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Lyon City Hardcore – FIRST TRY / UPSTART interview!

Lyon hardcore representatives FIRST TRY and UPSTART have recently released a new split record and made it available for free at this location! FIRST TRY, started in 2004, is the oldest still-alive hardcore band from the city, while UPSTART is a new local pack releasing its first songs through this split.

Michel, a guitarist for both bands, was so kind to spend some time with me and answer my questions about FIRST TRY, UPSTART, Lyon and the French hardcore scene in general. Here’s our chat featuring a bunch of information for all of you local knowledge-hungry scenesters! :)

Hey, man! First off, tell me what good wind brings you here? What’s up? [smiles]

Hi IDIOTEQ! First of all, I am very glad to have this very special occasion to talk about my projects and my own experience regarding the hardcore scene.

A few days ago, we just released for free download a new hardcore 8-tracks split album called “THROUGH THE HARDSHIPS” featuring FIRST TRY and UPSTART. We wanted to spread the word outside our local area and asked IDIOTEQ to give us a hand!

Both bands of the split are French hardcore bands and come from the same place: LYON.

The first band – UPSTART – is the newcomer into the Lyon hardcore scene while FIRST TRY is the oldest still-alive hardcore band, existing since 2004.

Cool. How did you team up for this co-release?

Well, at the beginning we were not supposed to release a split album. UPSTART was going to record two or three songs to start spreading the news that there was a new hardcore band in town while FIRST TRY was working on their first LP and just wanted to record one song to disclose to show how it was gonna sound like. As I am part of both bands I thought it would be an interesting project to team up and release one split album featuring the newest and oldest bands of our town.

There are other great hardcore bands in Lyon we could have teamed up with, but we like the “family” way of joining these two bands in particular.

Is this the debut release from UPSTART?

Yes, we had some raw records from rehearsals but the sound was really crappy. Nowadays, all the bands release their demo and it sounds like any big production. This is not our case, we do believe it sounds quite great but we didn’t either want to sound like some famous band, even as a split it remains some sort of demo for UPSTART. Plus, I miss the times when a demo was more about the songs than the way they sounded! Maybe I’m getting old and totally out of fashion now [smiles].

Have the rest of the guys from UPSTART played in other bands? Are there more active projects including members of both bands?

In UPSTART, all had former bands which no longer exist. Within FIRST TRY, the bass player actually performs in a band called TEMPS MORT and almost all of FIRST TRY had former bands. Since a few months, one of the vocalist from FIRST TRY and I are in another band project called DON’T WE ALL including guys from SEEKERS OF THE TRUTH and NO GUTS NO GLORY.

Ok, back to the split. How come you decided to give it away for free? Do you have any plans to put it out on a physical format?

We already did that with FIRST TRY for our last EP. We strongly believe that music must be shared freely. People who like your music and want to support your band can show up at your gigs, buy you a t-shirt or share your music to their friends. Also, you can get known widely and receive more feedback on your music than if only a few had bought it. Of course, there’s a price to everything and recording a split represents a cost but we do it for passion over all. We also plan to put it on a physical format because we know some like to have a CD and it will most certainly be sold at its cost price.

You seem to be pretty nice fellas. Meanwhile, there’s a photo of you carrying guns [laughs]. Dude! What’s the story behind it? Looks hostile…

You seem pretty nice too! Regarding our “badass” picture, we took it a few months ago when we wrote “This City Belongs To Us”, we wanted to illustrate some sort of take-over over our town and tell people “wake up your city, go to the shows some others work really hard to set up, now!”. There are fewer venues than before in Lyon. People are really demanding regarding the bands, the venue, the ticket price … I don’t know if it is the same everywhere but it is really hard to make small bands play in front of more than 50 people, even with free entry. So this song and this picture are a bit in this way, plus it makes us look real badasses [laughs]!

By the way, one word about our photographer who took the picture, he does really amazing work and went by to your place, you can check out his work if you want to.

Great pics!

And what about the teaser graphics for the split? More guns, batons, violence, one big riot, dawg [laughs].

More violence, yay! Well, mostly through the lyrics of FIRST TRY songs, you can read that we intend to denounce the “clichés” of the scene. Some people won’t go to a show if their friends don’t go neither, so they will be there but for the bands that will perform. Some others people will tell you that you need to be tattooed to look true… It makes me sick. I mean, it’s okay to be tattooed if it represents what you are or what you believe or something worth it, it’s also okay to go to a show and meet your friends there but I’d like to tell people that they might keep in mind what’s important: they all meet up in a place because of their common passion so they should give it a bit more respect. It is sort of message as H2O did with “What happened?”: passion before fashion! You know, I don’t have any tattoo and I feel more involved than them. This is a shared thought between both bands and that’s the reason of our graphics. In the end, it looks like a good test on our beliefs and our motivation to keep going and do what we do no matter what!

Anyways, don’t get scared! There are also a lot of people who keep going to the shows for the good reasons! And they are of the reasons we keep doing what we do, and we thank them!

Fair enough. [smiles] Are there more local bands involved in your revolutionary front? Is your local scene kind of divided somehow?

I don’t know if we can name it a revolutionary front, at some time we just wanted to express our point of view. Even if some would tell you that our local scene might be inexistent or dead, I do believe there is (still) one. We are not divided, I do believe in some promoters, bands, venues and people who never give up and manage to keep alive our local scene. It might be the same at other places and I’d really to know how they manage it!

So what are some of the best things about your local scene?

We are not a lot of bands here in Lyon but you might check out NO GUTS NO GLORY, SEEKERS OF THE TRUTH, EIGHT SINS, ALL OF YOU DOWN and some others (do you want a full list?) … Also, there are good shows to attend thanks to some promoters. More generally, I’d say that there are a lot of great French hardcore bands which deserve to get known, like NiNE ELEVEN, WAKE THE DEAD, IN OTHER CLIMES, SHALL REMAIN and ALEA JACTA EST. Maybe you already heard of some of them? [smiles]

No, never heard of them [laughs]. Naah, sure thing I know them, man! [smiles]

Are you tight with other cities’ representatives?

Some of the bands I mentioned are friends, some are bands we shared the stage with only.

But I’d like to place a special “Hi!” to Kevin Foley, BENIGHTED‘s drummer, who introduced us to Freddy Kroegher‘s for the split’s recording. Freddy Kroegher is BENIGHTED’s former sound engineer and an incredibly good guitar player but over all a great guy who helped us and worked really hard on our recording without counting the hours he spent!

…and Hi! to Freddy too, of course! [smiles]

Ok, so… you mentioned that FIRST TRY is the oldest still-running band in the city. A 9 year-old baby [smiles]. Tell us more about the history of your local scene before 2004. How was it back in the 80s and 90s?

Yeah, a 9 year-old baby… All the older bands dropped it one by one … I can’t tell you much about the hardcore scene back to the 80s and 90s, I was a bit too young and really discovered the hardcore scene at the beginnings of 2000. What I can say about it is that it was more of the punk hardcore scene on one side and the metal scene on the other side, there were much more venues for bands to play at than today. Some of our friends could tell you much more than me as I think they were part of that scene in the early times. Do you want me to ask them? [smiles]

Ha! You can drop ‘em a line and connect me with them, we can make it a separate interview, how’s that? [smiles]

What was your first introduction to hardcore punk?

Sure, no problem!

I was no big fan of punk bands in general, I was listening to some of them but I never liked much the positive speech some had: “it’s okay, everything is okay, i’m happy, everybody is happy, let’s go to the beach and have fun!”. To me, everything was not okay and I sure didn’t fit their mentality.

 The first punk hardcore band I listened to was RAISED FIST, with their albums Ignoring The Guidelines and Fuel. What a fucking slap! I loved the energy it had and the way punk hardcore was telling its speech: i found a way to say things straight to the point with no compromise, defending the values which I find myself into.

Which are…?

In my opinion, it’s about going right through things: be yourself, show respect, think right, say what you think, do what you say, work hard for your ideas and to achieve your goals. I am no one to say these must be the values for everyone but these are mine and it defines my conduct.

Let’s follow this path. Tell me about your lyrics. What would you love to change in the world today, considering both your neighborhood and farther regions surrounded by completely different issues and often drama?

Wow, that’s a big question! Well, my lyrics are mostly turned to people I know or knew and are based on my own experience, it’s about saying things straight but there is no intention to tell anyone what to do or think and I don’t intend neither to change the whole world. However, to me a better world would be about sharing knowledge which is key to improvement, giving a hand as often as possible and understanding reverently different people and cultures instead of fighting them.

Ha, yeah one thing I would change immediately if I could: make people stop giving likes on Facebook expecting the world will be better that way. I cannot stand those pictures “give a like if you’re against world hunger.”  [smiles]

Yeah, man. There’s only a few things lamer than that [laughs].

Ok, back to your split. How will you be supporting and promoting it? Do you have any gigs planned for the coming weeks and/or months?

For the moment, only the Release Party (in Lyon of course!) has been announced.

Regarding the gigs, we are contacting promoters and venues in order to book as much shows as possible and we will announce it later (people, stay tuned on our Facebook pages!). For the moment, most of our energy is spent on spreading the word. We are of the DIY attitude and everyone from both bands is giving a hand on that, even my girlfriend is helping on her free time!

Of course, if anyone want to BOOK US, PLEASE do! To anyone who has information to help us come play to their place, don’t hesitate to send us a message on Facebook! We’re nice people, we will answer you!

Anyway, we really try to have our split downloaded as much as possible because we believe that anywhere on the planet we can find who will like our music. Plus, for bands as small as ours, it’s really nice to see people all over the world downloading and listening to your music.

Ok. So what’s up next for both bands? What’s the game plan for the rest of 2013?

FIRST STEP, we will try to play whenever and wherever we can.

Then, UPSTART will record some new songs this summer with our new drummer Florent who joined a few months ago. Regarding First Try, we’re gonna end writing our LP, record it and – fingers crossed – release it in the end of 2013 or at last beginning of 2014.

Maybe more, but that’s all I can tell you for now [smiles].

Fair enough. Tell me What bands are you currently into? What’s in your music player?

Let’s see the hardcore bands in my playlist… Here you are: BLACKLISTED, DEEZ NUTS, HOODS, LAST MILE (F***in’ good), MADBALL, REIGN SUPREME, SICK OF IT ALL, SNAPCASE, TEAMKILLER, TERROR, THICK AS BLOOD, TO KILL, TRC, VERSE, THE WARRIORS plus more bands.

For non-hardcore bands, you’ll find THE GHOST INSIDE, GOJIRA, NOSTROMO, OCEANSIZE and VAST.

Honestly, my favorite bands over all are BLACKLISTED and TO KILL: I discovered BLACKLISTED at a show in Germany when they were touring with DONNYBROOK and TERROR. I love each of their album, I love their musical evolution, the sadness and the raw aspect of their music (even it is has been worked for months and months, it sounds honest). It is the perfect mix between a punk hardcore band and NIRVANA, finally there is one! Then, TO KILL… this band is almost perfect except that they shouldn’t have stopped. I’d really like to see them live one more time, I had the occasion only once in 2006.

I’m also into THICK AS BLOOD for their energy and REIGN SUPREME because I find their songs simple but yet remarkably powerful!

Yup. REIGN SUPREME have a new EP coming out. How do you like their new tune?

Oh shit, I love it! The whole song is very nice yet pessimistic and powerful but the end is really really cool! Cool and powerful!

We had the chance to share the stage with them when they were touring near Lyon 4 years ago. I hope we get to see them again not far from here when their EP is released.

Have you had a chance to visit Fluff Fest? I remember them playing there, too.

All of my friend already went but I did not had that chance, for now. I hope I can get some vacancies from work and experience the Fluff Fest at least once. And talking about fests, I’ve just checked the first fest I went to in 1998 and guess what, there was AGNOSTIC FRONT. Shame on me, I didn’t remember that.

Great! Do you remember more “first shows” from your rookie years” [smiles]

Today, all the information are broadcasted onto the internet, it’s much easier to find out when your favorite bands will be touring near your town, it’s easier to find out where to go for a hardcore show or whatever you’re looking for. But 15 years ago from today, it wasn’t that easy.

To be honest, I didn’t get to see a lot of shows in my “rookie years” … I’ve been unaware of the metal and punk local scenes until years and listened only to music on the radio, my friends weren’t much into punk or metal music so I used to listen bands as THE OFFSPRING and NIRVANA since I was 11.

But really, I took my first slap at that same festival I told you about, when I saw SLAYER and NAPALM DEATH. That was the first time I hear such violent music and I loved that.

Yeah, man, but NIRVANA and OFFSPRING used to produce good music and vibes, too, right? Today it’s kinda weird, but sometimes I get this feeling that it’s a shame to admit that you’re a fan of NIRVANA. This sucks a lot. We had Kurt’s birthday a few days ago. How do you see his contribution to the rock/punk music after all these years?

I don’t know for the others but I’ve always been a huge fan of NIRVANA. I discovered them through their Unplugged album and then listen to all their albums and my favorite album is IN UTERO. Its graphics, its songs, the way it sounds. Definitely as commented by Kurt about this album: IN UTERO sounded like a rehearsal, like if you got to hear to the band playing with intimacy.

Then the same year I knew about OFFSPRING with their song Come Out And Play from their SMASH album. And I really loved it, but since they released Americana I kept on their old albums only and have no idea what they sound like in their last albums.

But in the end, I am convinced that NIRVANA and OFFSPRING definitely influenced a lot of actual bands including me. I’ve been influenced by NIRVANA and OFFSPRING and I feel that through UPSTART songs. UPSTART doesn’t sound like the majority of hardcore bands and to be honest, at first I thought our songs would sound metal but despite my efforts, it sounds punk! And I’m okay with that, I won’t fight against our natural direction [smiles].

Thanks to NIRVANA, I learned earlier that it is important to be yourself and to keep going your direction instead of following the mainstream whatever. It also made me learn that greasy long hair wasn’t a good idea!

Well said, bro.

Alright, before we finish off, is there anything you’d like to tell us about both bands?

I played in a band from 2000 to 2007 and the bassist was our actual bass player’s (Quentin) brother, the drummer was UPSTART’s first drummer (Nicolas). Also, in FIRST TRY there are 2 brothers, now guess who!

One last thing, when FIRST TRY started I wasn’t supposed to be in the band. My friends asked me to play the drums (I had never played before!) until they find someone. For four years before I told them that I was not drummer for real (they knew but did not care!) and that they would have to find a real drummer. Finally, Alex joined the band as the new drummer and I took the guitar.

Thank you very much Karol for this great opportunity you gave us. Thank you for this focus on our local scene. Thank you very much for what you do.

Thanks so much for your time, bro! We have a nice summary of what’s going on in both bands’ camps, that’s really nice. I wish you the best of everything for the rest of the year. Keep Lyon Hardcore alive and growing! [smiles] Best of luck, Michel!

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