British band Hot Club de Paris release their new album ‘Drop It Till It Pops’ in October.
Welcome, Welcome To The Hot Club De Paris
by Daniel Melia
Liverpool band Hot Club de Paris
Paul Rafferty, vocals and bass
Alasdair Smith, drums and vocals
Matt Smith, vocals and guitar
“Throughout the whole ten days of recording I think I managed about twenty thousand press ups!” Announces Hot Club De Paris front man Paul Rafferty to a slightly bemused Gigwise. “I did closer to thirty…thousand!” Drummer Alastair jumps in, instantly outdoing in his band mate in a moment of tongue in cheek bravado. And no, before you ask, Gigwise isn’t interviewing the Moshi Moshi trio for a new role as UN Ambassadors against Worldwide obesity. It seems in fact that their world of obscure time changes and barbershop harmonies has recently made a bizarre love triangle with the world of Physical Education. The recording they talk of is their recent residency at Liverpool’s Elevator studios where with the help of producer Tim Speed they put down the material for their debut long player due this Autumn. Its called ‘Drop It Till It Pops’ and you dear reader are going to love it!
To get to this point however has taken two years of hard work, little or no money and if they are to be believed a constant and impending fear of doom. It started with a chance meeting between Paul (Who had previously been in cult Liverpool favourites Victor FME) and guitarist Matthew Smith at, of all places, Chester Racecourse. “We were both temping selling Pimms and lemonade to fake posh people and I over heard Matthew talking about The Misfits,” says Paul. A budding relationship was then formed over a resulting game of “record top trumps” (Apparently trying to out do each other with albums from their respective collections). The pair soon began writing music together, eventually being joined by Alistair and the rest as they say is history!
Having played their first gig in April 2004, somehow at the time labelled “pretentious” by ourselves (That wayward writer has now been banished from our realm! Ed.), it hasn’t exactly been the ready made and pre-baked but stale in three months rise to prominence of many of their current batch of contemporaries. “I think it's been a slow build up because of the fact that everyone we’ve dealt with so far has absolutely no money,” explains Paul. “But we haven’t exactly got much to compare it to,” chips in Alistair. They don’t believe either that they are suited to a sudden explosion of interest Paul advances, adding: “It was never going to happen like that with us. The music that we’re playing is far too obscure in its influences despite being quite poppy.” However, it does separate them from the seemingly endless throng of new guitar bands on the horizon. “There’s not that many bands out there though doing the time signature stuff and what we do lyrically,” believes Paul adding jokingly that there making pretty “out there” stuff.
So for the uninitiated what makes up the distinctive Hot Club sound? Well first up there’s the aforementioned experimentation with obscure time signatures. “That comes from our love of New York and Chicago experimental rock music,” explains Paul. “Bands like Owls, Don Caballero and The Minutemen. It was always a bit challenging too, it’s always something we try and do when we write music together. We just try to make it as interesting as we can.” Then there’s the now much loved barbershop harmonies which perforate the bands live shows with sardonic wit and irreverence. “It started for a bit of fun really,” says Alistair while Paul tells us, “Me and Matthew already had a Hot Club song that was a barbershop, close harmony sort of thing before we’d even played together. Then we just started to incorporate it into the rest of the songs and everyone started to compare us to the Futureheads.” Gigwise laughs gingerly not knowing whether this would be a touchy subject or not.
However, it seems it's not and though lazy journalists may pluck the North East four piece’s name out of the air every time they write about Hot Club to the annoyance of fans, the band themselves don’t really think too much about the association. While Alistair dismisses it simply “as something that’s bound to happen” in an attempt to quantify the trio by people with “poor record collections,” Paul believes “it’s not such a bad comparison”. Well, who wouldn’t want to be compared to one of the most successful bands in the UK? Paul breaches the subject perfectly when he says, “If I played my mum a Bad Brains record followed by Black Flag record, despite the fact one defines New York punk and the other LA punk. I'm guessing that my mum won’t be able to tell the difference. And you know there’s a lot more difference between us and The Futureheads than there is between Bad Brains and Black Flag. It's just people jumping to the nearest conclusion.”
Moving back to the recording of their debut album and they’ve now revised their press up estimations down to a more realistic eight hundred in ten days – and we’ve decided not to give them that job at the UN. With track titles such as ‘Hello, I Wrote A Song For You Called ‘Welcome To The Jungle’' and ‘Your Face Looks All Wrong’, it's obvious that the album carries over the wit of the bands live shows. Then there’s the misleading title of ‘3:55am: I Think We Should Go Home’ which on the face of it references a bad night out but actually refers to the bands obsession with those ever present time signatures. Paul reveals: “It’s a song that’s in 5/4 and we’d been calling it the ‘5/4 Song’ for ages. But we thought it was a bit pathetic that bands always like to name the time signature in the song title, like ‘7/4 Shoreline’ and ‘Take 5’ so we went a little bit cryptic on your ass!” Cue feigned amazement from all present including Alistair who jokes that it took him weeks to figure it out. “Three fifty five you see is five to four. You like that shit don’t you, thats clever that is!”
So now the albums done and dusted what are the band's plans for the future? Well first up there’s their current rash of tour dates including performances at this year’s Bestival before a yet to be planned full UK tour in October to herald the album's release. After that though they’re definitely looking further a field. “We’ll probably spend some time in Europe before the end of the year,” says Paul. “And considering that’s our favourite thing to do, we’re really looking forward to it! It’s like constantly being invited on holiday.” Then there’s even plans to cross the Atlantic and take on the US. “We’ve got plans, I don’t know whether the label has though!” quips Alistair. One main aim is definitely to play 2007’s SXSW which they were forced to miss this year due to recording commitments. “As long as we’re not dropped!” adds Alistair again pointing out that the albums title references this very fear or joke as they see it (“Drop it till it pops? I would have dropped them straight away!” bellows Paul in a faux crusty music journalist accent). Nothing you see is too serious in Hot Club’s world.
And though jokes follow about getting careers in admin and jobs in banks; “We got signed by mistake, it became a job by mistake, even the label thinks it’s a mistake!” It’s obvious that at the moment the threesome are currently having too much fun to consider doing anything else. “It’s kind of nice just to be given the opportunity to take it as seriously as we can, or as seriously as we don’t,” confesses Paul. And quite frankly we’re thankful that someone has given them that chance for they are not only the nicest bunch of lads you could meet but also some of the most talented musicians too. So, if sometime in the future you hear the melodic barbershop refrain of “Welcome, Welcome to the Hot Club De Paris” wafting across a night's breeze from somewhere in the distance don’t hesitate to find its origins, we promise you won’t be disappointed.