François Virot is from Lyon, a guy with the face of both an angel and a rogue. He looks at the camera anxiously as he launches into his short songs, tender from the beginning to the end. We filmed him at Château Rouge among the vegetable stands and the old women in beauty shops.
His is the kind of body that contorts almost to the point of seeming pain, a body brimming with uncontained energy. His rascally face sends us back to the golden age of film noir; it wavers somewhere in between the cop and the villain, but settles for a little of both at the same time. It’s this very tension and cinematic character that shines out and through the images in these videos, which were shot in the streets of the spirited Parisian neighborhood Château Rouge. (That same afternoon in January, I shot a video with Peter Von Poehl. Wow, what a contrast!)
François Virot is, before anything else, the drummer for Clara Clara, who we like to refer to as “the Lightning Bolt à la Française”. It’s a keyboard/bass/drum trio that embraces far more than your normal heavy act. They played here in Paris a couple of days ago, and it was pure sonic explosion. You know, the kind of diabolic and tenacious rhythm that shatters your eardrums (surely no complaints here—just testifying). We can better understand François’ particular guitar tactics after witnessing the way he handles his kit—neurotic and lumbering explosions that nearly berate and always ascend, all with a Chris Corsano look and a naked torso.
rançois Virot comes from Lyon, where he currently lives, but it seems like he comes from beyond. With his extraordinary sound, he can’t be compared with any other French musician. I’m not quite sure who introduced me to his music (Pablo Nicomedes?), but it was obviously someone awesome whom I can’t thank enough. Later, I discovered him again through MySpace, listening to those four songs that seem to fall from heaven, with tense melodies that grow and protract in a dreamlike sequence that climbs up from its fragile legs. Like a little Thom Yorke grappling with the melody, that harsh mistress—or, as marvelously put by someone else, “An unplugged Animal Collective embodied in an individual.” One of the songs, entitled “My Head is Blank”, can be found on the last CQFD compilation released by the French rock magazine Les Inrockuptibles. The song didn’t win the annual competition, which is better for him, anyway; he doesn’t need to "learn". Virot’s music doesn’t need anybody else’s input.
Normally, it’s not the most interesting experience to film a musician with only a guitar in his hands… and especially not when he plays it sitting down. But this was certainly an exception for one simple reason: it’s François. Since he’s only been playing the guitar for six months, he had to sit down because he still hadn’t bought a strap. Huge style. Not even done intentionally!
So that particular afternoon, within a two-hour time span, we did it all: met tons of people, pushed open our share of doors, found the last authentic hair salon, scoffed at girls who were fans of everything from hip hop to lunar folk, and navigated through fruits and vegetables and people from all over the world. Within the excitement of Paris’s most buzzing neighborhood, we talked a little and laughed a lot. All in all, François and I weren’t quite sure what had hit us that day. But we certainly had made our own little artistic short within the passionate film called the modern city, which dwells among the wisps of the past but couldn’t possibly be anything other than the present. It’s a totally raw year; one that’s tipping over into ultra-modernity in the midst of melodies sung from the gut in exchange for mere pennies.
In response to another video on La Blogothèque, someone once posted a comment that said, “it’s a foundation of magnificent concepts and information for when the world grows tired of those in charge.” It’s a poignant phrase, but, moreover, it’s perfect for evoking the music of this young artist from Lyon.
In the first video, François sneaks glances at the camera, not necessarily to make sure I’m still there, but more to get a kind of approval. He continually asks the question, “Are you sure?” Yes François, we’re completely sure. Completely.