We chat to Adam French about his two new tracks and his musical inspiration.
Adam French is a name you’re going to become very familiar with. The 23-year old multi-instrumentalist has been touring the UK and building a devoted following.
French’s new tracks “Hunter” and “Punchbag Love” demonstrate a remarkable range. “Hunter” is a driving slice of indie while “Punchbag Love” is a beautiful piano ballad. However different the tracks sound, they both perfectly showcase French’s rich vocal – it’s a voice you won’t quickly forget.
The video for “Hunter” features some amazing archive footage. How did the video come together?
Well initially I was working with a photographer; she introduced me to a friend of hers who worked in video production… We ended up putting our heads together on where to take the visual for the track. I’ve always loved grainy archive footage and didn’t really want a ‘music video’ video for the track, I felt as though it should be a visual representation of where the song came from. I also wanted whatever people saw to make them feel as anxious as the song did, hence some of the more graphic insect footage etc. The idea behind the song is life from the perspective of the Hunter, rather than the hunted and the metaphor behind the fact that everyone has that territorial, instinctive feeling inside them somewhere, no matter how deeply buried it may be, if you push hard enough you’ll find the defensive side of a person, and everyone has a breaking point… I wanted the visual to demonstrate that as much as possible.
“Punchbag Love”, another one of your new tracks, is incredibly heartfelt. What inspires your songwriting?
… I’ve always felt that it’s important to show a fuller spectrum when it comes to releasing music, I wouldn’t want anyone to find it easy to pigeon hole me or the music I write. I’m inspired by well written songs of any kind, hence the variety within the music I end up creating. I’ll listen to anything from Hendrix to Hanz Zimmer, Jamie T to Burial, Queens of the Stone Age to Johnny Cash. I think a broad range of influences allows me to float between genres and not necessarily have to adhere to any guidelines or boundaries laid out by my predecessors. I’m happy in the ether.
“Hunter” and “Punchbag Love” were both self-produced. Talk us through your recording process.
I have an ever growing home studio set up and a collection of analogue synths, guitars, basses etc. So it all starts there. Once a track’s written, I’ll start working on structure and instrumental layouts, arrangements etc. writing and tracking all the separate parts into a project as I go along. Once I have all the parts finalised, I’ll head into the studio with my friend Ben to re-track amped guitars, live drums and anything too loud/big to do at my flat. A lot of “Hunter” & “Punchbag Love” was recorded at the flat, Vocals for ‘Hunter’ I recorded when it was quiet enough to avoid capturing sirens and helicopters all the way through my takes. A lot of the sounds and are just a result of experimenting with ideas and using things available to me in a less than textbook manner. I haven’t studied sound, I just learned by trying things out. A lot of what I’ve learned about production has come from working with other producers… Everybody does things differently and you learn from everyone else’s methods. I’m due back in the studio tomorrow to start work on the next batch with my mix engineer.
How has your sound evolved?
Massively, I’ve always wanted to better myself… So I’m always experimenting with new sounds. As I said, I’m working with an ever evolving home studio, so the more equipment I manage to lay my hands on the more creative and experimental I can be. I’ve always been influenced by bands and singer songwriters, but I find myself listening to more and more electronic music nowadays, and often orchestral and classical music too, I find it especially helpful to listen to music that doesn’t rely on lyric or meaning when it comes to production influences. I guess that’s had a part to play in my growth in terms of the sound of some of my music. I’d also say hearing new music and thinking, ‘How have they done that?!, or ‘what have they used there?’ inspires me in wanting to give people that same feeling of uncertainty.
Aged 10 you taught yourself guitar and later worked in a record store so you’ve clearly spent a lot of time surrounded by music – which record had the biggest influence on you?
My boss at the record store introduced me to a lot of my influences. I think I’d have to go further back for the biggest influence though. I think Nirvana’s Nevermind was the record that made me want to pick up a guitar. I grew up on my dad’s record collection, he was always introducing me to his favourite bands and artists and we’d listen to a lot of music together when I was a kid, I loved making as much noise as possible from an early age and Kurt & Co were particularly good at that. They inspired me to pick up the guitar in the first place.
You’ve spoken about the impact watching other bands perform had on you. What’s the best gig you’ve ever attended as a fan?
The first big show I ever went to was The Sex Pistols @ Brixton Academy, which my old man bought us tickets for. I think I was about 14, it was an anniversary tour of Nevermind the Bollocks’ And I was around a third of the size of anyone else at the gig. I left that show with ripped clothes, somebody’s blood on my t-shirt and confirmation of the fact I needed to be a musician. The best show I’ve been to recently however, would have to be Catfish and The Bottlemen, again at Brixton Academy. Van is also particularly good at holding a crowd. I think showmanship is something I admire. I might as well live at Brixton Academy!
You played the northern gig circuit before moving to London, what’s the most important thing you learnt playing those early shows?
I think it’s really important that artists play tonnes of terrible shows and really home in on what it is they’re about before trying to take things further, If you don’t know yourself as an artist, then nobody else is going to get it either. Toilet circuits and pub gigs are exactly what any self-respecting teenager, wannabe musician should be spending all of their time on… You meet other artists, become part of your local scene and help each other out. I made a lot of friends whilst playing those shows and there’s nothing better than sharing music and being around like minded people. You all end up trying to give each other a leg up.
Following on from that, you played shows under various guises and supported the likes of Frances, Rat Boy and Jack Garratt – do you have a favourite venue?
I recently played at Plaza in Zurich, and that was pretty special, enormous and beautiful bird artworks all over the walls and ceiling of the venue. Festival No.6 is a close contender as well, though although not strictly a venue, but I played this year and hadn’t heard of it before doing so… it’s amazing, the most beautiful setting for live music. In a traditional sense, as a punter, I’d have to say my favourite venue is Brixton Academy. I’ve been to a lot of shows there, and it’s well and truly nailed to the top of my ‘to do’ list as a performer.
In January 2016 you’re hitting the road for your first headline tour – what can people expect from an Adam French show?
My January tour is a mixture of solo and full band shows. At my solo shows, I like to make things as personal as possible, and remove any sort of separation between me and the audience. If we can be on first name terms by the end of the show then I’m happy. My full band shows are more explosive and demonstrate the full spectrum of my sound… Whichever you can make it to I’ll ensure its worth your while.
After the tour, what’s next?
As soon as I finish touring the UK we’re off to the states for my first North American tour, which I’m massively excited about… I’ve never been to America. I get back from the states in mid Feb, Then back into the studio to record my debut album. New music in the meantime though, so I won’t keep you hanging that long.
Hunter / Punchbag Love is available now as a double A-side
Words: Dan Austin