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Les Sans Culottes likes its rock with a French accent
When he was taking French in high school and college while growing upon the east side of Detroit, Bill Carney liked the language but figured "this will never have any particular application in my life later.
"But it did."
No kidding. An attorney in Brooklyn by day, Carney -- aka Clermont Ferrand -- has led the band Les San Culottes since 1988, singing rock songs in French over the course of eight albums, including the new "The Gods Have Thirst," and numerous lineup changes. Carney has always enjoyed making music beyond routine channels -- he's led a couple of jug bands in Detroit and New York -- but immersing himself in French music has been particularly rewarding.
"First of all, it's a beautiful language," says Carney, 52. "And being exposed to, like, Serge Gainsbourg and Francoise Hardy and other 60s French pop, it was weird. It's like how rock 'n' roll, American music was picked up by British people who were doing it and also bringing it back to America, and then there were French people pick up on it.
"It's there own take on it, and it gets kind of a little weird -- but in an interesting way."
Carney acknowledges that whatever he does with Les Sans Culottes (named after the citizen soldiers who were part of the French Revolution) is also filtered through his own background. "Growing up in Detroit, you're gonna love the MC5, the Stooges, Bob Seger, different bands that were popular when I was young," he explains. "That just happens. You can't get away from that -- nor would I want to. And of course it will filter its way into what I do with (Les Sans Culottes)."
Carney laughs as he notes that American audiences tend to be confused by his band. "They think we're actually French, which puts a little mind twist on the whole thing," he says. But Carney and company have been particularly gratified by how well Les Sans Culottes has been received when it's played in France starting with a visit in 2009.
"That was a thrill," he recalls. "The short answer is they really liked us, but I was nervous because part of our show is that we assume a French persona and present ourselves as French people, including speaking with a fake French accent on stage. Sometimes that comes across like we're making fun of French people; we are having fun, but it's not meant to be derogatory. So I was concerned about that.
"But the French people took it in the spirit it was intended -- 'Oh, this is great. American people are singing in French. How unusual.' And they liked it, which meant a lot to us."
Les Sans Culottes and the Luddites
Saturday, May 30. Doors open at 9 p.m.
PJ's Lager House, 1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit.
Tickets are $8.
Tickets Call 313-961-4668 or visit www.pjslagerhouse.com.
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