Well where does one start...allow me to blow smoke up their collective derrieres for a moment.
When people ask me, which they invariably do about who's sound I admire or who they should listen to my default setting is to say 'Le Groupe Fantastique'. I must at admit I fell hard for their sound and their vibe is stronger than Schwarzenegger. Go listen to 'Counterfeit' and you'll understand why. Their discography isn't as prolific as some Artists but lets be honest its less about the life in your Synth and more about the Synth in your life and I'm mighty glad they're in mine. I pounced at the idea of interviewing them, read the fruits of my inquisitiveness below...
The group name itself is pretty cocky, thank goodness you’ve lived up to the name ha-ha, what was the decision process like to come up with the band title? Where there any other front runners?
LGF: We always wanted something French-sounding a-la Depeche Mode, that fitted in with our then tongue in cheek vibe we had when stating the band, Al ( Bass ) came up with ‘Le Groupe Fantastique’ and it’s stuck, definitely got us noticed and is always fun when we’re booked with actual French acts, who soon realise we aren’t!
What is the creative dynamic between you all like? On average how long would it take to lay down a track?
LGF : Our formula is that we are not formulaic in how we write and record. Recently we’ve been quite Morrissey – Marr in how we’ve been working. Where Al has sent over almost complete tracks and Jono ( vox) has written a melody and or lyrics for it. Tom ( synths ) then produces in his home studio ( Le Cabin Fantastique) where we can all chip in with ideas and arrangements. However, if you look at a track like ‘Counterfeit’ that was almost completely written together in the rehearsal room very organically. We believe we have an LGF sound that ideas need to fall into but we are more open than ever to exploring new stuff and directions within it. Time taken to get a track down from inception to the finished article can take anywhere from 6 months to a year, as Tom and Al in particular are incredibly detailed in their approach with regards to getting the right sounds and mood for a track. We pride ourselves on getting as much of us in to each track, for example the shakers on new single ‘Is this Me’ are not just copied and pasted from a computer or drum machine they were recorded live by Tom to get as much personality and the human touch as we could. ** that’s why it takes time Retro Reverb boys! 😉 But we hope that authenticity comes across in our music.
You’ve been scene stalwarts and signed to friends of Forged Retro Reverb Records for a while do you think the scene itself has changed a lot over the intervening years?
LGF: Good question.. what we would say is that the ‘scene’ has definitely become a more diverse place in the years we’ve been around, and we’ve tried our best to not get tied in to one specific area/ genre / aesthetic. Think as we’ve had regular play on Rob Harvey’s show and a lot of support from the Forever Synth guys and fact Retro Reverb Records want to work with us shows their intent on wanting to broaden their roster of acts / output, which can only be a good thing.
Since Criminal Records which came out in 2017 how do you think your sound has developed over time?
LGF: We’ve taken a more mature approach and in turn a darker sound has emerged, but still try to keep our pop origins. Post ‘Criminal’ we’ve definitely got a lot more confident in our instruments and writing itself allowing us to break any boundaries we had inadvertently set ourselves. Something we think will come across on the album.
I imagine you all have a different view but which artists have inspired the Group do you think?
LGF: We’re actually pretty together on this one.. Depeche Mode, Human League, Duran Duran, New Order & Tears For Fears.
What made you decide to pursue a career in music more specifically synth heavy 80’s driven tracks?
LGF: We had always been in guitar bands for years, but there was something in the Talk Talk track ‘It’s My Life’ that just spoke to us all. Synths had always been on Tom and Al’s radar and the idea of carte blanche for us all in a new style of music and a new way of making music was really appealing. What started out as a drunken ‘what if?’ conversation one night soon became a reality and LGF was born!
If you could open for any Synth musician who would it be and why?
LGF: Has to be Depeche Mode.. would be the ultimate act of recognition of what we are doing.. if you’re reading this boys…😉 failing that, Iron Maiden.. what a gig that would be!!
Haven’t as yet had the luck to thrash about to you guys at an event yet, any exciting tour or gig news in 2021 for us?
LGF: You’ve missed out!! We love playing live! But as the world is what it is at the moment tour and live dates are all on hold until we can do so safely. One positive is that we can finish the album and get razor sharp for a live return once it comes out. Have been really impressed with the live streamed gigs we’ve seen so that would definitely be something we’d look at doing in the near future..so keep them peeled for that.
If there is anything you’d change about the industry you’re in what would it be?
LGF: Fairer share in royalty splits from streaming services would be a big thing we’d change.
Would also like to see the end of ‘pay to play’ gigs/promoters or however they like to dress it up as. There should be an encouragement ( arts council?) for promoters / venues to take chances and build up a scene without the need to make musicians stump up cash before they can play.
What’s a day off for Le Groupe Fantastique like? Some Le Chill? Le Beers?
LGF: Current lockdown version has been meeting up and hanging out on the park, planning world domination over a few beers. LGF isn’t too far away from our thoughts whenever we have time off together. But really any free time we have is seen as time to do something with the band.
Anyone on the current scene you’d love to collaborate with?
LGF: Our last Live show was with a band called Centre Excuse and they were great, that would be fun. NINA collaborator LAU would be cool, could bring a live drum element to our sound. And the queen herself NINA would definitely kick us on to a new set of fans.
What has been the best memory of the Group career to date?
LGF: There’s been two, both revolving around Christmas time gigs. First up was the Rock n Roll Circus a friend organised as Xmas party for friends and fam and to raise some money for charity. Was a busy night for us as all 3 of us were booked to play 2 sets that night in different bands! With LGF headlining. Seeing everyone you know dancing to your songs will never get old, not too mention our festive Paul McCartney cover especially learned for the show!
The year after we got booked to do a corporate Xmas party gig, at Under The Bridge in Chelsea, was such an amazing stage and tech set up we sounded the best we ever have, not to mention an 8ft wall of LED’s behind us. Gave us a taste of the kind of stages we want to be on in the future.
Discography wise which track are you most proud of? Why?
LGF: To date we’d have to say our track ‘Counterfeit’ as it was the most collaborative track we’ve written together and marked a definite change in our sound putting us in the direction we are on now. Had such a good reception when it was released and we were asked if could it could be used in and independent film ( SPEARS Dir by Gerard Lough), which then spawned our first official music video to tie in with the film, getting us more exposure than we had had before.
Can you tell us a bit more about your current projects and anything fantastique planned for 2021?
LGF: Current plans are to finish the album, to be released on vinyl (hopefully) mid-late October. Watch this space for that. As for 2021 we want to get out and play the album live as much as possible !! hoping that will be a reality next year (crosses fingers).
Al Baker, Tom Gee, Jono Marshall
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