Neon Noise Project: Jamaica


Written by Patrick Swift
15 Monday 15th November 2010
Jamaica, made up of Parisians Antoine Hilaire and Flo Lyonnet, have been causing a stir lately. Not only are they able to make decidedly uplifting and poppy tunes, but they managed to get a helping hand from Justice along the way. Peter Franco, the ‘audio supervisor’ for Daft Punk was also there in the recording process of their debut album, Jamaica No Problem which was released August 23.
A decidedly guitar based feel leads the charge for Jamaica, with little mention of synths in their music. You would find this fairly surprising considering Xavier de Rosnay of Justice was involved, and if you’ve ever listened to Justice (which I would guess you have) you’ll know why.
Sounding a bit like what Daft Punk would have been if they had been a pop/rock band, their music sounds super smooth and crisp.
Thanks to remixes of their most popular track ‘I Think I Like U 2’ by Breakbot, word about the band has spread, with mentions in Mixmag and on Annie Mac’s radio show only bolstering their cause. They are definitely worth a listen. Don’t Panic caught up with Antoine ahead of their headline slot at Neon Noise Project’s Kitsuné Maison launch party this week.
What instigated the name change from Poney Poney to Jamaica?
Poney Poney was a trio with Flo and a drummer, Sam. He decided to quit but Flo and I wanted to keep on bearing the torch. We also quit our jobs to dedicate ourselves to this new band fully. It was from an extension of a high school band to something more serious, yet funnier too.
Some people are bemused by the lack of synths in your music seeing as you worked with Xavier from Justice, what would you say to that?
 We are a rock band, a power trio on stage with David on drums. So first of all, we don't play synths at all. It also seemed funny to make it a statement, stand for the idea that, even though we were working with a producer known for his electro band, we could make a modern record without any of these "modern" instruments. But synths are 40 years old anyway, it's not that new to use them.
What was it like to work with Xavier de Rosnay and Peter Franco respectively?
 We've worked with Xavier a lot in the past and it's a really easy way to communicate, we share a common ground musically and are friends. Peter was brought along by Xavier to share duties, recording, arranging and mixing, with of course the most important of all being pushing us to our limits as songwriters, players and singers. Peter also helped me with correcting the grammar and vocabulary when needed. And lyrics didn't need much change, I'm really proud of it. We toured with Peter in the US lately and we were really nostalgic of the time we spent in the studio, it was a great experience.
Comparisons have been made regarding you and Daft Punk. Can you see where this sort of comparison would come from?
Of course, people who compare our bands forget that they're a world class house band with 4 brilliant albums under their belt. So thank you to everyone making that mistake, we're really proud to be cited in the same sentence. I guess it's because of our working with Peter who's also working with them as their live engineer and the fact that we're French. That's enough for people sometimes to compare what is not comparable.
What’s the music scene in Paris like right now?
We're almost never in Paris anymore but I can tell you that we're expecting Chateau Marmont and Surkin's albums with great expectations. It seems that there's a bit of a shift from only electro acts to more mixed genres bands, a bit like everywhere I guess. People in Paris and France more generally are probably more confident with their music now that Daft Punk, Air, Justice or Phoenix made being French and in a good band something credible.

Have you been followers of the Kitsuné Maison compilations from the start?
 I've listened to a few of them in the past and they're really good at finding bands people have never heard of. I must have discovered the compilations around number four.
What’s it feel like to be playing their party at Neon Noise Project next week?
It's the second time we're playing for them and the previous gig was really cool. We really like London and I think we always fit better at parties like Kitsuné's, because the audience is not expecting only electro or rock, they're just expecting good music, whatever instruments are played on stage. And it's going to be our first time at this venue too, which is always exciting.

What are your favourite tracks to DJ?
I have to confess that Hoes Get Down by High Powered Boys is played everytime I go near a CDJ1000. It's good, I love the dumb message and it's awfully easy to mix. I can't chose only one Prince track but he has to be there, as well as Get On Up And Do It Again by Suzy Q and Rhumba by the Knight Club.
What reactions does your music get in different places around the world?
It seems that Japan and Australia are really fond of it so we're going to tour there in December and January. We just played for the first time in Barcelona and in Toulouse in the South of France and I think I've never seen people that crazy, it was great and I love when security has to get involved to ease a pogo! But more than places, it's about the kind of gigs we play. If we're in the Netherlands or London, as long as people are there to listen and dance to our kind of music, that's always a great experience.
What kind of music are you into at the moment, which artists are you feeling?
I'm really into digesting the more I can by bands quite far from us, like The Eagles, Bruce Springsteen or Led Zeppelin. I'm into writing mode so I feed off old and really different acts to understand how they wrote songs. They might seem out of date to some people but I really like first degree bands these days. I'm a bit under wowed by plotting and concepts to make songs appear cooler than they actually are.
How did you feel about the reception of your debut album?
It's still being discovered I think so I'll draw a picture in a year or so. I don't want to know too much about either good or bad reactions, it's still a bit fresh to have other opinions than the audience's. But I met a few guys who told me they started a band a bit like us so I guess that's probably one of the best feedback one can have. Now I hope their bands are good!
Is a second album underway?
We're in the fantasy phase, rediscovering exciting things in music everywhere and taking notes. I keep a little document on my computer with all the ideas but I will have to go through hundreds of musical memos to try to put things together. And of course, end up with only the last 10 songs written in the studio, as usual.
Without music where would you be?
I hope I'd be creative in some other domain. I'm probably going to end up deaf sooner or later so I'll have to draw or try to write books. Do you have a topic please?

Jamaica play at the Neon Noise Project Kitsuné Maison Party at Village Underground on November 19, buy tickets from here.

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