French Kicks returns to Pittsburgh

The French Kicks, an indie rock band from New York City, will return to Pittsburgh this Tuesday, at the Rex Theater. They will play songs off of their poppier 2008 release Swimming, as well as tracks from their record Covers, which will be released Tuesday.

Brothers Nick and Lawrence Stumpf met drummer Aaron Thurston at Oberlin College in 1998, and along with vocalist/guitarist Josh Wise, they decided to pursue their band full-time.

When asked to describe French Kicks’ sound, Nick Stumpf hesitated to put a label on the band. “I don’t think the words ‘indie’ or ‘alternative’ mean the same thing anymore,” he said. “We basically try to do interesting things with pop music, with a four-minute song. Each element of our songs is simple on its own, but put it all together, and it makes for a great sound.”

The tracks on Swimming are best characterized by swaying bass, twittering guitars, and Nick’s cheeky drawl. “Our fan base works like this,” Stumpf explained. “Listeners get [our music] on a personal level, and listen to it by themselves and are personally into it — or they don’t. It’s music you listen to by yourself; it’s not music you’d have playing at a party.”

Though this is the case, the band still plays live shows. “It’s fun to play our music live,” Stumpf said. “We interact with the audience, there’s plenty of dancing going on. At our shows we want to move people physically and emotionally. And, you know, we want them to buy the record after the show and throw room keys on stage,” he laughed.
The crowd at a French Kicks show is one of the most diverse, as well. “We’ll have the usual hipster crowd, but then there will be 50-year-olds, parents with their kids, conservative types...” Stumpf said. “At a show in L.A., we had people from our label there telling us that was the most diverse crowd they’d ever seen at a show.”

Stumpf wasn’t entirely sure why their music would attract such a mix, but he did suggest that the band’s emphasis on the instrumental part of a song might be a reason.

“We want to make music that will never sound dated,” he said. Lyrics-wise, the French Kicks aim to articulate something that a lot of people can relate to. However, the band isn’t looking for a major record deal (they are currently signed to Vagrant Records). “That’s a different thing entirely,” Stumpf said. “We didn’t start out aiming for the rock star life. It’s nice to be left alone to do our thing.”
As for future plans: “We’re in the mode of supporting Swimming, so we’ll see what happens,” Stumpf said.

“We generally don’t make plans,” he paused, “which is not a business model I recommend!”