Text: Aidan Mac Guill
VINGT spotlights the highly regarded “non-musicians” of Total Warr.
It can probably be safely speculated that not many great landmarks in cultural history have come as a result of trips to EuroDisneyland. Indeed it’s unlikely that Kiki and Guigui, the two young Parisians who comprise the band Total Warr, went there in order to find musical inspiration. But went there they did, last year, accompanied by their respective girlfriends, and on their return, they sat down and recorded their debut EP Cascades.
More pressing inspiration than Space Mountain came from the fact Kiki had booked a flight to leave Paris for New York. The duo’s first attempt at recording together, it was hammered out in 2 frantic, noisy weeks. Both drummers, they made percussive sounds from everything they had to hand – tables, a banjo, a pack of cough-drops, even a toy laser gun (a memento from Disneyland). They added vocals, melodies, guitars, harmonies.
“We recorded everything straight without thinking too long, and I started mixing it at the same time,” explains Kiki. That sort of approach might have led to mixed results. As it turned out, Cascades has earned them quiet but effusive praise, and comparisons to zeitgeisty acts like Yeasayer and Panda Bear. Their single Gangsta Rap was included on the mighty Kitsune label’s ‘Parisien’ compilation. Influential US blog Stereogum named them a “band to watch”.
“We found it funny to make a mix of different influences we’ve had, trying to make a crossover of Benga, Bon Iver, Weezer and Panda Bear,” says Kiki. “Record sunset beach acoustic guitars, add noises of Guigui eating cookies, laser guns, dubstep bass, samples, us hitting my table with drumsticks.”
For a new band they’re certainly refreshingly unfazed about anyone’s expectations of them. “We’re not obsessed about sounding ‘new and original’, we just want to have fun.” It’s an attitude reflected in their music, which does bring bands like Yeasayer, Panda Bear and Girls to mind. The slightly DIY sound belies a lightness of touch when it coms to key changes and subtle melodies. In Gangsta Rap and I Don’t Need Your Friendship they have 2 of the songs of last year.
Both Kiki and Guigui (these are nicknames, incidentally) have played in a variety of bands around Paris. “There is a really cool rock scene in Paris. We highly recommend Eldia, Bonjour Afrique, Ninja Wolf II, Naive New Beaters, Stuck in the Sound, Cheveu, Poni Hoax and Adam Kesher. These guys are almost all good friends of us, and they play great music.”
They’re currently recording new material transatlantically, as Kiki has remained in New York (“we thank the internet every day”), which they’ll perform at their first ever live shows. “We’re gonna do some shows in the USA, and after that we’ll see what happens.” Their commitments to their other bands (Kiki plays drums in Secret Music and occasionally The Death Set in New York, Guigui for Bonjour Afrique and Die On Monday in Paris) may get in the way. “We both are in many bands, so it’s gonna be a tough thing to manage doing everything”
Regardless, it should be an interesting year for Total Warr. Talented, unpretentious, hard-working, fun. “(Cascades) was full of mistakes and out of time, but we left it like that,” concludes Kiki. “We don’t pretend to be real musicians.” Others may soon beg to differ.