Lionel Limiñana paints an evocative portrait of Perpignan, his town in the “deep South” of France where he creates music in his home studio with his wife and longtime collaborator, Marie. (The pair met and fell in love aged 17). It’s a small town, he says, but boasts a disproportionate number of interesting book and record stores, and has a strong cultural undercurrent. The Spanish border is just 38 kilometres to the south, and French culture is suffused with Catalan, Romany and North African influences. A heady mix.
“And for the last 25 years it’s been a really good scene for garage punk,” Limiñana adds.
Like their hometown, Lionel and Marie – as The Limiñanas – make music that sits at a cultural crossroads. Their sound can be filed under psych-rock or garage-pop, or any other term that conjures something dark, gritty and glittery. It’s equal parts seductive and sedative; echoing the sensuality of ’60s French pop and the fuzzy darkness of American art-rock: Serge Gainsbourg meets The Velvet Underground.
Limiñana’s early musical education came via the records his three brothers and sisters played in their Perpignan household, before he made his own discovery of “American primitive music” from the ’60s. (Notably through Nuggets, a series of compilation albums featuring relatively obscure garage and psychedelic rock songs of that era, released during the ’80s).
Limiñana had an ear fixed on Britain, too; particularly the music of Joy Division and New Order. Naturally he was delighted to collaborate with Peter Hook – the bassist for both Manchester bands – on a track, Garden of Love, which is from The Limiñanas’ fourth album, Malamore.
“We sent him a demo that we recorded at home, and then a few months later he came back to us with his own contribution, his own chords,” Limiñana says.
He was amazed to hear Hook’s distinctive bass notes fused with the sound he and Marie produced in Perpignan: “I’m very proud of it, we created something special.”
You’ll hear a fusion of languages in The Limiñanas’ music, too; songs are written in whichever tongue suits the mood, be it French, English, Spanish or even Italian.
“We like to speak different languages according to the atmospheres of the song,” says Limiñana. “We find English a lot easier” – with its cadences lending themselves more to a rock song, “and French [is] a lot more delicate. But we use it because we love the language and singers like Serge Gainsbourg and Jacques Dutronc.”
And then there are Australia’s rock greats: ACDC; The Saints; and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Limiñana is a big fan of them all, and he’s been looking forward to checking out their homeland. Not that he wouldn’t have a better chance spotting some of them in France: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ 2013 album, Push the Sky Away, was recorded at La Fabrique – a music studio in a 19th-century mansion less than three hours’ drive from Perpignan. Paris-based Warren Ellis, and the rest of the Bad Seeds, are heroes to him.
“I like the sound of the music, the way they form the grooves,” he says. “It’s a rare example of a band that gets better year on year. It’s always evolving.”
You might hear echoes of the Limiñanas’ heroes when it takes to the stage as a six-piece, but the band possesses a distinct sound of its own – one that will leave you feeling hypnotised. “In concerts we try to work on riffs and repetition to reach a trance-like state that doesn’t always come across on the album,” Limiñana says. “So the concerts are a lot more energetic. A humble comparison to the Bad Seeds.”
The Limiñanas will perform at So Frenchy So Chic on Sunday January 15, 2017, at Werribee Park. Tickets can be purchased here.
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