French Kicks Complete 'Two Thousand'
Brooklyn's French Kicks have always been about exploring the limits of sound. But their upcoming album, Two Thousand, due out July 18 on Vagrant/Star Time International, finds the melodic post-punk group even closer to the edge.
"We went really deep into trying new sounds," vocalist/drummer/keyboardist Nick Stumpf said during a phone interview Monday (April 3). "We tried new ways of structuring songs and new combinations of sounds. We've always shied away from trying things that were too obvious. The idea has always been that you can have pop music and it can be catchy and fun, but it doesn't have to be dumbed down."
The foursome Nick Stumpf, Josh Wise (guitar, vocals), Lawrence Stumpf (bass) and Aaron Thurston (drums) wrapped up recording sessions for Two Thousand, their third longplayer, in mid-March at Los Angeles' Bomb Shelter and Steak House studios. They recorded the album with producer Doug Boehm, with whom they also worked on 2004's The Trial of the Century. The French Kicks' debut album, One Time Bells, was released in 2002; they released an EP, The French Kicks, in 1999, and a second EP, Young Lawyer, in 2001.
The band, which formed in Brooklyn in 1998, spent 25 days laying down tracks for Two Thousand. And while this was the most time they've ever had to work on an album, they say it still seemed like barely enough. "It was pretty crazy, really hard," Nick Stumpf said of the sessions. "There were a lot of moments of desperation."
"We arrived with a lot of material," Wise said during a separate phone interview. "So we had to cut things down, and there was a lot of rethinking, moving things around [and] experimenting with new ways to record things. We finally arrived at a group [of songs] that hung well together and [provided the album with] different sounds and different moods."
Both Stumpf and Wise agreed that fans won't find Two Thousand a drastic shift in approach, noting that it's unmistakably a French Kicks album (quivering vocals, jittery riffs and strong melodies). That said, they both noted that the group brought a fresh approach to recording this album, and incorporated plenty of new sounds.
They included acoustic guitar in the mix for the first time in "No Mean Time," a track Wise describes as "a fun, middle up-tempo song with a thumping little beat, loud synth that bends a lot" and one that's dominated by the sound of an acoustic guitar.
Stumpf used a homemade keyboard synth for the new album and "geeked out on it," he
admitted, laughing. "I
spent a lot of time learning how to use it and got in this wonky territory. I
learned how to make weird drum sounds, percussion vocals and combinations of
vocals and weird keyboard sounds."
He later added, "I'm really into the combination of sounds in each song."
Overall, the rhythms are much heavier on Two Thousand than on the group's
previous albums. "It isn't always a full drum kit being played," Wise said. "Sometimes
it's built-up acoustic percussion-type stuff." "Also Ran," for instance, opens
with inviting layers of mechanized-sounding beats, building into a thunderous
collection of drum rolls and emotive, pleading vocals atop subtle, warm bass.
"England Just Will Not Let You Recover" falls on the stranger side of the album's 10 tracks, with tinkering, light-hearted keys, quirky layers of synth effects and ethereal back-up oohs. "So Far We Are" is more minimal and, again, heavy with the pounding intensity of percussion, heartfelt emotion and off-kilter intention.
Also on the album: "Cloche," "Knee High," "Keep It Amazed," "Basement: D.C.," "Hey I Wait I" and "Go On."
"It's a pretty strange collection of stuff," Stumpf said. "The way it came out proves to me that no matter what we try, we end up with the same weird collection of stuff."
But Wise believes the French Kicks have successfully managed to maintain a distinct sound without repeating themselves. "That desire to try new things is built into the band," he said. "That's what keeps us interested in doing this. It gives you the chance to evolve. To try different things is the great thing about being a musician. You want to set yourself on a path where you're reinventing what you do, while maintaining some sort of thread." Jenny Tatone [Wednesday, April 5, 2006]