Juniore, the French dark pop-rock band taking inspiration from Francoise Hardy
France, throughout the years, has provided the world with some great music whether it varies from the likes of Serge Gainsbourg to Stereolab to Daft Punk. With that in mind, Far Out spoke with the fast-rising Parisian trio Juniore, a band who saw their impressive debut Ouh là là win over Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner who they now count as a fan.
Juniore is the creation of Anna Jean, a musician who travelled the world as a child living an almost nomadic lifestyle with her father, famed French writer J.M.G. Le Clezio. While her formative years were undoubtedly influenced by new cultures and surroundings, Jean returned back to her Parisian routes when dictating the sound of the band. The wild 1960s Francoise Hardy era of France, a time and a place that has helped shape their hometown’s modern history, sees Juniore attempt to build the next chapter of Parisian musical history without forgetting its origin.
Quintessentially French, it is not only the sound of Juniore which takes the listener to the heart of the French capital. The band’s well-considered black and white aesthetic which stems through their videos with prolific effect, helps transports the listener to a whole different era, a place which makes listening to Juniore perfect escapism as you enter their universe which seems as though it could have been dreamt up by Jean-Luc Godard.
Singer Jean founded the group in 2013 and, during our conversation, she opens up the interview by detailing her motives behind forming the all-girl group: “I had this fantasy of making music with a whole bunch girls, like the all-ladies bands from the ’60s. I brought together a couple of my old friends, Verena and Laurence, who brought their friends and their friends’ friends and by the time we did our first concert, we were seven girls in total. I thought we were going to be like a French version of The Shangri Las but I think we sounded more like The Shaggs.”
The early years of Juniore sound very much like a Parisian utopia although the vocalist admits: “Paris is tough, but compared to London or New York, it’s like a small town. There’s a lot going on in music these days in Paris. A lot of interesting bands playing in small venues. It’s great.”
However, with so many people are involved with the band, consistency became an issue and Juniore stripped back and became a brand new entity, as Anna explains: “We were all in our late 20’s/30’s, so eventually, some girls got married, others got promoted in their day-jobs or moved to different continents or just had better things to do and Swanny and I were the last ones standing. Guitar, vocals and drums. We stopped trying to replace them when we realised playing duo or trio was a different way to make the music work. It sounds a bit sad, but it’s actually quite nice to have had all these wonderful ladies. They all left something very special in the band and I hope one day we’ll get to bring together every single one of the lovely girls who played in Juniore… even the ones who left a bit angry,” she joked.
Being in an all-female group in a male-dominated industry can lead to some uncompromising situations, you only need to look as far as Phoebe Bridgers’ allegations of abuse against Ryan Adams as a prime example. When our conversation moves onto this subject, Anna proudly interjected: “It’s getting better actually. We’ve played with a lot of female musicians in the last few years. We’re always so happy. But it is a bit strange to be considered a girl group when nobody ever considered male bands to be boy groups. Except for boy groups, I guess. Also, Samy Osta who produces and records our albums is a big part of Juniore. On stage, we’ve been travelling with ‘Our Thing’ who is a strange gender-less kind of mysterious creature. And soon we intend to invite another unusual character. So it really isn’t technically an all-female band. Although we do love working with females, off stage as well.”
Juniorehave a very distinct retro, 60’s sound to their music with a tinge of dark pop mixed in for good measure. Their sound, a symbiotic relationship with French musicians of Parisian past. “I think the ’60s is like the adolescence for our modern world,” Anna explains. “It was a time full of nonsense and hope and silliness and melancholy. At least, looked at from today. It’s what we like best in the universe, and what we all have in common in Juniore. We’re old adolescents who don’t know what they want to be when they grow up. All the French yéyé music has influenced a lot—because they were influenced by English and American music.”
American music was bound to have had an influence on the vocalist, who, in her younger years, spent a chunk of her adolescence living in the States as her Father—the esteemed writer and professor, J. M. G. Le Clézio who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2008—resided in the country. “Being a teenager in America in the ’90s was great,” Anna said this about her years spent stateside. “It was probably a little bit different in New Mexico because it truly is a strange place,” she added. “I think it used to be where people went to get treatment for tuberculosis or to run and hide from the law or in the ’70s, to start hippie communities, mostly. In the middle of Native American towns and villages. There’s a place called Truth and Consequence. So it’s really very wonderfully strange. I definitely feel like my adolescent heart is full of America’s best alternative and grunge and hip-hop culture and the greatest teenage films and video arcades and the worst fast food too. Being French in Albuquerque in the ’90s was like being from another planet. I suppose it’s defined who I am, for better and for worse,” she proudly stated.
One of the many influences from her home country is Françoise Hardy, who she gleefully speaks of her love of: “I adore Françoise for what she represented in the ’60s. The natural and effortless beauty that she was and the talented songwriter. Most female singers in France were a bit ditzy, fun and cute and had men write them silly songs. Francoise was dark and gloomy and melancholic,” she said with renewed excitement. “And wrote a lot of her own songs. She was existentially blazé when everybody else was twisting the night away. But I have to admit, I love the ditzy, fun and cute yéyé girls just as much.”
It’s perfectly obvious that Juniore are very proud of their French heritage, the same creative spirit that they share with Hardy. In the very basic of takes from the band, you can see that their choice to solely perform their songs in their native language, unlike acts such as Christine & The Queens who have released English versions alongside French versions, sums up their affinity to France. I ask if this is something Anna would consider doing in the future, to which she said: “Yes and no,” in a moment of contemplation. “I think it’s great that I can choose to sing in French. To have that luxury of having multiple languages, it’s really wonderful. I’d love to make English versions of certain songs but it’s tricky. Some things simply don’t translate well. And maybe music is universal enough not to absolutely need translation.”
Singing in French has not stopped Juniore’s British fans from falling in love with the band’s work. One high profile admirer, Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner for example, who recently recommended the band in a rare interview he did with Beats 1’s Matt Wilkinson last year. “How bizarre is that,” Anna said with genuine authenticity. “We found out through the magical world of the Internet. We met Alex a few months later at one of the shows we did opening for Miles Kane. They are both very nice and very funny.”
Fresh from supporting Kane in a string of shows, Juniorehave completed the recording of their second studio album—a more natural form of expression for the band: “I love writing and recording. I used to have awful stage fright—it’s gotten much better thanks to Swanny and Our Thing,” Anna said when our chat turned to differences between their live process and that of work in the studio. “We have a lot of fun playing live shows. I think because we enjoy each other’s company on the road and because we have a lovely musical conversation. We may not be the greatest musicians (yet) but we’re learning a lot together. And I think the more time goes by, the more connected we feel to each other. It’s really very nice.”
Finally, what should you expect at a Junior gig? According to Anna expect a cocktail of the following: “Hopefully a fair amount of fun, social awkwardness, bizarro dance moves, bad jokes, silly Frenchness and mediocre translations, for good family entertainment. We take it very seriously.”
Juniore’s new album Un Deux Trois, is out 28th February 2020 on Outré.