Pulp and Circumstance sent sometimes reviewer Sara Harari out to check out Nouvelle Vague and Clare and the Reasons at the Somerville Theater last night; ultimately, the goal, to learn the universal tongue of music. Here’s her take…
Last night, two bilingual groups graced the Somerville Theater’s main stage: Clare and the Reasons and Nouvelle Vague.
Clare and the Reasons, on tour as a trio, sported a variety of instruments including guitars, a keyboard, a violin, a saw, and even kazoos. The best way I can think to describe the sound of this band: a soundtrack to a dream of a summer afternoon. Clare’s light, but smokey, vocals intertwine with seamless instrumentation giving the audience the feast of playful, yet peaceful sound. This is a group that knows how to have fun, from jabs at the English language to a song sending their condolences to Pluto for getting kicked out of the planet club.
Not only do they have a sense of humor, but they also have a great sense of style. All of the band members wear silver arrows stitched on to their clothing. When I met up with Clare after the set, she told me that she and her grandmother had sewed them on together. Flicking through photos of the band, you’ll notice that they’re always well, if uniquely, dressed. Clare does her own clothes, with help from friends back home in New York.
The band has a very minimalist sound and plays with the intricacies of melody and harmony and… space sound effects? Clare expressed how important it is for the audience to hear every little sound. Their new album Arrow has entire string sections playing on some tracks. I wanted to know how the music morphed into a live version.
Clare said the band played different songs every night. Two nights ago, the band played in NYC, where they had an entire brass section join them onstage. Last night, they finished off their set by inviting a tuba player onstage. Between songs, Clare laughed and commented that some musicians have a girl in every town, but Clare and the Reasons, they have a tuba player in every town. Then the band picked up again, with the song “That’s All,” originally by Genesis, and yes, with tuba.
After rounds of applause, the audience settled down and waited for Nouvelle Vague to take the stage. Clare told me that touring with Nouvelle Vague was fun because, on top of drawing similar audiences, the two bands both love good food. Ah la gourmandise!
Nouvelle Vague is a French musical collective led by Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux. The group that I saw last night had six members, including two phenomenal female vocalists. The band specializes in revamping older tunes. They take the old lyrics and melodies and remodel them. Talking Heads’ “Road to Nowhere” and Modern English’s “I Melt With You” took on a country twang, while Violent Femmes’ “Blister in the Sun” became a bossa nova swing.
At one point the vocalists got everyone to shout along that we were “too drunk, too drunk to fuck!” (Originally by the Dead Kennedys) Needless to say, the crowd was having a great time (except for the two boys sitting next to me who did nothing but stare at the stage, not even a foot tap.)
This group was obviously French, from their stylish outfits to their French accents, they enticed the crowd with a swirl of Franglish. The drummer, enraptured by the sound, spent the whole time grinning at the ceiling. The band made my weekend and brought a unique twist to old favorites.