S.F.'s Eux Autres: '60s Pop-Rock with Love to France
Ray Gordon Eux Autres
By J POET
For most of the past 20 years, indie bands pretended the '60s never happened. Today the sounds of the Summer of Love are back in a big way, albeit with a modern spin that will keep old hippies from getting too wistful. San Francisco trio Eux Autres (say ooz-oh-tra) has been playing retro-pop since brother and sister Nicholas and Heather Larimer started performing together in Portland in 2002. (They added drummer Yoshi Nakamoto to the line up in 2008.) Their take on the past includes nods to the usual rockers, surf bands, and girl groups but, as their name implies, they also love French Yé-Yé artists like Jacques Dutronc, Claude François, and Serge Gainsbourg. The doleful Gallic attitude that seeps into the band's lyrics sets them apart from other bands and infuses the tunes on their Sun Is Sunk EP with a decidedly adult outlook. Heather and Nicholas spoke to us just before today's official release of the new mini-album. (Stream it on AOL Spinner and find two new MP3s after the jump.)
You grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. Did you play in bands there, either together or separately?
Nicholas: We hated each other for most of our childhood, so we never played music together. We started Eux Autres when I moved to Portland. I had played in a band for a while in college, but that's about it. I remember dancing to Matthew Wilder's "Break My Stride" in kindergarten and buying my first cassette (A-Ha). It was hearing Superchunk in eighth grade that made music cross the line from something other people do, to something people like me could do.
Heather: Nick made up songs constantly as a kid, a lot of them about GI Joe or He-Man. He pioneered a technique of making his own reverb with his mouth. We started in different bands, although they were relatively the same style. In Eux Autres, we discovered our own sound. I remember my boyfriend at the time hearing an early practice and being surprised by our music; he said it was "weird and cool." I couldn't figure out what he was responding to, because we weren't trying to sound any particular way. It was just how it was coming out, involuntarily.
How did Eux Autres come together and why did you call yourselves Eux Autres?
Nicholas: I started playing guitar when I was about 15, so that's what I brought to practice. Heather's boyfriend at the time had a practice room in the basement with a set of drums, so she started learning to play them.
Heather: We both have flexible jobs. Nick's a freelance designer (He designs all the album covers) and I'm a freelance writer. So, we have day jobs, but they allow us to have music-centric lives.
Nicholas: I was obsessed with '60s French pop. I thought it would be a great to mimic that sound and sing solely in French, even though our knowledge of French was less than conversational. A French name made sense. I knew our lyrics would be rudimentary, and our American accents would be obvious, but that was the idea. A lot of '60s French singers had songs in English that made little sense lyrically. I loved those songs, so it made sense to try it. Our French lyrics always end up kind of weird and not just translations of our English lyrics, which is great, but it was more work than I anticipated, so we sing mostly in English. The name was originally "Les Autres" (The Others). Then someone told us that there was a French band with that name. A friend from Montreal suggested Eux Autres (Quebecois meaning roughly "Them Others"). We thought it looked cool and didn't think about the fact that no one in the States would be able to pronounce it.
There was a bit of a Keith Richards feel to your guitar on your first album, Hell Is Eux Autres, yeah?
Nicholas: Thanks! I don't know that anyone has ever put it that way before. The engineer that recorded that album had a Telecaster that we called the Stones guitar, which we used on a lot of the songs. I'm currently reading Keith's autobiography, so maybe I'll learn some new tricks.
Grab two new Eux Autres songs after the jump.