General Bye Bye
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General Bye Bye

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Philippe Beer-Gabel, the front man/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist for Paris, France-based indie-pop band General Bye Bye is a little surprised by American response to French songs “You may know that France is not exactly famous for its music,” he tells Xpress. “The thing is, the prejudice with France is that we’re all stylish, drinking wine and eating cheese all the time.” Which, he adds with a laugh, “is basically not far from reality.”

But, thanks to technology and a rising interest in musical fusion, French pop has not only been widely embraced by audiofiles, it carries a certain chic cache. For Beer-Gabel, who derives much inspiration from American music — Blonde Redhead is often mentioned — bringing his band to the U.S. was a major goal.

Last fall, while General Bye Bye singer Jana Klein was too pregnant to perform, Beer-Gabel made a trip to the U.S. to attend the Future of Music Policy Summit in Washington, D.C. and to visit Austin, Texas. “It seemed the perfect time to check what was happening in the U.S., because often what happens in the U.S. happens in Europe five or six years after,” says Beer-Gabel. At the summit, he learned about promotion and was introduced to artist-funding platform Kickstarter (currently being used by local musicians Aaron Woody Wood and Kellin Watson for their album projects). Beer-Gabel decided to try Kickstarter as a way to float a U.S. tour. “We did not succeed because we're too small, but I learned a lot and we launched another project on Feed the Muse,” he says. Using that online tool (its tagline is “Fueling Creativity $1 at a Time”), General Bye Bye met its goal. And, says Beer-Gabel, “We managed to do it in only 15 days because now I really get how to raise money for music.”

French-pop band Hold Your Horses! (a.k.a. HyH, performing with General Bye Bye at Club 828 on Friday, Aug. 20) sounds a little bit like the arty, post-punk/new wave groups spawned in among the grit and shoestring glamour of New York's lower east side (Blondie, Talking Heads, The Cosmopolitans) and in the sunny/edgy dichotomy of Los Angeles (The Knack, The Go-Gos, The Motels) circa late ‘70s. Only, HyH — who cites more modern references like Wolf Parade and The Arcade Fire — is reinventing a sound (one that was modern by design more than 30 years ago) with contemporary flourishes like cello ("Simon harasses his cello and he can't sit down and likes to push the overdrive pedal," the band writes) and clarinet ("Igor is the wind section: trumpet, clarinet and tuba. He also can make you cry with his musical saw").

Of the seven members, Florence "Flo" Villeminot is the only female. She drums and shares lead vocal duties with guitarist Charles Van den Boogaerde — it was this pair who founded HyH, originally as a folk duo when they were two Americans living in London. Now they're two Americans living in Paris among a rocking full band. According to global pop culture show/blog MTV Iggy, "They have a huge sound that takes over the whole stage — literally and figuratively — and yet remains carefree, in the vein of hippy-dippy indie orchestras such as Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros."

Besides creating upbeat, garage-meets-folk pop, the group has also crafted a brilliant/hilarious video where (set to their song, "70 Million") they reenact 25 famous paintings from Art Appreciation 101, including The Last Supper by da Vinci, Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer, The Raft of the Medusa by Géricault, The Scream by Munch, The Kiss by Klimt and Las Meninas by Velázquez. Watch it at Youtube.com/watch?v=erbd9cZpxps.
—A.M.

General Bye Bye’s particular brand of pop is hooky, melodic, irreverently cheerful and relentlessly upbeat. It’s also in English. "We sing in English because the weight of words in French is a bit different. I'm not saying that English is a shallow language, but French words are a bit heavy. We have maybe only two songs in French, but we never perform them," says Beer-Gabel, who, among other day jobs, teaches both French and Swedish. But English is his singing language of choice and so the band works with a Scottsman to get their wording just so. “British English and American English are very different languages so I prefer to be very careful about this," explains Beer-Gabel.

Still, the songs take on a particular lilt, the phrasing and syntax unusual enough to set tracks like “Alphabet” (”I give you L for Lullaby, I give you O for Oh my my, I give you V for Vanity, I give you E for you and me”) apart from the current deluge of indie-pop offerings. The simple sweetness of General Bye Bye’s songs are also a clue to the band’s accessibility, and what has inspired fans to fund the U.S. tour.

"We don't expect to have 10 million fans,” says Beer-Gabel, who writes personal emails to General Bye Bye’s followers. “We prefer to know the fans personally. If you know your one thousand followers, then you can work with them." In exchange for donations to the tour, the band exchanges goods like jam, language lessons and even French kisses — a commodity that Beer-Gabel seems presently surprised to find is in demand.

Another way the band has been connecting with its audience is by booking its tour accommodations through CouchSurfing.org. The website allows travelers to meet friendly folks who can offer up a sofa and possibly kitchen privileges. That’s how Beer-Gabel arranged last fall’s Austin trip, and how he made two Asheville connections: Former WNC residents The Baker Family Band and local musician Dup Crosson of Saint Solitude. "When I decided to launch a tour, I contacted him and he was nice enough to send me a huge list of venues," says Beer-Gabel. Crosson shares the bill at General Bye Bye’s Asheville show this week.

The French musician speaks highly of the generosity of people he’s met in booking his U.S. tour, but he’s also enthusiastic about the country itself. In Europe, “We have a lot of stories. We have a heavy background and the tendency is to always look behind and never look forward,” says Beer-Gabel. “You wake up in the morning, you have an idea and someone says 'Yes, but…' In the U.S. I have the feeling that if I have an idea and I speak about it, everybody is excited and that motivates me to accomplish it." - Mountain Xpress


Personnage haut en couleurs, ce General Bye Bye préfère ne pas choisir, entre une popcore arc-en-ciel et un rock tout sourire. Il arbore sur son pourpoint les traces rutilantes de ces précédents faits d'armes-on devine, à l'écoute de ces compositions inventives et de cette production bourrée d'idées le bagage imposant des musiciens. Mais le poids des médailles n'empêchera pas notre Général de bondir comme un cabri d'émotion en émotion, avec un talent certain pour le zapping. Il mêle à plaisir le tragique et le grotesque, la nostalgie et la fadaise, le sucre et le sel pour une campagne brillante et complexe, comme la vie. Les voix de Philippe Beer-Gabel et de Jana Klein se répondent avec légèreté, et la complémentarité bipolaire de ce duo masculin-féminin ne fait qu'ajouter à cette impression joyeusement foutraque, tirée à quatre épingles. Les guitares interviennent avec parcimonie, dans une stratégie du style qui chérit les écarts, les parenthèses et les faux semblants. On démarre sur l'air grave d'une intro tout en lenteur et on tombe dans un couplet festif, violent, essentiel; les riffs tournoient sur eux-mêmes jusqu'au moment où ils s'éclipsent au profit d'un nouveau jeu de motifs. Claviers,mélodica, cithare (finlandaise)... Aucun de ces ingrédients épicés n'est de trop dans cet équilibre saugrenu, et rien n'est à ajouter à l'oeuvre picaresque de ce quatuor surdoué. Alors,tirez les premiers.
- Marie Daubert


On le sent, ce groupe va faire un carton. Quelques mois à peine avant la sortie Girouette, leur premier véritable album, le quatuor pop continue de foisonner sans influence majeure étouffante. Voix entremêlée, guitares tranchantes, rhodes bondissant, les quatres titres brouillent admirablement bien les pistes, à commencer par le merveilleux Maniac Mansion.
- JD


Discography

"Blood on my keyboards" Mini LP - 16th of April 2011
(Bye Bye Music)

"Don't Shoot The Rabbit / Greedy Pigs" - Single - February 2011
Split 45RPM
(Bye Bye Music / Can Be Fine)

Girouette LP- May 2010
(Greed Recordings / MVS Anticraft)

Alphabet EP - June 2009
(Bye Bye Music)

Radio Airplay
- Alphabet (Radio Campus Paris)
- Maniac Mansion (Radio Campus Paris, Radio Neo, Noise'R'us, French Underground)

Photos

Bio

A half-mad but oh-so-smart threesome that mixes the jagged edges of steel strings, the frenzied heartbeat of pounding drums and the bewitching enchantment of printed circuit boards to come up with songs made for dreaming and for dancing. A crazy group that smells of compost and froth, of changing rooms and melted plastic. A band that stands at the crossroads where Kraftwerk, Michael Nyman and Blonde Redhead never met. Three french men who have a strong Direct to Fans philosophy. Following on from the releases of their first LP Girouette and now armed with their coming mini-LP Blood On My Keyboard (recorded in Memphis in one day) General Bye Bye is heading off into battle once more.