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Leave it to a French punk band to have the audacity to call themselves Rock & Roll — but that’s exactly what this Parisian-based foursome did. So far, it hasn’t hurt their chances, at least in the fashion world. Karl Lagerfeld shot the EP cover for lead singer Gricha Berekachvili, drummer Paul Louis Viguier, bassist L.A.M.F. and guitarist Matthias Cadeac d’Arbaud; they starred in ads for French label Zadig & Voltaire, and a deal with Roberto Cavalli is in the works. Now the band is out to conquer America, kicking off their U.S. tour at The Annex on Sunday, followed by a CMJ appearance on Wednesday at the Mercury Lounge.
WWD spoke to Berekachvili as he tried to navigate the New York subway system.
WWD: What’s up with your name? It’s a pretty bold move.
Gricha Berekachvili: Naming a band is one of the hardest things. We tried a lot of names and they all sounded ridiculous. And I really love this song by The Cramps, “God Damn Rock & Roll.” But obviously, it was a bit too long — and then we found out that no other band has had the courage to call themselves Rock & Roll.
WWD: Why do you sing in English?
G.B.: I’ve been listening to English or American music since I was a kid, and there is only, like, one French rock band worth listening to — a band called Telephone, from the Eighties. I don’t think that French language fits this music because it doesn’t have any rhythm. It’s hard to make it sound pretty with a fast tempo. But it’s true that it’s been a bit hard — no French record label would sign a French band singing in English, because we have some strange laws about the radio [station programming must be at least 40 percent French language]. It’s a shame, so that’s why we are very happy to now work with American people.
WWD: You’ve been really embraced by the fashion community. Why do you think that happened?
G.B.: At first it was a little bit strange. Our first articles were all in fashion magazines. But I didn’t want us to be just a fashion band — talking only about our looks and what size our jeans are. Maybe it’s because we are quite nice-looking guys and we know that style is important. Rock ‘n’ roll is very visual, so we try to be dressed nicely onstage and offstage. That’s why the fashion people like us.
WWD: How would you describe your look?
G.B.: Like our music: sharp and tight.
WWD: How did you hook up with Karl Lagerfeld?
G.B.: Well, Matthias, knew the artistic director of Chanel and I think that he gave our first demo to Lagerfeld. And Lagerfeld offered to help us, and said “Hey, do you want some pictures? I like the band, I like the style.” So that’s obviously what he did. I thought he would be a fashion diva, but he was very cool with us, very professional. And always wanting to know what we think of his work. I hope that we will be able to work with him again — I mean, I do need an ID photo.
WWD: The French music scene is really known for its cutting-edge electronica — from Daft Punk to Air and Justice. But in the past couple of years, there has been a resurgence of punk rock. Why do you think that is?
G.B.: I don’t know how it all started. When I was in school, everybody was like, “Look at the freak with the guitar.” The cool dude was the guy spinning the records in the clubs. I think it’s great that this is happening.
In addition to Rock & Roll, here are some other bands to check out during the CMJ Marathon:
Lead singer Katrina Ford is poised to become the next Karen O.
Tuesday at midnight
484 Union Avenue
TINY MASTERS OF TODAY
David Bowie is a fan of this kid band.
Oct. 18, 9 p.m.
6 Delancey Street
This unsigned Florida band has all the music blogs buzzing.
Oct. 18, 10 p.m.
152 Orchard Street
Norwegian electro-rockers who perform in matching track suits.
Oct. 18, 10 p.m.
Blender Theater at Gramercy
127 East 23rd Street
SIMIAN MOBILE DISCO
French band Justice remixed one of their tracks.
Oct. 18 at midnight
Music Hall of Williamsburg
66 North 6th Street
The Sri-Lankan rap artist and critical darling.
Oct. 19, 8 p.m.
610 West 56th Street
An American answer to Arcade Fire.
Oct. 20, 9 p.m.
New Zealand retro group.
Oct. 20, 11 p.m.