The most intriguing thing about So Frenchy So Chic in the Park (SFSC), the festival from Cartell Music in Melbourne and Sydney that features French food, music and wine, is the eclecticism of the line up. Over the past few months, we’ve featured stories on the other acts at this year’s SFSC, such as hip hop MC Fefe and the very tongue in cheek Lilly Wood & The Prick, and each one of them is of a different musical bent.
It goes with the territory in France. There’s a radio station and a niche for almost any genre packed into the centre of Paris, and with it comes a scene that sounds something like a clash between traditional culture and American English. As to how such a diverse group of acts is going to fit on a one-day lineup together, only time will tell, but what SFSC does do is offer the best music from France right now, without so much as a care for genre.
The final act to the lineup at the festival this year is Babylon Circus, a ten-piece big-band from Lyon combining ska, punk, rock, reggae and hip-hop influences. The band have played more than 1000 shows together in 18 years, with a sort of rawness and energy that makes every show different from the last. Just a few years ago they played at the Womadelaide festival in South Australia and won over the crowd with a rousing set of political rants, crowd-pleasing pop songs and joyous big band accompaniments.
Through four albums, Babylon Circus have toured the world more than once over, playing as far away as Switzerland, Syria, New York, New Zealand and South Africa. They’ve grown as a band too, and make an effort to change the way they record on every new album.
Speaking over the phone from the centre of Paris, Babylon Circus’ front man and guitarist, David Baruchel, takes some time with Broadsheet to discuss the craft in live music, playing in a band with friends, and the people you meet when travelling with music.
Nicholas Acquroff: Can you tell me a bit about Babylon Circus?
David Baruchel: Babylon Circus was a dream in the beginning, a dream of two children, Manuel and me. He is the other songwriter, and he was the drummer of my band in high school. When we met we had the same dream: to play music and travel with music. Because music is a passport, you can meet people and get in touch with people with music.
In the beginning we wanted to play in cities around Lyon, but then we decided we wanted to play in cities all over France, and then it became Europe and so on and so on. We need to dream, and every time that our dream comes true we have to find a new dream.
NA: When I listened to your albums it made me want to hear the songs at a festival. Are festivals your favourite places to play?
DB: Actually for me, studio and life is two very different things. Since album three we found new tools to use in the studio, sounds that we couldn’t make live. Most of the time there are less instruments on stage too, because I cannot play five guitars on stage.
Most of the time live there is much more energy and you are really facing the people so it is more with the heart and a different way. We need to open our heart. It’s easy to say that but it is true. We need to do the show not only for the people but also with the people.
NA: So then every show is very different for you, depending on how the crowd reacts?
DB: For us going on stage is as it was the first time. It is like meeting a new person or a new girl, it is like a rendezvous. So even if you are playing the same set list, it is as if it was the first time. You meet new people, you want to touch them and you have to be really open. You have to find the right key to open the heart of the people.
NA: Are there big differences between crowds?
DB: Fortunately it is different from one day to another because the crowd is not the same the day before and the day after. It doesn’t matter if the crowd is waiting or cheering for us, we always want to give the crowd more than we gave the day before.
NA: So when you come to Australia, do you worry about people not knowing you?
DB: It is really exciting, because it’s a challenge. And sometimes it can happen in France where people don’t know us at all. But it is a challenge. We have played at a lot of festivals. We played at Womadelaide festival and no one knew who we was. But it is a seduction game and maybe the French touch, because we love to do that.
NA: I’m sure you have the charm covered on the Australian girls?
DB: (Laughs) Not only the girls, we like to play for different generations and different types of people. We are playing popular music, so to be able to talk to different generations and people with different origins, it is nice. Each person can find his way in our songs. Some people come to dance, some people come to listen, some people come to see, and that’s what we love, to be able to talk to all of the people in different ways, and to give them all what they want, and more than that – more than they want.
Babylon Circus is playing at So Frenchy So Chic in the Park on Sunday January 19 at St Jonh's College, Camperdown.