Les Chauds Lapins
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Les Chauds Lapins


Band Pop Jazz


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"First encounter with Les Chauds Lapins"

The Antenne-A festival once again proves its flair with programming.

By Patrick Caux
(Le Devoir, Quebec City Oct. 5, 2007)

Québec — Direct from Brooklyn, les Chauds Lapins land at the Antenne-A festival with their jazzy French songs. In their luggage, they bring 'Parlez-moi d'amour', an album that is luminous, romantic, with a touch of naivité, and which is finally being distributed here.

" Our love story with old French songs began a few years ago," explains Kurt Hoffman. "Like everyone, we knew a bit of Trenet, Piaf and Josephine Baker. When we began to explore the lesser known repertoire of French artists of the 30s and 40s, we immediately fell under its charm."

For those who like playing the game of comparisons and easy references, we'd have to say that Les Chauds Lapins' project might make one think of Pink Martini. We find the jazzy musical structures, and the native English speakers (Meg Reichardt and Kurt Hoffman) who sing in French with a completely irresistible accent. What's different from Pink Martini is that the sound of Les Chauds Lapins is a lot more roots, anchored deeply in the American tradition of early jazz and swing.

" Back then, there were a lot of exchanges between the U.S. and France," continues Meg Reichardt. "There was a sort of collision between their musical cultures. The French chanson became wedded to the rhythm of jazz." Inspired by that period, the New York Francophiles have reprised numbers from the French repertoire (like Piaf's "J'ai dansé avec l'amour" and Trenet's "J'ai connu de vous") to which they've added original orchestrations inspired by the musical styles in vogue during that period.

The result is frankly seductive. The clarinet and trumpet bring a jazzy texture, whereas the banjo uke — an instrument born of the hybridization between the banjo and the ukulele — adds a refreshing color in which one senses just a hint of bluegrass. The presence of the strings (violin, cello, and contrabass) gives depth and warmth to the ensemble. We bet that the first trip of Les Chauds Lapins to Quebec City (they appeared at Pop Montreal on Wednesday) strongly risks marking the beginning of a long love story.

(translated by Kurt Hoffman) - Le Devoir, Québec, Oct 5 2007

"Paris, Brooklyn"

Les Chauds Lapins come from Brooklyn but sing in French with a dash of banjo and ukulele.The world upside-down.

By Xavier K. Richard
(Voir, Quebec City, Oct 4, 2007)

Their delivery is inspired by ghosts of Charles Trenet and Edith Piaf, such a love affair of Americans for Paris... New York Francophilia -- has it come to the point of offering the world a musical group who interprets the greats of the French chanson?

What might seem an exercise in style is revealed to be a passionate love story: Les Chauds Lapins, lovers of Trenet, Piaf, and of French chanson of 1920 through 1940, all with the pretty accent of Shakespeare.

For the band, it's not a question of nostalgia, but really of discovery. "From the point of view of a Francophone, it's probably difficult to imagine never having heard the songs of Charles Trenet," says Kurt Hoffman, leader of the group alongside Meg Reichardt. "For me, that was like discovering a treasure chest. Moreover, we were inevitably interested in the American influences on France: jazz and swing."

The peculiarity of the group is therefore pleasing two different audiences: for Francophones we appreciate the American accent of singer Meg Reichardt; in Brooklyn it is the French songs themselves which charm. But for the Americans to understand French music, it's necessary at each concert to put it in context and explain a lot of things about the songs.

" You have to understand that when New Yorkers thing of French chanson, they think of Edith Piaf, Serge Gainsbourg, and maybe the yé-yé groups of the sixties. That's about it. The first time I performed a Charles Trenet song in public, a guy came up to me to ask if the song was by Gainsbourg. What's important is that French chanson still generally seems cool here, which might not be the case, I imagine, for Korean song, or Czech song."

Which is to say, the glamor of France always has a place in intellectual milieus in the Big Apple. But the reverse is also true. Les Chauds Lapins have played but once in Paris, to a packed room. Which moved one spectator to say that Les Chauds Lapins should really be the American ambassadors to the U.N.!

Has this experience sufficiently seduced them into moving to France eventually? "I'd love to return to France, but I know I couldn't live there. Paris is great, but New York is home..." Which hasn't stopped them from coming to Quebec now for a few days, with an album -- Parlez-moi d'amour -- which came out a little earlier this year. A first for the group which, ever since its formation, has hoped to come here. And now it will come to pass.

With a typically English black humor, the group looks forward to finding the audience of their dreams here. When we asked Kurt Hoffman what kind of an audience he hopes to see at their concerts on Quebec soil, he responded: "They'll be half-naked and buying each other lots of cocktails. A lively crowd without inhibitions, cultivated but irresistable. Oh yes, and they'll drive sports cars."

What would honor Les Chauds Lapins: lots of little rabbits in heat who dance to swing...
(translated by Kurt Hoffman) - Voir, Québec, Oct 4 2007

"CD Review: Les Chauds Lapins – Parlez-Moi d’Amour"

The most romantic album of the year, and, so far, the best debut as well. Questions of authenticity always arise when bands mine a foreign genre, so the stakes were pretty high for this bunch of New Yorkers playing innuendo-laden, jazzy French pop songs from the 30s and 40s. But their love of the music transcends any difficulty they might have had with the language. A purist – and the French are notorious purists – might fault them for the occasional lapse of accent, but they absolutely nail the style. This is lush, harmony-driven, gorgeously orchestrated, swoony bedroom music. At their cd release show earlier this summer, people were in tears, and it’s a safe bet that most of them didn’t even speak French.

The nucleus of this band is Roulette Sisters lead guitarist Meg Reichardt, who sings and plays banjo ukelele here along with her sparring partner (or, better put, dance partner) Kurt Hoffman, former leader of rustic New York art-rockers the Ordinaires. Accompanied by another Roulette sister, Karen Waltuch on viola along with Garo Yellin on cello, Andy Cotton on upright bass and Frank London adding some balmy trumpet to several of the songs, the band wrings every ounce of subtlety and nuance out of both lyrics and melodies. As in Reichardt’s other band, most of the songs here are about sex: “les chauds lapins” translates roughly to “the horny bastards.” With their breathy yet restrained deliveries, Reichardt and Hoffman are the perfect combination to sing this stuff.

French songwriters have always been held to a higher standard than their American Tin Pan Alley counterparts: from Charles Trenet (many of whose songs Les Chauds Lapins cover here) to Didier Barbelivien, they’ve virtually always been much more artisanal. Double entendres, historical and mythological references, social commentary and great wit abound in a vastly higher proportion of the French top 40 than what Americans have been subjected to over the last century. Les Chauds Lapins revel in this: Reichardt and Hoffman articulate the lyrics to these songs with exceptional clarity, so that any French-speaking person can understand them (in case this might seem a sine qua non, try making sense of French hip-hop if you aren’t up on the latest argot).

There are thirteen lucky tracks on this album, and you might well get lucky if you use them the right way, i.e. late at night with someone you’re looking to se coucher avec. The Edith Piaf hit J’ai Danse Avec l’Amour (I Danced with Love), the coy Il M’a Vu Nue (He Saw Me Naked), the rueful Swing Troubadour (written as anyone who could afford to flee Paris had already fled, days ahead of the Nazi invasion) and the album’s sly, seductive title track are all performed with wit, charm and a barely restrained delight: it’s obvious that this band had a great time making the album. Fans of this obscure (stateside, anyway) subgenre will not be disappointed and newcomers will be completely seduced. You don’t have to speak French, but it helps. Quel plaisir to see such good musicians resurrecting such deserving songs. Terrific album: five baguettes with fresh camembert, tomato and a bottle of beaujolais nouveau.

As a bonus, the album is also available on vinyl, complete with lyric sheet and ukelele chord charts for the album’s fifth track, Mon Reve C’Etait Vous! Albums are available online and at shows, check the website for info. - Lucid Culture, Sept 2, 2007


"Parlez-moi d'amour" LP and CD release on Hot Rabbit Records with libretto. The band's second album is scheduled for release in Summer 2009.



From the murky depths of New York’s cultural ferment, Les Chauds Lapins rise stately into view. In their hands, small devices — banjo ukuleles, that curious half breed which combines the banjo snap of early jazz with the sultry sea breeze of the ukulele. On their lips, cryptic incantations from an alternate reality — for it is the heart of the French music hall which pulses within collaborators Kurt Hoffman and Meg Reichardt.

Les Chauds Lapins present French songs of the '20s – '40s, an epoch when American jazz and swing was being absorbed into the witty, passionate, highly melodic tradition of French popular music. Their repetoire includes numbers popularized by the likes of Mistinguett, Lucienne Boyer, Edith Piaf, and in particular features suave, swing-tinged gems from the enchanted catalog of songs by the great, late Charles Trenet.

Les Chauds Lapins means literally, ‘the hot rabbits.’ Figuratively it means someone who is always turned on sexually. Usually, it refers to the guys who are always hitting on girls. This music will cause you to recklessly try your luck.