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April March

Idioma disponível: inglês
Singer, songwriter, and French pop enthusiast April March's life would make for a good memoir, though some might not believe its twists and turns, like her stints as an animator for Pee-Wee's Playhouse and Ren & Stimpy, recording with Brian Wilson, backing Ronnie Spector in concert and in the studio, and making records around the globe with top-notch producers and players as diverse as Jonathan Richman and Tony Allen. She started out in the early '90s cutting her version of the classic French yé-yé sound, making a big splash with the song "Chick Habit," which turned up in Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof, and her debut album, 1999's Chrominance Decoder. She soon branched out to make garage punk with the Makers, jangly indie rock with Los Cincos, orchestral pop on 2002's Triggers with producer Bertrand Burgalat, and slacker indie disco with Steve Hanft on 2008's Magic Monsters. No matter the setting, March's innate sense of style and her charming voice fit perfectly, even when mixed with swirling psychedelia (2013's April March & Aquaserge), Afro-pop (2021's In Cinerama), or a variety of retro soundtrack styles, as on 2023's April March Meets Staplin. Born Elinor Blake on April 20, 1965, March's interest in France took root in nursery school, where she began learning French from a puppet named Monsieur Hibou ("Mr. Owl"). Her Francophilia grew in 1978, when she briefly attended junior high in France as an exchange student. She graduated from Phillips Academy Andover in 1983, after which she moved back to New York City to become a comic artist at Archie Comics. She graduated to the animation department of Pee-Wee's Playhouse in 1984, and worked on Madonna's "Who's That Girl" video. In early 1985, Blake formed her first band with fellow vocalists Lisa Dembling and Lisa Jenio, a garage rock-meets-girl group trio named the Pussywillows. The band was put only hold while she took a year-long break to attend Disney's character animation program; when she returned, they released 1988's Spring Fever! EP. The record's vintage sound and girl group attitude helped earn the Pussywillows an opportunity to serve as backing vocalists for Ronnie Spector at Madison Square Garden toward the end of 1989. They also appeared on demos Spector recorded with Marshall Crenshaw that didn't see the light of day until years later. The Pussywillows split up the following year and Blake joined the Shitbirds, a group who were inspired by classic '70s punk. Blake was then hired as an animator and writer for The Ren & Stimpy Show, a gig that required a move to Los Angeles. Once settled in, she began recording under the name April March, releasing the "Voo Doo Doll"/"Kooky" single for the Kokopop label in 1992. While working on Ren & Stimpy, she met the illustrious power popper Andy Paley when he came in for a meeting regarding a soundtrack album for the show. He and Blake hit it off and she began singing on his demos and on soundtracks he produced. Through Paley, she became friendly with the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson and ended up doing some recording with him as well. She also fell in with Jonathan Richman, a noted lover of French music, who plays guitar on some songs Paley and Blake (and the Shitbirds) recorded for the French label Eurovision. The results of these sessions were released in 1994 on the Gainsbourgsion! EP and in 1995 on the Chick Habit EP, issued by Sympathy for the Record Industry. Both releases showed the depth of her love and understanding of French pop as filtered through a girl group lens. She continued recording with the Shitbirds, though they split up soon after issuing their debut album, Famous Recording Artists, in 1995. All the songs from those early Paley/Richman sessions appeared on the 1996 collection Paris in April. French producer Bertrand Burgalat was a big fan of Blake's work as April March and offered her a chance to make a record with him. Sessions took place in studios in Paris and London with guests including Louis Phillipe on guitar and Thee Headcoatees on backing vocals. During some downtime in the recording process, March hooked up with fellow SFTRI artists the Makers for the grungy garage rock collaboration April March Sings Along with the Makers. She also hit the studio with the Bassholes to lay down a noisy cover of ESG's "Moody" and the punk-blues raver "Microscope Feeling" for a single that was released on SFTRI In 1996. The Burgalat sessions were released as Superbanyair in Japan and France. The album is a lovely blend of March's enthusiasm and Burgalat's sophisticated production; it truly sounds like a lost French pop classic from the late '60s. Her next move was to collaborate with the California indie rock band Los Cincos, making one album that had a smoky, late-night feel (April March and Los Cincos) for SFTRI and one for the Japanese label Horen with a looser, more '60s-centric approach complete with psychedelic backing choirs (whose members included Petra and Tanya Haden, Bennett, and Maya Rudolph) and vintage keys (April March and Los Cincos featuring the Choir). Somewhat surprisingly, considering how many other albums featuring March were on the shelves in the U.S. at the time, it took until 1999 for the Burgalat session to be issued there. With the addition of a few songs that were new to the release, a title change to Chrominance Decoder, and a new label -- Ideal Records, an off-shoot of the Dust Brothers-helmed Nickel Bag Records -- the record was released in 1999. The Brothers themselves provided remixes of two tracks from the album, "Sugar" and "Nothing New." She also appeared on the Dust Brothers-produced soundtrack to The X-Files, wrote and sang a song on the Orgazmo soundtrack, and did the same for Election. When the film's director Alexander Payne was unable to procure the Brigette Bardot song "La Madrague," he turned to March and she delivered a fine substitute with "Piscine Couverte." When it came time to record another album, March paired up again with Burgalat and a team of French musicians to create a less retro sound that included drum machines, strings, and horns. It took three sessions, spaced very far apart, to get the record together; it finally came out in 2002. Titled Triggers, it was released by Tricatel in France and PIAS everywhere else. March and a live band set off on a six-week European tour to support it. After some time off, March came back with a splash in 2007 when the song "Chick Habit," her reinterpretation of Serge Gainsbourg's "Laisse Tomber les Filles" she had recorded 15 years earlier, appeared in the Quentin Tarantino film Death Proof. Magic Monsters, a 2008 collaboration with Steve Hanft combined West Coast slacker indie, laid-back disco, and the prerequisite French pop. It was produced by Tom Chasteen and featured appearances by Elliott Smith, DJ Swamp, Tanya Haden, and the Radar Bros. After a detour into acting -- she appeared in two films (Slap the Gondola! in 2009 and Cet Air La in 2010) by French experimental filmmaker Marie Losier -- she made guest appearances on Laetitia Sadier's debut solo album The Trip, and Fugue, the first French-language release by Mehdi Zannad (aka Fugu). Also performing on that album was keyboardist Julien Gasc of the band Aquaserge. He and March had met a few years earlier when he was part of her backing band for a concert in Paris. They decided it was a good idea for her to collaborate with Aquaserge and began trading music back and forth between the band's barn in the French countryside and March's New Jersey apartment. The resulting album, April March & Aquaserge, was mixed by John McEntire and is definitely the most dreamily psychedelic entry in March's catalog. French artist Benjamin Schoos' label Freaksville did the honors in 2013. She next teamed with Burgalat to provide write songs, perform backing vocals, and take the lead on the song "Step on the Gas" for Dynamite! the soundtrack for Bertrand Tavernier's film Quai D'Orsay. She recorded a single with Schoos in 2014 titled "J'ai Essayé de T'Aimer," began writing songs with Mehdi Zannad, who records under the name Fugu, and in 2017 served as an illustrator on Jack White's book We're Going to Be Friends. Included with the book was a single that featured March covering the White Stripes song that inspired the title. She next appeared on the 2019 album Rouen Dreams by Jean-Emmanuel Deluxe & Friends, then her connection with Third Man continued when she joined one of the label's artists, Olivia Jean, on the 2021 Palladium EP, where the singers each take on the same three songs, in English and French and in different genres. During this time, March was also working on an album with producer Mehdi Zannad and a cast list that included many previous collaborators like Andy Paley, Petra & Rachel Haden, Danny Frankel, and Bennet Rogers, as well as new compatriots like legendary drummer Tony Allen, vocalist Lola Kirke, and Marilyn Rovell Wilson of Spring. 2021's In Cinerama touches on familiar sounds like girl group and French pop (though from later in the '60s) while also folding in confessional soft rock, lilting Afro-pop, string- and horn-heavy orchestral pop, and loads of vocal harmonies along the way, becoming March's most diverse offering to date. The album was reissued in 2022, with the addition of a couple of bonus tracks, by which time March had her next collaboration lined up. The French duo Staplin, who made a splash with their vintage soundtracks-inspired album Neon Shades, which features a vocal assist from March. Working with drummer Toby Dammit of the Bad Seeds, the trio concocted a rich and layered sound that is brightly cinematic and gauzily melancholy, with some songs sung in French, some in English. April March Meets Staplin was issued on the Velvetica label in May of 2023.
© Tim Sendra /TiVo
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