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Bio

Charismatic, eccentric and very, very French, Les Rita Mitsouko are legends. The band formed by Catherine Ringer and Fred Chichin in 1979 have worked with everyone from Jean-Paul Gaultier to Jean-Luc Godard, insulted Serge Gainsbourg on national television, led lives of wild abandon and unbridled creativity and had million-selling hits with impossible-to-categorise art-pop classics like Marcia Baila - the most played song ever on French radio - Andy and C'est Comme Ca. Now, 28 years after they first started making music together, Ringer and Chichin have recorded Variety, their first album in English. The rest of the world is ready to discover why two generations of French music lovers have taken this rebellious, eclectic band to their hearts.

   

 


Ringer, the daughter of an artist father and an architect mother, met Chichin in Paris in the spring of '79, on the set of the Situationist play she was starring in. "He told me that what I was doing was shit," she remembers. "He said that I had to leave and work with him. We knew that we wanted to make pop-rock music, and we both liked The Stooges, Bowie and The Velvet Underground, but beyond that we had no idea what we would sound like." 
Naming themselves after the Japanese cover star of an album by the American band Sparks, the pair transformed their Paris flat into a makeshift studio, utilising Fred's knowledge of production and electronic music and Catherine's grounding in theatre to create a unique musical vision: flamboyant, irreverent and without boundaries. A series of extravagant performances in Paris clubs was followed by Les Rita Mitsouko's 1982 debut single Minuit Dansant - a commercial flop that almost caused their label Virgin to drop the band. Luckily, the vision of Virgin's artistic director Phillippe Constantin saved them. The biggest single in the history of French radio was the result. 
Upon its initial release in 1984 Les Rita Mitsouko's self-titled debut album, recorded in Cologne with Kraftwerk's producer Conny Plank, looked set to go the way of their debut single. But a year later the band released Marcia Baila, a song about the Argentinian dance star Marcia Moretto, whom Catherine had worked with, as a single. With the help of a video by Philippe Gautier and some remarkable costumes by a then-unknown Jean-Paul Gaultier, Marcia Baila sold over a million copies and became one of the most famous French pop songs of the '80s. 
What followed was the band's masterpiece. The No Comprendo - made in 1986 with Tony Visconti, whose production credits include T-Rex and David Bowie - is a totally original mix of electronic dance rhythms, French chanson, rock guitar and art-pop that transcends the sum of its parts. It spawned three hits (Andy, C'est Comme Ca and Les Histoires D'A) and and it turned the band into superstars. Father of the Nouvelle Vague Jean-Luc Godard requested to film the band for the making of their next album. Catherine received an invitation to appear on a primetime chat show with Serge Gainsbourg, who called her a whore. (She responded by calling him a disgusting old man.) The duo's flamboyant shows caught the attention of French style luminaries Agnes B and Jean-Baptiste Mondino. "When it comes to working with other people, we believe in the magic of meeting at the crossroads," says Fred. "When you don't look for magic, it may happen anyway." 
For 1988's Marc & Robert, Les Rita Mitsouko collaborated with their heroes, Ron and Russell Mael from Sparks and shot a video for their version of the traditional French song Le Petit Train in Bombay Film Studios, India. "Fred is a very good producer because he always finds ways to do things differently," says Catherine. "We might record in Morocco or India or Paris; whatever feels right to him at the time." 
The '90s saw Les Rita Mitsouko shift from enfants terribles to national treasures. They were instrumental in reviving the fortunes of the Pigalle club La Cigale, where Maurice Chevalier once performed, and albums like Système D, which features a collaboration with Iggy Pop (1993), and Cool Frénésie (2000) continued the explorations into everything from North African music to electronic dance rhythms. After La Femme Trombone (2002) Les Rita Mitsouko took a break, before Fred and Catherine felt ready to tackle the English language with Variety. "It's always like that with us," says Fred. "Over 25 years of making music together, sometimes it's down and sometimes it's up and sometimes we don't make so many records because we're not feeling it. This time we feel good about it." 
"I was meant to go to make a musical in Italian," adds Catherine. "Then the record company said that we should make a single before I go so that people don't think I am dead. It went well and we just kept going and this album is the result." 
Variety, song by song, according to Catherine Ringer: 
So Called Friend: You meet somebody that you know and you very quickly you feel that this is not a good friend for me. It's an enemy. It's an impression that we all have. 
Hearts In Love: This is pop rock with harmonica, speaking about obsessions and how to make it with an obsession. 
Daydream: It's about modern love between young people, and the relationship between the boy and the girl. It's about the reality of the misunderstanding and what the boy wants for the girl and what the girl wants for the boy. But after the song they are happy in the end. They marry and have plenty of children. 
Lullaby: This is a lullaby from a horrible mother. It's between a super-possessive mother and the boy; we don't know if it's a baby or a big guy of 35 years who still lives with her. He can't escape! 
Even If: This is a contract of love. "Even if the worst thing happens, I'll stay here with you." 
Big Bone To Chew: In French this translated as Rendezvous Avec Moi-Meme (Rendezvous With Myself). It's about making a little time for yourself to do what you really want. 
She's A Chameleon: It's a lyric from a guy called Randy Wooten. My words didn't work so well, so he wrote a nice song about a girl who doesn't really know what he's like. It's a reverie. 
Time You Call: A classic love story about hanging on the telephone. 
Bad Luck Queen: our record company said that Sofia Coppola was looking for music for her film Marie Antoinette. So we did this song and she didn't use it, but we kept the song that we liked. She was the wrong girl in the wrong moment in the wrong place and hey! There's not a chance for you! 
Paris (France): We don't want people to think we are singing about Paris, Texas. It's about a Parisian rolling around the globe to find something new in life before coming back here to find that he has changed, like the town. It's touristic. We sing about the lights on the Seine. 
Ringing At Your Bell: It's a pop song. Ding ding dong. That's it. 
Terminal Beauty featuring Serj Tankian: Catherine had a feeling that her voice would fit with Serj from System Of A Down. We sent him the song and we were surprised that he came back very quickly and said that he wanted to do it. He tried to do a French language version but he could only remember a little bit from school, so we gave up.

 

   

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Les Rita Mitsouko
Les Rita Mitsouko
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