L’Éclair: Flipside Fest Pick of the Day

Treefort is, hands-down, Boise’s premiere music event. But once it’s over in the spring, a “long winter” of music inactivity ensues in the City of Trees. The biggest contributing factor is that Boise isn’t on the radar for most touring bands.

Enter Flipside Fest, a new three-day music event starting from today and ending Sunday in Garden City, which is next door to Boise. The team that runs Treefort Music Fest — which is trying to set up a new venue in downtown Boise — organized this shindig as well. 

It’s not abundantly clear what the expectations are for Flipside (named because Garden City is on the “flipside” of downtown Boise). But it appears that the organizers are trying to carry the Treefort torch during the quiet fall season. (Festival organizers declined comment for this article.)

As Flipside is still in its early stages, it’s promoted as a “neighborhood music and mural festival” and features mostly homegrown talent. Idaho’s own Built to Spill, playing the Main Stage on Sunday, are the biggest attraction, of course.

Like Treefort, Flipside is ambitious — maybe too ambitious — for a festival happening for the first time. More than 60 artists, which is a considerable number, are booked to perform at various venues in Garden City.

Because most of the bands are young and/or still building their followings, it’s more important than ever to know which are worth checking out. As we did with Treefort earlier this year, each day of Flipside Fest, we’ll post an interview with our choice for must-see artist of the day.

Friday’s pick is a no-brainer: L’Éclair. Buzzing band Automatic from L.A. and Treefort regular Delicate Steve also highlight the bill for Day One, but L’Éclair is the only international band on the Flipside Fest lineup. They play from 8 to 9 p.m. at Coiled Wines.

The Bad Penny caught up Elie Ghersinu, bassist for the Swiss cosmic instrumental quintet (previously a sextet), while he was home in Geneva in early September. Here’s what he had say about playing festivals, his band’s latest album, and visiting a city that — like Geneva — is surrounded by mountains.

How did you hear about Flipside Fest?

ELIE GHERSINU: When our booking agent [Space Agency] sent us the gig offers. I didn’t hear about it before that. Space Agency really know their stuff, so we trust them.

How did you hook up with them?

GHERSINU: We had an offer to do [a] tour of the States opening for Witch [a ’70s band from Zambia] last June. [Space Agency] handles Witch’s booking in the States. So they took us onto their roster. It was really easy and organic.

Our guitarist Stefan [Lilov] started playing for Witch. in their revival five years ago, so that’s the connection. Witch changed their sound a few times — from rock to disco, for example.

L’Éclair seems to take a similar approach. Do you try to transition to a new genre on each of your records — or do you prefer to go through phases encompassing multiple albums?

GHERSINU: It’s a good question. It’s a little of both at the same time, because we always try to mix more than one flavor a once. But at the same time, we also go through phases — like with our drum sound. Looking back, I can see what really liked at some point, blending things together.

Was there a moment, period of time or song where you as a group identify your sound?

GHERSINU: Stefan and [keyboardist] Sebastian [Bui] founded the band, and it was meant to sound like German electronic music from the ‘70s and ‘80s. And then they went on sabbatical for a year in London, and it evolved into the sound it is now. We identified our sound when we locked in our group. That is, to me, the main element.

Was that around 2017?

GHERSINU: Yeah. The lineup we have now has been around since 2015. Everybody in the band was already in other bands. Our group was a slow start, but it evolved into each member’s main focus.

When you joined L’Éclair, did you know you’d be taking on writing duties?

GHERSINU: Our compositions change a lot of the times. So even if you weren’t part of the original idea, you can still have some input into the evolution of the song. Sometimes, after we record a song, we come along with new arrangements that sound better. It’s a never-ending process.

Will this be the second time you’ve played the States?

GHERSINU: Yes, the second time as L’Éclair.

You guys described your most recent album [2019’s Confusions] as freer and more organic. Is that the approach you had since the band began?

GHERSINU: Yes, our approach changed. We started with making albums really quickly, like only a couple of days of recording and mostly live recording. Some overdubs, what you hear is 70 to 80 percent what we tried on the first take.

Thanks to COVID, for the first time, we actually took time recording. So for Confusions, we took some time to take a step back and think more about the arrangements. We didn’t rush [as we used to]. We did four sessions for Confusions, and it changed the way we do things.

Also, we didn’t record it all on tape this time. We used more computer magic to make tracks. We recorded drums, stopped, made changes to the sound, etc.

Did you record the album in the mountains?

GHERSINU: Yes, we kept going back to the mountains.

How does that setting inform your songs?

GHERSINU: There’s no signal — so you have to go into the woods and wave your phone to get one. So there are no distractions [in the mountains]. It feels like a family place. It has a fire pit, and we can work whenever we want. It’s a remote place, so people live each other alone.

That sounds intense for a band recording a new album every year. Would you have maintained that tradition were it not for COVID?

GHERSINU: It’s not easy to tell. Right before COVID, we were beginning to tour more heavily. We did six to nine months of heavy gigging.

Do artists like yourselves have more ability to explore your sound given the decline of major labels and their contracts?

GHERSINU: It’s a tough question. It’s really easy now to record music, so you can cut some production costs. There’s more tools around — but there are also different rules.

Things are shifting so quickly in the music world. Some labels don’t know how to handle the digital tradition. We haven’t been making music for that long but have already made some changes.

Is it harder for a younger band to change their sound versus an older band that might be stuck in its ways?

GHERSINU: Yeah, for sure. We’re more fresh to fight those new set of rules. You just have to try to keep up.

Do you feel like you had enough time touring behind Confusions, or does your latest jaunt compensate for missed dates?

GHERSINU: It was quite hectic. With all the times we could play, then could not play again, then could play again, a lot of dates were canceled or moved. It took us almost two years to get through all those “COVID dates,” as we call them. In March of next year, we’ll continue behind the new album. It’s almost gone back to normal now, in the way it used to be with touring before.

Did you do a lot of writing during COVID?

GHERSINU: We’re writing new stuff at the moment. It took a lot of energy to write the last record and get it out and play shows behind it. Organizing this U.S. tour was difficult too, especially getting the visas. We spent a lot of time not working on music because we had to devote so much time to other aspects of the band.

What are your feelings like toward festivals?

GHERSINU: I like playing festivals. It depends. I don’t really have an opinion about them. Usually you get a better sound in a club. But the fact that people come to see us in clubs means we usually show our other sides as a band and play longer, around an hour and a half to two hours. But festivals are good too. Our sets are tighter, so there’s more of a thrill to playing. You just have to know what time you’re playing and adjust accordingly. Usually when we play at festivals, we tend to play louder and groovier songs.

How many festivals have you played so far?

GHERSINU: I’d say more than 50. We’ve done our share of them.

It looks like you’re the only International band participating in Flipside.

GHERSINU: Are we? Nice! I didn’t know that. It’s going to take me some time to process that.

What are you looking forward to doing in the States beyond your performances?

GHERSINU: If we get to, some sightseeing would be nice. It’s not your normal European landscape, so it’s a feast for the eyes. When we have early soundchecks especially, we like to take a look at the city.

Being fans of the mountains, you should check out the hills here in Boise.

GHERSINU: We will try!

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