There are free-roaming geese honking in the background when vocalist/guitarist Laurent and drummer Mathieu of blues rockers Inspector Cluzo call from the farm they run in rural Gascony, France.
Somewhere in the background, Miguel, their favourite goat (and mascot for their record label) is munching his way through the hedgerows. Just back from the local farmer’s market where they’ve been selling their avian companions’ eggs, it’s pretty clear that this is neither your average band. Nor your average farm.
“Our farming is renewable and noble, especially now with the climate changing,” says Laurent. “It’s more important than playing rock’n’roll because we’re on the frontline of agro-ecology. So, it’s a good balance with the band, but it’s constant work.” As they release their ninth album, Horizons, here are the things to know about the bucolic bluesmen…
They take a rock’n’roll approach to farming
Both men studied physics at university and combined their knowledge with their grandparents’ way of farming on their 15-hectare plot where they grow organic wheat and corn. As the title of one track on the new album points out, Running A Family Farm Is More Rock Than Playing Rock’N’Roll.
“This is working,” says Laurent of their methods. “Our goal is to feed people with no more chemicals, no GMOs. We need animals to fertilise the soil, so we need to save them. There’s a lot of greenwashing out there.”
They take a farming approach to rock’n’roll
Fiercely independent and more interested in tending their land than hanging out at Parisian parties, the band hold no truck with the music industry and stay as far away as possible.
“The French music industry is embarrassing. We will keep doing the label ourselves, we will keep on being 100% independent. We wanted to show that we could be self-sufficient, but also create our own richness where we are, because we think it’s more modern to show that it’s possible outside of them. John Lennon used to say that French rock is like English wine. So, we have to be very far away from Paris because they don’t understand anything about rock’n’roll. Everything is really mainstream in French music.”
Iggy Pop is on board
One way to get the attention of a punk legend is to write about his dick in a song about the death of rock’n’roll. That’s exactly what they did on Rockophobia, referencing the great man’s one-time penchant for flashing Little Iggy to his audiences. A mutual acquaintance made sure it reached his radar, and he ended up offering to add vocals to the track, which seem buried deep in the mix.
“He sent us a message, we arranged it, stuck it on, and that’s all,” says Laurent. “That’s exactly what rock’n’roll should be – simple. He doesn’t take himself too seriously still, and I think it’s part of being a good rock’n’roll guy.”
They found kindred spirits in Clutch
Having toured with the masters of groove-laden blues rock in the US, Inspector Cluzo found an instant fanbase in their audience, and an instant friendship with the band. Neil Fallon has even been to stay on the farm with his family. “The Clutch audiences for us were perfect,” says Mathieu. “They are really music lovers, as well as Clutch are. We were on the same page. In the US we did a tour with them in the Midwest and we had a lot of new fans every night.”
“We don’t like the music industry, but with these guys it’s different. It’s real, they’re friends,” adds Laurent.
They have a global outlook
Having played everywhere from China to South America, Japan to Scotland, India to Madagascar, the band see themselves as worldwide citizens, something illustrated in the video to Horizons, which features images of native people from around the globe.
“It’s all the travel, we’ve played in 67 countries,” says Laurent. “We met so many different cultures. So, with the Horizons video, I was thinking, ‘we’ll do all the native stuff because we met so many people’. The South American culture too – in Gascon we have a lot of ancestors there, in Argentina, Uruguay, in Patagonia. It’s really important for us.”
They fight for their feathered friends
The song Wolf At The Door was inspired by their battle against factory farms opening nearby – risking the spread of avian flu. When a local establishment succumbed to the disease, Laurent and Mathieu resisted government calls to have their own healthy, free-range birds killed. It’s covered in the song Saving The Geese.
“It was polite resistance,” says Laurent. “They sent a famous professor from the University of Toulouse to analyse our system. He confirmed that the geese were not sick. They’re outside. That is what you need to raise animals: outside freedom. We got some threats from the big industry here. But we’re well supported by the neighbours – the older people that believe in our system. It’s the fight of our life and it will keep on going.”
Horizon is out now via Fuck The Bass Player Records.