Black Candy Store - an intriguing name for a band, firing the imagination, but not only that but they are surprisingly French. The heavy, melodic and grungy sounding quartets are Arno (vocals), Julien (guitar) Marco (bass) and Flo (drums). Formed in October 2008 by Arno and Julien, having been playing music together since teenagers. Taking their influences from the Seattle sound, bands such as Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam. From this background they forged their own resonance with a combination of poignant lyrics and with formidable music 2010 finds them with a new album ‘Back To The Wall’, produced by the band and mastered by Dave Collins (Linkin Park, Ben Harper, Soundgarden) and a European tour is just around the corner.
MEL: Let’s talk about ‘Black Candy Store’ as you’ve been known since 2008 - how did the name come about and are you as delicious as you sound?
ARNO: I didn’t know that the word delicious could be used concerning the sound of the band!! But that sounds ok! The name comes from a led Zeppelin song, “Candy Store Rock” that I liked a lot because of the “Elvis” side of the song. But the name was too ‘pop’ for the band so we added Black. It is related with Julien’s first journey to Sweden when he brought back some black candy too.
MEL: What should we all know about the band? What led you all into the music business?
ARNO: We just lived for it, since we were teenagers. We didn’t decide to be in the ‘business’. When I finished my studies, I had some choices to make and live my passion for music was my choice! We tried some bands, replaced people, played covers etc… but in the end, we wanted to do our own music, even if in France, and especially in the south, it is not easy.
JULIEN: I was whining for a guitar from my mother since I heard AC/DC’s ‘Powerage’ given to me by a girl on my school bus. I got my first guitar when I was 12, and I wasn’t really interested in the beginning. So I left it in a corner for years! But when I was 16 it was the great time of Nirvana, Guns and Roses, Pearl Jam etc... Then I started to play every day, and I was in a band 3 months later! Of course it sounded awful...!
MEL: Are all the band members from Southern France, and do you speak fluent English?
ARNO: We’re all from the south yes, and about my English hmmm, I guess that I’m not so bad... for a French guy [laughs]
JULIEN: In fact we’re all Southern Frenchies, but I moved to Sweden 3 months ago. So I practice my English every day right now. Arno and I are close to speaking fluent English. The others understand well but haven’t practiced enough. I also have extra help from my girlfriend when it’s too tricky, but anyway we’ll have to come to England more often!
MEL: Vocalist Arno & Guitarist Julien you are the founding members and been playing together since you were 16, influenced by the Seattle scene. Is this still the case? How would you sum up the whole bands main sound?
ARNO: It’s been a long road together with Julien! The Seattle scene is not the only influence, for example, Led Zeppelin is my favourite band and I started listening to music with them! We listen to a lot of different styles but to be honest when people don’t know the band, you have to give some names and a style so…
According to me, Black Candy Store is a mix between some Seattle bands like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, with Stone Temple Pilots, Audioslave, King’s X… with our own spirit in it!
MEL: What great on the road adventure might you tell at a party?
ARNO: We’re a quiet band [laughs] I can’t tell you about the others because I’m not a traitor - but after a show in Luxemburg , some people told me that I finished the party at the top of a street light, singing and screaming… don’t remember!
JULIEN: That’s true! And there is a lot worse but I’m under an oath of silence. You’re gonna have to come to see us!
MEL: Have you played at any Summer Festivals this year? If so how were you received, and did you enjoy them?
ARNO: We’re working on next year’s festivals with some people in the UK, in France and Belgium for the moment. We made a tour this spring but composed and worked on the band this summer. We played last year at some festivals in France and Benelux and we liked being on the road. People were really kind. To share our music with a large audience was a great experience for BCS. We’ll tour more next summer.
MEL: Hey I don’t see any tattoos on you guys - are they hidden or don’t you have any?
ARNO: I have my left arm tattooed now but it wasn’t done when we took the photos… Its not as common as in London here you know [laughs]. I needed a good reason to do it and to tattoo something important to me… that’s done!
JULIEN: I often hear that question, especially since I live in Gothenburg. But does rock music necessarily equal tattoos? You know what Rock’n’Roll means to me? It’s being free, people tend to forget that. Nowadays the media turns this into a fashion and rock is just another trend on the radio. And finally the music is less important. So, in answer to your question: no, I don’t have any.
MEL: Where do your songs start out & who writes them? Take us through a couple of your favourite tracks off the album?
ARNO: Julien composes the music. I write the lyrics (supervised by English and American friends) and we arrange the songs together till it sounds as we want. -sometimes it goes fast to do it, sometimes it requires months of work.
For example one of the last songs we composed for the album, ‘The Pledge’ had been written in 2 hours or less maybe. I had a good feeling with the lyrics and the riff inspired us a lot to finish it really quickly.
The song ‘Back to the wall’ was like that too but I worked a lot to write the ‘Bittersweet Euphoria’ lyrics and voice melody. We arranged the song many times, in different ways, with some chords, electric, acoustic - everything sounded good but we had to choose a version.
I can’t tell you which one is my favourite; each song is special to me, ‘Wounded’ -‘Someday’ – ‘Recall’. I can’t choose really, it’s not a promo thing.
JULIEN: For me, it often starts with jamming on the guitar, and then if I still think it could be a good song after a week, I record it and send it to Arno. But ‘The Pledge’ is a good example of one of the songs I would never use and Arno finally got a good feeling about it, so we kept it. It was the same with ‘Wounded’.
MEL: You appear to write from life’s experiences, which was the hardest song to write on the album given this?
ARNO: ‘Bittersweet euphoria’- was special to write because I was writing about someone else’s experience, about my closest friend Julien, so it was an exercise of empathy.
‘Wounded’ too because I wanted to express myself about a real wound and I didn’t want to appear as a victim; I just used my feelings of the moment to write but that was important to me to avoid the pathos. I don’t want to be heard like some “crying-specialist” singer’s style that abound on the US radios… want some names? [Laughs]
JULIEN: The lyrics are important for me too. And I always want to know what Arno really wants to say because it helps me to imagine the song ‘as a whole’. That’s a plus about being a singer because you have the words. I just try to play something that talks to me, influenced by how I feel at any moment.
MEL: I believe you’re very inspired by the environment and wildlife, where/how was this interest formed? Do you get involved in any specific organisations you’d like to promote?
JULIEN: It’s formed by my personal life and how it evolves. I believe we need changes to grow, as tough as they might be, and whether we like it or not it comes, sooner or later. I get involved every day in my life for example by not participating in things I believe has a negative impact on the world, its people and its animal life. I try to live ecologically, to consume less and not be another victim of the commercial circus that has such a strong grip on us. I try to boycott brands that are part of multinational companies for example. And trust me; it’s not easy to stand up against something that our society in general sees as normal. However, I’ve realised there’s many people who share my opinions, especially when I started getting involved in the Zeitgeist movement and in the Venus project.
ARNO: I’ve always been interested in wildlife and the environment, my wife is working in an NGO called UICN and I support many associations, like Defenders, Surfrider Foundation, WWF etc…
Our way of life reflects a lot of what we’re talking about; trying to consume less is maybe the best way to rise against the system.
MEL: Tell us about your forthcoming tour (is it a UK tour?) and why we should come to see you live?
JULIEN: Yes, the plan is to play like five gigs in England, more in France and the Benelux. And you should come see us live because the songs are heavier live and you will also see Arno’s tattoo..!! [smiles]
ARNO: Aha, yes you’ll see it, but the good reason is that the band is hard working and, according to me, we’ll be ready to give good rock shows in UK!
MEL: Who would you like to support or have support you?
JULIEN: I don’t want to be associated with things that don’t fit my ideas about the world and the way we’re being ruled. But in general, I would love to support people and brands that help others anywhere it’s needed. I also care a lot about animal suffering but I believe that we have to go deeper and see what’s really wrong in our society and work on ‘saving’ human beings first, in order to stop the animal suffering inflicted by man.
ARNO: A lot of people give time and energy to others, children, animals, I admire them; they’re not waiting for anything in return… truly everyday heroes. The support of the people that will come to our shows will be enough for me.
MEL: Final question, 13 unlucky for some - what would you like to say or even ask us?
JULIEN: We’re often asked pretty much the same questions at interviews and I’d just like to thank you for asking different and more relevant questions. And of course, longue vie à Mudkiss!
ARNO: Come to see the band if you’re around, and thank you for your interest in a froggie’s rock band!!
Thanks guys don’t forget to keep us posted when your playing in Manchester.
Photo credits Promo shots by JR
Interview by Mel
Thanks to Samara Kain