Married duo Bruce Driscoll and Marie Seyrat make up the indie pop band Freedom Fry. She's French, he's America (from Michigan, in fact), and their upbeat, smile-inducing songs are enough to make anyone feel cross culturally cool. The band will is part of Madewell's Denim Forever tour, making pit stops for sets at store locations, between regular show dates. They chat about their intimate working relationship, freedom fries in a Paris-obsessed culture and how they put their own spin on a Nirvana classic.
When deciding whether a song should be sung in French or English, how do you decide what fits best? Are there certain songs that can't be translated? Words or emotions?
Bruce Driscoll: When we’re writing, English is usually our go-to language. With most songs, we’ll get half way through writing them and I’ll ask Marie if she could hear parts of it being sung in French. A lot of the time she doesn’t think it fits but when it does it helps set that specific song apart from the rest.
Marie Seyrat: I think French sounds good on specific songs and genres; things with more of a retro ‘60s or ‘70s vibe. Some exact phrases are impossible to translate, especially trying to fit them to a specific rhythm. French works best with more complex, poetic lyrics.
I'm told the Freedom Fry name came from that original burst of nationalism in America, when some people changed the name of French Fries to Freedom fries. Do you think that negativity toward French culture in the states has softened? Especially in current times?
Driscoll: I think the vast majority of Americans have never harbored any ill will towards the French, maybe apart from comically stereotyping them as being rude in movies and TV shows. Sure, the people who got all fired up and thought they’d really stick it to the French by calling their fries “Freedom Fries” are still out there and we know who they’re voting for. But France has endured some really brutal attacks recently and I think there’s no denying most of us would say we, being the U.S., have got their back.
As a pair that's both romantically and professionally intertwined do you feel like it's more difficult to keep your personal lives on the DL?
Seyrat: It is and it isn’t. We like spending time together, and we share the same passion for music. We’re the kind of couple that doesn’t really get tired of each other, so our job and daily routine definitely enables this bond and this closeness to bloom. As the band is our baby, something we created together, there isn’t the balance issue, where one person in the relationship has to work a lot to make the boat float while the other one has a steady 9-to-5 job. We’re both in it and feel the lows and highs together.
But sometimes we have to remind ourselves to press pause, especially in an era where you have to be on all platforms at all times and people can reach you at any time of the day or night. It does get very invasive so we do have to take the time to do things that are not about the band a couple of times a week.
The decision to cover “Smells Like Teen spirit” is a risky/easily criticized cover decision for some. How did you approach giving it your own spin?
Driscoll: It’s always risky to cover a classic song because people are so attached to the original version that they may lash out at you for taking it on. It does happen, but typically the reaction is overwhelmingly positive. When we cover songs our goal is always to find the essence of what makes the song great, typically the melody and the lyrics, and build a new unique universe around it with production. We try to never tamper with the melody because it’s sacrosanct. So just the tempo, feel and instrumentation get toyed with.
For “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” it’s such a great song that it works in French and with a completely different groove. So we went for it. I’m sure it would work in Japanese too for that matter. It’s just undeniably well written. The great thing about a cover is that if you hate it you can just never listen to it again and go back to the original. No harm done, right?
Since you’re part of Madewell’s Denim Forever tour: What's your go-to denim shape? And what's your touring standby outfit?
Seyrat: We all love denim jackets since they go with everything. They can make an outfit less uptight and the more you wear it the more you make it yours as it takes your body shape and you can even add your own touch, stitches and patches, pins etc. I just got the oversized jacket from Madewell and Bruce got one as well and it looks great on him too. I like these unisex tomboy pieces for women, like a great boyfriend suit jacket.For shows though I’m more of a dress and boots girl than a pair of jeans kinda girl, just because that’s what looks better on me. I still need to find the perfect pair of vintage mom jeans that fits me like a glove.
Driscoll: On stage it’s very important for me to feel comfortable before anything else, so I do have my favorite jeans and jackets and just accessorize those with Hawaiian shirts or henleys.