Premieres at Everything Is Noise are fun. Since joining the team last year, it is through writing and reading premieres that I have found a lot of exciting new artists. At the beginning of the year, we had the pleasure of premiering the new single and video for “Time Hails No Sun”, the latest release from French two-piece FIRST DRAFT. I enjoyed the track so much that I just had to reach out to the pairing to have a talk and bring FIRST DRAFT on board as our latest Weekly Featured Artist, fresh off the release of their latest EP Declines Are Long Gone.
FIRST DRAFT are Marine Arnoult and Clément Douam of Tours, France, a musical duo intent on pushing boundaries with their dynamic sound. With a couple of releases now under their belt, the band continue to develop and grow. 2018 debut Irony and Smiles showed creativity would not be hampered by limited instrumentation, with latest EP Declines Are Long Gone taking this a step further, showing a two-piece with an innate ability to somehow create a bigger sound than some of their 4-piece counterparts. Clément and Marine took some time to explain to us the band’s journey so far, from their beginnings and the reasoning behind operating as a 2-piece:
‘Well we met over the Internet, an ad was posted online looking for a bass player, in order to form a three-piece rock band. We played for some time with two different guitar players that were -simply put- a bit too tangled in their personal issues to be able to commit to a project that involved other human beings. So at some point, as we were listening to Royal Blood’s first album, we just thought ‘alright, so there’s definitely a way to do this on our own‘. At this point we started experimenting with gear to convince ourselves that yeah, it was indeed possible, as a bass / drum duo, not to sound like a stripped down version of a post-rock band. We recorded our first album in 2018, and released it at the end of the same year. We signed our first deal with a production company that year as well (LyloProd) which has since supported our band, and with whom we went through the next hoops. So now, we’ve recorded our new EP Declines Are Long Gone in 2021, which has just been released on the 19th of February 2022, and this will be followed by as much touring as possible (we hope!).’
Listen to any FIRST DRAFT song and you would be forgiven for thinking this is a full band pulling together to make some noise, not a two-piece consisting of only bass and drums. Just take “A Chapter on Each Page” from the new EP and listen to the gnarly fuzz infused tone that any guitarist would be proud of. It seems that the easy path for a 2-piece to sound so full of noise would be a sample/synth heavy one, to allow the single bass to fully complement the drums and vocals of Arnoult. However, Clément explains this is far from the case, with much thought being put into how the band could remain as live as they possibly could, with a special explanation of how he manages to get his bass sounding like an assault of guitars:
‘Basically, I use four amps: Three guitar amps, one bass amp. The signal goes from my bass into a well-furbished pedalboard with different paths, and is dispatched towards several outputs, after going through various pedals (preamps, octave, drives, EQ, delays, reverbs, harmonies and so forth). But no loopers!
‘From the start we decided not to incorporate loopers, extra samples, or anything pre-recorded into the writing process. This was decided for several reasons. I personally thought that it kind of defeated the whole purpose of searching for a ‘guitar sound’ with a bass. I could just record guitar parts at home or other instruments, and just show up with a bass amp, and just play the bass lines. And that was a big no for us.
‘Add to that that if you want to record loops live, you need to play them first, and following this pattern, your writing and composing becomes driven by a form of technical necessity, which we wouldn’t want to be imposed on us. Then you need to lock into the loop’s tempo, which isn’t always an ideal situation. If you decide to pre-record those loops or layers, then it isn’t recorded in a live setting, and it’s something that doesn’t really sit right with us. I mean, I play on four amps, the signal goes through dozens of pedals in order to recreate a guitar sound, so there’s already enough technology – and in a way artificiality – that we have to compensate for.
‘That’s why we’re bent on playing as many things as we can live, not pre-record anything etc. In a totally non-pedantic way, we just want to preserve a ‘culture of simultaneousness’, even if our set-up involves a lot of in-betweens, technologically speaking. It’s also important for us to stick to that mindset because it feels like it would greatly reduce the ‘performance’ aspect of our shows, and we’re saying that with great humility.’
The importance of retaining that organic feel to live performances is something that becomes pretty apparent when watching the band at their best. Stick on a good pair of headphones, push play on the linked video and close your eyes – the noise that two individuals can create without the help of samples or pre-recorded samples is downright impressive. Whilst it may seem that this focus on ensuring all aspects of the performance can be played live might hamper writing sessions or make them more difficult, the band explain how it is actually the opposite that is true:
‘The EP’s songs actually stem from improvised sessions which were recorded live. Our set-up allows us to be a ‘full band’ without having to synchronise four or five different minds together, so it can actually be pretty straightforward. You don’t need 4 or 5 people to agree on something. You don’t need 4 or 5 people to be connected in a way that it would be possible to spontaneously create a full song with all the instruments present from the very start. Which means that some of the ideas that spontaneously emerge can already be the end result that will be featured on an album.
‘So if we break it down, it’s actually pretty simple. We press record on our recording device, we play for hours, then listen to the recording, then extract the parts that we deem worthy of being developed, and extrapolate from there. We often find that the more we try to work and make pieces fit together, the more we lose the original feeling and the more it feels like we’re trying too hard.
‘So we are trying to find the balance between respecting and ‘honouring’ an original idea and adding other material to it, in order to build a coherent song. In regards to lyrics, the process is to improvise vocal melodies, and then brainstorm about the various themes, feelings or ideas that come to mind when we listen to the recordings. Then, when we have all the riffs, a solid structure, the vocal melodies, we start writing the lyrics in regards to the themes and ideas that we’ve agreed on. We then allow ourselves to go back and forth between lyrics and song structure in order to find the most coherent development, for we feel that nuances in the music are best emphasised when truly locked-in with the storytelling (i.e. lyrics).’
As previously mentioned, Declines Are Long Gone shows the growth of FIRST DRAFT, with 5 superbly crafted songs from the quiet to the explosive. With four years between releases, it is clear to see how rewarding it can be to allow time and space to create. Throw a global pandemic into the mix and suddenly managing to release such well produced songs becomes even more gratifying. So just how excited were FIRST DRAFT to release this latest EP to the world?
‘Extremely excited ! ! A lot of us artists are in the same situation. We’ve been playing songs for a while now but hadn’t had the chance to put them out there. The upside is that most of us already have new material lined up and ready to be played. So the audiences will get to hear lots of new stuff! The other thing is, because we’ve been working on the same songs for so long, we’re really impatient to get them out there, to be able to try and experiment with new ideas. The downside is that we’re all going to release new music at the same time and it’s going to be quite difficult for us small bands to be heard.’
As FIRST DRAFT rightly point out, 2022 has already seen a deluge of releases, with Declines Are Long Gone sitting high up the list in terms of quality. With places now beginning to open up again, bands hopefully have a brighter future in terms on getting on the road and promoting material. It may be so that recorded output slows down as live performances pick up again, but the band explain that there is space for both of these in their upcoming schedule when outlining their future plans:
‘Well we have just had our EP’s release show on February the 19th in our hometown, then we have a second release in Paris on March the 23rd, followed by two touring periods : March/April, then the fall of 2022. No future physical releases are planned before the end of 2023/2024, but we will definitely release new songs before that!’
It is clear from talking to the band the hard work and dedication that is put into this project to ensure top quality music and live shows. If you have yet to listen, what are you waiting for? Make sure to visit the links below to get a listen and support the band in their endeavours. For the lovers of the physical release, you can order Declines Are Long Gone on vinyl right here. Before wrapping up, we asked FIRST DRAFT if they had any last words to add:
‘Well yeah! A quick word for the people who’ve worked closely with us on this release, notably LyloProd for the time, support, energy and investment, and our PR agent Floriane, who makes it possible for us to spread the word about our band. And of course, thank you Everything Is Noise for this feature and the opportunity for us to be seen and heard!’