Getting To Know Frànçois & The Atlas Mountains

With their fourth album Solid Mirage released today, we wanted to get to know indie pop four piece Frànçois & The Atlas Mountains a little better. Their music is upbeat and blissfully rhythmic, picture someone like Mac Demarco reimagining Paul Simon’s Graceland in French and you might get half an idea of what this eclectic group sound like.

We hit mastermind Frànçois Marry with a couple of questions on the differing interpretations of Solid Mirage as well as getting the lowdown on five of his favourite songs.

Your music is so bright and layered, there’s grungy elements but overall it  sounds lighthearted and happy. A non-French speaker would have no idea that the songs are so pointed and political, while French speakers might be taken aback by it – I know it takes me a minute to realise when this happens in an English song.

I’m interested in the decision behind that juxtaposition – why do you feel that is more effective than, say, releasing a darker sounding album that reflects the lyrics? Do you consider how a non-French speaking audience will interpret the album so differently? It’s almost like there’s two entirely separate ways for someone to perceive the one album.

That’s a very good remark. My first intention is to create an overall musical emotion. Many French listeners have told me they don’t understand or pay attention to the words on a first listen either, which is exactly what I intend to do. I just want those sounds to be a surrounding juice BUT I do care about the content of the lyrics. I write carefully.
I just want the underlying meanings in the words to be a hidden treasure.
Some listeners will feel attracted by the glow of some phosphorescent words. They can get closer, unveil a new meaning by focusing their hearing on the lyrics. It’s almost a reward for the cautious listeners.
Serge Gainsbourg once said he counter-balances sad or bitter lyrics with a happy melody and vice-versa. I follow that rule sometimes, to get the best contrast between intellectual and sensitive tone. I always do it instinctively and in a playful way. It lifts off the weight from being too one-sided.
Also I want to make it clear I am not being sarcastic towards the non-french speaking listeners. On the contrary I think there’s enough energy in the songs to find the right wave-length beyond the language barrier.
1. Serge Gainsbourg – Bad News From The Stars
This track is just a chorus sang over and over but it reveals the musicality of Gainsbourg. Serge brought a lot of groove to French singing.

2. Dominique A – Ses yeux brulent

He is my favourite singer. A very strong influence on my work, I can’t deny it. He found his own tone, somewhere between French Ye Ye and Bill Callahan. He found a way to make lo-fi production sound important despite their fragility.

3. Christophe – Les paradis perdus

This song mentions a French singer being lost in London underground caves playing weird rock music. It is the perfect evocation of the musical dreams I had when I moved to the UK in 2003 to get immersed in the music scene. The arrangement is so minimal!

4. Gerard Manset – Vivent les Hommes

A cult album made in the 70s, it’s a poetic reflection on humanity taken from the perspective of an imaginary civilisation. I find new meanings every time I hear it.

5. Pierre Barouh – A l’ombre de nous

I got introduced to this soundtrack by my UK friends from the Bristol underground band Crescent. It’s a great example how they felt that this album was honest even though they couldn’t understand the words.

Solid Mirage is out today via Domino

Image: Nos Enchanteurs