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Feu! Chatterton: Poetry... It's Like Drinking Beer

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Translation by:

Thomas McGuinn


These five lads from Paris are confessed poetry lovers. Dressed like dandies, they love to get lost in their mother tongue. Just like cold beer, there’s a place for poetry in everyday life...or so they say.

Cafébabel: What was it like growing up in Paris from a musical perspective?

Feu! Chatterton: It wasn’t easy, because in France it’s really our jazz musicians who you can learn something from. Paris just isn’t the perfect city for rock music. We turned to the English-speaking rock groups to learn something as musicians. In Paris, people don’t go to a concert simply for the music. We got the impression in Berlin that people don’t just go to clubs to make out, but also to discuss the music. The people over there dance at the jazz jam sessions. Or in Istanbul, the local music is played all over the streets and people suddenly start dancing to it. People in New York even go to the concerts of bands they don’t know anything about.

Feu! Chatterton - La Mort dans la Pinède

CB: You’ve taken part in lots of talent shows. Is that the only way to get famous nowadays?

FC: Not necessarily. At first you’re no-one, just making music with your friends. You’ve also got no money. So then we just signed up for all the competitions. 

CB: You’ve also had acting classes. Is your performance all an act?

FC: In the classes, we just try and free something that’s already inside us. In that moment we’re untamed. But the performance isn’t a lie; it’s just something we’ve worked on a little. We’re much worse when we’re rehearsing amongst ourselves than we are on stage. 

CB: The fact that you quote Baudelaire and Aragon is very well received. Do you consider yourselves poets?

FC: For us, poetry is like drinking beer: it’s just fun! When we deal with poetry, we don’t mean to say, “Have a look at us, we’re poets, put us in a museum for all to see!” It’s more like when you score a goal on FIFA. When people come across poetry here in France, they feel as though they’re looking at a painting in a museum. Many people think that poetry is a dead institution and that you ought to be well-dressed in order to get some enjoyment out of it. We could recite poetry just as well in our underpants. Once we’ve found a verse that fits the music, we can act like little boys. We’re lucky enough to go out on stage and we have the right to take some classical poets along with us. People suddenly realise that they can get into it a bit. Jim Morrison and Patti Smith used to do that as well.

Feu! Chatterton - La Malinche

CB: I read somewhere that you’ve been described as “ambassadors of the French language”. Does that also have something to do with the fact that the French chanson isn’t really treasured these days?

FC: It’s true that there aren’t very many bands that want to play French chansons. There are plenty people who don’t attach much importance to the correct way of dealing with the language. As long as the message is conveyed, they’re satisfied. It’s different with us. 30 years ago there were still poets here in the bars who read out their lyrics. Nowadays we get the impression that that’s no longer in keeping with the times. Back then the language was dealt with in a naïve way. French rap is trying to steer away from it as well.

CB: Do you do anything else outside of music?

Feu! Chatterton: We were all studying different things until recently: physics, business, finance and contrabass.

CB: Do you think your music could be enjoyed outside of France as well?

FC: You can’t really say for certain. We’d love to perform in the USA or Germany, though. We just hope that people will be able to get into the music without understanding the lyrics. 

Translated from Feu! Chatterton: Poesie ist wie Biertrinken