Since starting out at university four years ago, Glasgow-based French Wives have steadily built up a following in the city’s bustling music scene with their unique brand of indie-pop music.
Tipped by The Guardian in their January Ones to Watch feature, 2012 looks set to be an exciting year for the outfit as they embark on their first US tour this month before the release of their début album Dream of the Inbetween in May.
With Siobhan Anderson on violin and bassist Chris Barclay playing Trombone, French Wives instantly stand out from the current tide of generic UK indie bands.
Although their early single Halloween might have helped to associate the quintet with the new wave of indie-folk that bands like Noah and the Whale have found success with, the band’s sound is more comparable to the likes of Arcade Fire or Vampire Weekend in that they blend orchestral instrumentation into a predominantly indie-rock sound.
While noting the shared appreciation of indie-heroes Pulp and The Smiths as key influences on their sound, drummer Jonny Smith points out the varied musical tastes within the band.
“We all have a huge range of influences as individuals,” he told The Journal. “Scott (Macpherson), our guitarist, only used to listen to Van Halen.
“However, as a group we are heavily influenced by bands like The Smiths and Pulp. Despite being considered ‘indie’ bands, they still ostensibly write pop music, which is something we’re hugely conscious of.”
This desire to write music with widespread appeal is evident in the pop hooks that singer Stuart Dougan manages to churn out, seeing the band develop a strong following both across Glasgow as well as further afield throughout the UK.
Their popularity has risen significantly in the last couple of years with support slots for established acts like Two Door Cinema Club and Mystery Jets providing welcome exposure.
They have also performed at a number of festivals, including Rockness and last year’s Wickerman Festival, though their drummer recognises one festival in particular as being a highlight of the band’s journey so far.
“Being a Scottish band, it was great to play T in the Park a few years back,” he said. “It felt like a real milestone and the gig itself ended up really busy despite having to compete with The Black Eyed Peas. Why so many people came to see us, I’ll never know.”
It is perhaps surprising that a band who have shown such promise in the last few years have waited this long to release a full length album.
However, this patient approach might just pay off for French Wives as the release of a début album can often either make or break a band.
They began writing Dream of the Inbetween in 2010 and from this early point decided to focus on producing something which felt complete rather than rushed.
Smith told The Journal: “Recording songs we’d already written and throwing them together on an album was never an option for us.
“We all felt it was really important to create a body of work created as an album. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a concept album but there certainly are some prevalent themes.”
Although French Wives wisely took a patient approach when it came to writing the songs for their début, the recording process can often be a similarly long and drawn out affair as Smith and the rest of the band discovered.
“The most frustrating thing about it was the time it took to record,” he added. “Due to various tedious reasons it took the best part of six months so it was
difficult in the sense that we never knew when we’d be back in the studio for the next session.”
Despite the dilemmas, the drummer enjoyed the experience and even jokes of the benefits of having to fill the spare time between recording sessions. “On the whole, it was amazing. Castle of Doom is a great studio, and it was a pleasure to work there. We also played an obscene amount of Fifa.”
Smith is also quick to mention the band’s debt to Tony Doogan (producer – Belle & Sebastian, Mogwai) whose experience provided vital support for a band recording an album for the first time.
“It was a real privilege to work with Tony. In the few weeks working with him we learned more about music and being in a band than we have done in the past three years.”
Up until this point, French Wives have largely organised gigs and releases by themselves, so the guidance that Doogan provided while working on the album has helped to reinvigorate the band as they now focus their efforts in the right places.
And it seems they are now finally set to make the breakthrough they’ve been hoping for after being selected to showcase at this month’s South by Southwest festival in Texas as well Canadian Music Week in Toronto.
The task of getting to this point has been a long and difficult journey for the band and Smith has encouraged others starting up in Glasgow to match this work ethic and desire to play as far afield as possible if they want to achieve similar success.
“I’d say it’s important not to focus all your attention on Glasgow,” he said. “Although it’s a great city with some great venues, it’s vital to try and build your fan base nationwide, too.
“We’ve always made a huge effort to get out and gig all over the UK, even when it means getting home at three or four in the morning.”
Before heading across the Atlantic in a couple of weeks, the band will be playing a series of gigs across the UK to promote their new work ahead of the album launch and also in a bid to raise money to put towards the expensive cost that comes with touring the States.
The fund-raising tour finishes up in Glasgow at Stereo on March 9, where French Wives will be joined by Galleries, Napoleon’s Dogs and the hotly-tipped Bwani Junction.
French Wives’ single Younger from their forthcoming début album Dream of the Inbetween is now available as a free download from their website: www.frenchwives.co.uk. Tickets for their Glasgow show at Stereo on Friday March 9 are £6 and also available at their website