An interview with French indie rockers Stuck in the Sound at Dour

More festival frolics from last weekend’s Dour with French indie rockers Stuck in the Sound, who celebrate their 10th anniversary this year. After four albums (the most recent one being 2011’s ‘Pursuit’) and countless live shows, this Paris-based four-piece has become somewhat of an institution on the French rock scene. We sat down with thirty-somethings José Reis Fontao, Emmanuel Barichasse, Arno Bordas and François Ernie to chat about their very first festival, 90s rock inspirations and their do-it-yourself attitude.

How’s your Dour experience been so far?

Muddy!! And really rainy. But seriously, we arrived and were a bit shocked about the mud everywhere. But in the end it was really great! We really enjoyed our gig. We’ve already played here once, in 2009. Last time we had the chance to come in a tour bus and stuff, but this time not. So we have to endure the same things as all the festivalgoers!

Are you playing a lot of festivals this summer?

Yes. We’re playing around 15 in France, including really big ones as Rock en Seine. Dour is our only stop in Belgium though. But we played in the Ancienne Belgique a few months ago, that was cool too. It’s a great venue.

What has been your best festival experience ever?

I think the best for us was the Eurockéennes in Belfort. That’s a festival where we had already gone as normal festivalgoers… We spent quite some time at a stage on a beach at a lake and the sun was going down, it was beautiful. We were thinking it would be so cool to play there one day and then it actually happened. It was amazing. We’ve done loads of festivals since, but this one was just really symbolic for us. Our first festival in Paris, Rock en Seine, was also quite symbolic. It was in 2005 and our first festival ever. We arrived with a tiny Renault Espace that we borrowed from our singer’s parents and parked between the huge tour busses of Queens of the Stone Age and The Pixies, Foo Fighters, Franz Ferdinand, …that was funny.

You’re a French band but you’ve always sing in English. Many French bands get told they should at least do a few songs in French because they’d be more successful. How is your experience?

For us, it was never really an option to sing in French. We’ve always listened to English music, be it 90s rock or the music of the 60s and 70s. All our inspirations are linked to the English language. For us it felt completely natural to sing in English. We were lucky that we started at a moment when quite a few French bands singing in English managed to get signed. It’s true that there’s the quota in France that promotes French-language music, but we’ve managed fine so far. Actually, now in rock and pop (for other styles it’s different) singing in French has become a specific genre. Also, we are the producers of our own albums, so no one tells us anything. We are very do-it-yourself. For example, we built our own studio two years ago in Paris to record our last album. We did everything ourselves, from electricity to the floor. We work with labels to distribute our records, but we give them the finished product.

You said you are inspired by English and American groups. Which ones?

Well, we are in our 30s now, so it’s of course bands like Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against the Machine,…We were 15 years old in the 90s and it was then when we got into music, especially rock music. It was them who motivated us to start making music. Besides this common ground we have all our personal tastes, some are more pop, other prefer metal or punk rock. Nowadays we really listen to everything out there.

Are you working on anything new at the moment?

Right now we are touring a lot so we don’t really have much time. But we’ve already started composing a few things.

So being on the road doesn’t really inspire you?

A little bit, but we work best in our studio, the four of us together. Seeing all these bands at the festivals is very inspiring and interesting, though.

Have you discovered any exciting bands?

Two weeks ago we saw Kurt Vile who’s also here at Dour. He was very good. We also played a few times with Metronomy who really know how to blend mainstream and indie sounds together. The Bots are something too, they are so young! These two little boys did a great show, just like the big ones. Crazy.

So the new songs you’re working on – which direction are they going?

It’s very hard to say because we’re at the very beginning. I think it’s going to be a bit like the last album: there’s not one direction but many. With our latest record we wanted to get the message out that Stuck in the Sound is a band that could take lots of different paths.

What about those who criticise you for not knowing what you want and not having your own sound?

But that’s the thing: many people tell us they can always recognise our sound, and that’s the best compliment ever. It’s very important to us to have our own special sound and it’s something we really pay attention to.