Americans in France twist a funny sound
Not So Silly?by Andrea Warner
They're slim and scrappy ... the type of young adults who thrive on a steady diet of sarcasm, silliness, and at least one photo-op in a sex swing — that is, they're perfect candidates to start a post-punk noise band with a completely nonsensical name like Americans in France.
Former Floridian Josh Lajoie, AIF's singer/guitarist, possesses the nasal twangy voice of his punk forefathers, and he's working on his meaty snarl. He shares vocal duties with drummer Casey Cook, who happens to be a renowned artist. Kent Howard makes up the third part of the AIF triangle, providing pounding bass lines and terrifically funny one-liners.
The trio riff off each other naturally, and their camaraderie comes through even during an interview via e-mail. They're eagerly anticipating the release of their newest album, Pretzelvania. Indie bloggers and established sites like Pitchfork.com have been kind to several tracks, and AIF still can't get over the fact that Pretzelvania boasts the fingerprints of Grammy award-winning producer/engineer Brian Paulson.
"It was surprising to have the opportunity to work with Paulson, and that he came to our house to do it!" Lajoie says. "Essentially he was cooped up with us. We felt very comfortable." Lajoie and Cook's home served as the de-facto studio, but while its idyllic location in Chatham, N.C., fostered plenty of creative spirit, it also meant that any time of day one could hear AIF's blistering punk shattering the countryside.
"We live on a pond which is basically a giant amphitheater of sound," Cook says. "While we were recording, a lady that lives across the pond would turn her stereo on full blast to illustrate that point every once in a while."
"Her taste in music was surprisingly good," Lajoie adds.
They're equally glib about their unusual name and their songwriting practices.
On their unique moniker, Cook says she imagines spy-type ex-pats living in France, drinking absinthe, smoking fancy cigarettes, and eating baguettes, whereas Lajoie envisions fat tourists in NASCAR T-shirts with bad attitudes. He does admit that fellow Floridian Jim Morrison's defection to France may have also inspired the band's name.
When it comes to crafting their songs, which sometimes come off as impassioned mini-manifestos and sly cultural criticisms ("Mr. Fister" and "Nosejob" come to mind), Lajoie gleefully admits to a controlled chaos. "In the beginning, we'd write songs while we were walking down the street together," he says. "I steal a lot of my lyrics from things people have said to me or from weird movies."
"I'll have words and a melody and bring it to the band knowing it will be filtered through everyone's brain and come out sounding like our song," Cook says.
"We call that not being afraid to kill the baby," Howard adds.
This quick quip is just another example that for all the fury Americans in France pack into their songs, their shared sense of humor is steadily humming below the surface. Or, in certain cases, part of a photo gallery on their MySpace page, which lead this nosy writer to come across a picture of a man fully clothed, joyfully leaning backwards, spread eagle, in a sex swing.
"Yeah, that's me," Lajoie confesses. "Busted. What can I say? Florida chews you up and spits you out."