They've been around since 1981. They've sold over 10 million albums worldwide. They have several certified Platinum selling albums as well as one certified Diamond. They were the first band from their country to play the Stade de France to over 80,000 fans. And you've probably never heard of them. This is possibly a tragedy worse than the Bee Gees could ever wax falsetto about.
Yes folks, there are rock stars in other countries your ears have never met. The band in question here is Indochine---a band that's been famous in France and many European countries since the early 1980's. If your French is a bit rusty, Indochine is the French word for Indochina and "3 Nuits Par Semaine" translates to "3 nights a week." If your geography is a bit rusty from excessive 4th grade love notes to Sally whoever who sat 2 seats behind you, Indochina refers to the territories between India and China.
One of the best selling French acts of all time, Indochine formed in Paris back in 1981 when Nicola Sirkis and his friend, guitarist Dominique Nicolas decided to start a band. Dimitri Bodianski (keyboards & saxophone), the cousin of one of Nicola's friends joined shortly thereafter then Nicola's own twin brother, Stéphane Sirkis (guitar, keyboards) became a member. This Indochine Mark 1 lineup recorded 4 albums together lasting til the late 1980's. Aside from Tesla, he's the other famous Nicola (or Nikola) most French and European people will know of on a first name basis.
Stylistically, Indochine encompasses several genres including French Pop, Rock, New Wave & Goth. "3 Nuits Par Semaine" is a track off Indochine's 1985 album entitled 3 as it was their third album---big surprise there. Several singles from Indochine 3 charted in France and several other countries: "Canary Bay", "3e sexe" (3rd sex), and "Tes Yeux Noirs" (Your Black eyes) which French pop culture icon Serge Gainsbourg directed the music video for.
I first came to know about French popular music simply through having friends from France. While visiting them overseas, I'd get exposed to different acts not at the Moulin Rouge (hehe) but on CD and through RFI (Radio France International) which you can get listen online. There's also other numerous French internet radio stations streaming classic and current French pop music as well as uploads on YouTube. Personally, I love hearing French spoken as it's a beautiful musical sounding language all by itself---combined with music, it's an added bonus.
Serge Gainsbourg came onto my cultural radar through one of my friends, a dancer/choreographer/dance teacher who is a longtime fan. She had an apartment walking distance to the Louvre and one of the times I was visiting her in Paris, I wandered around and found Serge Gainsbourg's former home. It's another of the world's "freak shrines" like Oscar Wilde's and Jim Morrison's grave in Père Lachaise Cemetery. I still laugh at the time two French girls came up to me in Père Lachaise Cemetery saying they've been looking for Jim Morrison's grave for close to an hour with no luck. I'd been there several times previously and took them to it. You owe me one there Lizard King. I also took them to Frédéric Chopin's grave which is near Jim Morrison's. For any pianist, composer, dancer or music lover, Chopin's grave is a personal Spiritual pilgrimage---a musical Holy place as so much beauty entered the planet's musical heritage through just one person.
Getting back on track here, Indochine were the French parallel to England's Duran Duran in their early days when the New Wave sound was sweeping across Europe and America. One of my musician friend's band out of New York City actually opened up for THOSE British lads back in Philadelphia Pennsylvania when they were just starting out touring the United States. At the time, the Duran Duran singles "Girls On Film" and "Planet Earth" were getting airplay stateside.
"3 Nuits Par Semaine" is as cool as any 80's track I've heard from any country. Problem is, if it wasn't in English, it wasn't going to cross the pond. That held true back then and sadly that language barrier is still largely in effect today with minor exceptions like some Latin (Spanish language) music. Early crossover success came from Ricthie Valens with "La Bamba" in 1958 and this was further solidified in the 1980's thanks to groups like the Miami Sound Machine with Gloria Estefan. However, Indochine did cross the pond in Canada (touring there) as well as Latin America but not the United States. The "Sound barrier" of English is why German New Wave band Nena recorded an English version of "99 Luftballoons" and German Synthpop artist Peter Schilling did the same with his track "Major Tom." The irony being, when these songs became popular, the original German versions were also being played on American radio stations. Go figure.
An interesting exception here is somehow Austrian musician Falco got away with the unstated English prerequisite as "Rock Me Amadeus", "Vienna Calling" & "Der Kommissar" (later covered by British rock band After The Fire) all became hits in German---and didn't affect his album sales as Falco still is the best Austrian selling recording artist in history---Su Su Su Superstar. Perhaps Falco was using some Disc Jockey Jedi mind tricks and MTV Voodoo to get his tracks spun stateside.
German rock band The Scorpions had massive commercial success in the 1980's singing in English. Language differences of course are more readily noticeable for the average listener. I mean how many times do you hear people say, "Hey, that's a German guitar riff" or "I just know that dude's from Stockholm Sweden from the way he plays those chords." That's because Music truly is the Universal Language we all understand and express ourselves at a deeper than thought, language and cultural level. Germans also seem very welcoming to English songs on their pop charts perhaps due to David Hasselhoff and his sensible selection of fine black leather jackets.
The original sound recording of "3 Nuits Par Semaine" off the 3 album combined new wave, techno pop and rock. The guitar riff has the edge (pun intended) of early U2 if you can hear a similar energy to "I Will Follow." You can also hear some Depeche Mode in the keyboard riffs which are reminiscent of the main riff in "Enjoy The Silence." Indochine has also been compared to England's The Cure musically and visually of course sans the white makeup. There's also some sister sounding similarities with INXS in the guitar and keyboard riffs in terms of energetic intensity. Let your ears time travel back to the 80's and picture how this song could have been a hit in America as well if there had been an English lyrical version---you might have even wondered if it was the new single from any popular British, American, Canadian or Australian act of the time:
In this next clip, Indochine performs their classic "3 Nuits Par Semaine" live in Lille, France on the 2007 Alive & June Tour. And no, that's not The Cure's Robert Smith out front---it's Nicola. French people including musicians wear black frequently and not necessarily because they're into Goth---it's just a favorite color for them to dress in, so you can have some fun playing "Is he/she Goth or is he/she French?" over there. Alas, singer and guitarist do enjoy a special David Bowie & Mick Ronson moment onstage during the opening guitar riff reprise at 2:58 for those who'll get that. "3 Nuits Par Semaine" is a flat out French rock anthem and you'll see why here. It's a pretty safe bet that when you don't need to sing the effing chorus yourself, you've written a FREAKING anthem:
Indochine are about as big as you can get in French pop music. Still touring, packing stadiums like the Stade de France. It's a shame the language barrier prevents many listeners from becoming fans. It's called music because it is primarily about sounds and melody lines isn't it? Otherwise words by themselves are usually referred to as poetry. Do people really need to understand all the lyrics to enjoy a song? Seems they don't even need to understand the lyrics or lyrical meaning in their own language to like a song. A slew of Beatles songs testify to this.
In 1999, Indochine guitarist & keyboardist Stéphane Sirkis died of hepatitis---he was only 39 years old, the same age Frédéric Chopin was when he passed on. Prior to his passing, Stéphane requested Indochine continue in his absence. And continue on they did. Indochine has been actively recording and performing for over 30 years now. Currently, the only original member of Indochine since the very beginning is singer Nicola Sirkis (the runner up in the Robert Smith look alike contest as shown in the previous video clip). Sirkis also plays guitar, harmonica, and synthesizer aside from being known as Indochine's lead vocalist and founding member.
In 2002, Nicola and Indochine garnered additional critical acclaim and further widespread appeal with their album Paradize. This being 20 years after the band was formed. How many bands can actually do that---Keep making relevant music after their early successes? It just goes to show, when you love what you do, there's no reason to retire because you're doing what you would do even if you weren't being paid to do it. Or put a different way, you only retire from that which you didn't really want to do in the first place. That's how I feel about being a musician and my love for music in all it's different genres. Nicola Sirkis and Indochine seem to have the same mentality. To "Die with your boots on" as a musician is living a life like guitarist/inventor Les Paul---still learning, still playing out at 94 and passing on with gigs still on the calendar.
There's more to French culture than French fries, French bread pizza and Edgar Degas dancer paintings compiled into yearly calendars you can find in a dollar store. You'll have to reach for this a bit further than the frozen section of your grocery store or a display rack near a cash register. There are whole worlds of music on this planet waiting to be discovered to add to your Joie de vivre (the Joy of being alive) as the French expression goes. And remember: It's never too late to put on your best Screaming Beatlemania poodle skirt and become a fan retroactively.
© Composer Yoga