True marathon runners of punk rock, the Burning Lady of Lille are playing around the squats and european alternative stages since 2008 ! The team of Karton couldn’t miss their last gig of the year in Dijon during the Maloka festival ! We can’t hide our pleasure… with a group that rarely appears in interviews ! | Interview by Polka B. (Trad : Gosho & Mitsasa VN)
How was the band formed ? Did you have the ambition to do so much gigs when you started ?
Alex : We mainly wanted to do gigs and have fun together !
Sophie : I don’t know if we had the ambition to do « so much », had we ?
Alex : In anyways, we wanted to do play as much as we could, like those bands that we loved when we were 20. We had already played with other bands, but as the project started to work a little bit, we kept on ! It has been already 11 years now.
Ripoll : You had a band with the former guitarist too.
Alex : Yes, Working Frog ! And Sophie occasionaly came to sing, too.
Sophie : I also used to sing in Boulbala and the boulet family, another ska band. I was still a kid back then !
In terms of musical identity, your songs alternate between abrasive punk and more melodic parts. Do you agree with this definition ?
Alex : In the beginning, we were going for something softer. Some king of rock’n’roll frame. When we took Ripoll and Mulder in, the sound evolved. It became more incisive. It was a good thing, because we had quite a lot of influences in common. With the former members, we had to make much more compromises in musical terms.
Ripoll : I got into punk-rock through the NOFX and Pennywise door when I was still 11. I think it has to do. The abrasive side comes from there, and at the same time, most of their songs are very melodic. That being said, the chords Burning Lady used at the beginning were focused on rock’n’roll and blues. It changed a little bit when I came in in 2011, and even more with Mulder on the guitar in 2012.
Mulder : two thirds of the songs from the first album had been composed by the original line-up. I think you can hear it (Until the Walls Fall, released in 2013). The goal was to produce something coherent out of all this on the same album.
Ripoll : We made it more coherent with this abrasive side. For me, the tempo of the « former » songs had to be sped up. At the start, they found it too fast… now they know it is that way they have to be played ! (Laughs)
You are often given the « street-punk » tag. Yet, you have played with bands from every background. Was it a way to turn to others and not restrain yourselves to one musical aesthetic ?
Alex : We did not want to be close, that is true. But at the same time, we were lucky to please to different scenes. We had the chance to share the stage with contemporary music bands in a broad sense, in particular in festivals. It is enriching ! It prevented us from being stuck in a single field.
Ripoll : Festivals around our place regularly invited us. You find yourself between Danakil and Lofofora ! It is a bit messy, but as they a little bit of punk rock… at last it is kind of cool ! It works !
You were very appreciated by musical programmers, but you have always stayed in a DIY logic. Was it a deliberate effort not to professionalize ?
Mulder : We were still very curious to find out what we could do among an alternative scene. After a moment, playing only on big stages… it can become boring. However, we played on SMACs* (*Big well-equipped state-subsidized stages)!
Alex : Personally, I feel less in the right place there. Big “pro” things, it is less our thing. We did not really intend to move in that way. In any case of opportunity, we were there. But it stopped there.
Ripoll : We refused some plans because they took down our welfare too !
Alex : In this kind of context, organizers want to give you fees. At last, with the taxes, you end up only getting half of what they put to make you play ! We did not mean to become “ temporary show business workers “ (*French status) … and anyways we could never have done it ! It did not make any sense for us.
Ripoll : We always used all the money we saved for the band.
The DIY ethics, that’s a freedom choice. But it also brings about many difficulties! What helped you hold all those years ?
Ripoll : For us, the DIY choice was an evidence. The balance goes 99% in favour of the DIY. I’ve been in for 8 years. When I think of all the difficulties it makes me laugh ! It is less funny at the time, but with the perspective, it is. We found out incredible places, countries we would never have visited. Today, I regularly go back to certain places to see the people again.
Alex : At worst you are not well received, equipment is shit, it sounds like shit… Gigs like this, there are 2 or 3 of them as a maximum in a tour.
Mulder : And we had some blasts in the truck… it also kept us going all those years !
Sophie : We loved the trips, for sure ! As long as we were all the four together in the same shit… we were happy !
Alex : That’s lucky, because those years it happened to have 80 gigs. In the meanwhile, you put a part of your life aside.
Ripoll : Concerning the gigs, that’s simple, you just have to do them. “We are offered to play there this date. Are we going ?” If nobody does it, nothing will never be done. There always is a good reason not to go somewhere. We would have have big regrets…
Is it possible to involve yourself as much as you play in other bands at the same time ?
Ripoll : No, that’s really hard ! To me, that’s what I left the most aside. I could have other projects, but it was not possible. For a long time, I was a monitor, it saved me! I had my week-ends and all the school breaks, and sometimes I managed to negotiate for a Friday free ! It was perfect to go on Thursday in the evening and come back on the Sunday night. Getting back to your question, it happens that some of your musical projects take over others, and that’s normal. You feel that everything is easier. You get received better and better, offered shows, you enjoy being on stage. Basically, you have to appreciate the people among the band, and to like what you’re playing… It’s strange, it sounds like we are drawing up a report of the band.. Yet we’re playing tonight !
Sophie : Which is funny because we never did it between us, actually !
Tonight you are playing for your only date in 2019. Hasn’t life gotten back to you after all ?
Sophie : Yes of course…
Ripoll : Some became parents, others went on other projects, some developed other passions over time, which became life projects… we told each other that we had to keep looking for gigs. For a time we relied on a booker in Germany, and then we realized that we no longer needed him. Fact was it eventually was fine for us to have less gigs !
Mulder : There is that, and the last tours had been exhausting too.
Ripoll : We had played a lot after the second album. Periods of time were very condensed. We went from tour to tour, of 2 or 3 weeks each, and with hardly 2 days off between each tour.
Sophie : It was hard but we had fun !
Ripoll : We chose it, for sure. It did not make us stop, we just changed the rhythm. The band slowed down, but when we are offered a gig and there were some friends that organized it, we couldn’t refuse ! We are all geographically spread, but it’s always a pleasure to meet up with each other again.
Have you got any projects concerning a new album ?
Ripoll : It all depends on what you mean by project. There are two parts. For now, it would be more of a “pro-“. It would be shorter (Laughs).
Mulder : All at once, everything is possible ! Let’s say that today there is no plan about it.
The band’s identity is really marked by the female vocals (name of the band, visual..). Among the alternative scene, did you suffer from any misogynistic behaviors ?
Sophie : Never ! With alcohol there are always clusmy behaviors but well… Everybody is very respectful. To be honest, I never felt victim of it. And if it had to happen, I can defend myself. I have good pals too.
Alex : People from the scene have always been clean. Well, sometimes some guys from the audience at the end of the show, but nothing too bad.
Sophie : We send them to hell and it’s over.
Ripoll : I would not like to speak in the name of women, but the most misogynistic thing that stuck to us was that we were described as “ female street punk from France “ on the posters. Is that just a desire to describe the music ? “Female street punk”, literally ? Or is it the fact to say it is a woman singing ? To drag more people to the show ? It does not matter that much. But it’s weird. After some time we asked our booker in Germany not to write it on posters.
Alex : For the last shows we organized ourselves, we just wrote “punk-rock”, which represents us the best.
What are the good memories that come back more clearly to your mind after all those shows ?
Ripoll : One morning I woke up and the girl I was with, at the time, tells me I’m opening the show for Pennywise in Paris. I lived in New-Caledony for a long time, I loved punk-rock, and to me it was just not possible ! I didn’t even imagine seeing them live one day !
The second thing was a crush on Erfurt, in Germany. I met a lot of people there. That’s how I became a dad. I would have never known that without the band. When we started touring in this country, I loved it very fast. They put so much of themselves to host touring bands… It’s rather incredible. Who wants to play in a cold SMAC* to play with shitty bands who are going to fill up the place anyways ? There are a lot of smaller places who organize it better, with a cool state of mind. Doing this in a DIY way it’s awesome, specially when the people are there to support.
Alex : Just a little bit before the creation of the band, I was living in Spain. It was something special to come back there to play ! The atmosphere, the language… I found that the scene was good enough and more active, from Catalonia to Basque Country.
Mulder : For me, it was a show with Inner Terrestrials. It was a pleasure to share the stage with them. When we were adolescents, we were listening a lot of their music. We had even created a ska-dub band, we were inspirated by their tracks. We lived a lot of other good moments, but this one was something very special.
And you Sophie, it was this damned show at 6. pm ?
Alex : Hell yeah. That one what we started during the night to finish the next day, open air close to Alès ?
Sophie : Drop it, it was crazy ! Finally, it was not so bad…
Ripoll : Also we were furious because we had a beef with the groupe that had to play before us. It was during the change of set, theirs intentions were a little bit agressive. It was
inappropriate. Without reason. We had to play at 11 am, and it was 6 pm ! You can guess that we were a little bit nervous ! We didn’t reply but we wanted let rip at the show !
Alex : The band before had played mostly about two hours without counting the soundcheck ! To the point where all the people had leaved. We were thinking that we were waiting for nothing. When we went on stage, they were already in theirs trucks. When we began, they started to come again.
Ripoll : After fifteen minutes, they were again there, totaly ready and…
Alex : Awaken !(Laughs)
Ripoll : The festival explain well his name. It was something like « Destroy the fest »… Perfect !
What this kind of life can you bring in a personal level ?
Mulder : I would say the self-confidence. The fact to go on stage, it’s not innocent. A little bit of experience also. Thanks to meet some organisers, we could create our own events at home. When we celebrated our ten years of existence last year, we did something very good. We could gather some friends who came with us on tour. It was a blast.
Ripoll : The meetings ! People, bands… To do shows, that learns you to play, too. This is endurance, you can not trick. All of us, we became better. This, you can not realize it at the moment.
Alex : The network of contacts ! In France and in Europe. During a period, I was leaving often for holidays, hitchhiking. When the night was falling, I could always find a place that we had already passed with Burning. I had always the contacts ! I had just to call to know if i could sleep in the place of people.
Do you have a music to recommend for the people who are reading us ?
Ripoll : Wonk Unit ! It’s awesome. We had already met them in England. True aliens in the punk rock scene ! They released something like 7 albums. They do a lot of tours. About inspiration, I would mention the Adolescents, and some english punk references like Hard Skin. We bring them in Lille two times and it was amazing.
Sophie : For sure ! Personally, I discovered Mon Dragon, 4 years ago. I took a big slap in my face ! Wonderful band.
Alex : Now I am thinking at The Baboon Show, swedish people with a girl that sings. We didn’t know them at all, we met them by hasard during a festival and it was great. We were glued to the stage together… Crminal Mind of Bristol, too !