The French Tips: Flipside Fest Pick of the Day

Can you remember the best time in your life? Like, really remember it — the sensory experience, how it affected you emotionally, the “belly feeling” (as Wend’s Riley Johnson calls it). Is the part of your life so vivid in your mind that, closing your eyes, you can mentally transport yourself back in time to relive that experience again?

Right now, as you read this, tens or hundreds of thousands of people — or maybe millions (but probably not billions) — are enjoying not just the best time of their life so far, but maybe the best time they’ll ever have. It’s a good thing we humans can’t see into the future, because we’d obsess over the clock ticking down till the moment our life ends.

In most of the Bad Penny’s artist interviews, the bulk of the conversations focus on the past, particularly what path the artist took to get to where they are now. As for the rest of the conversation, it typically revolves around what lies ahead for the band.

And that is often a shame. Young bands bursting with promise rarely get to truly savor the best part of their life while it’s happening. Almost all of us find it challenging to “stay in the moment” — even if we do practice mindfulness, engage in breathing exercises or pray. Perhaps getting perspective on the greatest moments in your life is most difficult because you’re distracted or overwhelmed by the awesome power of those moments.

The French Tips, Boise’s premiere post-rockers, appear to be in the thick of their career success to date. A single sentence on the band’s Facebook page sums them up neatly: “Formed in late 2016 out of a love of dance and rage.”

The band slowly came to fruition and wound up taking off 2020 to focus “on existential angst,” according to the French Tips’ Facebook page. They then returned to the studio to write their sophomore album, All the Rage.

French Tips often refer to their sound as “disco occult.” Their January 2017 concert, during which they played Le Tigre covers, also provides clues as to the French Tips’ sound.

Of course, the French Tips have no way of knowing how long their streak of success will last. But in an interview in March, the band members said they felt they were on Cloud Nine. 

When the French Tips met with the Bad Penny at Alchemist Coffee in June, their zeal wasn’t just noticeable — it was also infectious. And for two reasons in particular: All the Rage had just come out the previous month and a nationwide tour opening for Built to Spill was right around the corner.

The French Tips played 11 times with Built to Spill from September 13. That might not sound like a lot — but they played those gigs in just 12 days. Today, the French Tips conclude this leg of their tour supporting All the Rage with prime positioning at Flipside Fest: on the Main Stage from 5:50 to 6:30 p.m.

To celebrate the French Tips’ homecoming, we present you with a previously unpublished interview from earlier this year. Held at one of Boise’s newest coffeeshops, we spoke with cofounders Rachel Couch and Ivy Merrell, who handle vocals, guitars and bass; and Angela Heileson, who sits behind the drum kit and sings too.

Describe the earliest years of the French Tips, what they felt like.

RACHEL COUCH: I was starstruck by Ivy for a while. We connected due to our mutual love of dance music. So we made sure to establish an upbeat aesthetic in our sound.

IVY MERRELL: That’s so funny, because I spent 10 years in a cover band!

ANGELA HEILESON: I wanted to be in a band that played a disco beat, too. Plus we were all playing in other bands with mostly dudes. So it was life-changing to join the French Tips.

MERRELL: Now is a great time to play music in Boise, because there are so many great local bands here now. 

COUCH: Yeah, a lot new genres coming into  the scene. Some of the new bands consist of people 20 years older than me!

Did the pandemic take a toll on the band?

HEILESON: Yeah, but it gave us time to write. It was only a few months ago that we got into the process of releasing singles again.

MERRELL: Our first show in two years was at a warehouse!

Can you tell me about the creation of your new record?

COUCH: Yes. We recorded our first LP [January 2019’s It’s the Tips] over a couple of weekends. Now, I cringe when I hear it and can’t listen to more than three or four of the songs.

With our new one, we spent over six months recording it. The album has a lot of layers. Rachel worked with an engineer to layer the tracks: sometimes five different guitars, a saxophone and  Rhodes piano.

MERRELL: It’s like a crack in our proverbial crystal ball. All the Rage is a portal into the band’s contemplative side. We also wanted it to have a universal appeal.

The record starts off chaotic but, toward the end, it’s more psychedelic and strange

What about the album’s subject matter?

COUCH: The whole album started pretty dark but then turned into something different. There is still some serious subject matter, though: “Bloom,” for example, is about drug addiction.

HEILESON: Yeah, and that track almost didn’t even make it onto the record. Also, the title is apt; it is situated in the overlap between rage and fun.

Have you considered signing to a label?

HEILESON: We dabbled with the idea for a bit. But we like being in charge of our own shit. But we worked with James Reeves, who is a producer and video director. He did the new one for “Rearview” (which looks and even sounds uncannily like the Raveonettes’ “Attack of the Ghost Riders” clip from 2009).

MERRELL: James had a vision that we didn’t have. It also forced us to take a longer time to create All the Rage.

It was great to collaborate with such an incredible producer. But at the end of the day, it’s nice to be in the fold with only women.

Check out our interview with Flipside Fest headliners Built to Spill right here.

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