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The French Connection 

LA band Détective uses 1960s cinema as its guide

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All you need for a movie is a gun and a girl.”

This oft-quoted piece of wisdom from legendary French film director Jean-Luc Godard succinctly describes his sparse but cathartic film work, and the films of other directors who defined 1960s French New Wave cinema.

The significance here? Members of the Los Angeles-based pop group Détective have taken the philosophy of Godard and his counterparts to heart, applying it to their music with stunning accuracy. All they needed was a guy and a girl.

“We liked the various associations the film and the name conjure,” says founding member and songwriter James Greer. Greer openly admits that the group lifted its name directly from one of Godard’s lesser-known mid-’80s films.

It’s an aesthetic that sticks: the group’s main songwriting talent consists simply of Greer himself and Guylaine Vivarat, and their sound rests fittingly between the 1960s art-pop of Vivarat’s native France and the ’90s garage rock of Greer’s past. The pair’s musical backgrounds and relative veteran-status in the world of indie rock create a chemistry that is both palpable and magnificent.

“The way those guys worked,” Greer explains, referencing many classic French directors, “is similar to what we like to do. Very cheaply and very quickly. Breaking the rules and making up new ones.”

Vivarat, most notably a previous member of LA shoegaze band Useless Keys, lends a soft and sultry French voice to the duo’s gracefully but quickly composed indie pop. It recalls, whether purposefully or not, 1990s indie darlings Stereolab.

And Greer, who has spent more than two decades writing and recording music, was at one time a member of rock group Guided by Voices. It was an experience that, he says, sobered him to the ways of the recording industry.

“Mostly I learned not to worry about what other people think and to trust your own instincts,” Greer says. “Knowing the economics involved with touring and putting out records yourself is valuable, though it doesn’t make it any easier.

“It’s pretty much a full-time job. That doesn’t pay very well. Sometimes I think I should have just learned to play drums,” he adds.

Détective is often brief when it comes to its songs — something Greer says is not always intentional. But it benefits the band, making each track short-but-sweet — fitting for a band with soft, hooky songs.

“I don’t know why mine tend to be short,” Greer says. “When it feels done, it’s done.”

Détective has this timeless quality both in its sound and in its songs, no doubt a result of the band’s joyously reminiscent method of songwriting, as well as its insistence on sticking to analog instrumentation and recording processes.

Whatever the process, Détective makes inescapably charming and deft pop songs that both nurture and excite tired hearts. 

Détective with Bias • Sat, Jan. 26, at 9 pm • Jones Radiator • 120 E. Sprague Ave. • Free • 21+ • 747-6005

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