Written by: Andrea Janov, CC2K Music Editor
Man, these guys in French Exit are awesome. You know people who are just so genuinely nice that you want good things to happen for them, well that is how I feel about these guys. Also, they kinda deserve those good things because their music is pretty solid.
Guts & Black Stuff is French Exit’s first full length and it is full of energy and attitude. Though each of these tracks has its own varied voice, this album as a whole has a shit ton of attitude. The vocals, the guitars, the drums all have a very specific, very prominent voice in each track.
Confessions Out Of Context is slow and heavy with great gruff vocals. Impossible has a stripped down section where each instrument and the vocals have slow and naked and it creates a super awesome vibe. The slow vocals, sing song-y “whoa”s, gravelly screams, and hooky chorus shouldn’t work together at all, yet it sounds so damned good. When There’s A Fork In The Road takes on a Weezer-esq vibe. DKE is straight forward punk rock with rough, gravely vocals and great feedback. Statecheck is slow, stripped and raw – very different than the rest of the album. It is the ballad…or the closest that punk really gets to a ballad. Can’t Win, Don’t Try is thrashy and metaly and aggressive, simply fucking awesome. Guts & Black Stuff ends with Backspace a track that is somehow slow, heavy, and catchy. Yeah, it all works together, you will be singing along and thrashing in the pit to this one. Awesome way to end the album.
Though individual songs on this album has their own merits, it is the fact that French Exit are not afraid to play around with sounds or styles they are experimenting and exploring their own sound.
So, before I said that these dudes were super nice guys, and I really mean it. I didn’t just get an generic press release and an album download. Nope, I got some emails and a chance to ask the band a few questions about punk rock, their writing process, and of course, themselves.
First off, thanks so much for agreeing to do this interview. Let’s start off with introductions, who are you guys and what is your role in the band?
Anthony – Guitar/Vocals, Bobb – Guitar/Vocals, Duke – Drums, Tim, Bass/Vocals
How long have you been together?
This past November makes it four years.
Why make music with these people?
The strengths and weakness we have balance each other out. And we have become really good friends, and everything is more enjoyable when you do it with friends, right?
Why are you doing this whole playing music thing, why punk rock?
It is very fulfilling to express one’s self creatively. Music, like all art, can help you process and deal with good and bad parts of your life; punk rock showed us how to do that on an individual level and what introduced us to each other.
As a writer, I am always curious about a band’s writing process. The lyrics on Guts & Black Stuff are poignant and identifiable and real. I really connected with them immediately. They are very cohesive moments of strength within heartbreak. Is there a primary song writer or lyricist? Is it a collaborative effort?
Tim and Bobb are the primary songwriters and anthony writes a lot of lyrics – sometimes numerous verses that go unused – and whoever’s singing will edit everything that exists into something cohesive that also sings well.
Speaking of poignancy, how does your song writing process work? The lyrics and the music really play off one another to make the other more powerful. Does one element usually come before the other?
The music comes before the lyrics. Most of the time the song is presented to the band with the basic structure, chords, and melody, in place. Then together it is added to tweaked, and adjusted as needed. Some songs have lyrical themes already attached to them when Bobb or Tim introduces them. Sometimes it is a whole chorus, sometimes a line or a repeated word. Most of the time the lyrics will be written by one person, and then edited by who is singing to fit their phrasing or personal idea preference.
Throughout Guts & Black stuff you play with a lot of different sounds and elements of different punk genre, sub-genres, or closely related genres. There are elements of metal, punk, rock, indie, emo all combined in really interesting ways. First, are you influenced by a wide variety of bands and styles? And was the varied sound something you consciously explored or was it something that manifested itself naturally?
The spectrum of music we listen to is very wide. And that influences us all in different ways. The sound is a healthy mixture conscious decisions, natural expression and four people writing together.
Was Guts & Black Stuff conceived to have a distinct flow and order or was it simply as a collection of songs?
Some of the songs on the record or much older than others. But we knew that they fit together in a certain way. There was about a week of us exchanging multiple ideas on the order and then we got together one night at Tim’s house and listened to a few different orders till we found the right one. We wanted the whole album to flow. And if you listen to it on vinyl, each side of the record has a flow as well.
Do you have a favorite track on Guts & Black Stuff? (And if you do, why is it your favorite?)
Can’t Win. Don’t Try. is one of our favorites to play live lately.
And for the fun questions….
Dream line up for a show that you are playing?
Anthony – with a time machine: the Guns N Roses / Metallica show in Montreal in 92 that turned into a riot after James Hetfield got burned and Axl left the stage mid set, because that would be crazy. Or Hot Water Music, Jets to Brazil and our friends Horror Squad.
As a fan, what is the best show you have been to?
Tim – years ago it was The Gadjits, at the empty bottle in Chicago. I just saw Todd Hembrook and the hemispheres over Christmas and that was the best show I went to all 2013. I’ll never forget seeing Prince.
First album/tape/cd you ever owned?
Bobb – the Space Jam soundtrack
Tim – first 7″ was Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust, first tape was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles soundtrack, first cd was Bush’s Sixteen Stone.
Worst job you ever had?
Tim – customer service in men’s clothing at a department store. I’ve waited tables and painted houses and that was the worst thing ever.
Anthony – I worked at Papa John’s for 3 days.
Describe the band in 5 words.
Bobb – rocking and fucking rolling. yeah.
Tim – we love playing together. cats.