Since it’s getting near the end of the year, I figured I’d mix things up a little bit and fill a couple of these posts with some bands that I’ve been lucky enough to discover over the past 11 months or so. And since this quartet made one of the biggest impressions on me, with the caveat that I’m a complete sucker for anything in the neighborhood of “post-rock”, I’m going to start with TotorRo. I stumbled across the group’s debut LP, All Glory To John Baltor (“Lavate Las Manos” is my personal favorite—not only does it have vocals, but the shimmering guitars four minutes in always manage to warm my otherwise cold blood), in January on the recommendation of a music blog that I also happened to back my way into visiting. So when I saw that these Frenchmen had released a new EP last month, I thought it would be a perfect time to find out what they’ve been up to. The good news? There is a new record on the way. Plus, if the Home Alone EP is any indication, the band is not willing to rest on its laurels.
Can you take us through a brief history of the band—who’s in it, when you got started, where you’re from, etc?
It started when John and Christophe (the two guitarists) met in high school. We thought that it would be cool to start a band for fun. Things evolved and got more serious and Xavier (bass) joined the band in 2008 for our first demo. Then Bertrand (drums) joined us in 2011 for our first proper release. That’s when the band started to get serious! We come from different places in Brittany (in western France), but we all live together in Rennes now.
You just released an EP via bandcamp that is a preview for your upcoming album. Where in the process are you with the full-length follow-up to All Glory to John Baltor? Will the songs on the EP be on the record or are they indications of what is to come? Any release date in mind or other details you can share?
After All Glory to John Baltor, we met lots of new people and discovered new music. Our musical direction changed quite a lot from the post-rock/post-hardcore we used to play, so it seemed important to us to show everyone what we are doing now. And we are in the process of writing our next full-length, but there is a lot of work left to be done. We don’t know yet if the songs on the EP will be on our album—it’s more of a little tease to show people what we’re up to! If things go according to plan, we should start recording in February, but we don’t have a release date planned yet.
Speaking of the EP, you released John Baltor, your first full-length, late last year—was the writing/recording process (depending on how far along you are) for the second album any different this time around given that you already had an album under your belt? Do you guys have a “typical” writing process?
John Baltor was our first effort and writing the music was a little more tedious then than it is now. We think that as people learn to know each other it becomes easier to write music together, things become more automatic. Our new songs are a little more complicated, with time signatures and tempo changes all the time, so we have to stop to think whilst in the middle of the writing process whereas John Baltor‘s songs are based more on a dynamic progression and the writing was more straightforward. We don’t really have a typical writing process, although it often starts with a guitar riff we like and some weed.
How would you describe the music scene in Rennes or France in general and how you find yourselves fitting in?
The French indie scene is quite small, so even if there are lots of really great bands, none of them really make it big time. Christophe also plays bass in a great math rock band from Rennes called Fago Sepia, and our friends from Mermonte are worth a listen. There is quite a big music scene in Rennes, but we don’t really feel like we fit in—it’s primarily mainstream, Hives-type rock. We were lucky enough to tour in quite a few European countries and the public was really receptive to our music so we always look forward to going back there (particularly the Czech Republic!).
I found out about TotorRo from a music blog–have you found that to be an important way of having people hear your music and/or getting them over to your bandcamp site to purchase your tunes?
We don’t really know if lots of people have discovered us through blogs, but we know that for indie bands, it’s an important way of spreading music since mass media isn’t really interested. The internet is really important to us–it’s the only way for us to get people to listen to our music.
I’m sure the focus is on the new record at this point, but what are the plans for the band over the next six months or so?
We have just moved in to a house together, so the focus now is on writing new material for the album. We are also going on tour in December in France, Belgium, Germany and the Czech Republic. Then we will start recording the new album. We are also looking for record labels to release the album, so if any of you are reading this, we are interested! We are also working on a theatre piece where we would provide musical accompaniment.
What are some records you guys have been digging lately?
Bertrand: I’m listening to a lot of electro glitchy stuff at the moment like Gold Panda, Gesaffelstein, Brodinski, and indie pop-punk like Grown-Ups and Into it Over It.
John: Like Bertrand, except I like listening to heavy-sludgy stuff like Admiral Angry and Converge when I work in the factory.
Christophe: Paramore, The Bulletproof Tiger and Paramore.
Xavier: I like Daughters and Botch
Feel free to throw these guys a frickin’ bone here.