Housse de Racket is a Love-All Match

Published March 22, 2012

ABOVE: HOUSSE DE RACKET. PHOTO COURTESY OF MATTIA ZOPPELLARO

With their transcendent tunes and light-as-air aesthetic, Housse de Racket is becoming one of those bands whose name you’re going to need to remember. Appearing on French label Kitsuné’s radar and exploding all over the country, the boys have now turned their sights to conquering America, one impossibly catchy track at a time. Along with a respectably thick mustache—for one of them, at least—and a quickly growing English vocabulary, their freshman tour across North America is helping cultivate their image as one of France’s hottest exports. Catch them in less than a month at Coachella, or tonight at the Bowery Ballroom, and get familiar with the duo, whose confusing yet fresh moniker you’re bound to hear more of.

ALICE GREENBERG: Describe your musical style in one sentence.

VICTOR LE MASNE: In one sentence… Oh, that’s hard. [laughs] I think it’s like French pop and electronic music.

GREENBERG: I tried to read up on your name on French Wikipedia, but from my limited French I understood you named yourself after a tennis racket. Did I get pretty close?

LE MASNE: Yeah, at the very beginning it started like… something like a tennis racket, but its also got something to do with house music, and at that time we were really into house music, because you know, in France we have a big movement for that. The French love house music. So it’s something between house music and a tennis racket, a bit conceptual.

At the beginning it wasn’t supposed to be a real band or anything, so it could be anything really, like a stupid name. We didn’t even really know how and why in the beginning, it was kind of a joke between Pierre and I, an inside joke. We were students in high school—you know when you’re a teenager and you create your own world? It started out as a joke, and then it became very serious and it’s not a joke anymore.

GREENBERG: So you knew each other when you were young, at school?

LE MASNE: Yeah, we were very good friends in high school, we knew each other since we were really little kids and the first time we saw each other was at music school and Pierre was playing the guitar. He was in the local music orchestra, and I had a Pearl Jam t-shirt, and he spoke to me and said, “Oh, you like Pearl Jam?” And we bonded over that and have been best friends ever since.

GREENBERG Traveling must give rise to its share of stories—any particular ones to share?

LE MASNE: I don’t know, if I share, it’s not gonna be the best story anymore, you know? You always have some crazy stories, and each time someone asks me, I don’t really know. We were playing in Austin, Texas about five days ago and everyone was amazingly nice, and I don’t know, being here in America and Canada is very new and exciting. I’m pretty sure after all six weeks of tour, I’ll have tons of new stories, and maybe I’ll tell you some after that.

GREENBERG: You’re playing at Coachella this April—that’s pretty big.

LE MASNE: Yeah, it’s amazing, when we learned that, we were like, “What!” It’s like a dream. We’ve known that we’re playing at Coachella since September or November, but we just wanted to shout it off the rooftops: “Hey, we’re playing at Coachella!” We’re very happy, and there’s some amazing bands playing there, like Radiohead and Snoop Dogg, so it’s very exciting, for sure. It’s still like a dream—but it’s very soon, it’s like in three weeks, so it’s becoming very real, it’s not a dream anymore.

GREENBERG: Any musicians you’re hoping to run into?

LE MASNE: Yeah, I really want to see the Black Keys and, oh, there’s like a ton! Metronomy—they’re an English band but they’re good friends with [me and Pierre]. The singer lived in Paris, in my neighborhood, and it’s a small city and there’s not really many musicians, so we all knew each other.

GREENBERG: Do you have any traditions or rituals you perform before the show?

LE MASNE: Yeah, Pierre always washes his hair for hours before the show! He’s like amazingly clean after that, and we always do a long big hug and little secret dance. It’s always the same, we always listen to some music really loud before we go out to play, things like Prince or Jay-Z, so we can move and dance a little, and this is just between the two of us, until everyone gets involved right before the show.

GREENBERG: Any weird incidents with crazed fans?

LE MASNE: Yeah, actually, in France once we were doing a show and a girl—I’m not sure of the English word, with, like, teeth, you know—she bit me very very hard! And it was not cool! But you know, there’s always some girls—and boys—that stay after the show and they’re so nice so I really don’t want to offend them; they’re always great and I am so thankful that they come to see us, but this girl [laughs] she wasn’t very nice. She was very, very weird and very strange.

GREENBERG: This is your first time touring around North America solo, but you’ve been here before.

LE MASNE: Yes, it’s our very first time as the main act. We were here last December; we had a little tour with Yelle, and we were performing with her on the East Coast leg of her tour from Miami to New York. But it was only really ten days, and also we’ve never been to Canada! But we came a few times with other bands before, but now we’re very proud that we’re the main act.

GREENBERG: You’re performing in New York tonight—any spots you’re going to visit while in town?

LE MASNE: Yeah, lots and lots of things! It’s very annoying because each time it’s very quick—we come at 2 pm and the sound check and everything, so we don’t have time for anything. After the show I think we’ll have a small fête in a club in New York, it’s a secret get-together at this French place, and I’m not sure you should disclose to everyone exactly where it is. [laughs] But after the after-party we go right to Montreal, so we won’t even be sleeping in New York.

GREENBERG: Your sound is often compared to bands like Phoenix and Air, whom you worked with a bit; how do you distinguish yourself from them, and what have you taken from their aesthetic?

LE MASNE: We come from the same town as both of them, so they’re like our older brothers, maybe even from the same neighborhood as us. I used to play the drums with Air when I was younger, maybe two or three years ago; and Pierre played the keyboard for Phoenix, so we know them pretty well, and our producer worked with Phoenix before us—so maybe there’s something similar in our sound to Phoenix. We love Phoenix, but we really want to be independent, not like the Little Phoenix, you know? We have our own style, and I guess the main difference is that we’re a little more psychedelic; our music is a little more trippy and very poppy.

GREENBERG: Do you have any side hobbies, aside from making catchy electro-pop tunes with trendy French labels?

LE MASNE: Yeah, of course. We are huge fans of movies; when we wrote the songs, we tried to watch a movie each day and they really inspired our songs, all our melodies, there is something a bit like a soundtrack [quality] in our songs. So movies, books—it’s a bit cliché,  but its true.

GREENBERG: Any hidden skills we should know about?

LE MASNE: Skills? I don’t know, I think I’m pretty good with growing a mustache. It’s been two months, and I think I’m pretty good at it. [laughs] And Pierre is very good with artwork, he draws amazingly well, and nobody knows that; but he’s really good with a pen, it’s quite detailed. It’s just little doodles in his notebook, but he’s very good. Oh, and me, I think beside the mustache thing, I’m really into maps and roads and directions, things like that. I always want to know where I am exactly, I’m always a little bit lost so I always have a map with me. So maybe one day I’ll do something with that. [laughs]

HOUSSE DE RACKET PLAYS AT THE BOWERY BALLROOM TONIGHT. ALESIA IS OUT NOW. FOR MORE ON THE BAND, VISIT THEIR WEBSITE.