Indietracks interview #14: The Wendy Darlings

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Interview by Andy Hart (fogofideas)

The Wendy Darlings, from France, first gained attention (in the UK) with the anthemic ecstatic ‘Enormous Pop’ (from the ‘We Come with Friendly Purposes’ EP, released on Lostmusic) back in 2009. As a statement of intent it set the band’s stall out rather expertly. A crunching, soaring, sweeping tumult of a song it glimpsed the giddy mischief and glee that would follow… maybe it’s the laugh in Suzy’s voice when she sings or the ramshackle rumbledethump of their music or the way their songs compel even the most fragile wallflower to get on the dancefloor and bust whatever move feels right but The Wendy Darlings are all ACES! Remember fun? The Wendy Darlings have all that and more, plus lust, trouble, desire… don’t take my word for it, be sure to go see ‘em and if you haven’t picked up their LP yet, you should probably take a long hard cold look at yourself. Because you’re not properly dressed without it.

Who are The Wendy Darlings (hardcore line-up/softcore line-up)?
The Wendy Darlings were a trio from the start: Suzy (vocals, guitar), Sylvain (vocals, bass), and Baptiste (drums, a few ooh-oohs here and there). But, they can also be a four or a five-piece (with Zak on guitar, and Bre on backing vocals).

Where are The Wendy Darlings from? How did you all meet?
We all (except Bre, who’s Australian) studied in Clermont-Ferrand, a city in the centre of France. Baptiste and Suzy first had a noisy indie-rock Sonic Youth-like band called Yokotsuno. Jack Lewis (Jeffrey Lewis’s brother) then played in town for a legendary gig, and gave the three WDs an eternal faith in DIY. Suzy started playing the guitar- which she didn’t (and still doesn’t) know how to- Sylvain took up the bass although he was a guitar player, and Baptiste stuck to the drums. When we started playing, Zak was a teenage child prodigy (a kind of local Ben Lee) and would open for us with his ukulele. He gradually integrated into The Wendy Darlings and now plays in nearly every band in town!

What sort of noise do you kids make?
Raunchy noisy garagy punky pop!

This year saw the release of your first LP, ‘The Insufferable Fatigues of Idleness’, on Odd Box records… you toured the UK earlier in the year on it’s release, has it been a good year so far for you?
Well, it has, especially as we didn’t play in 2013 for nearly a whole year! Sylvain was in Australia and our album was on hold for that time (it was recorded a few months before he left), so we were ecstatic to start playing again! Especially as everything that’s ever been good for us musically has always come from the UK. The Odd Box festival in London was fabulous, and all the people who put on shows (in Glasgow, Bristol, Nottingham, Birmingham) for us were incredibly great, we’re so lucky. It was also real fun to get to tour with One Happy Island!

You’ve played Indietracks before (2011, on the outdoor stage), the full hardcore line-up, and I know you’ve attended when you’ve not been on the bill… what does Indietracks mean to you?
First of all, it’s indiepop’s Mecca!! But it’s also one of the greatest festivals around. It’s getting increasingly difficult to attend “big” festivals, because sponsors are everywhere, so are NME wannabe bands, it’s all too professional and serious. What’s great at Indietracks is that you can go without knowing any of the bands and you know you’ll get to discover lots of stuff! People are here for the music and the people, and that’s all that counts.

Who are you looking forward to seeing on this year’s bill?
The Manhattan Love Suicides, MJ Hibbett, Joanna Gruesome, the Chills, our friends from Okinawa Picture Show, our compatriots Watoo Watoo, Dean Wareham, the Just Joans, Withered Hand, the Flatmates, Trust Fund… and all the bands we still haven’t had the chance to discover!!

Any surprise covers planned for this year’s festival? You’ve got a Pastels cover on the LP and I’ve seen you do a storming (and filthy) Headcoatees cover…
Yes, we love playing covers! We’re done quite a few over the years… and we are working on a new one for Indietracks (we’ll be playing it for the first time)!

What other French bands should we be looking out for? Any that might fit on an Indietracks line-up? 
There’s a great band from our town called La Position du Tireur Couché, they sing in French and sound a bit like a cross between Serge Gainsbourg/Brigitte Bardot, Lee Hazlewood/Sinatra. There’s also GREAT stuff in Toulouse, the south of France, like Marie Mathémathique (60s psycho bubble-gum pop), the Existentialists (which sound like the TVPs) and the Space Padlocks (DIY psycho-garage old school power pop). And of course, there’s the superb Pale Spectres, Doggy and Skittle Alley, who already played in the UK!

Finally, there’s a Jonathan Richman connection the band have courtesy of Zak, I think it’s a tale worth repeating… are you able to share that?
Let’s ask Zak himself: “Well I had the honour to open for Jonathan twice with my own solo project on two different tours in France when he came over 2 and 4 years ago. So we met and got sort of acquainted on these occasions. He told me he really liked my songs and guitar playing every time, which was really impressive to me and very nice of him. He was very considerate and gave me his card with his address and phone number on it, invited me to write to him and visit him whenever I could. And that’s what I ended up doing. I traveled to the United States last summer and went to San Francisco, where he lives. I obviously wanted to pay him a visit but I was a bit a shy about phoning him and didn’t know if he would remember me (phone calls and post letters are the only way to contact Jonathan). But I finally got the nerve to give him a phone call and he sounded very glad to hear from me. He invited me for lunch at his house and a week later, after a trip on my own in the countryside, I didn’t have anywhere to sleep, so I phoned him back and he and his wife Nicole were both super nice enough to let me stay with them at their house for two days before I took a plane back to Europe. We talked about a lot of things (mostly about early 20th century French singers, 60s songwriters, The Velvet Underground, flamenco, old and modern world: Jonathan’s main obsessions in life) and it was amazing to be there with them. When I think back about this stay, it was very surrealistic for me but at the same time it seemed totally natural for them in the most modest and beautiful way. So it’s obviously always awesome to spend some times with your hero, especially when you figure out he’s one of the nicest person you’ve ever met. Anyway, we can indeed say there’s a connection between him and the Wendy’s probably because of that little anecdote but also because he’s such a big influence on my guitar noises for the band, and even on the band itself. After all he learned to play guitar with Sterling Morrison, and never recorded anything with Metallica, so I guess he’s still a good example to follow in music and life in general….”