During the winter 2010 edition of the Route du Rock in St Malo, we brought the Fiery Furnaces to a bar in the old town, filmed the Local Natives on a merry-go-round then on a beach at nightfall, finishing over Sunday breakfast with Clara Clara.
The Route du Rock d’Hiver has a very distinct atmosphere. Memories of the wading-in-the-water summer edition seemed very far away…We set out to film without really knowing who we would end up capturing – the festival’s schedule was dense. The XX were at the top of our list, but we heard about the sad cancellation of their tour shortly after arriving. Too bad. Another group rose to the top of our list – the Fiery Furnaces, surprisingly absent from the history of the Take Away Shows.
We arrived at l’Omnibus, a big venue in an industrial area far from the picturesque centre of the town where we had imagined filming. A little disconcerted, we saw Eleanor, the Fiery Furnaces’ lead singer. It was quickly determined that we would meet the band at their hotel after the concert. Eleanor explained that for the filming they would work as a duo on style exercise, vocals backed by an acoustic guitar.
Acoustic guitar? Ah, yes, we’d have to find one here! We searched everywhere for an instrument to borrow, passed the word around, alerted the Internet. In vain. The only one we could find had but three strings. Thanks, but…we’d have to take a different approach.
We finally had a bit of luck when we entered what we believed to be a simple pub and discovered an astonishing venue. The owner was adorable and on the second floor we found a table and chairs built into the parquet that afforded a view of the downstairs. The Fiery Furnaces made themselves comfortable, first beers were poured and the instruments came out. Although we had expected a calm, minimalist musical configuration, out came the cavalry. The bassist and the drummer played along, organising pint glasses to create glass percussion. The guitar was plugged in. The Take Away Show took on a completely different form than what we had imagined.
We had been interested in the Local Natives for quite some time, these Los Angeles residents whose Gorilla Manor is one of the best albums yet this year. Listening to their album after getting up on this grey Saturday morning made us forget the long night of editing the Fiery Furnaces video. Their music is permeated with an almost childish enthusiasm, a simple pleasure that we were curious to hear rearranged acoustically.
We knew they were enthusiastic before we even met them. As proof, their Saturday Twitter update announced: “filming for La Blogotheque in St. Malo today… psyched out of my mind for our take away shows !” More than just enthusiastic, they arrived full of ideas, desires, and kindness; their enthusiasm was hard to keep in check. We wanted to bring them to the fun fair near the docks. There, they ran excitedly from ride to ride. We barely had time to ask the operator for permission before they climbed onto the haunted house ride! All this in a cacophony of sounds, cries, background music and the smell of cotton candy. The scene was a little incompatible with the idea of playing music…moving away from the madness, we found a quieter area. “Merry-go-round!” the Local Natives exclaimed to each other. The children on the ride found themselves in the company of the band, who quickly commandeered airplanes and horses to harmonise in concert.
It was the beginning of a marvellous session, which continued on the beach through a light rainfall and a chilling cold. To warm up, we found a bar in the centre of town, welcoming as always.
François Virot’s new project had filled the venue and kept us dancing at l’Omnibus until 2 am; we had arranged to meet them in a café at 11 am. Safe to say that we questioned what state they would be in when they arrived, but once everyone had finished a few espressos impatience set in. The café seemed perfect, over-decorated with dolls on the walls and posters on the ceiling. Even better, it had a piano that seemed to be tuned. All that remained was for Clara Clara to adapt their repertoire to an acoustic format.
This in itself involved a risk which would have worried other musicians, but François was familiar with the exercise, and rightly so. The energy was there; the musicians adapted to their new conditions: Amélie worked her piano, François warmed up his voice, and Charles tweaked his mini bass amp.
The café was reminiscent of the pubs we’d previously visited. The uncertain morning light replaced the neon of the bars. We were surrounded by a new audience with newspapers in hand, and children who toyed with the instruments left lying around. As the bells chimed for mass, Clara Clara played, sounding more pop than ever.
Translated by Tara Dominguez