It should never be assumed that a country tightly connected with a certain music scene/style only is interested in that said style.
A lot of us probably assume that France is currently experiencing a rebound from the Daft Punk days: new electro acts are popping up left and right, and "party" seems to be the underlying theme for anything they create.
However ... in the case of Parisian Hey Hey My My, this is not the case! The name is from Neil Young's "Hey Hey, My My," and that alone should speak volumes concerning the band's aesthetic. Loosely described, they're pop/folk, but influences are all across the board, and technically, the duo is on top of their game: it's rare to hear pop musicians play with this sort of confidence and ability.
I was able to get an interview in with Hey Hey My My, who are currently promoting their debut EP.
(1) Okay, I would like to start this out with a few essential, basic questions. Firstly, where did you get your name, Hey Hey My My? It's cool, yet ambiguous, and a little strange!
We liked the sound these 4 words make together and we like the Neil young song as well. “Hey Hey, My My”, as a song, is quite interesting, you can’t tell if Neil Young is sarcastic or he totally believes in what he sings, the listener can’t really know for sure, we felt connected to that. The song describes how Rock ’n Roll can be vital, a source of great artistic achievement, even a religious thing for some people, and at the same time it can be this kind of harsh and cynical business, totally bullshit.
Also Hey Hey My My is composed of two people, both named Julien (and with similar second names, Gaulier and Garnier) so it fitted quite well. Another thing is that Neil Young plays this song whether in a Folk or in a Rock version and we feel we are not just a “pop/folk” band, we can do some Rock as well. Last but not least, we like Neil Young a lot, so all these reasons made us choose this name.
Oh, and I can think of one last reason: being both French we think it’s quite funny to have chosen this name, so connected to the Anglo-Saxon world, and the English/American mythology of Rock!
(2) France is definitely the "it" place in terms of music scenes right now (from Ed Banger being the big name for us Americans), but you two don't really seem to subscribe to that at all ... so first off, what do you think about the current state of affairs for pop music in France?
Well, well, well, we could write a book about this matter! I don’t know if France is THE place in terms of music scenes, but I can really feel something changing right now.
Concerning Ed Banger, they are quite connected to “French Touch”, the guy at the head of it is Daft Punk manager, his artists pretty much do the same thing Daft Punk did (doing heavy international clubbing, proving they are good DJs for a start), it’s really “club” oriented. So concerning this Parisian electro-house hype type of thing we can see it exists, we like some of it, but we’re definitely not part of it. Air and Daft Punk were really French pioneers but I feel this clubbing scene is a bit too close to what has been done 10 years ago musically speaking.
On the other hand you have this Pop Rock scene in different cities and in Paris especially, it has became more and more interesting for 2 or 3 years. But what you have to understand is that France is not a Pop or Rock country, there is no such thing as pop music. People listen to “chanson française”, French R&B and rap, or they go to clubs to dance. So for a long time some bands have been kind of caught in the middle of this. The scene exists but it’s not yet a real deal for record companies, touring companies, radios … It still is a really indie underground thing in the real meaning of it. French people themselves have always been running after trends coming from in England or the US. So they are the first to be suspicious of their own bands, preferring the real deal to what most of the time used to be an imitation of English or American groups. On the other hand, the fact we’ve been ignored by usual medias allowed some bands to do their music better and better, they have matured. Right now new Rock/pop clubs open in Paris, we have more and more concerts and places to play, and the audience is following as well. It looks like it eventually blossoms at the right time.
(3) And secondly, what compelled you guys to make a band like Hey Hey My My, one which is rather folky and relaxed in nature.
For years we were doing this punk rock band, touring a bit, trying to make it. At the same time we were composing folk songs, each of us or together, but without thinking of it as really a “band”, it was just for us and friends. After some time we realized we had some good stuff and we should get people to hearing it and liking it. But as I wrote before, we don’t feel Hey Hey My My will only be a “folky” thing. We might do some Rock stuff for our next album; it just happened this way but nothing compelling.
(4) Which leads me to a follow up question of sorts: what are the main inspirations for you? What stuff molded your musical tastes and sensibilities?
The Beatles, Rock, good songs. Both of us were listening to Metallica, Nirvana, Rage against the Machine, Led Zeppelin when we were teenagers, and later more indie stuff, The Pixies, Pavement Cat Power Sonic Youth and many more. Basically anything that fell into our hands and showed enough life, energy. We love the fact some songs can be pop, simple, heartening and so well crafted they really are Art and “accessible” to everybody. Like “A day in a life” or other songs from The Beatles for instance. When I was 10/11 years old; I would just listened to it, loving it, not knowing it was made 30 years ago, I didn’t care if it was “avant-garde” or not at that time. Later I discovered what amount of work and what artistic achievement it meant. That’s what I like in music. Whether it is Johnny Cash, The Arcade Fire or Deerhoof …
(5) What's your musical background? To me, it sounds like both of you have quite a bit of traditional musical training under your belts: you play the guitar with chops and confidence, you sing with tight harmonies, always on key, and you drum with a casual tightness that does not come easy!
Mhhh, that’s funny, I didn’t know anyone could hear that in our songs. Thank a lot for theses compliments!!
You are right actually, I did piano from 7 to 14 years old. My parents always listened to classical music (anything beyond Ravel is like hard rock for my father), we would sing at church when I was a kid. But I stopped doing music for quite some time and then started playing guitar at the age of 21/22. The other Julien played classical guitar during his teens (1 or 2 years) then switched to THE ELECTRIC (yeeehaaaaaaa!). Our drummer Michel Aubinais is a member of British Hawaii; he’s one of the best drummers we’ve ever met so we were quite lucky to have him on board!! That explains for the tightness I guess.
Labels: Folk, France, International, Interview, Pop