HelloLisa – Hundred Lives

I’ve always enjoyed E-mail conversations with Pat. Pat is the drummer turned guitarist in HelloLisa, a French band that I featured on Sonic Breakfast (here) back in the day. 

His E-mails are warm, chatty and convivial and when he got back in touch weeks ago to enquire if I’d be interested in reviewing the new HelloLisa record, I jumped at the chance. They’re a bright and breezy indie-pop band able to write magical tunes. The release of ‘Haunted Strange Parties’ in September had passed me by, gone under this radar, and Pat told me why. 

‘The saddest thing is a catastrophic sudden death of Julien, founding member of the band and co writer, co singer of the band at age 42, on July 22 just few days after we get our boxes of this LP from the factory. This is the main reason we didnt communicate so much on the release of this new album because we were in shock and we still are. After weeks of pain and questioning, we decided to continue the band.’

I sat and read Pat’s E-mail as a cluster of thoughts swelled. I didn’t know Julien aside from his art on record and yet still a morbid sadness descended. 42 – no age, younger than me, distinctly horrible. Revealing new material for any band has to be one of the moments they live for and, yet here was an example of extreme sorrow. 

Curiosity abounded (and I didn’t like to ask Pat) so I searched the Internet. To discover that Julien had had a cardiac arrest, that he’d left a young, grieving family just made matters worse. 

If I was feeling a certain shock for this remote loss, goodness knows how people much closer must be feeling. 

Tentatively, I began to listen to the record. It’s a masterpiece, the work of a band at the very top of their game. Lyrically, there are songs that hark back to our younger days; joyous day trips when we were half our age in cars that have long since been consigned to the scrap heap in the sky. It’s an album that grabs middle-age by the scruff of the neck yet makes you all fuzzy about what used to be. 

Clumsily, I cobbled words together to let Pat know how sorry I was to hear the news. I knew I was going to feature HelloLisa again. ‘Haunted Strange Parties’ is a quite remarkable record; one that makes reference to Neil Hannon and The Divine Comedy’s ‘Tonight, We Fly’ in opening track ‘First Black Bike’.

Yesterday. Pat sent me a video for ‘Hundred Lives’, one of the album’s stand-out tracks. It’s only recently been pulled together, a montage of video clips from the 1980’s featuring Toni Basil’s ‘Mickey’ prominently. The song, a nostalgic nod back to your early twenties when optimism is rife about what’s to follow, fits in with the images with eerie perfection. 

I feel so humbled that HelloLisa chose to share this with me. As awfully cliched as it is, life really is for living. We never know what’s around any corner and to not embrace it with every sinew seems like the most awful of cop-outs. 

It’s time to fall in love (again) with the joyful sounds of HelloLisa.  

HelloLisa – Lilo And John Wayne

One of the lovely things about writing this blog is how one post can lead you to another; you can never be quite sure of the impact (or not) of anything you write so it’s always a fine thing when a band or an artist gets in touch and says, “I enjoyed what you wrote about ‘x’ and I’d really like it if you’d consider writing about ‘y'”.

Sometimes, this can be awkward if ‘y’ offer little of interest but, mostly that’s not the case.

This is how I was introduced to HelloLisa, a wonderful band from Collioure.

A couple of weeks ago, I told tales about camping holidays gone wrong (here). From Perpignan, we took a day trip to Collioure. It wasn’t far but we chose to travel on an insanely hot day. Amidst artists, a royal castle, whitewashed walls and anchovies, my son Ollie (who would have been about six years old at this time) almost fainted in the extreme heat. I hailed a taxi and cut short our trip. Some things stick in your mind forever. The beautifully cool space of that air-conditioned cab seemed to have remarkable restorative powers for my sickly son. I paid the driver a handsome Hansom tip. 

HelloLisa appear to occupy a beautifully cool space in terms of the music they offer. It’s a happy potion of remarkable, restorative powers. Their elixir is a fuzzy, sparkling pop for those of us who like to dance awkwardly. On latest single, Lilo and John Wayne, this septet allow shimmering guitar riffs to build over muted male and female vocals before horns join for an all-out assault on our smiles. It’s no wonder that this lead track from their forthcoming album, Laughter, Drinks and Jiving Along, is turning celebrity heads around the globe.

I’m reliably told that these celebrity endorsements will lead to some interesting festival slots later this year and I’m hopeful that I might be able to stumble across HelloLisa at those festivals for some laughing, drinking and dancing. 

Watch this space.