Achingly twee and beautiful in equal measures, Parisian electro-indie-pop band We Were Evergreen opened their sold out Village Underground show with perfect three-part harmony, ukulele (Michael Liot), xylophone (Fabienne Débarre) and guitar (William Serfass). Suddenly Shoreditch was full of summer.
In their varying levels of adorable and attractive indie the band wove together pop-folk and heavy electro Euro-beats to create a completely original and exhilarating sound. Once we were able to tear ourselves away from just looking at their three beautiful faces, we noticed that the live performance was musically almost unbelievable; the harmonies were faultless (and seemingly effortless), as were the range of sounds they created between them - all multi-instrumentalists. Even with Débarre’s synthesizers adding a pleasing dissonance the songs were relentlessly upbeat.
Serfass’s riff-based electric guitar work inspired the crowd into a clap-along, highlighting the Paul Simon, 'Graceland', characteristics in the rhythm, with the percussion taking on steel drum elements at times. By this point he was also playing parts of a drumkit with his feet, which he then looped so that Débarre (who also had parts of a drum kit) and himself created a backing track for the song to continue over. The distribution of responsibility appeared to be even between the trio, each of them working hard to create the huge electro drops that then swept back to tiny pop melodies. Third song in the set ‘Summer Flings’ demonstrated Débarre as a talented percussionist far beyond the standard indie-cute addition of xylophone. Serfass also played bass or percussion to create and loop the lower frequency lines, while central Liot took up the acoustic guitar.
The newer material they played had strong reggae influences that they transformed somehow into discordant lamenting pop. The use of cross-rhythms and bittersweet joy and melancholia was addictive and the heavier drops were pure Parisian synth-pop. Liot (on trumpet now) juxtaposed new melody lines over the dance (almost garage) beats in unexpected but totally appropriate ways.
They were part Bird and The Bee, with almost Wham! levels of ridiculousness and something between worldbeat combined with Paul McCartney’s 'Rupert and the Frog Song'. There were Arcade Fire-esque repeated lines leading to shattering crescendos and Mumford & Sons foot-stomping moments.
Their recorded material doesn’t do the power or variation in their music justice at all, and when they had opportunities to move away from their stations they danced and spun around each other onstage with infectious joy. From country harmonies to calypso beats, to the Belle & Sebastian influenced ‘Vintage Car’ in which Serfass beat-boxed bass and drum lines before looping them so that they were all dancing around once more, all playing percussion until the music built to trance proportions.
As the crowd’s woops and cheers bounced off the ceiling they returned to the stage for Débarre to come centre and perform a slower song, ‘Eighteen’. Her voice and the electric guitar were joined eventually by Liot’s trumpet, before he changed back to the ukulele while she took up the harmonica for a solo (keeping up?). Finally ‘Penguins & Moonboots’ brought the energy levels soaring back, not leaving one single stationary listener.
They completely turned all preconceptions upside-down while simultaneously charming everyone in the room. We cannot stress enough how important it is that you see this band live before you decide whether or not they are your cup of tea.
Words by Finn D'Albert