On record, Nouvelle Vague feels like a lazy sunny day. Light and breezy covers of songs that – with the band’s trademark Brazilian bossa nova filter – make the perfect summer soundtrack. But the French duo’s live show is like a hot summer night: more danceable and “more electrified”, says Jean-Francois Ponthieux, director of Cartell Music and So Frenchy So Chic.
It was Ponthieux who first toured Nouvelle Vague in Australia in 2008. The French duo and its coterie of singers returned to Australia four years later for the inaugural So Frenchy So Chic in 2012.
The band is back again, with founders Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux to be joined by singers Melanie Pain, Liset Alea and Elodie Frégé for So Frenchy So Chic 2017.
This time around Nouvelle Vague arrives with a new album and a new live show but with the same unmistakable, moody sound that won them a legion of fans in the first place. That is, chilled out covers of new wave classics like Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division), Guns of Brixton (The Clash) and The Killing Moon (Echo and The Bunnymen), plus melodic vocals by some of France’s best singers. (In the past Nouvelle Vague’s line-up has included Camille and Vanessa Paradis, as well as Australia’s own Nadéah Miranda.)
“The first and second album are really like classics,” Collin says. “They’re still being played everywhere in the world and are appreciated by a lot of people. We hadn’t released anything new since 2010 because I thought we had said everything and there was nothing really new to say. So I preferred to be silent.”
The duo’s playful, distinct sound triggered many imitators, which in some ways led to the new album. “In a way it was a good time to remember that we did it first,” Collin says. “We have a really special way to do covers with our own sound, singers and interesting selection of songs.”
I Could Be Happy came out on November 4. It features renditions of punk and post-punk songs from the 1970s and 1980s including Athol Brose by Cocteau Twins, I Wanna Be Sedated by The Ramones and I Could Be Happy by Altered Images.
Plus, for the first time Nouvelle Vague has written its own songs. “If you like our sound through The Cure, maybe you will like our sound through our own songs,” says Collin.
Will listeners be able to discern which songs are original and which are covers? Not necessarily, says Collin. Even though some of the new covers are well-known to Nouvelle Vague audiences, many are more obscure.
“Most people don’t know No One Receiving by Brian Eno. So to put our own songs alongside them was not difficult,” he says. “When we are playing songs onstage, we make them so personal that in a way they become our songs as well.”
And while it’s not Nouvelle Vague’s mission to educate audiences on the nuances of new-wave rock music, it can be a happy side effect. “In a Manner of Speaking from Tuxedomoon [an experimental post-punk band from San Francisco that Nouvelle Vague covered on its self-titled debut album] was really a forgotten and unknown song,” says Collin.
“I’m happy that now it’s a real classic. I’m proud of that.”
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