Page last updated at 08:38 GMT, Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Moulding music with The Plastiscines

The Plastiscines
The Plasticines: Katty Besnard, Anais Vandevyere, Louise Basilien, Marine Neuilly

By Mark Savage
BBC News entertainment reporter

The Plastiscines are furious.

Why? Because they've come to play a concert in England, the home of punk and rock and the Beatles and the Libertines, and everybody is just standing there staring at them politely.

"This isn't a jazz club," scolds Marine, the band's tousled, tattooed guitarist. "Make some noise!"

The Parisian pop-punk quartet continue to be quite cross for the rest of their show, until lead singer Katty Besnard abruptly decides she's had enough.

"Stop!" she screams, and her band-mates shudder to a halt.

They watch, bemused and intrigued, as Besnard prowls over to the side of the stage, singles out two cowering punters and starts screaming in their faces for not joining in with the show.

Strands of her I Dream Of Jeannie beehive work themselves loose as she turns on the rest of the audience. The gig will not continue, she pouts, until everyone is on their feet.

Astonishingly, the insults have an invigorating effect. The crowd begin to clap in time to Anais Vandevyvere's single, pounding kick drum, and the band kick into gear with an electric version of their current single.

Appropriately enough, it's called Bitch.

Listen to the Plastiscines perform Bitch

A couple of days later, once the group have retreated to a safe distance (La Roche-sur-Yon in western France, to be precise), I summon the courage to speak to Vandevyere on the phone.

A former medical student, the 20-year-old is unfalteringly polite, but completely unabashed by her bandmates' behaviour.

"It kind of worked," she giggles, "But we didn't know that our boss was there.

"He got so upset because he thought we were rude to people.

"But we were like: 'We're rock and roll - we can do anything we want!'"

Les Bebes Rockers

The Plastiscines were formed in 2004 after a Libertines concert in Paris, and quickly became the focus of a scene of French new-wave rock bands - nicknamed Les Bebes Rockers because of their tender years.

Named after a line in The Beatles' Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds ("plasticine porters with looking glass ties"), the group are unabashedly Anglocentric in their influences.

"We think that rock and roll is way better in English," says Vandevyere, "so when we write a song, we basically write it in English".

The Plastiscines
The group are signed to Nylon Records, an off-shoot of the uber-hip style magazine

This put the quartet at an immediate disadvantage in a country that demands at least 40% French-language programming on its radio stations, but the group seem not to care.

"France is such a conservative country," Vandevyere declares.

"The scene is always like a 30-year-old man with his guitar playing funk music, with French lyrics. It's kind of boring. We're not really influenced by this kind of thing."

By the time the band released their debut album, LP1, the critics had had plenty of time to sharpen their knives.

"They were saying, 'Four girls on stage doing rock and roll? It's not possible. It doesn't exist,'" Vandevyere says.

"It was really hard."

Rattled by the media scorn, The Plastiscines spread a rumour they "were not really together any more" and fled for America.

It was a cunning move - one which allowed them to fly under the radar while working on their second album, with producer Butch Walker (Pink, Avril Lavigne, Katy Perry).

His main contribution was to sweeten the bratty thrash of their debut, adding backing vocals to their rough-and-ready demos.

"We were shy to put them on the album, but our producer said 'everyone does it here, you should try it out,'" says Vandevyere.

"Now there are background vocals on every bloody song."

Harmonies are the making of the band. Suddenly, their scratchy, fuzztone guitar lines have blossomed into life, with a hazy Californian sheen reminiscent of The Bangles or The GoGos.

And despite Vandevyere's protests, the sessions sound idyllic. The band were living and working by the beach in Malibu, and made it a point of honour to drink several bottles of Francis "The Godfather" Coppola's wine every night.

The Plastiscines
The band admit they learnt to play their instruments on stage

"We drank so much of this wine, we nearly called our album Francis Coppola," Vandevyere giggles.

The resulting album doesn't show any signs of being written through a fog of alcohol. It's tight, punchy and melodic - a thunderstorm of teenage defiance; a haughty moue at the French media.

That's exactly what Bitch is about, Vandevyere explains.

"Everyone was judging us for nothing. So my guitarist wrote this song as if to say 'What if I'm a bitch? What do you have to say about that?'"

Fresh from the studio, the song's retro punk caught the ear of Alex Patsavas, the highly-influential music supervisor on Gossip Girl.

She has since scripted several of the Plastiscines songs into the teen drama, building up a healthy underground buzz for the band in LA and New York.

Ironically, that ringing endorsement from the US media is what finally gave the band credibility at home.

"Now the press is really with us," Vandevyere says incredulously.

"They said: 'We thought they were dead, and now they're so big in America. They did Gossip Girl, they got a big producer, they played a lot of festivals - it must be a bit more interesting.'

"And now they write, 'OK, maybe they weren't that good before, but they're good now and they've proved it'".

About Love is out now on Because Music.

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