A sort of poetic UFO, the young Australian singer Nathan Roche is a hyperactive jack-of-all who does not have the language in his pocket. He is in Rock en Seine this Sunday with his band Le Villejuif Underground.
With Nathan Roche, interviews are necessarily around a beer in a bar. This tall, hungry, jovial-looking blond speaks French with an Australian knife-cut accent. Arrived five years ago in France, he co-founded in 2016 the rock band Villejuif Underground with three French.
Author in 2016 of a first garage rock album foutraque and lo-fi, the quartet is immediately welcomed for its iconoclastic side and its squeaky humor. Signed meanwhile in France at Born Bad Records, the rock'n'roll team par excellence, he released in the spring a second album with funny title, When Will The Flies In Deauville Drop? (When will the flies – or the fly – of Deauville fall?)
Now established in Marseille, the singer / poet / Australian writer is passing through Paris for a passport problem, yet another episode of his long fight with the French administration to stay in the territory, long-term battle he tells in the piece Villejuif Underground. He is, with his crazy trio, Rock en Seine, Sunday, August 25th.
Franceinfo Culture: Who are you ?
Nathan Roche: My name is Nathan, I sing in the big rock'n'roll brothel called Villejuif Underground. I am Australian but I live in France.
And what are you doing in France, so far from your native Australia?
Life in Australia was … too simple, too easy. I got up at no time and went every day to the beach by bike, living allowances. I needed to blossom and make my brain work, and I first moved to Sydney. The change of city, meeting new people, I started to miss, and I decided to do it again but in another country, with a new language.
Why France in particular?
I had a tour with an Australian band in which I sang, then I met people … In fact, I was moving to Barcelona, then I decided to stay in France, it was cheaper (Laughter).
What are you talking about in your songs?
All the songs are different from each other. But if I had to summarize the general delirium, I would say that it is observational humor. We talk about the daily routine with humor, on all kinds of subjects. Backpackers talk … bah backpackers, those who travel in backpack, John Forbes talk about a poet from my small town in Australia, I invent a life for him. We talk about everything and anything, and in itself, you can make songs about anything you want.
How is Le Villejuif Underground in this moment?
More or less well … The guitarist has big ear problems, so we had to cancel some tours. And I do not think we really recovered. Now we only end up playing once a month on average, so that's not the big mood.
So the Villejuif Underground is over?
No, it continues, and it will continue, but much more slowly. A project in particular? We have songs in rab '. I wanted to do a new single at Born Bad Records, but now it's complicated, I live in Marseille, the other members of the group are everywhere in France … It's a bit of a hassle, we'll say. In itself, I really like playing in concert with them, but we have fewer and fewer dates.
Rock en Seine, it's not a first for you …
No, we had already done the scene Ile-de-France in 2017, the smallest, that reserved for beginners (laughs).
What is it like to play on a bigger stage this year in Rock en Seine?
So that's the problem: with the Villejuif Underground, that we play in a bar in front of five people or Rock en Seine in front of 5,000, we earn about 80 euros each. It's like that for a long time …
80 euros for Rock en Seine?
Yes. When we did the Rock Route, it was the same. So for us it does not change much, in the end we leave with the same bad money. If you play in an empty room, play as if it were full, and if you play in a packed room, play as if it were empty. CThat's the way to see that.
So what do you prefer, big scenes or small bars?
You have to do both. Big scenes, it's not human, it's not real, there are too many people to interact. Personally I prefer small scenes where there is more contact. In Australia I played in front of small crowds, and I knew everyone so it was nice. The small Australian bands that come to play in Europe all look impressed because they are used to playing for friends. Anyway, I'm happy to go to Rock en Seine, I'm sure the food is not bad.
You have traveled a lot for concerts, especially in China, what is your dream tour?
I really want to go to Russia. I did a good part of Eastern Europe, Macedonia, Bulgaria, etc. Otherwise I would like to go to a tropical place like South East Asia. Music is just an excuse to travel! It's a great way to get to know cities and places, it attracts all kinds of weird and interesting people. But it's complicated with the Villejuif Underground, guys like to use amps that weigh tons, and only one of us can drive, so big trouble for travel. With CIA Beginner, the other project in which I participate, we always go by bus, since the electronic equipment is really lighter.
Before Le Villejuif Underground, you had several solo experiences, especially as a writer …
Yes I wrote fifteen novels and seven collections of poetry. I printed them all myself and sold in bookshops in Australia and Europe, or in concerts. Write is my favorite, but personally I can not make a living with it. So I make music to try to pay bills, which I can not do at the moment, and to meet people, which is harder to do by writing. Writing novels is very lonely!
What are you singing in the shower right now?
John Fahey, an American guitarist. It is very instrumental but I try to sing his melodies which are quite complicated. Otherwise, Ivor Cutler, a completely eccentric Englishman with very spoken but very beautiful songs. David Bowie too, of course … I do not take a lot of showers right now (Laughs).
The Villejuif Underground is in Rock en Seine Sunday, August 25 on the scene of 4 winds at 3:20 pm.