Band of the Day

2012.05.24

Nous Non Plus

A faux-French band with an authentically infectious rock sound
I didn’t know who you were, will I see you again? Who knows, perhaps next summer?
lyrics from The Summer Song (translated)

Though the name is French, Nous Non Plus (which means “Us No More”) is an American band from New York City. The group is faux-French, singing almost entirely in French and adopting French pseudonyms. Nous Non Plus originally emerged from Les Sans Culottes, another NYC based faux-French band. The band voted out Clermont Ferrand, who contested his former bandmates ability to continue on with the name Les Sans Culottes. Being a lawyer, Ferrand represented himself and was able to keep the name as his former bandmates did not have the funds for legal fees to contest him. Led by Céline Dijon and Jean-Luc Retard, Nous Non Plus released their first self-titled debut with the new lineup in 2005 on Aeronaut Records. The band soon gained acclaim for their tight sound and highly entertaining live show. They followed up with 2009's Menagerie and 2011's Freudian Slip, all released on Aeronaut.

You'd have no idea if someone played their music for you without any context, but Nous Non Plus is a faux French band. That is to say, the majority of the New York band isn't French. Bassist Jean-Luc Retard is also known as Dan Crane, or Björn Türoque (to-RAWK) during his days as a competitive air guitarist. Their website lists his interests as “wine, women and song—not necessarily in that order.” The band's only actual French member goes by the nom de plume Celine Dijon. Plenty of American bands have sung with English accents over the years, successful bands from all over the world sing in English, are they fake? Well, most bands aren't quite this tongue in cheek. Nous Non Plus' website is entirely in French, they speak in horrible French accents in interviews with clear joie de vivre, and revel in French stereotypes. None of this would matter of course if the music didn't hold up to beyond novelty. In classic French fashion Nous Non Plus' music is sleek and breezy; splitting the difference between tunes for a leisurely cafe and rock clubs. They're grounded in 60s French pop (they began as a cover band playing cuts from legends like Serge Gainsbourg), but incorporate rock and current Parisian touches like fat bass lines and dance-y synths. Their latest release, 2011's Freudian Slip, continues the fun though it's not pure novelty or levity. Lead off track “J'en Ai Marre” is essentially power pop, dominated by pounding snares, festive claps and energetic guitar. When they get to the chorus with Dijon's gleeful “yeah yeah yeahs” it's more nostalgic for 90s power pop bands than France. “Bunga Bunga” is voluptuous synth-pop that sounds more like Yelle or La Roux (who's British for the record) and is well executed despite its break from the band's usual rock influences. The song consists of a gurglingly rhythmic synth as Dijon names various cities then half-sing/half-shouts “on fait le Bunga Bunga,” a term that has come to be associated with former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's infamous sex parties. At other points on the album, like “Pas La Peine,” they delve into breezy French pop that's quite pretty, though not as memorable as their more energetic moments. Nous Non Plus may not take themselves very seriously, but the playfulness is mixed with mature songwriting that transcends the schtick.