Wednesday, March 29, 2006
I have always adhered to the idea that we are a sum of our experiences, so in my case this includes my adolescence in London, the two years I spent In Italy in my early 20's and my living in France for the last 18 odd years. It is therefore only natural that I pay homage to some French music from time to time. Back in Montpellier in the 90's when I was still active in the biz there were two types of group that you could call upon when you were looking for a support act. The first weren't particularly good but needed the gig so bad that they'd play for free. The second were the real good bands that actually had a fan base albeit small, and were always a pleasure to have on stage. Otis Wood belonged to the second type and as such opened for such heavy weights as Inspiral Carpets, Radiohead and Pulp. I always thought that the name sounded very rhythm and blues but no not at all the Otis were one of France's secret weapons in the indie pop wars, so often considered to be an Anglo Saxon stronghold.
Like many youngsters Florian Brinker chose to move town and broaden his horizons when the time came to further his studies, and so it was at the end of the 80's that he arrived in Montpellier from Toulouse. Rapidly his interest in music overtook that of his studies and it was a meeting with Ludovic Severac that led to the formation of the group. At the beginning they were very much rough diamonds but were to mature as musicians together while at the same time Florian served his apprenticeship as a songwriter greatly influenced by the UK indie scene and Peter Astor in particular. By 1993 they had found their stable and classic line up with the addition of local drummer Philippe Gaubert and had changed into a power pop trio par excellence. Here in France it is very difficult to get signed if you have not already ridiculed yourself by appearing on a 'reality' talent show and singing in English did nothing to increase your chances so the band seemed to be forever chasing a pipe dream. It wasn't until 1998 that they were signed by French indie Spirit who probably promised them the moon but delivered a lot less. Their Album 'Weirder' was recorded in their spiritual home town, Manchester at the Cutting Rooms this was finished by mid 1998, but due to label problems was not to arrive in the shops until 2000! A very powerful album with solid production and intelligent songs making good use of the grunge style quiet loud structure. Weirder remains today a rewarding listen with Ludo's great rolling bass lines, Philippe's solid, simple yet inventive beat and not forgetting Florian's plaintive vocals and his sonic guitar playing as to be heard on 'Surfin' On U' and the albums title track. While waiting for the album to be released the band continued gigging. Florian's reputation as a guitarist was such that he was invited to join the ranks of Rhinoceroce, it was maybe due to this conflict of interests and the lack of any real progress for Otis Wood that led to them falling apart in 2001. Ironically when Weirder was finally released it received favorable reviews from the specialist press but it was too late! The album is no longer on catalog but you can often pick up a copy on the French site Price Minister.
And today ? Florian is still guitarist with Rhinocerose while waiting for his solo career to take off. Ludo is the official photographer for the Mayor of Montpellier. Philippe I believe is still hitting his drums for different groups. I still bump into them from time to time generally at a gig at the Rockstore, where we first met all those years ago.
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