A Séjour in Strasbourg

I’m folded into the passenger seat of our family’s car. My dad is in the driver’s seat and the sun is shining down on us and making me wish I didn’t choose to wear my blackest jeans and winteriest boots today. We are sitting in a companionable quiet, lost in thoughts or in my case, a blog post.

20kg of my life is packed into a suitcase and sitting in the boot, daring me to take a look inside and realise I’ve forgotten something crucial.

Passport? Check. Health insurance card? Check. Raincoat? Check. Gym kit? Check. Slightly too big to fit stuffed animal of Toothless the dragon from that Dreamworks film ‘How To Train Your Dragon’? Check.

These are the more mobile of my possessions, the ones that would fit in a suitcase. Bigger things have been left behind.

Today, I move to Strasbourg, in the north east corner of France. Apparently it’s called the capital of Europe; the European Court of Human Rights is there, along with the European Parliament. And there’s an enormous cathedral too. One could want for nothing more!

I’m going to the university there. For a year. In France. On my own. For a year, did I mention?

I’m terrified, I’m frightened, I’m a ball of anxiety and worry ready to ping and explode at any point like a watermelon with too many elastic bands wrapped around it. All these weeks of burying my head in the sand and ignoring that I had to go away have been for nothing. My plan was foiled again! You know in the Harry Potter series when Dumboedore and everyone else it seems all KNEW that Voldemort was going to come back but did hardly anything to prevent it other than ignore it and have a cracking feast every now and again and play a spot of Quiddich? That’s what I’ve done all summer. And now I have to go and meet Voldemort anyway…ugh! All burying my head did was leave me with a lot of paperwork to sort out last minute! Silly Lizzie, eh?

Underneath the all consuming terror of moving abroad, there’s a glimmer of something golden. If I get out my internal microscope and inspect it further it sparkles and shows me visions of friends yet to be made, smiling faces, improving my language skills and the many people over the last few days who have given me pep talks saying ‘hey Lizzie, you know what? You’re going to do great! This is an adventure, embrace it.’ I am grateful for this small glimmer of hope, it’s the only reason I didn’t leap out of the car this morning and curl up and hide under my duvet for a couple more weeks.

Yes, it’s terrifying and I’ll stumble over all my French verb conjugations and basic vocabulary for several weeks but isn’t that what I’m going over for? To improve and be around those who speak the language much better than I do?

So people, today, on the day I leave for France, I am dreading it slightly less than I have been…which is something at least! I’m being brave and starting my next adventure. Now in the next half an hour I just need to get over my absolute dislike of flying! That’s nothing, I’m about to live in France with all the French people and their berets and baguettes, I can do anything!

Now playing: Don Broco – Tough On You

Live music, Harry Potter and question time with Our Theory – 13/2/14

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Upon entering the Lady Luck bar in Canterbury, I was initially struck by how this was MY kind of place and I have no idea why I haven’t been there before. If you’re a music fan, it will be your kind of place too. The dark walls boast framed images of rock icons from the ages ranging from Elvis to Slash. Contributing to this, they also sell frigging Haribo behind the bar!

It’s the kind of place where you know the bar staff are there for the live music as much as you are, which makes for a very welcoming atmosphere.

The live music I was there for on this particular night was the French post-hardcore band Our Theory, the third of the four acts that evening, who drew bigger audience than that of the headliners Under The Influence.

The five-piece (comprised of vocalist Bastien Berhault, guitarists Mehdi Major and Damien Bauthamy, bassist Yoann Andrieux and drummer Guillaume Cellarius), formed in 2011 in Paris; this is their first musical venture to the UK with friends Under The Influence and they do very well to stand out in a competitive British music scene with their blend of beautiful vocal melodies and churning breakdowns.

During their half hour set, their sound fills the tiny space and if you happened to walk in as they were playing, it would be like being hit by a wall of sound. They sound ferocious. Particularly during one song which we are warned beforehand by Mehdi is “fucking heavy”. He’s not wrong – the song is heavy enough to get the attention of anyone who had not already noticed them and to also make a blu-tacked safety warning fall off the wall.

The ferocity is nicely balanced with the tight musical melodies from the vocals of Bastien and Mehdi which are especially clear during the song ‘The Light’ which is where the musical talent and energy of the band are very obvious. The song is introduced by Mehdi as a “song about losing someone close to you”, showing that not only are they talented musicians, but also some of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. I would know this as after the show, I sat down and had a chat with them.

Firstly, the name, where did it come from?

Mehdi: Originally, we were trying to pick up names, we figured out that we wanted to share our vision of the youth, of today’s youth and everything that’s changed in the last 20 years. So we wanted to share that vision. We have no pretension of trying to change the world, we just wanted to share what we have to say.

What about the logo? I think it strikes many people as being very Harry Potter-esque.

M: Yeah, I know! Everyone, everyone, asks the question. So actually, we just liked the way that triangles looked, and you could put an ‘O’ and a ‘T’ in them and it makes sense, so there is no link with Harry Potter at all. Although, I LOVE Harry Potter, I’m such a big Harry Potter fan, I love it!

(At which point, there was a brief musical interlude due to a rousing chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ directed towards bassist Yoann).

How did you come to form the band?

M: I was in a band before, and we all met in the French scene in Paris. Damien played in a band called Borderline, he was the guitar player. And so, at some point, I wanted to do something else and Bastien wanted to form a new band, heavier than I was doing before. So he just hooked me up on Facebook and we started writing songs, then went to Damien, and Damien listened to the songs and wanted in.

Damien: When I stopped my old band, I met him [Bastien] and told him that if I was to do a new band, it would be only with this guy [gestures to Bastien]. And so they proposed to me to do a new band and I was like ‘Yeah, cool!’ (he laughs).

You mentioned the French music scene, what’s it like in terms of French bands?

M: The bands are very good. We have loads of friends in really good bands, like Chunk! No Captain Chunk! They took over the world, they’re kind of the French pride!

D: Betraying the Martyrs…

M: Yeah, Betraying the Martyrs. So we have loads of friends in bands. It [the French music scene] used to be shit, but now, it’s getting better and better and people are signing to huge labels. We’ve got a door open.

How has the tour been so far for you?

M: It’s been good! We’ve been with Under The Influence and they’re really taking care of us, looking out for everything and they’re amazing. This is the fourth show now tonight because we did London (which as pretty good), we did Mansfield, then a show in Stockton but it was cancelled and yesterday was Swansea and it was very good although we couldn’t understand the accents at all!

What’s been the best night so far?

M: I would say maybe Canterbury actually! Even though the venue was small and the sound system was not very good, the crowd was really good, so probably tonight. London was a little bit better [in terms of venue], but it was the first show of the tour, so we had to get into it, but yeah we’ve had good venues, but it’s not about the show, it’s about the crowd.

How is touring in England different to touring in France?

M: It’s different in a way, the crowd is very different. In France you get a lot of people with arms folded and checking you out, waiting for you to make a mistake because everyone is so jealous.

Bastien: It’s very anxious for me because everyone is like “show me your talent” and wait for you to make a mistake.

M: But here it’s so different. At the end of every show, people will come to us and complement us on the set and we get a great response from British people. We get a great response from French people too, but it’s different. Here, people aren’t afraid to come to you and say “Yeah man, that was a great set, I like your band”.

B: We love to play in Paris, but in the beginning it was difficult, now it’s good because we have fans and we’ve grown a fan base. But in the beginning it was very difficult.

M: Also, something very important is that you guys have a great rock and roll culture, in France, it’s not really about rock and roll. You all come to shows and discover new bands, it’s not really the same in France.

B: In Paris, it’s 300 people maximum [at a show]. For Bring Me The Horizon, it’s 1000.

M: Actually going back to the question about the scene in France, you can have huge bands in the UK, like Bring Me The Horizon, they can play 1600 in France, but they can be playing arenas here. Rock and roll is smaller in France. The scene is smaller in France, there’s less people in France for this kind of music than in Britain.

Is there a song off the new album that you enjoy playing live the most?

M: Actually, there’s a song on the album which features Bert from Chunk! No Captain Chunk! called The Liars and I love it, it has great energy and it’s really good.

B: I think I’d say The Liars too, I think it’s really good.

What was the recording process like, particularly with the contributions from Bert from Chunk! No Captain Chunk! and Ed from Devil Sold His Soul?

M: Actually, Bastien had been in contact with Ed for a long time and we’re long-time friends of Devil Sold His Soul and he contacted him [Ed] on Facebook and explained that we had a track that would really fit his vocals. From the beginning we asked him if he would like to do a song with us, he said yes, we wrote the song, and we sent it to him for the vocals and he recorded it in his studio and sent it back to us. We wrote the lyrics and we wanted them to have their touch because they have special vocals.

Who is the chief song writer? And what’s it like writing in English?

M: With the album, I wrote the music and he wrote the lyrics

B: With my girlfriend because she’s American

M: His girlfriend is American so she was an enormous help to us.

What are your plans for the future for Our Theory?

M: Right now, we are writing a new EP, so maybe 4 or 5 songs. But heavier.

B: It’s going to be more metalcore, kind of like Issues [the band], so with more screaming.

M: I think it’s going to be very good, I’m very excited about it. We’ve demoed pretty much everything right now and we are very happy and can’t wait to have people listen to it. We’ll probably have Bert from Chunk! producing the album so it’s going to be really good, it’s going to add some of his style as he’s really good for that. I think we might be touring France a little bit in April with Under The Influence and just waiting for everything to be released to see what’ll happen.

When do you think you’ll be back in the UK again?

M: As soon as possible! (laughs) But we have nothing planned for the moment but as soon as we get the opportunity to come back, we will.

They are as lovely as their English is good – which is very good indeed. Afterwards they sign my album and we talk about Harry Potter some more and contrasting the stereotype of a typical ‘band dude’, they are all very down to earth and approachable. They are a band who are aware of the fact that their present success is due to their music and their fans and are good enough to remember that.

I think something needs to be said of the power of social networking, particularly with Our Theory. In a time before Facebook or Twitter, it would have been incredibly difficult for such a small band to even think about breaking into a different country. But now they can promote their new album ‘Collapse’ or an upcoming show all at the touch of a button. Hopefully, with their new EP coming soon and first appearance in the UK now under their collective belt, they’ll attract the notice of ‘important people’ from ‘important places’ which will really give them a leg-up in their journey to spread their theory and make them a force to be reckoned with in the future.

Watch this space!

Our Theory’s debut album ‘Collapse’ is out now and watch their new music video for ‘The Devil’ here.