Thanks so much to Fabien Garcia for this interview about the beloved French band Caramel who released on Marsh-Marigold, Harriet and Aquavinyle! Here we talk about Caramel, the Limoges Popfest that he organizes and sheep testicles with garlic and parsley. Great interview! Hope you enjoy You can check more songs of them on their myspace here.
++ Hi Fabien! How are you doing? I hear you are already planning the next Limoges Popfest for 2011! Anything you can reveal about it yet?
Hi Roque ! Yes, we (the « Anorak Team ») are already thinking and working on our next Limoges Popfest. The second one, in last month of July was so cool, welcoming and enjoying bands like Northern Portrait or The Electric Pop Group, that we want the next one to be great too ! It should happen the second weekend of July 2011. What can we reveal about it ? At the moment, we’re thinking about which bands we would like to welcome. Some of them could possibly come, others not… Anyway, one band is sure for the moment to come and play here : Peru, from Bristol. We met Brian at the last Big Pink Cake Weekender in Bristol. He’s a very kind guy and he automatically answered « Yes! » when we asked him if he would like to come and play here in France for our Popfest.
++ You know the other day I was looking at the photos of the 2010 edition of the festival, and saw that grill with lots of meat, looked so tasty!! I thought: “that is a proper indiepop festival! Not just silly tofu but proper food for the crowd. How can people expect to party with a weak stomach? We need some proper food! French people do know how to eat.” What other highlights did you have from this year’s edition?
« How can people expect to party with a weak stomach? We need some proper food! ». That’s what we believe. And we don’t want people to starve if we want them to party during all the night. Well, we always wanted to organize the popfest in a very friendly way. People pay 15 euros and that’s all. Then, everything is free during all the weekend : the food, the drinks, the concerts, the fun. Cos’ yes, fun, fun, fun, that’s what we want. We want people to feel good. So there’s good food, as specialties from our region that people can discover, good drinks, as some beers from our region (yes, here we have great beers ! Hé hé), and good concerts. What can people expect more from a Popfest ?
The highlights from the 2010 edition of the festival ? First of all the Northern Portrait concert which was absolutely fantastic. One of the best concert I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen many. Then, The Electric Pop Group gig which was also excellent. Then, all the people dancing behind the two bands. I also remember how much the guys from Northern Portrait and The Electric Pop Group are really kind people. It was great to meet them. The French Defence concert, which came from England and is an Anorak Records’ band, was also a great moment. And finally, I must note the concert from my own band, Pale Blue Eyes which was a good moment. So my girlfriend, who doesn’t like indiepop, came to me and said : « I thought your music will be boring but your concert was great. And your songs are really jangly ! ». These were some of the highlights of last Popfest. But there were many others.
++ So yes, as you said, we’ve done an interview before, one about Anorak Records, that sadly disappeared when my old blog was hacked. Ah! Shame! But now let’s talk about Caramel, one of the greatest indiepop bands ever born in France. How did it come to be? How did you all get to know each other?
Caramel… Hey, very old memories… This was so long ago. Well, the band started in 1992. First of all, the band consisted of Denis (bass and vocals), Isabelle (vocals and tambourine) and me (guitar). I met Isabelle because at the time she was… my girlfriend. I met Denis one day in a record shop here in Limoges. I was buying a Saint Christopher 7 inch and he was buying a Field Mice 7 inch. Both were Sarah Records ! I told him : « This is a great record and I love the Field Mice ». He replied to me : « I love the Field Mice too and I love Sarah Records ». A friendship was born. We met again and he told me he would like to start a band. We did that. During a few rehearsals, a friend of Denis played drums with us. Then, the guy had to left the town for his studies. So we decided to ask a good friend of mine who knew how to play drums, Stéphane, that I knew when we were in high school, to come and play with us. He said yes. We played in this four people line-up during a few months, and starting to record a demo on a 4-tracks tape. Olivier Roussilhe, from the band Lol (later Verdurin) recorded it for us. We decided to send the demo to some labels we liked, only a few ones first : Sarah Records, Siesta Records and Marsh-Marigold Records. Three days after we sent the tapes, Oliver Goetzl, from Marsh-Marigold Records, phoned to me and asked : « Do you want to release a record through my label ? » We automatically said « Yes! ». He asked then another question : « Do you want to come and play for the Marsh- Marigold Christmas party ? » We replied « Yes ! » too. We were in November and the concert was one month after. We had never played live… And we needed another guitar player… Well, during these days, I’ve met Guillaume. I was in the street, wearing a Fat Tulips tee-shirt and this guy came and talked to me : « I love the Fat Tulips ! And Brighter is my favourite band ! » Then he told me he was playing guitar and had a demo tape. He asked me if Anorak Records would be interested in releasing some songs from his band (who will become Doggy). After listening to his songs, Denis, Isabelle, Stéphane and me thought it would be great if he could join Caramel. He said « Ok ! ». He did one practice with us and then directly came and played with us in Hamburg for the Marsh-Marigold popfest. A great one, including also Acid House Kings, Red Letter Day, Poprace, Die Fünf Freunde and Red Sleeping Beauty. A few months later, Olivier came with us to play keyboards. He played on our first mini LP. Then, for our second LP, Mike, from They Go Boom !!, came to play keyboards with us instead of Olivier. This is the short story of the beginnings of Caramel.
++ Was Caramel your first band by the way? How did you learn to play bass? Do you play any other instruments?
No, Caramel wasn’t my first band. Before that, I’ve been playing with some friends in bands called My Crystal Chamber and Poppin’ Candy. But nothing remains from them… Hopefully. I’ve never learned to play bass because I play guitar. Anyway, I’ve never learned to play guitar too. I don’t know the music. No one ever teached it to me. I’ve been starting playing all by myself. Trying to find cool tunes. Other instruments ? I know how to play the kazoo. But they never want me to play it… I don’t know why… hé hé… It seems I like the buzzing sound of this instrument and many people don’t. Which is a shame, I believe.
++ So okay, why did you choose the name Caramel? Do you like caramel flavoured stuff by any chance? haha
Well, we decided to choose this name as it was sweet and as we needed to find one quickly because of the deal with Marsh-Marigold. We wanted a name that was both French and international, that anyone could understand. And Caramel is the same in French and in English. And yes, we liked caramel, candies, lollipops and things like that.
++ I’m curious, was there any other indiepop band in Limoges then aside from you? Where were most of the popkids based in France back in the early nineties?
When we started Caramel, we were the only indiepop band in Limoges. Here, at the time, everyone was listening and playing in punk or hardcore bands… That was quite difficult to find some gigs and venues in our town. Anyway, we didn’t care. But at the time, we also had a radio show, on a local radio, here in Limoges. It was called first « Drinking gazoline » and then « Pop corn ». By the way, we manage to get in touch with some popkids here. And some of them started bands. A few years after Caramel started to play, there were some other bands in Limoges : Dale, Shag, Blooming Park, etc.
In the early nineties, there were popkids everywhere in France : Rennes, Brest, Nantes, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Montauban, Strasbourg, Paris, Lille, Marseille, Nice, Montpellier, Lyon, Clermont-Ferrand… and many many more. Most of them great people and, unfortunately, some really bad ones… Anyway, it was really exciting. Cos’ there were a lot of fanzines, labels, bands.
++ So how did you end up releasing in a German label, Marsh-Marigold, and not in a French label, considering during those years there were plenty of cool French indiepop labels?!
As I told before, Marsh-Marigold was the first label to ask us to release something. We immediately accepted because it was, after Sarah Records, our favourite label. After that, we didn’t had to search for another label. At the time, Marsh-Marigold Records was already some kind of « cult » label. Really adored by the popkids… Which made some bands and people in France jealous from the fact we were on this great label.
++ Did you get to play shows in Germany because of this relationship? Did you play in any other countries?
Yes, we went to Germany to play shows because of the relationship with Marsh-Marigold Records. Oliver offered us the opportunity to play there and it was always great concerts, and now great memories. Yes, at the time, we also played in Belgium and of course in France.
++ What was the best show that Caramel played ever? What anecdotes do you remember about it?
Our best show… I think in fact of two particuliar shows : one was in Bordeaux and it was very powerful. There were not a lot of people in the audience but they really seemed to enjoy it and danced a lot. The second one was our last show ever, in Hamburg, Germany, for the Marsh-Marigold Christmas party of 1996. We played fast and it was really jangly and fun. The sound was fuzzy and we enjoyed it a lot.
++ What were you listening during those days? Did you consider yourselves Poppunkgaragemods? That’s quite a term!
We were listening to all the great bands there were at the time. Our main influences were the bands from the C-86 so called scene, mostly The Pastels and The Housemartins, and some early punk bands like The Undertones or The Buzzcocks… There were also bands like Talulah Gosh, The Fat Tulips, Strawberry Story or Heavenly that influenced us a lot. And we also loved bands from Sarah Records, Bus Stop Label, Heaven Records, A Turntable Friend Records, Summershine Records, K Records, etc. No, we didn’t consider ourselves as « poppunkgaragemods ». It was a kind of private joke. We were indiepop kids !!!
++ What about ¡Olé Zamora!, why that name? What’s the story behind that? Anything to do with Zamora Football Club?
The name of the CD « ¡Olé Zamora! » was just another joke for us. Zamora is the name of Olivier, our first keyboards’ player. As I do, he’s got Spanish origins. When we were recording the first mini LP, we thought it was fun to use his name. So no, nothing to do with Zamora FC.
++ Eventually you did release on a French label, on Aquavinyle. Did you ever get to meet them? How did you end up signing with them and not continuing with Marsh-Marigold? Tell me a bit about this label as I don’t know much.
Yes we released a 7 inch on Aquavinyle. It was a label ruled by Thomas, a friend of us who was living in Bordeaux. So yes, we often met him. He also used to organize some concerts for us in Bordeaux. Through Aquavinyle, he also released 7 inches from Blueboy, Bouquet and a few other records. Well, we didn’t properly « sign » something with Aquavinyle. Oliver, from Marsh-Marigold Records, always let us do what we wanted and release records with labels who wanted to. But most of our songs were recorded for Marsh-Marigold, of course. Oh, and at the time, we also contributed to many many compilations tapes for labels and fanzines around the world : England, USA, France, Japan…
++ So this 7″ was the great Johanna. Let me guess, one of you guys had a crush on a Johanna?
No, no one of us knew a girl called Johanna. It was just another joke about a character from a french TV soap called « Hélène et les garçons » who was very popular at the time in France. This girl, named Johanna, was absolutely stupid…
++ And the last release was a 7″ in the great Harriet Records. You did release only on cool labels! How did you end up signing to a label across the Atlantic? And why didn’t you get to play here in the US?
About the record with Harriet, it’s Tim Alborn who used to get in touch with Denis. He just asked to him if he wanted to release a 7 inch through his label and, of course, we accepted his offer. For us, it was an honour to release a record with such a great label. It was one of our favourite at the time and we were pleased to release that last record with him. Why didn’t we get to play to the USA ? No one ever asked us too. And just after the 7″ with Harriet, we decided to stop the band. Anyway, I must say that at the time, things were not so easy as they are nowadays. So, going to play in the US was just a dream.
++ Looking back, which of your releases was your favourite? Do you have any favourite song?
I think my favourite release was the « Triangle » 7″ released through Marsh-Marigold. Picking up just one song from us would be difficult… Maybe « Pas tous les jours dimanche ».
++ What about telling us something about Caramel that no one knows about?
We recorded our songs in a wine cellar. And this is absolutely true. Isabelle’s grandfather used to be a wine merchant. He lived in a small village in the countryside near Limoges. When we wanted to do some recordings, we all went to her grandparents’ house and stayed there during the days we needed to do the recordings. And the first time we did that, he told us it would be great to record the songs in the wine cellar. We thought it was a good idea. So we did most of our recordings there. Maybe the wine barrels who were there also had a great influence on us…
++ You also recorded a video for “L’ete ‘en Ville”, one of my fave of yours! Any anecdotes you could share about the video? Seems like it was fun to record!
Yes, it was real good fun to record it too. The father from of a friend of us was the director from a psychiatric hospital in Limoges. We needed a big room all painted in white. He told us : « There’s one in the hospital, I’ll ask to my father ». And his father agreed. So we all went there, with one camera and many many friends. Xavier and Sylvain, two friend of us who were students, told us they could record it. Xavier was studying cinema in a school in Angoulême. The recordings were done in two hours. Then, he went to do an internship for the Scottish TV. The guys there helped him to do all the film editing. Now, Xavier is working for the local TV here in Limoges. Sylvain is working in a TV in Paris. It was their first filming experience.
++ After listening one more time to your songs, I wonder, are there still any other songs that never got properly released?
I think all our songs were released. I can’t remember one that was not. But it’s so long ago that I’m not sure about it.
++ So when and why did you call it a day? What did you all do after? Still in touch with everyone?
The band stopped just after our last concert in Hamburg. It was in the beginning of 1997. We had to stop because Denis went to study and live in Wales, Isabelle went to live in Paris and Stéphane went to live in Toulouse. After that, Guillaume and me started another band called Corner Kick. We did some great concerts here in France but we never released any record. Guillaume also kept on doing his songs with Doggy, his solo project. Now, Stéphane also plays with him and he also plays with my new band, Pale Blue Eyes. Denis played in several bands in Cardiff and then in England where he’s living now. We’re still all in touch except Isabelle who’s now in Paris which is not so far away… So maybe, Caramel will play again one day… Why not for a future popfest in Limoges ? Who knows ?
++ Ah! I could continue with more questions, there’s lots to ask. But let’s wrap it here. Again with a food question, what’s Limoges specialty? Can you cook it?
Limoges food specialties ? There are so many ! My favourite one is the limousine hotpot. It’s not made with a big car. This name is because « Limousin » is the name of the region where we live. It’s made with salted pork (legs and flat ribs) and a big chitterlings sausage, cabbages, leeks, carrots, turnips, potatoes, two cloves of garlic, an onion studded with cloves, a “bouquet garni”, pepper. I know how to cook it and I like it a lot. One other very typical is the sheep testicles with garlic and parsley. But I don’t know how to cook it and I don’t like it a lot.
++ Thanks Fabien! Anything else you’d like to add? See you in London Popfest?
Thanks Roque for the interest in Caramel !!! Will I go to London Popfest ? I really hope so but I don’t know it yet as I’ll maybe working when it’ll happen. Anyway, I look forward to go and see you there !
Caramel – L’été En Ville