There are surely more than enough Serge Gainsbourg-abes lounging around the indie rock world. But many often drown their sexy Franco-woes and groovy beats in too much electro insecurity then wait around for perfume commercials to come calling for licensing. Au contraire, the Liminanas. This French groupe have a garage rock past in their genes, have left the lovely shores of their hometown, Perpignan, to tour around bars in Europe and the States, and have released their records through skuzzier labels like Trouble in Mind and HoZac. But don’t be fooled, this is some top-notch oo-la-la suave, delivered with the fuzzy guitars, analog keys, and girl/guy swoon-crooning that would make Monsieur Serge roll over in his grave to grope for another anonymous femme. We caught up with Liminanas’ singer/multi-instrumentalist, Lionel, just as their third LP, the Morricone-tinged Costa Blanca (Trouble In Mind), has wound its way onto record shop shelves and bedroom hi-fis.
So what’s been going on in the Liminanas’ world since you last came to America to tour?
We’ve been working a lot! We built a little studio in our house, we’ve been recording all the time, meeting people and touring in Europe. We played in Germany, Belgium, Holland and France. We also did the Liverpool Psych Festival in England, a track for MOJO magazine, released some 7-inches and recorded the new LP.
So I guess it’s easy enough for you to tour through Europe?
Touring in Europe is easy, you can play everywhere without a working visa. Our problem is time. We have a son, and Marie has a regular job. But we play everytime we can. Last year we did 30 concerts, this is very few. The positive side is the concerts remain a very exciting moment for us, because we are not always on the road. We also want to keep time to record, that’s very important. We are vinyl junkies!
Who’s in the band now, and what previous bands they were all in before Liminanas?
The band is Marie and me only, for the records, but we are six on tour. We have a new singer on stage, a very cool girl called Nika. She had made pop solo records, she lives in Montpellier and she is Dutch. Our bassist Mickey was the bassist of the punk band, the Toxic Farmers, an excellent band who did two singles in the ’90s. Martin, who plays keyboard and guitar on stage, is also playing in a band called Weird Omen. Julien is our sound engineer—he finds solution to make our small instruments, like ukelele, on stage sound in a ton of fuzz! I was playing in Les Gardiens du Canigou, Beach Bitches, Bellas and El Vicio, and Marie was in Les Bellas.
Can tell me about your teenage years, and what bands first inspired you to get into music?
I was a teenager in a very small town near Perpignan and I was obsessed by music, by the Stooges but also mod culture, (The Action, Jam, etc.) and punk stuff. The stupid college sport guys wanted to beat me! I was dressed like a mod when I was 12 years old. My first strong souvenir in matters of music is the Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed on cassette and the Stooges’ Funhouse LP. Then I found the Back From The Grave Volume 2 (Crypt Records) in a record store in Perpignan called Lolita. That changed everything. I came back to the record store every week, on Saturday, trying to dig more garage punk from the ’60s, it was so exciting, mysterious. I spent hours watching the black and white photos and reading info on the BFTG or Pebbles liner notes etc. Thanks to Tim Warren’s (Crypt Records honcho) work, I realize punk was not just the Sex Pistols, punk was the Novas, the (60’s) Banshees, etc. After that, it became an obsession. It was the ’80s, before the internet. A French label, Eva, released Texas punk groups from the ’60s and Florida punk groups from the ’60s, etc. I bought the DMZ Live, the Lyres Live at Cantones, etc. I am 41 years old now, I was 15 then.
You know I’ve been to Perpignan, and I remember the crowds there being some of the wildest in Europe! What is the music history of Perpignan?
There is an old tradition of mods and rockers in this city. In the ’90s we had a band called Les Gardiens du Canigou. We had long hair, we smoked a lot and we finished all our concerts playing a very violent version of I Wanna Be Your Dog. Our singer Guillaume was naked and we broke all our materiel at every gigs. This band became the Beach Bitches. When Beach Bitches split, then came the Fatals, the Sonic Chicken 4, Les Bellas, etc. There have been good garage and punk bands here since the begining of the ’80s. Because there is nothing to do, no jobs, and good record dealers!
What do you like about your town, and what is not so good?
My city is culturally dead. Because of the local politician mafia. The unemployment is very high here too. I believe thanks to vinyl and films like Animal House, the city became a good garage punker area in the ’90s, in the Fleshtones tradition. When we were kids, we chose to live on the Animal House side— we wanted our life to be a party with all our friends. Of course it’s impossible. Perpignan is now full of garage punk kids and that’s very good! I don’t go out a lot anymore because my son is very young and needs us. But where are the the toga parties now? I miss the Atomic Spuds from Lyon, those kind of people, you know?
Oh I know. Those guys were hilarious! Speaking of which, a particularly funny or interesting story from the last tour? And when was the last time you toured over here?
The last time we came to the U.S. was for the promotion of the first album, with Lisa and Bill. It was great, the best country in the world to play. We met a lot of old friends in Memphis, Colombus, New York, WFMU… Nashville was great, we played with Paperhead, a great, great band from Nashville. Third Man Records place was great too, Philadelphia, with this wonderful orange light, the railroad bridges, “Rocky” area. In Chicago, when we started to play, a girl in front of me was singing the lyrics. For me it was just completely incredible, amazing! We absolutely love the U.S.—the people, the culture, the country, your music, your cinema, etc.
I love France too, but that’s a story for another day… So, Costa Blanca. Please tell me about where you recorded it and what you tried to do differently this time.
It was recorded at home in June and July 2013 by Marie and me. We have a lot of guests: Mu Marguai, Paula H Satan, Nadege Figuerola, Guillaume Picard, Francesca Cusimano, and Laurent Sales for some Eastern Europe instrumentals. I locked myself in my studio and worked for a month and a half non-stop, and watching Sergio Leone movies at night when my son was sleeping. We mixed it at Raph Dumas’ place, with Raph. It is a very personal record, about childhood memories, family trip to Spain, way of life in the seventies, it talk about Algeria—my familly is from Spain and Algeria. It’s a story with a beginning and an end. There is one song recorded and writted with JC Satan’s singer, Paula. I am very proud of this song. It’s a record about Mediterranean culture too.
If you had to leave France and live somewhere else, where would you move to and why?
I would like to move in New York or San Francisco, two totally different ways of life but we love these two cities. First time we came NY was in a very cold winter just to visit. After that we played in New York in summer, it was amazing! Totally different. I love the smells, the darkness in winter, the electricity. New York rules. San Francisco is different. When we arrived, we had the feeling of having been there before. This place was made for us, good vibes, the sun. I’m turning into a hippie en vieillissant!