Yard of Blondes are preparing to release an album later in 2020, and they’ve just launched their second single ahead of the full record. Lowland, a jaunty, upbeat indy pop track (with maybe some darker themes just under the surface) is a great follow-up to last year’s release of You and I & I, a heavier, rockier track.
Yard of Blondes are based in Culver City, just near Los Angeles, USA but their roots come from across the Atlantic in France. Fanny Hill (bass, vocals, and one half of the French connection) got in touch about an interview, and a few days later on a sweltering late summer day in Darwin, Australia I was talking down the line with Vincent Jacob (guitar, vocals et aussi de la belle France).
Bill Quinn: G’day, Vincent.
Vincent Jacob: Hello. How are you?
BQ: Good, and as I found when I did a little bit of research about the band, I can also say: Bonsoir, ça va? Bienvenue, et c’est un plaisir de vous parler.
VJ: Oh, quel bon français. Bon! Ça va.
BQ: Un peu. Seulement un peu!
Now that we’ve gone down that [French] road, Vince, can you tell me about the origins of the band in France.
VJ: So, actually we started the band in the US, but Fanny and I, the founders of the band, we’re both French.
But we met in Los Angeles.
We were playing music separately in France, both of us, and then we landed in the US – we didn’t know each other – and we met. I guess we were there for the same reason; we needed to escape Europe for a bit, and we ended up in the sun on Venice Beach in LA and we met.
Fanny was here on vacation; she didn’t plan to stay, but we started making music together, and she wanted to stay, so we stayed.
We had friends in common, but they didn’t introduce us at all. We met randomly!
BQ: So you’re in Venice Beach?
VJ: That’s where we met, but we’re in Culver City which is not far away.
BQ: Right, but you guys have got a bit of an affinity with the desert, correct?
VJ: Yes, we love the desert, and the good thing when you’re in LA? You drive two hours and you’re in the desert. And there’s plenty of great places that we love like Joshua Tree – that’s one of the places we love the most.
BQ: I guess when a lot of people think about desert they think hot and dry, but I notice in some of the photographs, it’s actually quite cold in some of those places.
VJ: Yeah, it depends on the time of the year. If you go in the summer, it’s going to be crazy hot, but if you go right now, it will be a little bit chilly, and at night it will be very, very cold.
BQ: Tell us a little bit about the Joshua Trip, because that was a great chance for you to travel, but also to be filmed and get a really good audience back in France. Tell us about that experience.
VJ: One of the first little tours we did, our first stop was in Joshua Tree the city, and they had an open mic. So we stopped in and that was one of the best nights of our lives because we met a community there. There was lots of artists and the host of the open mic, Teddy Quinn*, he welcomed us and he loved our music.
* No relation to the interviewer nor my teddy bear, Ted E. Quinn.
So we ended up on a compilation CD that they made at the time in the area with all the artists from Joshua Tree, and they adopted us, and put us on the CD like we were from Joshua Tree.
We were just two French people on a trip, so we came back a lot in Joshua Tree, and it’s like our second home now.
BQ: So now you straddle this divide between America and France, and I was watching one of your videos and I loved just towards the end and you hear this bloke say, “It’s not just gonna be French music, is it?”
Do you have that issue where you’re looking after two audiences?
VJ: Actually, it’s kind of cool because we know we are listened to on different continents, and we still have a solid fan base in France. Two of us are French so we have our audience there, and our audience here in America.
And now in Australia! It’s even better.
It’s not really a struggle; we have like two cultures and we try to make the best of it in our music and in our daily lives, I guess.
BQ: Do you feel a compulsion to write songs in French? I notice you’ve got that lovely song, Je Veux Danser Tout L’Été, which is bi-lingual, but do you still want to write French songs at all?
VJ: We actually have one song in French that we’re gonna release. It’s the next single after the one that comes on Friday (Lowland). For the band so far, we only wrote in English except for that bilingual song that you’re mentioning.
So we put some little bits in French once in a while, but I guess we prefer singing in English. At least with the rock music we’re doing with Yard of Blondes. Sometimes we work with other artists from France, and we can write some lyrics in French too, depending on the project.
I think that rock music is more suited for English.
BQ: The last time I was in France , I noticed that there was quite the appetite for English lyric music. Do you still find that people back in France are OK with songs in English now, or is there a section of the community that would really like to hear music in French?
VJ: Oh, there’s definitely more and more people wanting to listen to music in French now.
But still, people there are connected globally now, and English songs are very popular too. But I guess we had a complex! And everybody wanted to sing in English before, but more and more young artists are singing in French, and I think that’s really cool.
BQ: I notice that there’s a real mix of genres in your music. You’ve got some really stripped back acoustic music like Born Again, then you’ve got that really pop sound with Je Veux Danser Tout L’Été, and then a really rocky sound on You And I & I.
Do you specifically try to cover different genres, or is just whatever feels right at the time?
VJ: For the artistic part, we started as a duet so it was natural to write songs with a guitar and just be the two of us.
But then we wanted to experiment more genres and more influences of our own. So when we started being a full rock band, that gave us a wider spectrum for what we can do. We never want to restrain ourselves in terms of inspiration.
So yes, we do different stuff and I think the good thing about our band is that we’re not trying to do always the same thing. It really depends on the inspiration of the moment.
BQ: The two singles came out pretty close together, didn’t they?
VJ: Yes, Lowland is the one that we’re promoting right now, and You And I & I was released in October, or early November. So we’re trying to release at least four singles before the record will drop at the end of the year.
BQ: And Lowland: the video shot at Dísneyland on a phone.
BQ: Was that a lot of fun, and did you have to get permission to do that, or did you just go and do it?
VJ: Nah, we didn’t ask! We shot everything with our phones. We were just there having a random day of fun at Dísneyland and then we started seeing things behind the magic.
Something bugged us: everybody trying to have fun so much, they’re trying so hard because they paid so much money to be here on that day. So whatever happens, it’s like you have to be happy that day.
So we started noticing little things around the park, and we were like: “Let’s shoot a video that is not the usual video that you would shoot at Dísneyland,” and try to give another perspective.
And then we thought about Lowland and we thought that would be a great theme for the song, because the song is about a dark place where you get sometimes in your life. And sometimes you get back to that place, and it’s where your monsters hide, that’s the place where your fears hide.
And I thought about – do you remember when Banksy did the Dismaland exhibition in England?
BQ: Yes, yes, for sure.
VJ: So I thought about that, and I thought we could do our own Dismaland video in the actual Dísneyland.
Everything is in the editing of the right moments, and a place can look so different the way you edit the video. And just by showing weird stuff or people that are scared, and the way you put it together, it’s a crazy vibe to it.
BQ: Now here we are in 2020, we’ve got videos on cameras and social media and everything. What’s the best way that you get your music distributed? Is it Spotify? Is it iTunes? What’s working for you?
VJ: We’re working with this thing right now called Distrokid and they take care of distributing your music everywhere. But I guess where our audience listens to us the most is through Spotify right now.
And I realise that because we got the chance to be plugged on an official list on Spotify, a French one called French Noise, and that drove so much traffic to us that we never got before.
So yes; it’s 2020. So important to be on the right playlist. Unfortunately, in a sense, because if you don’t have any connections to any one well, you’re on your own.
BQ: And touring? What’s the touring scene like there in California?
VJ: It’s hard! It’s really hard.
We’d been living in France most of our lives, and in France actually the government gives money to smaller venues to help bands to tour and give them the best conditions. So you get paid.
But here in America, it’s like the far west, the wild wild west.
It’s really hard, but at the same time, the different cities. You drive one hour and the landscapes change and the people change too, the mentalities change. When we play in LA and I would say Culver, they’re a very focused audience, but if you go a little farther from LA, you get wilder audiences. You get different tastes every time.
BQ: I think you’re going to have to go to the French government and see if you can get a touring grant to come out and play in Australia.
VJ: That would be amazing! We’re gonna work on that.
BQ: And what’s coming up in the next little while?
VJ: [With the album coming out later this year] we’ve got different singles before. We’re gonna release two singles in April together, one with the French song and another big song.
We also recorded acoustic versions of some of the songs with a string quartet, so I can’t wait to release those.
BQ: Ok, Vincent, just one more question for you: when I’m chatting with you in five years’ time, what are you going to tell me about what’s happening with Yard Of Blondes?
VJ: Hopefully we’ll still be releasing new music, and be able to reach more audience, expand our fan base.
And hopefully we’ll be meeting you in person in Australia!
And you know we love Australia because one of our biggest influences are silverchair.
BQ: Oh really? Wow!
VJ: When I was 11, I was listening to Nirvana a lot and I just covered silverchair, and it became my favourite band. When I started to play the guitar, all I would play is silverchair songs.
I always loved this band, man, and that’s why I love Australia too so much.
BQ: From the little bit I’ve seen of your music, I reckon you’d go down a treat here in Australia, and if you do tour, you’ll have to come to Darwin because they’ll love ya up here.
VJ: Cool! Can’t wait for that.
Follow the joyful (and occasionally dismal – see above) adventures of Yard of Blondes:
New single Lowland just released on 14 February 2020: