I was lucky enough to hear ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL’s album a while back with a view to reviewing it for The Shaman and as well as being well into it, I was also left with some questions and curiosities about it. Double luck then to have an opportunity to chat with Boubi (drums – ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL, Endless Floods and others) about the origins and making of the album, as well as local punk scenes, hurdy-gurdies and staying motivated in the Year Of No Gig.
Less luck in the fact that my carefully planned and tested recording system fell over immediately and left me with a fantastic minimal recording of silence, but from my scant notes and sketchy memory I’ve patched together something like the interview this might have been. All signed off by Boubi as absolutely accurate of course!
We began by talking about how the project came about – my first ignorant guess when I first heard ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL was that Rouen and Bordeaux were in vaguely the same geographical area with some overlap in the scenes, but a quick check on the internet disabused me of this notion.
Greyfell ended up staying the night at Boubi’s place, hilarity ensued and the times were so good that they talked about making some music together…
So how do bands from 600km apart end up writing a collaboration? It seems to have been a story of friends-of-friends and bands on tour – Greyfell ended up staying the night at Boubi’s place, hilarity ensued and the times were so good that they talked about making some music together. By the sounds of it, things flowed happily and easily from here, ideas were knocked about, certain images arose, stuck and were cobbled together into a ‘fake mythology’ that was as much about the laughs as it was about writing a concept album.
They built from there to writing and recording over two weekends, first at the rehearsal space in Bordeaux, and then recording at the venue/studio Le 106 in Rouen. Boubi talks about this as a joyous process, which has maybe carried through in the sound of the album as structures formed around ‘the big castle riff’ and the images they’d worked around. The chemistry between the Rouen and Bordeaux contingents led to a natural session, drawing on the vocal strengths of both groups to lay down the bright and open ‘almost poppy, shoegaze’ style that sets the record apart from almost the first moments.
He also reflects on the joys of recording with two drummers – getting in synch for the heavy clean snare hit, and finding ways to complement each other’s playing with alternating fills. There was a common understanding to use the ‘codes’ of genre without aiming to make ‘a doom album’, reaching towards something more ‘orchestral’ and ‘medieval’.
This also drew on the strengths of the synth skills Greyfell brought, extra vocals and violin from Anne Laure of Bungalow Depression, and the trombone of their friend Theo in Paris. Boubi talked also about using the drive towards ‘giving space’ to the music that’s also a big part of Endless Floods’ approach, and that while this may nod towards doom conventions, it’s maybe more that they ‘like that almost acoustic feel’ when tempos are slow and sounds are allowed to stretch out.
There was a common understanding to use the ‘codes’ of genre without aiming to make ‘a doom album’, reaching towards something more ‘orchestral’ and ‘medieval’…
Having discussed collaborators I ask Boubi about what’s happening music-wise in France that I should pay attention to. Maybe it’s just a blind spot for me, but I feel that we don’t hear that much about our near neighbours (I bought that Slift album, but mostly because it’s on Stolen Body Records who are both local and fantastic). The honest answer is that he doesn’t feel that clued-up on doom/psych/etc. developments there either, being more keyed in to local hardcore/crust/punk scenes, which are not famous for their international press outreach (much as in Bristol to be honest).
Aside from the forementioned Bungalow Depression and Modern Men, who are both associates via the Soza Collective, Boubi points me in the direction of Aluk Todolo, the band France (krautrock/drone with a hurdy-gurdy, supported SUNN0))) on their recent tour) and the Pagans label who are doing interesting things releasing music based in the traditional sounds of the South West. Also Year Of No Light who share roots in Bordeaux and the use of two drummers. Some homework for me then…
And what’s next for ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL and associated groups? The answer is that there are lots of plans – Boubi has been working on a solo black metal project – Hatilh, Monarch(!) have been recording and the album will hopefully see the light soon and discussions have already happened about making a second album with ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL. For groups that have mostly written and recorded as a platform to tour and play live it’s been a difficult time adjusting to restrictions and ‘finding reasons not to kill yourself’ [said with a laugh].
discussions have already happened about making a second album with ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL…
Staying motivated if the output of your work is ‘recording a demo that sounds like shit’ is not easy, but it seems this scene has responded by inventing new possibilities for expression and creativity, which I guess is part of the best of humanity. It’s also something that makes itself heard in ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL’s album, and we can only hope that creative light carries through to brighter days, tours and happy encounters, further collaborations and good sounds.
ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL debut Self-Titled album is out now via Soza Collectif 5021.
Interviewed by: Harry Holmes