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French festival gives young rockers ticket to fame

By Dominique Vidalon
/ Source: Reuters

By Dominique Vidalon

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - Five years ago, French rock band The Tatianas entertained their friends at confidential acoustic guitar gigs in the tiny Shebeen bar in Paris.

On Friday, the band will perform to a crowd of several thousand people as it opens France's Rock-En-Seine music festival, sharing the stage with Britpop legend Oasis and reformed cult ska act Madness.

The Tatianas are among six local young bands selected for the three-day music marathon, now in its 7th year, held in the scenic 17th Century Saint-Cloud park in west Paris.

"It's wonderful to share such a great bill. It's the recognition of all the work we did," says Timothee Imhaus, 23, bassplayer for the trio, whose intense live performances and tight, catchy lyrics have earned them a cult following on the Paris underground rock scene.

Their selection to one of France's largest music festivals, which drew 76,000 visitors last year, is a boost ahead of the release of their debut album "Verses and Verve" in October.

Pressure is mounting on the band, which also includes singer and guitarist Pierre Hesling, 20, and drummer Lois David, 22.

"You have to be very tight musically and also work harder on how to occupy the stage when you play in front of so many people and still want to really interact with them," says Hesling.

Over 45 acts across three stages, including hype bands The Klaxons, Vampire Weekend and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, are slated to perform at the festival with top-billers ranging from electro band The Prodigy to American psychedelic rockers MGMT.

Formed in 2005, The Tatianas, who sing in English, were part of a new wave of French bands the media has dubbed "Les Baby Rockers" because their average age was only 15 when they began.

Their name is English slang for eastern European prostitutes. Inspired by bands such as The Clash, The Kinks and The Pogues -- the "holy trinity" according to Hesling -- they have recently broadened their musical range to jazzy tunes and more contemplative ballads.

One huge influence remains British band the Libertines that has been widely credited with revitalizing guitar rock.

"The Libertines showed us that it was possible to form a band. They gave us the urge to get out of our bedrooms and look for gigs in Paris bars," says Hesling.

Unlike some of their "Baby Rockers" friends, The Tatianas did not rush to sign with a music label.

They have instead been supporting themselves doing odd construction jobs while honing their craft on the bar gig circuit on both sides of the Channel.

"We are very proud of having gained the backing of the right people. Meeting these people, that's what made it possible for us to be here today. We never had to sell ourselves," said Hesling.

Having quickly built a reputation for intense electric gigs and the rare ability to vow a crowd, they have supported acts such as Razorlight, The Wombats or Dirty Pretty Things, the band formed by former Libertines co-frontman Carl Barat.

Hesling fondly recalls "going out for pizza and a karaoke session" one night in Paris with his hero Barat.

Producer Ludvig Andersson, the son of ABBA star Benny, is also a huge fan and the band recorded its maiden album in his studio in Stockholm.

Recently, The Tatianas were also among the young bands selected to feature on the "Sweet FA3" CD compilation, whose proceeds go to Strummerville, a charity set up by the family and friends of the late Clash frontman Joe Strummer.

When asked where they see themselves five years from now, Hesling says: "Doing a world tour and having our own tour bus. Yeah, with Oasis supporting us !"

The Rock-En-Seine festival

August 28-29-30

Domaine National de Saint-Cloud