Rock ’n’ Roll really is dead – in France, anyway, according to Teleferik. The Paris-based garage-blues duo are interrupting each other over Skype, from other sides of the country, at mutual pains to explain how playing the world’s biggest musical genre has turned into something of a chore.
“Rock music is not in our culture,” says guitarist Arno Vincendeau. “It’s hard being an indie band in France. Our music is very weird for the ears and some people are not used to it. “People love the definition of rock music, more than the reality.”
“We are a little fed up with all the ‘rock’ bands today,” says singer and bassist Eliz Mourad. “Everything is clean, everything is beautiful onstage, everything is perfect – we want to give something really human.
“I want to fall off the stage, I want to sweat – it’s rock ‘n’ roll.”
The duo’s idea of rock music stems straight from the sonic and cultural rebellions of the 1960s and 1970s, channelling the power of vintage blues-rock with the rough edges of punk. But Teleferik, who perform tomorrow as part the Dubai concert series The Other Side, bring something fresh to the table. Fronted by French-Lebanese singer Mourad, English-language tracks are interspersed with French and Arabic lyrics – it’s a novel experience to hear blues howled in the Arabic tongue – and they prefer to be described as “Parisian” rather than French.
Debut album Lune Electric was released last year, a raw set with few overdubs capturing the band's primal live sound. Musically, Teleferik are most often compared to The Black Keys – and unsurprisingly, it was the garage-styled, Ohio blues-rock revivalists which first "linked" Mourad and Vincendeau six years ago.
The pair met while art school students, brought together to produce an animated video for The New Government (the politically charged project of Lebanese underground pioneer Zeid Hamdan of SoapKills fame). Vincendeau was the animator and Mourad the director. Sadly the video never saw the light of day, but the experience shaped the working dynamic when the time came to create their own music.
“I’m the technician, she has the ideas,” says Vincendeau, 30, who, despite often being mistaken for an Arab, is “100 per cent” French.
After initially forming a short-lived acoustic project, Vincendeau plugged in in 2011, Mourad switched to bass, and the duo called on the first of three session drummers (Olivier Hurtu has been on sticks since 2014).
They also symbolically took the name Teleferik – a word that means the same thing in both French and Arabic – cable car.
“For me, it was important to sing in Arabic, to express myself fully, it was a natural step,” adds Mourad. “Arabic is a really beautiful language, but you just don’t hear it in this kind of music.
It’s notable that nearly all of Lebanese bands making waves in Europe right now – such as The Wanton Bishops, Who Killed Bruce Lee and Postcards – sing entirely in English. Yet a Lebanese singer born and raised in Europe prioritises expressing herself in Arabic. “Playing in Europe and the US is the dream of any Lebanese band,” adds Mourad, 32. “But for me, I want to be accepted in Arabic countries.
“They don’t really accept me, though, because I’m a woman, going crazy and screaming onstage. “I’m not the ideal of the Arabic pop star, singing that I’m waiting for the prince to save me.”
• Teleferik perform for The Other Side at And Lounge, The Address Dubai Marina, tomorrow. Doors open at 9pm; tickets cost Dh100, advance from platinumlist.ae or Dh120 at the door