The Fairchilds

I know what you’re thinking – they make good rock music in France? Well, to be honest, the band born out of Nice, France, The Fairchilds (the brainchild of Cyril Niccolai) didn’t exactly start playing their live shows in France. No sir – they actually traveled to Asia to begin their rock careers, and today have landed in the good ol’ US of A in Phoenix, Arizona.

With so much experience, Cyril has pulled together quite the debut record, a collection titled “Our Revolution”. Niccolai gets into it: “The 12 tracks in the album were selected from some 200 songs that I had written. Not unexpectedly, there is a pretty wide range of musical styles ranging from sing-along rock songs to moody ballads… it represents a melting pot of all our influences and all the music we’ve ingested while growing up. It was for me a process of discovering my true identity through my music heroes. And a first album is very cathartic for that reason.”

It’s good stuff – something new, to be sure. And while France may not be the ideal spot for a rock star to grow up, Cyril sure knows how to put on a live show: “Being involved in many musicals over the years meant that a big part of my professional life consisted of singing the same songs; in the same order; at the same tempo; in the same style every night. It fostered in me a phobia of choreographed and staged concerts. I try to achieve spontaneity during my shows and for this reason, I deliberately keep the set list fluid for every gig. If at some point in the show I feel the mood is right for particular song, I will launch right into it even though it is not on the set list.” Good stuff (doesn’t it suck when you hear your favorite rockers know where they’re going to stand at any given moment during a concert?). Check out “Our Revolution and the The Fairchilds schedule. There’s a whole lot more to get into, so keep reading for all the answers to the XXQ’s.
 
XXQ: The Fairchilds

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out over the others in your genre?

Cyril Niccolai (CN): Well that’s a tough question to start with! You’re absolutely spot on making a distinction between the songs and the sound/production of this album. For the songs, it’s a first album which represents a melting pot of all our influences and all the music we’ve ingested while growing up. It was for me a process of discovering my true identity through my music heroes. And a first album is very cathartic for that reason.  For the sound, what I had in mind was to find a good balance between the very refined, polished American production style and a more spontaneous edgy British approach. And Jim Lowe, the producer, did a fantastic job.  As for what makes us different, I guess our genesis gives an unusual spin to the band.  But only time will tell if we are distinctive enough to warrant being around 25 years from now!

PEV: You were raised in Nice, France but now call Phoenix home. What kind of music were the members of the band into growing up? Do you remember your first concert?

CN: Although I grew up in Nice, Elvis Presley and the Beatles were very much the musical influences at home. At around the age of 13, I discovered heavy metal with Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Led Zeppelin and all the metal hair bands of the era. In particular, 1992-3 was the golden age for Metallica, Guns n’ Roses and Skid Row and I joined their legions of fervent admirers. I’ve always loved the big sound, big drums, big guitars – the kind of energetic songs designed to be played live.  That was also around the time that I first picked up a guitar and started writing songs. I think my first true blue rock concert was a Bon Jovi concert in 1996 in Paris. I remember being so impressed by his showmanship and his ability to work up an audience and win them over. A real lesson on being a front man!

PEV: What was it like trying to break into the music scene when you first started out as a band? What was your first show like together as a band?

CN: Trying to break into the music scene was not exactly a piece of cake, especially for a rock band in France.  As a result, our first live shows actually started out in Asia.  I had some level of recognition from my tours to Asia with the musicals but at the same time, the audiences there were broad minded enough not to pigeon hole me as being a singer of musicals only.  I wish I could say our first shows were a resounding success but honestly we were a young band learning to play with one other and the rawness was apparent.  Having said that, we had fun and I am really grateful for the support and encouragement which we received from the audiences there as it gave us the confidence to persevere and the time and opportunity to grow as a band.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live The Fairchilds show?

CN: Being involved in many musicals over the years meant that a big part of my professional life consisted of singing the same songs; in the same order; at the same tempo; in the same style every night.  It fostered in me a phobia of choreographed and staged concerts. I try to achieve spontaneity during my shows and for this reason, I deliberately keep the set list fluid for every gig. If at some point in the show I feel the mood is right for particular song, I will launch right into it even though it is not on the set list. One of the big drawbacks of musicals is that there is no real time interaction with the audience and I am now making the most out of the live shows by seizing every opportunity to connect and interact with the audience.

PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?

CN: Going on stage is always the easy part. I just hate the process leading up to that - rehearsals, sound checks, waiting in the dressing room, the countdown to show time…  I get really tense as there are a million things racing through my mind – making sure the smallest detail is perfect, wanting to put on a good show for the audience etc.  But as soon as I step on stage, all those thoughts drop away and it is just the band and the audience.  The focus is on the moment and I try to live by the principle of “The power of now”. Even if I feel terrible, or the sound system is a disaster, or anything unexpected happens, I still have to deliver the best show possible and that’s my sole objective on stage.

PEV: How is living in Phoenix as artists different than any other city?

CN: I chose Phoenix for several reasons. First I hate winters.  I have gone through too many of those and I thought that for once I should pick a warm place.  And warm it is too – it was 110 degrees when I first arrived! Secondly, I have some friends here so I thought it would be easier for me to settle in. The third reason is that I feel Phoenix is right in between the super hot LA music scene atmosphere and the genuine American lifestyle tradition. In short, I love this place and I feel comfortable and inspired here.

PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for songs?

CN: Inspiration can come from almost anything – a chance meeting, some random eyes in the subway, the news, movies etc. Most of the songs in this album are basically me looking at the world in all its glory and decadence. But even though I say it is “me” looking at the world, I try to see the world through different eyes to get a new perspective. “I Need You” for example was written after Barack Obama’s election. “Story of my Life” and “Who I am” were inspired by the far reaching and pervasive power of TV. I wrote “Body of Lies” on Thanksgiving after watching the movie with Leonardo Di Caprio. But the most personal songs will have to be “Misery Like Company” and “Turn Back Time”.  Those two songs give an insight into my true soul, it’s me without any disguise or deceit.

PEV: Thinking back to when you first started out do you ever look back at your career and think about your earlier days and how you’ve arrived where you are today?

CN: My first professional involvement in the music business was as a singer in a French musical called “Notre Dame de Paris”. I did seven shows a week and we toured for about two years. It was the best training for me and I learnt a lot about the music business on that show. I was 21 and I was opening Pandora’s box.

I’ve done several other musicals since then and it was the “day job” for me.  I bought myself some time to write songs for me and for others until I felt I was ready to present my work. I am the first to acknowledge that I have been extremely lucky since the start.  I feel as though I have a star above me and I am really grateful for that.  But I also believe the best is yet to come!

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of The Fairchilds?

CN: Well here are some fun facts: Like Gene Simmons, I’ve never been drunk or high. I can solve a Rubik’s cube in less than 90 seconds.  We’d love to collaborate with a country artist or band on a song.  We are French musicians with an album produced by an Englishman and recorded in a studio in Belgium and we are leaving our family and friends to live our dreams in America.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a goal for you?

CN: Music has always been in my mind and in my blood.  But because of my family background, I didn’t think of it as a career option until one summer afternoon in 1992.  I still remember that day vividly – it was when I heard Bon Jovi’s Keep the Faith on the radio for the first time and I felt as though life had slapped me in the face to give me a wake up call.

PEV:  With your debut album, “Our Revolution”, what can fans expect from this album? Tell us more about it.

CN: The 12 tracks in the album were selected from some 200 songs that I had written.  Not unexpectedly, there is a pretty wide range of musical styles ranging from sing-along rock songs to moody ballads. The first single “Unbreakable” is dedicated to everyone who is going through a tough phase and the message is ‘Hang in there, don’t lose hope’. In a similar vein is “High”, which tries to capture the surge of adrenaline from the discovery of a new love, the sting of heartbreak or an unexpected development in life. It talks about this hollowness that you feel when you miss someone or something for whatever reason. “Our Revolution”, the title track is on the other hand a classic fun rock song with an easy sing along chorus.  It is a reminder not to take ourselves too seriously and serves as sly musical satire on a person’s clichéd perception of revolution, the self-serving objectives sought and how – without passion and determination – he is back to status quo.

PEV: What is the feeling you get after a song is complete and you can sit back and listen to it being played the way you envisioned?

CN: I would say that each song brings different feelings. It’s like a Rubik’s Cube – you have the same six colors but millions of combinations.  Exactly like love between two people! That’s why songwriting has existed for centuries and will continue to exist for centuries. Each feeling, each emotion, each situation is unique, and because it’s now it will never happen again. A song is there to crystallize those emotions, those feelings, those situations. Some songs can take shape very quickly while others take a lot of time to find their way. But the songwriting process is always fun. That’s actually my favorite part. I like to experiment in my little “lab”. When I present a demo to the guys, everything is pretty much there. I like to go to core of the song and then build a story around it.

PEV: With all your traveling is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?

CN: I’ve been lucky enough to travel and perform in a lot of countries. Some places I like more than others of course but I’ve realised that traveling to me is one of the major highlights of this industry. Performing one night in China and then going to Japan or Korea the next day is such a thrill. It makes me realize that music is truly a universal language and that it can entertain people from different cultures and different walks of life anywhere in the world.  As for now, I am very excited about touring across the US.  One of the best things is that I will discover new places and meet new friends along the way.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play at your hometown?

CN: I’ve always been pretty shy and for a long period of time, I did not tell anyone that I wanted to be a singer/songwriter. I practised when the house was empty but it got to the point that my passion for music became too big and too obvious to remain concealed. I went to audition for a musical, got the part and told everyone that I was dropping out of medical school to live the life I really wanted and not the life that others had planned for me. A lot of my friends supported my decision even though I’m sure they thought I had gone out of my mind… As for my parents, it was far more complicated – especially for my Dad who is a brilliant doctor. It wasn’t easy to explain to him the reasons for giving up a good career with stable income for an uncertain and bohemian lifestyle, without sounding completely impulsive, foolish and rash!  But after a surprisingly short period of time, he came to terms with it and both my parents are now my number one fans.

PEV: What can we find each of you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

CN: While music takes up a huge portion of my life, it’s definitely important to me to have other interests in order to appreciate life, people and the world. I love travelling and diving. I play a lot of tennis, run six miles everyday and I have recently been hooked on golf. Other more artistic pursuits include photography and also shooting film snippets and editing them. I also try to read a lot of different books.  Right now, I’m completely riveted by Charles Bukowski.

PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration? Why?

CN: I’m not gonna be very original on this one. Who wouldn’t dream of collaborating with the Fab Four or Elvis? And co-writing a Prelude with Beethoven would be pretty amazing too!!! As for more recent artist, I’d love to work with Jack White, he is a wonderfully talented artist with a very broad range. And of course working with Bon Jovi would be a dream come true.

PEV:  Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?

CN: It’s a new band but the guys are not unknown faces. Jim Lowe introduced me to Glen Matlock, THE Glen Matlock from the Sex Pistols! Together they’ve recorded an album along with Stereophonics’drummer Javier Weyler under the name The Philistines. It’s a great record and just witnessing Glen performing again is a treat! Glen knows everybody and has tons of rock n’ roll stories. He is a legend and deserves to be recognised as one. (more info http://glenmatlock.grapewire.net/)

PEV: If playing music wasn’t your life (or life’s goal) what do you think would be your career?

CN: I guess I would have continued with my medical studies and be working as a doctor now. But I would do lectures in conferences all around the world just to have the opportunity to travel and have the feeling of being on stage!

PEV: So, what is next for The Fairchilds?

CN: We’re gonna tour the country, we’re gonna play for whoever wants to have us, we’re gonna meet people – and just try to get the music heard! It’s a very exciting year ahead of us and I am determined to make the most of it.

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