Kevin Twomey, the Dublin lead singer of French alt- rock outfit BIGGER told David Hennessy about how he randomly ended up in France, their band’s debut album and playing at the Bataclan in Paris after the horrific terrorist attack.
The band BIGGER may have been born in France but is fronted by Rathfarnham’s Kevin Twomey.
Twomey met his bandmates, from Marseille, Paris and the Jura Mountains, after returning to Europe from his travels in Australia.
With very little to return home to Ireland for due to recession, Kevin relocated to the east of France and has been there ever since.
Kevin told The Irish World: “It really was just a random thing.
“I moved to Australia in 2007, did loads of work, came back to Dublin and it was recession.
“It was just crazy.
“I met a French girl in Australia, we’d lived together and drove around and went fruit picking and all that so when I got back to Ireland, it was just devastating because it was loads of people queuing outside Spar, a hundred people to get a job.
“They were a tough couple of years.
“I was still in contact with the French girl and she was like, ‘Why don’t you just come over to France and try it out here?’
“I was like, Oh, well, I don’t want to hang around Dublin. There’s no work.
“I’ll just try something else.
“I didn’t really want to go back to Australia either because it’s just so far away.
“When I moved to France it was like, ‘Oh, this is cool. It was a different culture to discover.
“And I fed myself on that: Trying to learn the language and then obviously trying to start playing music, and just sort of doing lots of different jobs, get good enough French, and then managed to, by pure luck, bump into some really great musicians.
“And now, I’m living off music for the last three, four years now.
So it’s pretty crazy how one thing leads to another and you end up in a situation, but I am really happy here now.
“I think this has happened to so many, so many Irish people particularly, around the planet.”
The band started recording and touring in 2016, have released two EPs (Tightrope in 2016, Bones and Dust in 2018) and have played numerous venues across Europe and festivals, including Les Eurockéennes de Belfort, Les Transmusicales, and Le Bataclan in Paris.
BIGGER have just released their debut album, Les Myosotis. Recorded at Castle Studios in Dresden, and Hope Mill Studios in Manchester, lockdown afforded them the time to give it that bit more consideration and polish than they may have otherwise had.
Produced by Jim Spencer (New Order, Liam Gallagher, Johnny Marr), their sound is inspired by the likes of Anna Calvi, Villagers, The Doors and The Beatles.
“It’s been really cool for us. Not a lot of people are saying that.
“Lockdown for a lot of bands, it’s just been such a sh*tter.
“It has been good because we just managed to sign a record deal with Upton Park, right before COVID hit, so we were really lucky to sign at the time we did.
“They’re a really motivated label, and they were trying to find a place to record.
“We managed to go to Dresden Germany, with Jim Spencer. He’s a producer who has worked with New Order, Oasis, Liam Gallagher, and loads of cool people.
“It was complicated. It was like a jigsaw because we had to find a place an English person could go to because it was COVID.
“He was able to come to Germany at that time.
“We got to know him really well, and he just became kind of a father figure to the band during the whole period of recording, and he’s a huge Father Ted fan.
“It was a real kind of a dream situation going off to work with a guy like that in a studio like that.
“As a musician, I’ve played so many dumpsters over the years, and, and you get to a point where you’re like, ‘Okay, someone’s taking you serious if you’re getting to work with a guy like that’.
“So for us, it was really cool because artistically we had more time to work on more new songs.
“Everything was getting delayed all the time so we were just like, ‘Oh, well, maybe we should try and rewrite this song, maybe we should push farther and do a different song.
“We just used the time like that.”
Would Les Myosotis have arrived if it had not been for lockdown? “I’d say we definitely would have brought out an album anyway.
“It was more we had a chance to write two albums rather than one.
“We were like, ‘Let’s just get, as the French say, the creme de la creme, and make that the album.
“So we would have brought out an album anyway, but it wouldn’t have been the same album, wouldn’t have been the same at all.
“It was a bit of a luxury for us as a band just to be able to survive and then to be able to do something artistic during the whole period.
“And to travel during the period. I mean, we drove from the East of France to Dresden. It took like 14 hours drive. We didn’t see anyone on the road. Just crazy.”
The album’s title Les Myositis comes from the spring flower also known as forget-me-nots.
“You know those flowers forget-me-nots that grow once a year? And then they die and you don’t have to replant them, they just grow back by themselves.
“That was kind of the meaning behind it because it was like, ‘We’re in this period now so we’re going to grow now for summer, we’re going to plant seeds for summer’.
“There’s something romantic to it and it creates kind of intrigue.
“If an English person, or an Irish person heard that, they would be like, ‘Oh, that’s a funny sounding word’.
“And then a French person would say exactly the same thing.
“We just thought it was cool because it had both identities, like the French sound to it because we are a French band with an Irish singer.”
Is there a big cultural divide within the band? “There’s always the cultural gap.
“You can take the Irish man out of Ireland but you can’t take the Irish out of the Irish man.
“The craic, the French do it in a different way.
“I’ve been here for so long. I’ve been in France for 12 years coming on.
“But there is a real funny thing to French humour. It takes a while to get there language-wise and stuff.
“But they’re really funny too and they’re great fun.
“They’re always taking the p*ss as well.
“You know, it’s really similar when you get to that point.”
That is as long as none of them mention Thierry Henry’s infamous handball.
“The Hand of Frog, it’s never over.
“Personally, I’ll never forget that.
“French and Irish people are really friendly towards each other, there’s just a real cool thing there.
“There’s no war that happened between France and Ireland.
“I think they’re quite fond of each other as countries.”
The band are also currently working with Larry Mullins (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Iggy Pop, The Stooges) on an ambitious project with 12 classical musicians, set for release in 2022.
“We decided to come up with new ideas because we sort of finished the recording.
“Everything went back into lockdown again. We were like, ‘God, what are we going to do next?’
“So we were like, ‘Maybe we could try to play with an orchestra’.
“A music school here said, ‘Okay, we’ll give you our finest young musicians to work with’.
“So we were like, ‘Okay, so now we need to find the composer’. Our tour manager had the contact for Larry Mullins.
“So then, like a few weeks later, Larry showed up from Berlin, and he’s just like, ‘Yeah, man. We’re gonna do this’. So we’re in the process of working with him.”
Kevin reveals that things did not work out in the long run with the French girl who first took him to France. Failed romances is one of the album’s themes. Others include ‘stalkers, fraternity, and redemption for the outsiders’.
“They’re the sort of themes I’d like to use because I suppose, like a good actor, there has to be a bit of reality.
“You have to find your own truth in what you’re trying to say.
“That’s the way I usually write stuff is there’s a part of reality.
“It’s not all 100% True. But then, who knows what Bob Dylan’s talking about?”
The latest single Even With Lies explores the theme of truth in the modern age and asks, ‘How can you claim to be honest when we all lie everyday?’
“It’s about Boris Johnson,” Kevin jokes when we bring the song up.
“It’s just about asking yourself the question as well like, ‘How sincere am I?’
“Everyone talks sh*t but to what extent do we believe people?
“To what extent are people representative of truth, so it is this self-asking question like, ‘What is a lie anyway?’ Especially in this day and age where everything is like lying behind a screen, you know?
“I wasn’t trying to say that in a point the finger way either.
“When you’re writing a song, it can be like, ‘Look at you, look what you’re doing, you’re doing this to me..’ or whatever.
“It’s kind of a rhetorical question.”
BIGGER have done much gigging around Central Europe. One venue they have played is the Bataclan Theatre in Paris where in November 2015 90 people were killed in a terrorist attack.
“We played there a year after or something like that.
“That was freaky because there was a lot of documentaries and stuff that came out, and I’d watched a few of them.
“Actually we had kind of a little backstage room and that was where a lot of people hid during the whole massacre,
“So that was a bit weird, but then you get on stage and it’s like, ‘To hell with it. This is exactly where you should be playing’.
“It is a little bit strange, but there’s also the fact that you know what’s happened there and so it is a little bit eerie but then you get on stage and it’s like, ‘This is great to be here’. In a way it’s a celebration, if that sounds a bit strange, but it is. You have to go back to these places to play and, and it’s such an amazing venue, you know, historical venue even before.
“So yeah, so I suppose it was kind of a mixed bag of feelings but an amazing night, amazing gig.
“It is a real honour to have played there.”
With the usual gigs off the agenda during the pandemic, the band found themselves returning to school.
“The contact with the audience was really lacking so that was hard.
“But what we did during the lockdown that is a little bit funny, was- during lockdown the only place you could play were in schools.
So we set up the band as a three piece and we went around to 20 different schools which is a totally random thing to do. It was a good, different live experience.
“It wasn’t like playing a big festival for 10,000 people. But kids are so eager to hear music, some of them have never heard a guitar before.”
BIGGER have an upcoming European tour and their music has been getting featured in UK and Irish media with Hot Press among those to feature the band.
“The last single Even with Lies has been getting really good feedback. We got played on RTE last week.
“We got played on really cool Manchester radio yesterday.
“Obviously, I would just love to come back to Dublin and play.
“That’s kind of the next step, so we’re working on it, so that will definitely be coming up soon hopefully.
“The Irish audience are just the most amazing audience in the world, just the best singers and just best craic.
“We’ve played in Germany and Switzerland and sometimes audiences are quite tough, you know?
“Irish people are just happy to be there, to be alive, and that’s just something you can’t really replace, you know?
“If they like something, they’re not afraid to show you which is lovely.”
BIGGER’s debut album Les Myosotis is out now.
For more information, search Bigger music on social media.