Yesterday we began our Spotlight coverage of Colorado duo South of France premiering their new video for “Tribecca” and presenting an exclusive stream of their debut album, Another Boring Sunrise (out today on iTunes).
Because it was such a momentous occasion for the band we also sent them a few questions to get to know them a bit better. Below we find out about their rocky beginnings, how their name came to be, their desire for more diversity in the indie music scene and their shared love for the same songs from obscure albums as well as their hope to one day play in the Star Wars Cantina.
You guys are a duo, but who’s who in South of France?
Jeff is the one with the mustache, Kelly is the girl. Jeff plays almost all of the instruments on the record and wrote a lot of the songs before Kelly came along, but now writing is a collaborative effort and Kelly plays keys.
Other than the musical abilities, what else do each of you bring to the table?
We both have pretty driven personalities, so when we’re together we can bounce ideas off each other and keep ourselves going so we can record or write or brainstorm all night. The difference is that Jeff is a big ideas kind of guy and Kelly is there to pull back on the reigns a little like a school marm.
There were two of you, then three, then an original member left… A bit of a tumultuous start! How did that all happen?
Well… Jeff is a difficult human being. Jeff had been writing the songs on his own but knew he wanted others involved but finding the right person was pretty tricky for him… And it took a few tries for him to find the right chi flow.
How would you describe yourselves and/or your sound in one sentence?
We like fun and melodies.
You’re called South of France, but you’re actually from Colorado, right? Is there an interesting story behind the name?
Jeff took a trip to the south of France, and when he got back he started recording all the songs he had started writing there. Voila, name.
After last year’s Kings EP, now you’ve got your first full album coming out, Another Boring Sunrise. What was the process for making the album like? Anything radically different from the EP?
Recording the album was more about putting together a cohesive set of songs and keeping a good sense of diversity, where as the EP was more of an experiment to put some music out that Jeff had been writing.
How did you settle on the title?
It comes from a line in the song “Lost in the Morning” that just kind of stuck out.
How did you get started making music? Was there are a particular artist and/or album that inspired you and made you decide this was what you wanted to do with your life?
Jeff: I grew up with instruments everywhere. My grandma taught me piano, I had a guitar for as long as I can remember, and then I got some drums, a trumpet, a violin… but guitar was my thing. My first concert was Nirvana at 13 years old and I knew I just wanted to make cacophonous noise and I’ve been in shitty bands ever since.
Kelly: I knew I wanted to sing as soon as I saw “The Wizard of Oz” when I was little. The songwriting came directly after. It hasn’t stopped since.
What would you consider your influences when making music? What are some bands you think you could be compared to? Any you’d like to be compared to?
We just try to make music we enjoy ourselves, without thinking too much about guiding it a certain way. Still, any comparisons we’ve gotten (Cults, Real Estate, Tennis, Blondes) have been appreciated, and it’s always interesting to hear what people think.
Some artists want to the biggest and best in the world, and some are happy to just record, play, and tour. Where would you like to be in five years time as an artist? Can you see yourself doing this for the rest of your life?
We just want to take things as they come and be able to write and play music for as long as people let us. The dream is to be able to make as many albums as we have in our heads, expanding our sound with each one.
You guys played Northside Fest in Brooklyn earlier in the summer. How was that? Any surprises? Was it the biggest show you’ve played?
Our shows were relatively small actually, but pretty fun… It was just kind of a whirlwind. Three sets, two days – I don’t think we knew what was going on most of the time. They gave us a free bottle of whiskey and it all disappears from there… I think someone quit the band that night?
Is there anything that you’ve found out about working in the “industry” that you weren’t aware of beforehand, or something that blew your mind about it?
Both of us were at a point where we just wanted to make music and get it out there, no preconceptions of what to expect, so it’s just kind of a learning experience. Our minds are blown on a daily basis…
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the music industry at the moment and if you were able to, how would you fix it?
People’s willingness to accept whatever music their told to be the thing as “the thing”. With new artists having more ability to spread their music than ever before, it seems like there should be way more diversity, particularly in the indie market.
What’s your stance or position on “file sharing”? Do you think it has a place in the music industry?
We appreciate sharing in general, but we also like sharing money with people who spend a lot of time making cool stuff. However, if people are hearing and enjoying our music, then shit, maybe they’ll buy the next album. Or just come to our shows and dance with us… That’s cooler than money. But if you buy a shirt we’ll hug you. Wait… we don’t have shirts.
Unlike many young bands, you guys aren’t extremely active on social media like Facebook or Twitter. Is there a reason for this?
Neither of us even understands what to do with Twitter. When we’re at the computer we end up Googleing things and/or making music… Or Jeff starts cussing profusely about how he could have written 5 songs in the same amount of time that it took him to Tweet and update Facebook.
Other than that feature in Filter, I think the coverage you guys have gotten has come from blogs and sites. How important are they to you as a band? How important do you think they are in the music industry?
Blogs are hugely important as a new artist, it’s the way your music gets to people’s ears. However, that being said, it seems like all of the blogs are bit predictable these days… except for a small number. Huge thanks to everyone that took a chance on us. It seems like the major blogs are afraid to take chances because they value their reputations more than they value discovering and sharing new sounds. The blog world was so much better a few years ago before it turned into a profitable business.
Do you read articles about yourself, or reviews of your music?
Definitely. Being a new band, it’s really just kind of fun to see your music spread from blog to blog, or end up on your friend’s cousin’s Facebook page without them knowing the connection.
Do you guys buy vinyl? Do you think it’s important to you to have a medium like vinyl that’s tangible and you can hold in your hands, in an age where everything is digital so easy to throw away?
Oh hell yeah, vinyl is where it’s at. It’s nice to have something to hold, to be reminded that what you’re hearing is a concrete product that had to be built and created. But it’s not just about having something to hold, it’s also that warm sound that fills a room in a way an mp3 never will. You should never cook dinner without a record playing, ever.
Can you remember the first vinyl that you bought, and do you still have it?
Kelly: My first record was probably a Cat Stevens album that my dad gave me/I took from his collection (sorry, dad), and from there it was thrift stores and world music. I think the first new release I bought on vinyl was Why?‘s Oaklandazulasylum.
Jeff: Nirvana‘s 12” Come As You Are European single… Picturedisc. It’s really fancy and on my wall.
Are there any plans to release the Kings EP or Another Boring Sunrise physically/on vinyl?
The plan is to some day have Another Boring Sunrise on the most beautifully colored vinyl you’ve ever seen in your life.
What kind of jobs did you do as a means to either support your record collection or your music career, or both?
Jeff composes music for films, commercials, TV, and stuff like that. Nobody really understands how Kelly manages to get by, but she’s good with people.
Say South of France is throwing a party. First of all, what kind of party is it?
South of France has a party every night. It consists of Jeff & Kelly, 2 dogs, a bottle of Jameson, YouTube and some guitars.
What kind of music is played there?
Sloppy surf rock and Western music.
More generally, what have you guys been listening to as of late? Do you share similar tastes or do you each have your own little musical niche?
We have very similar musical tastes. It’s pretty cool how much we have in common musically; we even have the same favorite songs from certain obscure albums. Kelly’s been obsessing over 50s/60s pop and western music for a while, and Jeff’s been on a serious Ennio Morricone thing lately.
How important do you think it is for band members to have similar tastes in music? Do you think it’s possible for them all to like completely different things?
It’s definitely possible and can lead to some interesting and unexpected sounds, but when you have similar tastes it makes the writing process so much smoother, and you don’t end up with arguments about whether a song sucks or not. We have a pretty good thing going here.
Has there been any music put out this year that you’ve found yourselves really enjoying?
I’m already enjoying the new Tame Impala album and it hasn’t even been released… I’m just imagining it and it sounds so amazing in my mind.
Any guilty pleasures?
Kelly: Don’t even get me started on Beyonce. Or Original Broadway Cast recordings.
Jeff: I’m just a serious sucker for any good pop song.
If you could create a musical genius Frankenstein, which parts would you pick from who (John Lennon’s voice, Mozart’s fingers, Frank Zappa’s ‘tache, Michael Jackson’s feet etc)?
[of Montreal frontman] Kevin Barnes’ brain. Chet Atkins‘ fingers. Mel Taylor [ex-The Ventures drummer] on drums. [Mercury Rev and The Flaming Lips producer] Dave Fridmann’s production and engineering skills.
Is there one place anywhere in the world that you’d love to play? You know, like Machu Picchu, Mount Everest, Mariana Trench, Idaho… Stuff like that.
K: I just want to hit up Europe. All of it, every last bit of it. Or have a “South of France tours the south of France” tour.
J: I like going places… I just want go and play everywhere.
What if we could expand that to the universe? Tatooine anyone?
We’re playing that Cantina for sure. Jeff’s first band covered the Cantina song at every show they played.
You’ve just put out your first album. What comes next for South of France?
We’re just going to try to play as many shows as possible, and keep writing and growing.
Say this is an Oscar speech, who do you thank for having gotten to where you are?
Jeff: I would like to thank my awesome family, friends, and Kelly for several reasons. They are all pretty amazing people. So thanks! And all of the wonderful people who have liked our music, helped us out, and given us some incredible opportunities.
Kelly: Ugh, I’d be one of those people who gets played off the stage and then realized I forgot literally everyone. So I’ll just make a sweeping statement of my friends and family and the stuff Jeff said, and Jeff and the receptionist at my old job. She’s responsible for this.