these shores looks set to welcome gorgeous three-part harmonies and a sunny disposition into its smoke-and-synth-filled maison de cool.
After watching them play a grin-inducing set on the London Eye (yes, actually on it…we’ll feature the resultant videos on these pages as and when they are ready), Rocksucker sat down with We Were Evergreen at the nearby Archduke Cocktail Bar and subjected them to our usual no-holds-barred, no-stone-left-unturned, no-prisoners-taken line of no-nonsense questioning.
First, though, check out this charming new video for their breezy, vaguely country-ish ditty “Vintage Car”…(starring a yak, naturally)…
How were Lovebox and Secret Garden Party for you?
Michael: Lovebox was really cool. We opened the festival, actually, on the main stage as the people came in on the first day. There was a good crowd and we got to see lots of concerts as well.
Michael: We got to see Metronomy, Beth Ditto…
William: Snoop Dogg, Santigold…
Michael: Santigold was really good. We saw De La Soul as well. And we got to meet some bands that we like, like Metronomy, which was fun.
William: Secret Garden Party was awesome, and totally different. People were dressed up, it was really cool.
Michael: I think I liked it better. It’s the most unique festival I’ve seen. I don’t think we have similar ones in France.
What’s the biggest music festival in France?
Michael: Les Eurockéennes de Belfort, maybe. I think that’s the one.
William: Then there’s Rock en Seine, Vieilles Charrues in Brittany…
How did you guys meet?
Michael: In France we have a thing called prépa, which is a post-baccalaureate that you go to to prepare for entry to other schools. It’s like an exam. That’s where I met Fabienne.
Fabienne: And I met William at music school.
William: At Paris Conservatoire de Musique. We did classical percussion together.
Are you all Parisian?
Fabienne: I am Parisian, they are not. I don’t know why I took them. (Laughs)
Michael: She’s born and bred in Paris. They are known for being snobbish.
Fabienne: It’s a joke!
Michael: I am from the southeast, next to the Italian border.
William: To complete the triangle, I am from the southwest.
What attracted you to instruments such as the banjo and the ukulele?
Michael: Listening to bands playing the ukulele, I guess, but I also like the fact that it’s cheap and easy to learn. It’s a great instrument for playing around with and trying things out, and then it becomes a real instrument to you.
William: At the beginning we used mainly small instruments and each new instrument we find we try to get onstage.
Michael: We wanted it to be small instruments, like toy piano, glockenspiel, ukulele. But I love playing the banjo too.
The musical influences you’ve listed online seem mostly to be English language artists. Is this why you sing in English?
William: It’s a big part of it.
Michael: I think we grew up mostly listening to English-speaking bands, like The Beatles and other bands from the sixties and seventies, but we listen to French bands as well. This project is English but we take influence from everything, including French bands.
What is the significance of your name?
Fabienne: At the beginning of the band we were just called Evergreen and we wanted to change it. The name Evergreen was really nice sounding, a nice idea: never-ending trees. And, because we are three, there are three words! It’s in the past tense so it’s a nostalgic sounding name.
Michael: Most of our songs are between the past and the present, the differences between childhood and growing up. Being between two states, it’s like what we’re about!
Which leads very nicely into our next question. Is your song “Waiter Waiter” based on real experiences?
Michael: It is, actually. I was working at a beachside restaurant, a typical summer job. It was okay, I didn’t actually break any glasses! I think being a waiter is an interesting job but it’s tiring as well. It was a good experience. It’s one of the first jobs you usually get so it’s like a rite of passage.
Um…how have you enjoyed the food over here?
Fabienne: You mean burger, burger, burger and fries?
Michael: I wouldn’t say we’ve had much British food. We had fish and chips in Brighton, and that rock thing. I don’t understand the point of rock; you can’t eat it! You guys like sweet stuff.
Fabienne: The fries were really good.
Do you know yet when you might be ready to bring an album out?
Michael: We don’t know. We need to find labels but we are hoping in 2012.
Any musical recommendations you’d like to make?
Fabienne: Cloud Control.
We had the pleasure of interviewing Cloud Control last year.
William: We got to see them at XOYO [in Shoreditch].
William: The Dø.
Michael: Have you heard of The Dø? They’re a really good Finnish/French duo who sing in English. They should be known outside of France.
William: We don’t understand why they’re not. Also, Oxmo Puccino is a brilliant French rapper who is still making albums. He makes jazzy hip hop.
Michael: There’s a French hip hop band called Hocus Pocus as well.
Finally, could you name – as of this very moment – your top three albums of all time?
Fabienne: White Album by The Beatles.
(Rocksucker says: It’s vaguely humorous to note that Fabienne’s Parisian accent made it sound at first like she said White On Blonde, the huge-selling 1998 album by Texas. We’re relieved to confirm that she did indeed say “White Album“.)
William: Either Homogenic or Medúlla by Björk.
We’ll let you call that one a tie.
Fabienne: Music Makers With Taj Mahal. Trust me.
(Rocksucker says: a cursory Google shows this to be a compilation of classic blues and southern music.)
William: Arbour Zena by Keith Jarrett, a famous jazz pianist, or Live in Hamburg by E.S.T., a famous jazz trio from Sweden. Their pianist [Esbjörn Svensson] died three years ago.
Michael: Abbey Road, just for the medley on the B side. But it’s usually between The White Album and Abbey Road. And any of the Radiohead albums, maybe OK Computer. The thing with Radiohead is that you learn to love each of their albums at different times in your life, which is kind of what I did with them.
William: Can I have another tie?
You are somewhat abusing your tying privileges but, ah, go on then…
William: Ok Computer and Grace by Jeff Buckley.
Fabienne: At this moment, The Sleeper by The Leisure Society.
We Were Evergreen, merci.
‘Flings’, the new EP by We Were Evergreen, is available now at all of the band’s gigs and festival appearances. For more information and a list of live dates – including appearance at Wilderness Festival and Green Man Festival – please visit www.wewereevergreen.com , where you can also download a free track by entering the code: FREETRACK/