“Sometimes it’s like ‘is that the only thing you’ve fucking noticed about the entire record?’ Have you just thought ‘God, that’s a long title!’?” Finally, with the most enthusiastic of exhortations, it’s time to put to bed a frankly boring and overly used assertion about HOT CLUB DE PARIS. The band, whose long song titles you hear about so often, are worth so much more than that and perhaps it’s time everyone noticed.
I met up with the lads just days after their return from a UK tour which drummer Alistair Smith describes as “long and sweaty” and thus I’m understandably keen for them to regale me with fresh tales of drunken debauchery. Perhaps surprisingly I’m informed by Matt, Alistair’s brother and the group’s guitarist/vocalist, that their tours are not just quiet but “super down the line.” Paul Rafferty, who contributes vocals and bass, admits that because there are only the three of them on tour (two of whom are designated drivers) they “tend to spin more out of control when at home.” Though this doesn’t prevent them knocking out a humorous (these are one of the most quick-witted bands around) tale about a 60 year old bus driver they met in Stirling who was originally from Old Swan as Paul enthuses; “he told us all these stories about meeting The Beatles and we sat there waiting for the punch line but they always just ended with him driving a bus.”
The tour was undertaken on the back of their unusual decision to release two EPs in the first half of 2010. The first of these, With Days Like This as Cheap as Chewing Gum, Why Would Anyone Want to Work?, which was released in February takes its name from a line by poet Matthew Welton. Paul explains that they opted to record EPs when the group realised they didn’t have enough money to go into the studio and thus recording duties fell to him. Working at the “digestible chunks” of 6 track records seemed a less daunting task and when he came across the line from Welton’s poem he thought it apt for the DIY nature of their newest work.
It was followed by The Rise and Inevitable Fall of the High School Suicide Cluster Band in May (though the material was recorded quite a few months apart) another record which indicated that no sacrifice to the group’s sound had been made with the decision to forgo expensive studio time. The reason for this seamless transition becomes clear when Matt tells me “We’ve never been produced really. On our first album there are no overdubs and the second there was a lot of input from the producer Brian, but the first thing he said was ‘I don’t want to fuck with the songs’.” It’s clear the liberty the band have been granted in recording their own material is something they hugely appreciate despite any previous assistance; “The freedom you get from recording yourself is exactly the same as when you make the step up to having your own practice room. When you get 4 hour slots in a praccy room you feel like you have to be creative. If you’re doing it every day you can say ‘this is shit, let’s just listen to some records’ or ‘let’s go for a walk and come back. We can just stop and discuss the pronunciation of words and the placement of things.”
This is set to continue into the group’s return to the LP format for which they tell me sessions begin the day after our interview. Paul will again take the reins of recording and the lads inform me they have 4 songs pretty much nailed down and, ahem, “a dickload of other ideas on tape.” Also, if you didn’t catch the two EPs, they are set to be released in a bundled CD shortly having initially been released on limited edition vinyl and digital downloads only the first time round. Paul smiles as he tries to convince me that they sold out of the digital download but not the vinyl prints which, as anyone who has seen Hot Club de Paris live will acknowledge, is their typically oddball humour shining through yet again.
This humour is one of their most endearing qualities which doesn’t just come through in their matter-of-fact lyrics but also marks them out as a genuinely down to earth bunch of people. They continue to tell me of their disdain for “haircut bellends” as Alistair, on the topic of those who frequent Liverpool’s bar scene, exclaims “what happened to jeans and a t-shirt being normal attire?” I’m struck by a group for whom being in a band is a by-product of their love for music and making it, meaning they’re disinterested in the bullshit that tends to attract charlatans to any ‘scene’. Matt, as laconic as ever, gives his thoughts; “this band’s not a machine to get your dick sucked” quickly adding “and if it was it’d be doing a shit job at that!” When we’ve stopped laughing, Paul tells me that he couldn’t show his Gran a copy of NME the week they topped the publication’s charts with ‘Fuck You, The Truth!’ because of the expletive in its title and I’m not even slightly surprised. Hot Club de Paris are not too ‘rock and roll’ to be nice to their Nan and this is why I can now happily believe them when they say there’s no pretension in the length of their EP names. So, surely a group of such ingenuity and wit should now be appreciated for just those reasons and no longer pigeonholed for their verbosity? They’ve taught me to be a bit more inventive in my line of questioning if nothing else.