Last summer, the members of New York City’s Nous Non Plus were still a kitschy fake French band called Les Sans Culottes (in honor of the pants-challenged revolutionaries who overthrew the Bastille), and they’d just axed their leader. Unfortunately, he was also a lawyer, and took them to court over the use of the band name. After thundering the best line in recent judicial history — “You’re going to have a bad hair day in this courtroom!” (we’re not making this up) — the judge found for the plaintiff. And so, armed with nothing but the pants covering their asses, the songs in their hearts and perfect hair, merci beaucoup, bandmates Celine Dijon, Jean-Luc Retard and their cohorts had to start anew.
They took Serge Gainsbourg’s famed sex-you-up duet, “Je T’Aime (Moi Non Plus),” as the inspiration for their new name. Translated literally, Nous Non Plus means “neither do we.” As in: “Gee, I don’t get what happened with Les Sans Culottes.” “Yeah, neither do we.”
What seems to have happened, though, is that a fake French pop band became a (more) real, attorney-free rock band — which is much better, anyway. Nous Non Plus have been, how you say, liberated, and their exuberant new self-titled album, written and recorded and released within a matter of months, is currently in CMJ’s Top 10 with heavies like Wilco and My Morning Jacket.
“It kind of gave us a new lease on life, to be able to change our lineup and our sound a bit,” says vocalist Verena Weisendanger (a.k.a. Celine Dijon).
“My goal was to create something original that has echoes of influences but isn’t obviously derivative,” adds singer/bassist/producer Dan Crane (a.k.a. Jean-Luc Retard). “We’re not a cabaret act.”
“Lawnmower Boy” hitches a glam piano to a Ramones guitar riff, while “Tant Pis Pour Toi” is a new wave kiss-off to that lawyer dude. Both “Premier Baiser” and “Le Chateau” — an homage to Hollywood’s own Chateau Marmont — are dreamy ditties with twee synth flourishes à la Air. And naturally, a favorite subject is Paris?.?.?.?Hilton. The Euro-disco number “One Night in Paris” has already been remixed to accommodate the heiress’ newest boyfriend, Stavros Niarchos. “Obviously, I track her every move,” says Crane, “so when she starts dating somebody new, I’ll just modify the song and post it on the Web site.”
Sadly, Crane’s dedication to the mother tongue doesn’t run so deep. Despite her Germanic name, Weisendanger is, in fact, the only actual French member of Nous Non Plus, and she still has to write the lyrics down phonetically so Crane doesn’t mangle the pronunciation. “It may as well be Japanese,” he laughs. “Or Farsi.”?