What is nostalgia? For me it’s that warm, fuzzy, bittersweet and yearning feeling to a time gone by. A memory, a moment, a thought, a sound, an emotion, a place, a mix of all of those things. I am a nostalgic person by nature; I don’t exactly yearn for the past as I do enjoy my present nowadays, but I do love all the memories surrounding me. I love to think back to all that has made me into what I am, I love to jump into history and to imagine myself there. I used to spend many a day reading 19th century literature and immersing myself in a time gone by, where life was different and probably better. Nowadays my nostalgia is more an acceptance that a time gone by is a time gone by, and that it will always remain as it is imprinted in my mind.
Varsovie are seeped in nostalgia, and not only on a personal level for me. I grew up with these guys and we have been friends for many years now. I have always been a huge fan of their musical endeavours, but as Varsovie they hold an extra special place in my heart. Their first EP, Neuf Millimètres, was released in 2006 (memories of flying back to NYC from Paris with Leningrad in my ears and tears in my eyes), their first album, Etat Civil, in 2010 (I used to always slip in a couple of songs into my playlists at work while bartending), and their second album, L’Heure et la Trajectoire, in October of this year. Based in Grenoble, France, Arnault Destal (lyrics, drums, arrangements, management) and Grégory Cathérina (music, vocals, guitar), are long-standing figures on the music scene in France. Varsovie (Warsaw in English) grew from the embers of the dark metal band Forbidden Site and took a more rock/post-punk direction in the vein of Joy Division and Bauhaus, or maybe an Interpol if you are looking for a more modern band to compare them to. I hate making comparisons though, and as much as I love all of those bands, Varsovie are stand-alone. What makes Varsovie stand out in my opinion is not just the fact that their songs are pretty much exclusively in French, but that they meld poetry with the dark melodies of their music. Gregory sings, growls, howls Arnault’s verses, words that are crafted with such talent that it is impossible not to see how beauty can be married with despair and darkness. And even if you don’t speak French, the music will force you to sit up and listen, because without the music the words wouldn’t have the power they do. Be prepared to be pulled into the darkness, to see a light and to stare right into it.
L’Heure and la Trajectoire is one of those albums that is already excellent the first time you play it and then it grows more and more so with each listen, becoming what I can only describe as an epic collection of songs. Kicking off the album with the somber Austerlitz, moving through the beauty of L’Eclaircie and Sunsiaré, finishing off with the damning Jusqu’au Jour, L’Heure et la Trajectoire is a complete story of love, hate, passion, nostalgia, past, present and future. Oh, and anger, despair, darkness. But this isn’t a cry for help, this is a strong voice against all that is wrong, all that was wrong and all that can be different. This is strength and purity, using stories of conflicts and people to describe everything that is wrong and everything that is right. Read between the lines and immerse yourself in the melodies that in turn soothe you and shake you, like the ocean waves on the day after a hurricane. There is always beauty, even within darkness. You just need to pull off the layers of grit to reveal what is clear.
French is the most beautiful language in the world and Varsovie does it complete justice. And these guys deserve to be played by anyone, not just by Francophones. You don’t need to completely understand the words to comprehend the atmosphere and the message. Try it. You will not be disappointed.
I asked Arnault a few questions about the band and the album. I kept his responses in French and wrote a (very) quick translation in English for those interested underneath. I would love to see these guys play here in NYC, maybe with Thought Forms, another one of my absolute favourites. Please check out the links for more information on the band, the album and videos below.
From The Inside: Please explain what the word nostalgia means for you.
Arnault Destal: Une fidélité extrême aux objectifs de sa jeunesse, une promesse non tenue, un désenchantement précoce, le fantasme de jours qui auraient pu être, le sentiment que tout ce que l'on aime n'est plus aimé…
(An extreme faithfulness towards the objectives one had as a youth, a promise that hasn’t been kept, an early disappointment, a fantasy of days that could have been, the feeling that everything that we love is not loved anymore…)
FTI: You often play in France and Eastern Europe. Any plans on expanding out to Britain or the US?
AD: Nous avons joué à Londres avec Scarlet's Remains en 2007 à l'invitation de "Dead & Buried", mais c'est vrai que nous n'avons pas renouvelé l'expérience, plus pour des raisons d'organisation que par choix. Quant au Canada et aux États-Unis, nous aimerions beaucoup…
(We played with Scarlet’s Remains in London in 2007 when we were invited by “Dead & Buried”, but it’s true that we haven’t played there again, more because of organization reasons rather than choice. We would really like to play in Canada and the US…)
FTI: Now that your second album has been released, in what direction do you see Varsovie going over the next year?
AD: Retourner sur scène en Europe dès 2015, mais aussi poursuivre la composition du troisième album, puisque nous sommes dedans.
(Touring Europe in 2015 and also continuing work on our third album seeing as we have already started on it).
FTI: Any current musical or literary influences that you can share?
AD: Nous n'avons pas vraiment d'influences actuelles. Nous avons beaucoup d'influences indirectes de groupes passés que nous citons souvent comme Bauhaus, The Sound, The Chameleons (UK), Siekiera, And Also the Trees ou Joy Division. Pas mal de choses dans les vagues post-punk, cold-wave et deathrock traditionnelles, et même dans le black-metal primitif, où les atmosphères et la tension collent parfois à la saison mentale de Varsovie… Mais aussi tout simplement dans le rock classique, plutôt sombre si possible, si tant est qu'il ne soit pas seulement du divertissement, de la pose ou de la soupe pour bobos. Nous tâchons surtout de nous influencer de l'intérieur, un peu comme si Varsovie était une entité à part, plutôt autoritaire. Il est souvent plus difficile de faire le tri, de se défaire, que de cumuler les fausses bonnes idées piquées çà et là…
En tout cas, parmi les vivants, et en français, j'aime pas mal de morceaux de Jean-Louis Murat et aussi de Gérard Manset, qui est très loin d'être un petit nouveau, mais qui a le mérite d'être vraiment à part et actif. Sinon, toujours en France, dans un tout autre registre : Peste Noire, qui est plutôt radical et unique dans le paysage – du moins jusqu'ici, puisque ce groupe influence déjà un paquet de monde. Le prochain Glaciation risque d'être pas mal du tout aussi… Sinon, quelques noms hors France : Rome, Voyvoda, Monozid, Christ vs Warhol et quelques autres que j'oublie évidemment…
Question littérature, rien de récent et de vivant qui ne mérite d'être cité, ou ne me vient l'esprit. Je n'ai pas eu le temps de lire ces derniers temps, sinon pour le travail. Quant à notre nouvel album, les fantômes de Fitzgerald, Cesare Pavese, Roger Nimier et Sunsiaré de Larcône hantent certains morceaux, mais plus à travers ce qu'ils ont vécu et ce qu'ils ont été, que par l'aspect purement littéraire de leurs travaux, bien que, dans ces cas précis, vies et œuvres se confondent.
We don’t really have any current influences. We are influenced indirectly by old bands that we often quote, such as Bauhaus, The Sound, The Chamaleons (UK), Siekera, And Also The Trees or Joy Division. Many things in the post-punk, cold wave, traditional deathrock movements, even some early black metal, where the atmosphere and tension sometimes match Varsovie’s. But we are also influenced by classic rock, mainly the darker stuff, as long as it isn’t just music for light entertainment, posers or hipster soup. But mainly we try to keep Varsovie as a separate entity or authority, to find our influences on the inside. It is sometimes hard to select, or strip away from influences than to gather fake good ideas taken from here and there…
In any case, amidst those French artists who are still alive, I like quite a few of Jean-Louis Murat’s pieces, as well as Gérard Manset, who is far from being new, but who deserves to be mentioned. Otherwise, still in France, but a different style: Peste Noire, pretty unique and radical in what they do, at least up until now, because they have influenced a lot of people. The next Glaciation shouldn’t be too bad either… Some names outside of France: Rome, Voyvoda, Monozid, Christ vs Warhol and a few more that I am most likely forgetting.
In regards to literature, I can’t think of anything recent or anyone alive who deserves to be mentioned. In regards to our latest album, the ghosts of Fitzgerald, Cesare Pavese, Roger Nimier and Sunsiaré de Larcône haunt certain songs, but mostly through what they lived through and what they were, more than the purely literary aspect of their work, although in these cases, lives and art were merged together.
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You can order the album on Infrastition HERE