Americans in France
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Americans in France

Carrboro, North Carolina, United States | INDIE

Carrboro, North Carolina, United States | INDIE
Band Blues Punk


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"Interview: Americans in France"

Americans In France, everywhere at once

Americans In France, everywhere at once

* Americans In France – “Nose Job”

Americans In France is a band that won’t sit still. The chaotic pop the North Carolina band crafts is anxious, spastic – and remarkably catchy.

Together, the trio of Josh Lajoie (guitar/vocals), Casey Cook (drums/vocals – and an accomplished painter) and Kent Howard (bass) digs deep hooks into its explosions of garage-rock chime, avant-pop skittishness and Pixies’ fury. Changes are abrupt and frequent, as the band churns along with the attention span of 21st-Century America. It plays something like three puppies in a moving car. Each bounds across the seats, overlapping and cutting divergent trails, entranced with the cultural landscape as it zooms past outside the windows – but the car itself moves uniformly forward.

Now with their stunning debut, Pretzelvania, unleashed upon the world by the burgeoning Odessa Records label, and a new tour underway, we caught up with Lajoie to talk about the band’s origins, its undercurrents of social commentary and its driving philosophies.

They’ll play Tuesday at Velvet Lounge… Read the rest of this entry »

- Remember Your Future

"Americans in France, Punk Rock Mutants"

Sometimes you have to dig deep to find music that excites you, and sometimes all you have to do is go to North Carolina. Good music is good music everywhere, and the Chapel Hill band, Americans In France, is truly a moveable feast.

Their debut album, Pretzelvania (Odessa Records), is a psychophrenic romp through punk, psychedelia, and rock n’ roll. The music is liable to change about every 45 seconds, but Josh Lajoie’s vocal whine is a constant. At their best AIF is reminiscent of a Violent Femmes-Black Angels love child, and at their worst they are just annoying.

AIF’s best songs morph through tempo changes and genres like a punk rock mutant, especially on tracks like, “Little Wolf,” which any Velvet Underground will be able to appreciate, and “Tout Les Temps” a primal riff-based shout song that is impossible to understand or ignore.

So check out these obscure and crazy bastards out of North Carolina, and know that punk rock is not completely dead. - Siezure Chicken

"Americans in France twist a funny sound...Not so silly?"

They're slim and scrappy ... the type of young adults who thrive on a steady diet of sarcasm, silliness, and at least one photo-op in a sex swing — that is, they're perfect candidates to start a post-punk noise band with a completely nonsensical name like Americans in France.

Former Floridian Josh Lajoie, AIF's singer/guitarist, possesses the nasal twangy voice of his punk forefathers, and he's working on his meaty snarl. He shares vocal duties with drummer Casey Cook, who happens to be a renowned artist. Kent Howard makes up the third part of the AIF triangle, providing pounding bass lines and terrifically funny one-liners.

The trio riff off each other naturally, and their camaraderie comes through even during an interview via e-mail. They're eagerly anticipating the release of their newest album, Pretzelvania. Indie bloggers and established sites like have been kind to several tracks, and AIF still can't get over the fact that Pretzelvania boasts the fingerprints of Grammy award-winning producer/engineer Brian Paulson.

"It was surprising to have the opportunity to work with Paulson, and that he came to our house to do it!" Lajoie says. "Essentially he was cooped up with us. We felt very comfortable." Lajoie and Cook's home served as the de-facto studio, but while its idyllic location in Chatham, N.C., fostered plenty of creative spirit, it also meant that any time of day one could hear AIF's blistering punk shattering the countryside.

"We live on a pond which is basically a giant amphitheater of sound," Cook says. "While we were recording, a lady that lives across the pond would turn her stereo on full blast to illustrate that point every once in a while."

"Her taste in music was surprisingly good," Lajoie adds.

They're equally glib about their unusual name and their songwriting practices.

On their unique moniker, Cook says she imagines spy-type ex-pats living in France, drinking absinthe, smoking fancy cigarettes, and eating baguettes, whereas Lajoie envisions fat tourists in NASCAR T-shirts with bad attitudes. He does admit that fellow Floridian Jim Morrison's defection to France may have also inspired the band's name.

When it comes to crafting their songs, which sometimes come off as impassioned mini-manifestos and sly cultural criticisms ("Mr. Fister" and "Nosejob" come to mind), Lajoie gleefully admits to a controlled chaos. "In the beginning, we'd write songs while we were walking down the street together," he says. "I steal a lot of my lyrics from things people have said to me or from weird movies."

"I'll have words and a melody and bring it to the band knowing it will be filtered through everyone's brain and come out sounding like our song," Cook says.

"We call that not being afraid to kill the baby," Howard adds.

This quick quip is just another example that for all the fury Americans in France pack into their songs, their shared sense of humor is steadily humming below the surface. Or, in certain cases, part of a photo gallery on their MySpace page, which lead this nosy writer to come across a picture of a man fully clothed, joyfully leaning backwards, spread eagle, in a sex swing.

"Yeah, that's me," Lajoie confesses. "Busted. What can I say? Florida chews you up and spits you out."

- The Charleston City Paper

"Pretzelvania by Americans In France Reviewed: I Know A Band Who Make Me Howl"

I've been wanting to write about this album for awhile now but haven't given it the fullblown review it deserves. The reason is one of the ones I expressed earlier today: I don't have a handle on it as an album, but rather, as a load of tracks. But I've lived with it so long I believe I got a finally got it together.
The secret here is a song like "Little Wolf" where Josh Lejoie let's out his inner Shakira and the other two musicians howl in the background against an acoustic backdrop.. I thought it was punk or post punk or something like that. It's art rock, only without the pretension, only young, it's the howl of hormones. But yeah from an artistic by which I mean a transmogrified sound sense.
Makes sense since the drummer is an artist who painted the great Spider Bags last album cover.
"I know a girl who makes me howl" the guy sings and the line is so cool it makes we wanna smile at its smartness.
Like every other song here. In Chris Parker's excellent review in IndyWeek last June he sees the album as a form shifter. Me? I'm not so sure. Maybe I've lived with it too long to hear a band that will record a crash on the drums and sing "That just happened" are playing Ono-y "be here now" avant-rock games with you and when you have a singer that sounds like Richard Hell and a band that makes one fuck of a whale for a three piece: it's more like installation art: it coheses in your brain as one, very "You Are Here".
The best moments on an album with out a slack moment I've written about umpteen times. . "The Ballad Of Brandgelina" -a pop punk blast of fresh air and "Mkele Mbembe" a song so strong it pulsates and it drones at the same time. It's like Velvet Undreground with strange drum parts -it sounds like Maureen Tucker.
One complaint -will new bands make words easier for me to spell so I don't have to constantly double check. Pretzelvania is a bitch to get right!!! But worth the effort -the album is a youthful, arty, NY punky, blast of energy. Paul Finn of Odessa records sent me Americans In France a coupla months ago but I bought it again on itunes anyway. If I owe anybody ten bucks it's these guys. - Rock NYC

"Americans in France: Pretzelvania"

By Sarah Moore 13 August 2009

The punk trio from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Americans in France, have quite the debut record. First of all, despite its lo-fi grit (recorded on an 8-track reel to reel), the record is well engineered. Everything is articulate and punchy while sitting in its own little space, which isn’t necessarily easy to accomplish within the genre. Singer Josh Lajoie has a limited vocal range; however, the vocals can be dissonant and occasionally toneless in an intentionally challenging way. Frenetic time changes keep the listener off-balance, as in the initial track, “Mr. Fister”. Americans in France are the kind of band who would blow your mind live, and you’d want to buy all its seven inch singles. - Pop Matters

"Americans in France"

Americans in France can't be a band that takes itself too seriously. Their latest album is called Pretzelvania, it has a song called "Ballad of Brangelina," and they name check themselves in several songs, which has got to be the musical equivalent of wearing the t-shirt of the band you're going to see.

A playful attitude can be a great attribute for some bands and turn others into novelty acts. Right now, Americans in France could go either way. With their echoey, post-punk production quality, fuzzy Sonic Youth-like guitars and boy/girl call and response vocal patterns, the band has an undeniable shabby charm. But Pretzelvania can also can sound like the Pixies meeting a kindergarten soccer game: Too often the songs start strong, meander into nowhere, discover a completely different beat for a few measures, and then just sort of end.

Take "Mkele Mbembe," the album's third track. Google was indecisive on a possible origin of the name (it could be a legendary dinosaur that still lives in Africa, or a guy who once helped an elephant, and thought he saw the same elephant in a Chicago zoo). The lyrics aren't too helpful; singer Josh Lajoie—who sounds like a lot like Gordon Gano from the Violent Femmes—sings that "You might be a scientist / You might be a venture capitalist / You might end up on a black list / We don't know," then implores someone to "shine a light in the heart of darkness." Not terribly forthcoming.

Not that lyrics are always important. The Pixies' own Black Francis admitted he usually just said whatever popped into his head once the band started recording. Depending on the musicians, when this same spur of the moment spirit is applied to a song's music, it can be exhilarating or rapidly turn into sludge. While there are fun moments on Pretzelvania, too much of it ends up in the sludge pile.

"Mkele Mbembe," for example, starts with a cool, smoky groove of bass and slow drums. This morphs into an upbeat, keyboard-laden chorus, which in turn morphs into a psychedelic guitar solo. But none of it's tied together very well. Instead of sounding like they're taking us on a journey, Americans in France sounds like they didn't practice that much before going into the studio.

The album's stronger tracks, like opener "Mr. Fister," "Turkey Fever," "Mean Serene" and "Liking You," in which drummer Casey Cook hauntingly channels Kim Gordon for the lead vocal, are all shambling, noisy affairs, but they keep things interesting along the way by keeping the noodling in check.

The goofily titled "Ballad of Brangelina" is actually one of the album's stronger tracks as well. Bassist Kent Howard offers up a bouncy backbeat and Lajoie's guitar jumps back and forth between NOFX-style palm mutes and a James Bond shimmy. It's light, fun and short, taking three distinct parts and clicking them together into one tight package.

The song chronicles the inescapable love triangle of Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie with bursts of lyrics that sound like they were taken straight off the US magazine covers that line our supermarket checkout lines ("Oh, poor Jennifer!" "Breaking news / New hairdos"). The shifting tone and tempo of the music brings the silly lyrics to another level, finding the appropriate beat for our cultural ADD.

Sonic Youth made noise into art. Americans in France might be onto something in trying to do the same thing for Attention Deficit Disorder. They're not quite there yet, but since getting there would require a heavy does of Ritalin, maybe the destination is beside the point.

Similar Albums:
Sonic Youth – Dirty
Pixies – Trompe le Monde
Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
- Treble

"The first three releases from Odessa Records are a stunning local victory: Rookie of the year"

by Grayson Currin, Bryan Reed and Chris Parker

Imagine that you've never played basketball. You've watched a lot of it, though, studying the rules, hanging around the courts, reading Red Auerbach books, buying the satellite package that gives you every game of every season. Now imagine walking onto a concrete basketball court on a hot summer day, your new high-tops gleaming in the sun, and asking for "Next" while 10 very tall, very fit people grind away at an intense clip. They're sprinting and spinning and slamming, and here you are, studying again.

Carrboro resident Paul Finn eyed record labels for about 15 years, running errands and organizing press campaigns at indie magnates like Touch & Go and Drag City in Chicago and Merge in Durham. He's been playing in bands on labels since he was a New Jersey restaurant rat, too, and his most recent band, The Kingsbury Manx, released its fourth LP on Yep Roc Records in 2006. Finn eventually decided he'd spent enough time on the sidelines. The Manx was sitting on its fifth album, waiting for a label to give them enough money and attention to release it. He'd recently co-produced records by two upstarts, Americans in France and Impossible Arms, and he was anxious for the world to hear them.

He decided to do it himself, forming an imprint called Odessa Records and extending offers to all three bands. They agreed, and he went to work.

Now, to extend our metaphor, imagine that, during your first basketball game ever, you drive the score to 7-0 in three plays: The gambit is a long, graceful three over the top of two bigger dudes (here, The Kingsbury Manx's beautiful Ascenseur Ouvert!). The second score is an old-school hook from just outside the paint, under pressure (here, Impossible Arms' indie muscle on Ripped in No Time). The third is a work of nerve and grit, you slashing through the lane, heading toward the hoop and slamming it with one hand at an awkward angle (here, that's certainly Americans in France's acerbic Pretzelvania). In other words, you're perfect, possibly unstoppable in an environment where that didn't seem likely.

Odessa's first three albums are three of the year's best contributions to indie rock—locally or nationally, no qualifications needed. They're smart, well-made records with interesting lyrics, arrangements and ideas. We've previously raved about The Kingsbury Manx. Here, we dig into the debuts from Impossible Arms and Americans in France. —Grayson Currin
Americans In France
click to enlarge 06.17musled_interview_ameri.gif

That old, ingrained adage about getting only one first impression would be more annoying only if it were any truer. For a freshly minted band, a debut album can be a curse—a betrayal of unresolved kinks and premature ideas. That said, it can be a grand entry, too. For Carrboro trio Americans In France, the debut Pretzelvania is just that. (Read our review of the record.)

We caught drummer Casey Cook at her home—The Pond House, where the band rehearses and recorded its LP with Odessa Records head Paul Finn and former Wilco and Rosebuds producer Brian Paulson—to talk about the strings of good fortune that went into Pretzelvania. Americans in France plays The Cave with Whatever Brains and Francis Harold & the Holograms Monday, June 22, at 10 p.m. Admission is $5.

INDEPENDENT WEEKLY: What was the process like of building to this debut with Americans In France?

CASEY COOK: We just started playing songs and writing songs together, and then collected enough and were like, "Let's make a record." We wanted to capture that moment in time, so it seemed like a good time to record.

Had any of you done a lot of recording before?

Our bassist, Kent [Howard], has been in a couple bands before and recorded stuff, but for myself and Josh [Lajoie, guitar/vocals], it was the first time.

Arranging the songs in their definitive state and then sequencing them into a record for the first time: How difficult was that?

It kind of fell together. We had an idea for placement for some of them, and then it was just moving the rest of them around until it makes sense to us.

I always think about that part in High Fidelity when John Cusack is talking about how you have to sequence a mix tape whenever I think about putting together a record.

I know a lot of people have concepts ahead of time, sort of knowing which of the songs and what order there's going to be, but we didn't. We kind of just did what we thought sounded best.

Did you feel like the record captured what you were after? And did you think maybe there was something you'd do different next time?

With the goal of wanting to capture that moment in time of where we were as a band and what we were doing, I think we did that. It was really fortunate that we were able to record in the same place that we practice. It's this little house on a pond, like out in the country. So that was important.

We set up the way we practice, and all the songs, we'd played out live before we ever recorded them. We wanted to record them that same way, so we were all in a room playing live together—even singing, which bleeds through at parts. I feel like we really did capture where we were at that time, and how we felt about the songs and each other. I definitely wouldn't change any of that.

Next time, I would like it to happen faster. From the first time we recorded at the Pond House until the time mixing was done was quite a long amount of time, to the point where we're already playing some of the songs a little differently.

I feel like we're more connected now, and we play better now, so there's things that you're like, "Oh, I wish I did that the way I do it now," but I think it's really sweet to just capture that time in the very beginning. If you don't catch it then, you never have a chance to.

I imagine having such experienced producers didn't hurt.

That was a nice thing. Having Paul [Finn] with us, he wanted to help us a lot and he definitely knew what was going on and gave a lot of encouragement. He was there to talk to us, so that it all made sense. And, of course, Brian [Paulson] is a genius at what he does, and you just let him do it. We're really good friends with both those guys, too, so it was very comfortable.

How did you end up deciding to work with these guys?

I think a lot of it just happened through friendships and being in a small town, and just being really lucky to know these people and be able to work with them. —Bryan Reed - The Independant Weekly

"Americans in France's Pretzelvania"

Americans In France's Pretzelvania
(Odessa Records)
by Chris Parke

It doesn't have to be complicated: While there's nothing wrong with noodling and navelgazing or making ornate pop, rock music is a raging adolescent, driven by hormonal revolution and youthful insouciance, shouting "baby, baby baby" because it doesn't know any better. It works, too. Not everyone's been a textbook-clutching post-rocker, an overly sensitive twee popper or a devil-horn wielding domestic beer drinker. But, at some point, we've all been kids who innately understood Cheap Trick's "I Want You To Want Me."

Though they're a little more Black Flag than Buddy Holly, there's a sloppy, rudimentary straightforwardness to Americans in France. That's not to call their debut, Pretzelvania, simplistic, though. Actually, the Chapel Hill trio plays with a great deal of skill, shifting styles (punk, post-punk, ballad, droning space rock, peppy rave-ups) with the precision of an Indy car shifting gears coming out of a caution flag. But their ragged, kitchen-sink experimentalism is far from pretentious, striking a playful, clowning tone that doesn't take itself too seriously.

"Mkele Mbembe," for instance, serves as one of the more illustrative examples of American In France's process and charms. Opening with an atmospheric jam shrouded in pot smoke, it slowly rises toward the title chant. They bridge into a jagged new wave shuffle with a tweeting synth and chunky garage guitar, as Josh Lajoie squeals something about shining "a light into the heart of darkness." His joy recalls Jad Fair and Half Japanese until a crazy break introduces an ascending guitar line that sounds half-cadged from a '70s AOR rock station. It all dissolves suddenly into a fuzzy drone, returning to the space jam. "We're taking Ted Nugent. We're taking the Mindfreak. We're going to take Charlton Heston," Lajoie informs, in an endearing bit of lunacy.

More immediate and engaging is "Ballad of Brad and Angie," which proves the perfect punky heat sink for AIF's cultural anomie. Driven by a four-on-the-floor punk beat and clanging guitar blasts, it comes on like early X as they offer a piss-take on Hollywood's first couple, Brangelina. Silly contrapuntal guitar breaks linger like the Roddy Piper fight scene in the middle of They Live before blasting back into the song in "Roadrunner" fashion with the line, "Breaking news! New hairdos!"

Americans in France stock the whole album with those sorts of oddball tracks: "Cold Cold Heart" alternates a haunted lope reminiscent of the Palace Brothers with a rattling, racing rock jealousy. "Does he play you his new songs?," Lajoie sings. The churning post-punker, "Make It Feel Better," smolders and writhes like a nasty hangover, while "Mister Fister" is a pulsing punky opener. Lajoie incorporates the band's name into the lyrics, then explains, "I want to live in a vacuum/ This place is a bathroom," indicting all the "bullshit capitalists and selfish socialists" he'll leave behind with his new ride.

In that context, "Liking You," an aching organ-fueled paean to attraction in which Cook sings lead, is the most unusual moment here. Cook's airy, multitracked vocals fill the song like smoke in a dive bar (soon to be illegal) as she confesses her affection. It builds like a crush and recedes in a rush, leaving a sweet aftertaste, a respite from the nervy rock all around.

Of course, it's not perfect: Hooks are scarce. Lajoie's vocal range is limited. The songs shimmy through their paces in a herky-jerky manner.

Fuck it, though: Pretzelvania possesses a vibrant, crackling energy rife with such blithe unconventionality and entertaining eccentricity that it's hard to resist. Like an endearing crank, the off-putting traits are quickly forgiven for the vigor, humor and curiosity of the tales, convincing in their "can-I-borrow-the-car" rumble. Imagine the Violent Femmes getting drunk and rifling through old vinyl in the SST warehouse, and you're in the right country.

Americans in France plays The Cave with Whatever Brains and Francis Harold & the Holograms Monday, June 22, at 10 p.m. Admission is $5.
- The Independant Weekly

"New Music: Americans in France: "Liking You""

If every tune at least vaguely about affection sported the name "Liking
You," we'd be cataloguing this blurb with Dewey Decimals. But as the
cap for this gorgeous cut from a distantly forthcoming full-length by
new Chapel Hill trio Americans in France,
"Liking You" is an important sub-textual revelation. Liking someone is
a graded loss of innocence, you know, a possible symptom of love or
lust, an indicator of life decisions to come. It's a gateway, a stop
sign, or both. Liking someone changes things.
You'll first recognize schoolgirl simplicity and charm in Casey
Cook's voice, then, a plaintive, sedated coo that recounts a
second-person narrative of too many drinks and too little
responsibility. Still, she goes on liking the lucky "you," compromising
her own logic for something more instinctual. By track's end, she
doesn't sound jaded as much as experienced. There goes the innocence,
fittingly painted through a farfisa line that sounds lifted from a
sunny-day merry-go-round. It's battered by vague electronic ripples and
a broken blues guitar line that scrambles notes and garbles tone.
Whenever Cook's drums aim for liftoff, they return to metronomic morass
soon enough. Don't you see? She's stuck "liking you."

- Pitchfork


Pretzelvania LP 2009
Jump Into the Danger LP 2010



Americans in France are a three piece rock group based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The band is made up of core members Casey Cook (drums, vocals, songs) Josh Lajoie (guitar, vocals, songs) and Kent Howard (bass, b. vocals).

AIF took shape in the summer of 2007 when Casey and Kent met Josh at a bar. They casually mentioned that they had started a band and were looking for a guitarist. Josh, who considered himself more of a drummer, exaggerated his guitar skills because in his own words, "the drummer was a total babe." An instant chemistry was struck up between the three. Josh and Casey quickly developed a collaborative process, finding themselves able to complete each other's songs. They both took up lead vocals. Sometimes this resulted in a shared harmony, at other times it created a layered contrast. Each member brought a unique approach to their instrument or voice, and the sound of the band grew organically.

They rehearsed obsessively for a year before finally playing their first show. People around Chapel Hill had been hearing about this mysterious band for months so there was a lot of anticipation. The hard work paid off as show after show, AIF genuinely blew people away with their bizarre melding of punk and prog. The songs seemed to have endless changes and the lyrics were over the top. Some shows became pageants, complete with friends in Godzilla costumes interrupting the set and smashing fake buildings. Their lyrics tended to confound with subject matter as disparate as the trials and tribulations of "Brandgelina" to fantasies of the expatriation implicit in the band's name.

In the spring of 2008 the trio set up shop in their secluded "Pond House" several miles outside of town and away from day to day distractions. Their debut full length Pretzelvania was tracked in a mere two days on an old 1/2 inch 8 track machine borrowed from Polvo's Ash Bowie and committed to tape by veteran engineer and producer, Brian Paulson. The record was released in May of 2009 on Chapel Hill label Odessa Records.

Since then Americans in France have toured the U.S. several times and recently finished work on their second full length. It was recorded at Sound Of Music studios in Richmond, VA with producer John Morand. Staying true to their rigorous artistic aesthetic, the band eschewed modern recording techniques in favor of a completely analog process. The result is a gorgeous, varied and powerful record that builds on its predecessor while venturing into new sonic territories.