Not just any boy/girl glitch metal duo, but the original

Photography by Tim Cochrane

Not just any boy/girl glitch metal duo, but the original

In the genteel streets of West London, Kap Bambino are standing out from the crowd and this time it’s not for their musical talents, but for Caroline’s (Martial, vocals) tangerine coloured hair and Orion’s (Bouvier, noise-meddling) handlebar moustache. Amid the middle-aged well-to-dos, the French pair are drenched in a wealth of youth and style. Caroline buttons her fraying denim jacket to her chin, a trace of silky scarf protruding from the collar, and buries her hair beneath a railroad engineer’s hat. Meanwhile Orion sits at the rickety wooden table in silence, dressed head to toe in black.

Despite getting together in 2001, Kap Bambino have been sheltering under the radar, so you may be surprised to know that they are on the verge of releasing their third album, ‘Blacklist’. It’s a computerised concoction of Nintendo sound-effects backing harmless prattlings about lizard documentaries and mischievous games. And if you can make out the lyrics through all of the synthetic fuzz and elechno-punk grit you’ll notice that they’re scattered and almost nonsensical. But when you see the couple guessing and miming their way through a conversation you’ll understand why and you’ll be unwittingly enchanted by their presence. These Gallic grungers may not have their English down a tee, but they certainly know how to please a crowd. Sometimes a little too much, we realise, when Caroline explains that their debut in America went down‚”well, not so much a storm, but more a level five tornado.

“The worst was in Long Beach, California. It was an all-ages party and when we started to play there was a stage invasion but the security guys were really scared and they started to taser the kids. We were so shocked that Orion said, ‘We’re stopping playing!’ It was a big mess, we tried to save the kids from the crowd and the police wanted to arrest me. And this was just the second date from our first time in the US. Welcome to the US!”

When Caroline and Orion tried their cheesy chat-up lines on each other eight years ago they had no idea that it would develop into the kind of relationship desired by many. They immediately started up an independent label together called WWILKO and Orion began releasing solo Kap Bambino material through that. It wasn’t until a few years later that Caroline plucked up the courage to ask Orion if she could sing over his tracks and they became the kind of couple who can spend every waking minute together without dismay. Of course, Orion took a little persuading. “I was embarrassed,” Caroline blushes. “I just wanted to try something but he said, ‘No, I don’t think it’s cool if you come to sing on my music’. It was like, ‘We live together; if we do music together maybe we’re going to divorce in two months’. But after one track he said, ‘Ok, let’s do it!’ Now we run the label, we do Kap Bambino, we are couple – we do everything together.” She chuckles light-heartedly before taking a drag on the cigarette drooping between her fingers.

Kap Bambino’s sound is a manifestation of a childhood full of heavy metal and grunge pop, and the need to escape from the “boring” city of Toulouse and shake things up a bit. “We decided really quickly to create something because we had a big motive to do something different in the South of France, and we decided to raaarrr‚”,” Caroline roars like a tiny dinosaur as she mimics shaking somebody by the lapels.

Over the years it has progressed into something slicker, but they haven’t left their underground roots behind, and they refuse to record anywhere but their bedroom. “We do everything at home,” Caroline assures us. “We need to be in that environment, with plastic dinosaurs, zombie posters, full ashtray‚”” She trails off into laughter as she tries to tell us that ‘Blacklist’ took a maximum of three months to write and record because when they’re at home Orion can write up to three tracks a day, although, that’s not without a little helpful input from Caroline. “When I start a track she says, ‘It’s ok’ or ‘It’s not ok’ or ‘I like this part, I don’t like this part’,” explains Orion, breaking the vow of silence he seems to have been holding.

“Of course [our sound] is different because we try to push the limit every time,” says Caroline. “We have tried more melody this time and a lot of synths and we have changed the effect on the voice because we have used a crap effect for a long time.”

“The voice is more clear now,” utters Orion before Caroline jumps in again, letting her English slip in the excitement and agreeing in French. “Oui! Not sure it’s more good, but it’s more clear,” she grins.

In terms of influences for this album, the two of them try to convince us that nothing was drawn from music. “It’s more things about life,” Caroline clarifies. “It’s not a direct influence. We put everything in,” confirms Orion. A good example would be track nine, ‘Human Pills’, which – regardless of the muffled lyrics about suffocation – is not about topping yourself. “It is really stupid lyrics,” exclaims Caroline. “It’s about when we get really drunk and fucked up with friends at home and we have a stupid game – the concept is to jump on the sofa – one jumps on, and two and three and four and five‚”” She emulates everyone leaping off the edge with her fingers, “and we are like human pills and the last one is suffocated under everybody.”

To ensure that we don’t assume the entire album is this playful, Caroline describes one of their more serious songs, ‘Blue Screen’. “It isn’t serious like, ‘Ooohhh, nooo’,” she croons as she imitates Tony Bennett. “I write like a teenager, it’s really spontaneous. I think people live behind a blue screen – everybody has a Blackberry or a computer and we stop communicating. It’s just a scream from me to say we need to maybe send postcard or continue to write. Like when people stop being with somebody and break up through messages. It’s‚”argh, it’s crazy time.”

‘Blacklist’ is the first record that Kap Bambino aren’t going to release on their own label, but why are they making the leap now?

“We have produced Kap Bambino for five years and now we decided to sign for more things, to have a new playground,” Caroline says to help shed some light on the subject. “We do everything by ourselves – cover artwork, pressing vinyl – everything we do. We just have to do real mastering for the first time, but that’s it. They [Because Music] decided to sign us, but we decided together to keep Kap Bambino like this because if we try to change that doesn’t work. It’s the identity and we come from underground – if we start to say something different we are a liar or poser and it’s artificial.”

It has been a year since the band has released a single, but last month they made ‘Red Sign’ and ‘Acid Eyes’ available as a double A-side, even though this is usually something that comes with new-band territory. “It was our decision,” explains Caroline. “It’s a double A-side because we could not choose. We think ‘Red Sign’ and ‘Acid Eyes’ are two tracks completely opposite on ‘Blacklist’ and it was a good example of what we have created. Some things are more melody, more anthems, more pop on ‘Acid Eyes’ and some things are unusual on ‘Red Sign’ but more crap. It was just an example of the extremity of Kap Bambino.”

By this point you’ve probably realised that Kap Bambino are a boy-girl electro band and the words ‘Crystal’ and ‘Castles’ may spring to mind, but dampen those thoughts because these guys are sick of hearing it. However, you wouldn’t hear them mention it because they’re too polite for that, it’s their bodies that say it all. Their shoulders tighten and their faces tense for a split second before they discuss the matter and Caroline releases a siren-esque whoop before spilling her feelings. “We don’t care. We can’t fight with this, it’s already out there,” she sighs. “They win because they are so famous. We can try to explain at every chance: ‘We was first’, but we just want people to hear the difference when they see us live and hear the record because if you listen of course we are so different. They are more‚”not cheesy, but more down-tempo.”

“More easy maybe? Easy?” Grins Orion cheekily questions.

“Yeah‚” maybe more easy,” Caroline replies warily, a guilty smile forming in the corners of her rose red lips. “But we don’t want to say bad things about them because they are so cool. It’s just a big problem for us because we come from the underground [scene].

“It’s for the popular people – they get involved with the first duet of electro, with this band, and now we arrive in the light – we are so tiny,” she says while stretching her fingers to form an inch and squinting at it. “And people say, ‘Oh yeah, this is like Crystal Castles’, and we say, ‘Noooo’. But if that helps you to understand, why not? I’d prefer they say Suicide, but good people know the difference.”

You can judge for yourselves next month when the band comes over to launch ‘Blacklist’, and hopefully there won’t be any tasering. “We don’t control this,” Caroline states boldly. “It’s the fusion of my energy and the music on stage. People for us have the same attitude for a punk or rock band – they start crowd surfing, or slamming or they push and it’s totally what we want because we don’t come from techno – we come from rock and roll. We aren’t into the electro thing because electro don’t understand Kap Bambino, but rock and roll don’t understand Kap Bambino – we are completely on the blade and it is good for us. Sometimes it’s dangerous but it’s like the danger of every rock band that ever played.”

As well as astonishing the Yanks, signing to Because Music to put out record number three and starring in Matt Irwin’s short film for Armani Exchange amongst numerous New York and London models, Kap Bambino have also spent the past year busily rounding up a cult following that has resulted in some rather odd and terrifying gifts. Because fans have cottoned onto the fact that Caroline and Orion run WWILKO, they realise that if they post presents to the label address, the band will inevitably receive it. Of course, they get pleasant oddities such as “a little ET, dog stickers – poopy stickers,” giggles Caroline. But occasionally they get eerie gifts. “We were sent some teeth,” says Orion, wide-eyed. Not even a note? “No, nothing,” they respond in unison. “Just the teeth,” continues Caroline. “We were completely shocked. ‘What can we do with these fucking teeth?’ This I put in the rubbish. Eurgh,” she recoils as she mimes dumping the teeth in the bin – holding the bag by a pinch. Orion explains that it was like a voodoo curse. “We were scared to take the plane for one week after that.” They both laugh at the strange circumstances they’ve been through. There’s never a dull – or quiet for that matter – moment with these two. A consistent aura of joviality hangs around them and you’ll be lucky if you catch a pout forming on either of their faces.

Now that they’re creeping their way into the spotlight, however leisurely, and blinking in the surprising brightness of it all, what can we hope to acquire by submerging ourselves in a Kap Bambino live show or by listening to them on record? Caroline describes it best when she says, “you will share all the years we have been on tour, all the experience we have lived, and all the cigarettes we have smoked.”


Originally published in issue 5 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. April 2009

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