“French people are weird!”
When most people quit bands on the verge of success, they do a load of drugs from the royalties and then fade into obscurity. When Nicolas Fromageau left French electro-shoegaze heroes M83 though, he was only set on pursuing one of these.
“After I left in 2004, I was in a few other bands just for fun…and I did drugs!” he laughs, making a syringe motion as we meet in a south London pub’s beer garden. “Since then I’ve been working on Team Ghost.”
Fromageau has succeeded in piecing together a new band – featuring himself on just about everything, Christophe Guérin on guitar and various instruments, Felix Delacroix on live drums and Pierre Blanc on live bass – that, together with manager/producer Jean-Philippe Talaga, could be set to eclipse his M83 bandmate’s work.
Taking a darker, more angular direction, the band’s debut EP, ‘You Never Did Anything Wrong To Me’, released on London’s Sonic Cathedral, is a masterpiece that’s almost the dark, depraved flipside to Anthony Gonzalez’s acclaimed and blissfully airy ‘Saturdays = Youth’.
“Maybe a few songs sound like they’re off M83’s ‘Dead Cities…’ album,” wonders Fromageau “but I wanted to go somewhere else because for the last six years I’ve been listening to many coldwave bands and I wanted to sound like that.”
Ah, coldwave: the European version of the dry, synthesised early ‘80s sound pioneered by bands like Joy Division and Cabaret Voltaire. Mixed with churning shoegaze guitars, Team Ghost have created a gloomy but gleaming vision of style – forgive the French connection – like Air if they listened to more of The Cure and less Serge Gainsbourg. The imagery is ‘hip’, urban (in the true sense of the word) and bohemian, but also resigned. “All my friends are disillusioned” goes ‘A Glorious Time’, while on ‘Colors In Time’ Nicolas intones, “Last night I lost myself”.
“The title of the EP could be something cool, or very bad,” explains Fromageau. “You can say that when you’re angry, or you can say that when you’re in love. Most of the time the lyrics do not mean anything, most of the time I write the lyrics and I understand them maybe weeks after, ‘Ah, I was talking about that’.”
So what music are you guys influenced by?
“Judas Priest,” says Fromageau, with bandmate Christophe adding, “Twisted Sister, Queen…”
“No,” laughs the frontman – although more of those guilty pleasures later. “Seriously, I’d say Sonic Youth, Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, maybe the early Cure, Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Can, Ash Ra Tempel. I don’t like the word coldwave, but stuff like Joy Division, Bauhaus, maybe some gothic stuff like Siouxsie And The Banshees, or the first Christian Death LP.”
We have to admit we don’t know that band, but Fromageau is happy to describe them to us.
“The songs are about sucking the cock of Jesus Christ, it’s very cool. I like it!”
Film is also a massive influence for Fromageau. ‘You Never Did Anything Wrong To Me’’s two sides are named ‘Nastassja Kinski side’ and ‘Lou Reed side’ for a start.
“Yeah, film is a big influence. Especially porn! No, no. I really like it when it sounds like the landscapes and you can imagine a place.”
We all know the truth is often said in jest; judging by his band’s X-rated EP cover, and their downright filthy new T-shirts, Team Ghost have certainly got sex on the brain.
“I’m not sure it’s that shocking,” says Fromageau of the T-shirt that features two women having oral sex. “It’s our ‘Smell The Glove’! I like it, for me it reminds me of ’80s New York punk-rock bands like Sonic Youth. I think it’s funny. Like Richard Kern, he used to work with Sonic Youth, always shocking scenes.”
Fromageau is clearly the architect of the band. All ideas start with him, and he also appears to do much of the recording. It’s not surprising he has time for all this scheming, as he doesn’t seem to have a day job, unlike the other members.
“Felix studies pigeons,” says Christophe. “Yeah, he takes blood off the pigeons. He counts them.”
“OK, let me talk, guys!” laughs Nicolas.
As well as their producer and manager, who doesn’t tour with the band, we’re missing one member who couldn’t come on tour this time.
“We have a bassist, Pierre, but…he overdosed two years ago!” says Nicolas gleefully.
He’s a teacher,” deadpans Felix “so he can’t come with us every time.”
“We love you Pierre,” Nicolas whispers into my tape recorder. “We’ll never forget you.”
The group then expand on their love for cheesy classic rock – despite their fashionable sound, they actually really are massive fans of Judas Priest, Queen and Dire Straits. A good-natured argument even breaks out between Nicolas (who loves Dire Straits and Chris Rea but hates Queen), Christophe (who loves Queen but hates Chris Rea and Dire Straits) and their Sonic Cathedral label boss Nat (who hates all three).
Let’s hope these influences don’t start to filter into their own music…
After ‘You Never Did Anything Wrong To Me’, the band are planning on releasing a seven-inch, also on Sonic Cathedral, featuring “two rock songs and two real ambient songs”, before making their debut album proper.
“I’m working on the seven-inch right now,” reveals Nicolas. “We have plenty of songs that aren’t finished, plenty of demos. We almost have all the tracks for the album, but I’m gonna take my time.”
The electro and rock glitterati have already taken the band to heart. They recently graced NME’s Radar stage at Brighton’s Great Escape after touring Europe with Crystal Castles due to synth-controller Ethan being a huge fan of early M83.
“We love it in London,” says Nicolas. “In Paris, it’s ok [to play music], but in the rest of France it’s more complicated. The public is a bit colder when you play sometimes – they go like this [claps slowly].”
“We don’t like each other in France, some kind of jealousy,” adds Christophe. “French people are weird!”
So with an ice-cool and artful sound honed, an acclaimed EP out and a string of rapturous European and UK live shows under their belts, everything’s good in the world of Team Ghost right now. Well, nearly everything.
“We had some fish and chips in Brighton at The Great Escape,” says Nicolas gravely. “But never, never again. We’re French people, we’re used to good food, so it’s not too good over in the UK.”
And right now us Brits would struggle to find a new group of shoegazers to contend with Team Ghost’s sex-pest sonics too.
By Tom Pinnock
Originally published in issue 18 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. June 2010