Might Be Giants – Total Warr

Image: Total Warr

State.ie, 09/02/2011

It’s probably safe to say that not many great landmarks in cultural history have come as a result of visits to EuroDisney. But it was after a trip to the anthropomorphic mouse-endorsed theme-park that Kiki and Guigui, the two young Parisians who make up Total Warr, finally sat down in an apartment and recorded their debut EP.

The duo’s first attempt at recording together, Cascades was hammered out in two frantic, noisy weeks before Kiki left Paris for pastures new in the US. Literally hammered out, in fact, the lads both being 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), and added vocals, melodies, guitars, harmonies, mixing as they went.

“We recorded everything straight without thinking too long, and I started mixing it at the same time,” explains Kiki via email from New York. Their frenetic approach lends the record an endearing, bustling energy. 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.

How would THEY describe their sound? “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,” offers Kiki. “To record sunset beach acoustic guitars, to add noises of Guigui eating cookies, laser guns, dubstep bass, samples, us hitting my table with drumsticks,” he adds.

For a new band they’re refreshingly unfazed about any one’s expectations of them. “We’re not obsessed about sounding ‘new and original’, we just want to have fun,” says Kiki. Indeed they’ve claimed their goal in starting a band was to become friends with the dog from Daft Punk’s ‘Da Funk’ video. It’s an attitude reflected in their music, which does bring bands like Yeasayer, Panda Bear and Girls to mind — their DIY sound belying a lightness of touch when it comes to key changes and melodies.

Both Kiki and Guigui (these are nicknames incidentally, their parents aren’t circus performers) have played in a variety of bands around Paris. “There is a really cool rock scene in Paris,” says Kiki, recommending Eldia, Bonjour Afrique, Ninja Wolf II, Naive New Beaters, Stuck in the Sound, Cheveu, Poni Hoax and Adam Kesher.

They’re currently recording their first LP transatlantically (“we thank the internet every day”), of which the infectiously upbeat ‘Please Never’ is the first teaser. Then they’ll perform their first ever live shows, once they can afford it. “We’re pretty broke, so apart from two drumkits, we don’t have a lot of equipment.” Their commitments to their other bands (Kiki plays drums in Secret Music and 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,” Kiki adds.

Regardless, it should be an interesting year for Total Warr. Talented, unpretentious, hard-working, fun (can’t believe they’re French). “Cascades was full of mistakes and out of time, but we left it like that,” Kiki concludes. “We don’t pretend to be real musicians.” Others may soon beg to differ.

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