By José Oliveira, Journalist/Photographer – Rock At Night France, Switzerland, Portugal
PEELED CUBES – Interview at their Studio in BRUEBACH
Date: Wednesday 29th May 2019
Philippe OHREL – Vocals- Guitars
Frédéric NICO – Vocals – Guitars
John WOCKS – Keyboards
Neil CHRAIBI – Drums
PEELED CUBES is the result of a meeting in 2013 of Philipe OHREL and Frédéric NICO, two guitar players with the same Anglo-American musical universe. Both, sharing a passion without limits to the folk/rock sounds of the Eighties. They are unquestionably the “band that rises” in the musical landscape of eastern France. The huge success of their intimate concerts encouraged them to step out from the shadows and explore the potential of their great songs on a album. ROCK AT NIGHT had the privilege of sharing a few moments with them in their studio in BRUEBACH, near the Swiss border.
RAN – Can you explain us the genesis of the group? How was this group born?
Philipe OHREL – Five years ago one of our friends introduced me to Fred. He came to my studio, the same place we met today, and we spent the whole afternoon playing. At the end of the day, we discovered that we had four potential songs debuts, with a multitude of improvisations. It was magical. John and Neil joined us later.
RAN – PEELED CUBES. A very strange name for a Band. What’s the meaning?
Phil – It was supposed to be called ”Half Peeled Square Fruits”, semi-peeled cubic fruits!!! And we said, “It’s too long”! We must shorten it!
RAN– Wow, it sounds like an Andy WARHOL’s Universe! (Laughs)
PHIL – You know, (our music has an artisanal touch). In Asia they grow watermelons in transparent plastic cubes. At the end, you get watermelon cubes. These cubic watermelons were at the origin of the Band’s name because in the end, all you get are “peeled cubes”!!! Like our music because of this artisanal side.
RAN – What were your musical influences? Do you all have the same ones?
FRED– Well, absolutely not. That’s what makes the group/band so rich. (c’est ce que fait la richesse du groupe). I like sounds close to hard rock while Phil and the rest of the band are more oriented towards a calm and melodious universe.
NEIL – I’m close to PLACEBO and U2 music.
JOHN – Well, I‘m completely eclectic in my tastes. Being the Band’s keyboard player, I listen a bit of everything. I don’t have a single preference. I love Hard Rock as I can also love Jazz or even Blues! And Prog Rock of course! I’m an unconditional fan of PENDRAGON!! What a Band!
PHIL – But musically, let’s be clear, PEELED CUBES main influences are indeed, KINGS OF LEON, SNOWPATROL, PLACEBO, U2 and PEARL JAM.
RAN – Do you continue to follow the musical evolution of these Bands?
PHIL – Of course. If we take KINGS OF LEON , they released a last album in 2018. It was so funny to listen their last work and try to see if there were any flaws! I was expecting to feel the same magic as before. I have no answer yet! Maybe I’ve become more demanding.
Concerning U2, I’ve seen them live three times in two years while I hadn’t seen them in twenty five years.
RAN – Do you think that singing in English is easier for the writing? Do you think Rock is better expressed in the Shakespeare’s language?
NEIL – I think we have to be very good at writing texts in French, but it’s clear (the evidence shows us) that it’s much easier (there are a lot more facilities) to express our music in English.
JOHN – I listen to some French Bands but usually, we listen to Anglo-American music all the time . Therefore, the fruit of our musical reflection is transcribed in English in our songs. That’s what we mainly like! So, to express ourselves in English sounds better to us.
NEIL – And it’s much better to make yourself known beyond our borders by singing in English, than singing in the Molière’s language !!!
PHIL – The Anglo-Saxon’s sound is totally placed elsewhere in the throat compared to the French! Inspiration comes much more easily in English. That’s what John used to say, ‘the influence of what we love, will become part of our improvised impulse”
RAN – I saw some PEELED CUBES’s concerts and it emerges an intimate atmosphere of sharing with the audience. Is this a desired reality?
PHIL -It ‘s a coincidence but it is the greatest happiness we could have! Because being on stage, playing nice songs, pretending and saying to the audience “ I’m offering you this“ it’s a lie!! It just only goes in one direction! However, we had the chance to play for private concerts, in private evenings. And from time to time, we played in acoustic. So sharing is more of a simple word. It’s a reality. You can see people breathing. You can see the twitching of their eyes. When we’re live on stage, we’re in the same state of mind as in a private concert. We give our creation and they listen. We‘re asking to be heard and the public offers us great sensations in return. A real feeling of sharing. That‘s not wanted, but what a great reward!!
RAN – You are preparing your first album. Do you have a title yet? What’s the feeling that characterizes this work? Will it always have the Rock/Folk duality that clings to your skin?
FRED – I think it’s gonna be an eponymous album!
PHIL – For this first album, and even before we met, I had imagined ‘ON EARTH’ for a title! Wait and see!
FRED – Concerning our feelings, let’s say that Rock/Folk is still the thread that sticks since from the moment we met. That’s where we feel more comfortable. It’s an achievement in the sense that four years ago, we were still looking for our true style and it was really when Nile and John arrived that the musical universe of the band landed!
JOHN – This does not prevent us from adding some originalities. Like in the song “THE BEAUTY”, where we end up with a very electro touch on our rock/folk scene. From time to time everyone can add their own personal touch. It gives us greater freedom without changing our style.
PHIL – Who knows if we should develop this electro touch in a future album?
RAN – How are the recording sessions going? Are you coming to the studio with all songs ready? How many titles will compose this album?
PHIL – We have four songs ready! So, we decided to release an EP. The final idea is indeed to have thirteen or fourteen titles for this album but also not to get stuck with the fact of not having finished yet. Well, all the tracks are already ready when we go back to the studio. We have a live set list with 20 tracks. Which have taken their structure in our live concerts. The more we play them the more we realize that it works! Sometimes we discover in studio that something can be added, but usually 95% of the song is defined before. The EP will be released around June 14th, just before our next concert on June 15th in SAUSHEIM. The album is scheduled for 2020!
RAN – You launched a first video clip that completely taped me!! So beautiful! Not only musically but also with an enormous technical value! How did you achieve it? What’s story is behind this title “LEFT BEHIND”?
PHIL– “LEFT BEHIND” tells the story about a love relationship that fails! It’s well known that love stories can hurt a lot. But here, the main interesting fact is there nobody is incorrect! Usually, sorry seems to be the hardest word, but the lyrics of this song talks about both sides… you didn’t know who I am…. you didn’t know what to do with what I was offering… you didn’t know who I was!! Well, if he’s a Man’s talking, we will say that it’s misogynistic!!
RAN – That sounds very autobiographical, doesn’t it?
PHIL – Yes of course. Missed relationships are always autobiographical!! But when I say, “You didn’t know who I was,” and stop there, it sounds very macho! So, the lyrics talks about both sides. “And me, neither”!! There’s always a balance. No one is at fault for a failure in a relationship! Two of us always missed something. The video clip shows a scientist in his laboratory, trying to create from scratch, a human being based on a humanoid, a metal robot.
This scientist is somewhat the artifice of the relationship since we feel that this scientist dreams of making my music and will create everything he needs. And what’s amazing is that by the time I wrote the clip story, we’d just had a death in the band (our former drummer) and it created a nine month break between Fred and me. We felt lost but I always thought that we could be reborn from our ashes!! Even if Fred and I didn’t know how! Suddenly, I realize that subconsciously this scientist was creating this beautiful Guitar player (Fred). Finally, it was I who sought to bring Fred back from his inert state to life! Such a crazy story!!!
RAN – «THOUSAND OF LIES»! Political statement?
PHIL – Not at all. Just a human statement. Since we lie to those we love, we lie to those we hate and distrust and lie to ourselves!!
RAN – «ALIVE SHADOWS». I love this song. Much more near to a Prog Rock feeling. How do you explain it? What does he say?
JOHN – It’ s a song that already brings a different atmosphere in our concerts set lists. It brings a new energy on stage. People are naturally transported without even knowing what the song is about.
PHIL – The song was composed for a documentary whose purpose was to start with digital sounds. A completely studio piece with creative freedom. Meanwhile, we never thought to play it live. When Neil joined the Band, it became his favorite song. He even threatened to leave the band if we didn’t play this live song!! Then we thought, “This man is crazy! What a great idea”! And so, he forced us to give life to a piece entirely designed by a computer!! ALIVE SHADOW!! An inert piece that becomes by the force of things, a living piece! Sometimes we give
ourselves the freedom to follow the magic. And a detail could work like an influence that can spring up at any time.
RAN – To finish this great chat with the Band, let us know the plans for the near future?
PHIL – We have the great honor to be the headliner at June 15th on a three days Festival at the prestigious ED&N Hall in Sausheim, East of France. On August 23th, we will play at the GELTERKINDEN OPEN AIR in Switzerland!
PEELED CUBES! A great idea for a scorching summer!
Many thanks to Maggie MULLAN and Rosine ALLEVA
I was born in Portugal and lived the Sixties exploring the great UK Rock magazines: "The New Musical Express" and "Melody Maker". Ray Charles and Pat Boone were my father’s fav. I became “The Great Pretender”. Cliff Richard was our Elvis Presley. As a beach boy, with my first guitar, I met a beautiful French girl on the beach! It was the Summer of 69!! We got married and rock music was our dowry. In France, I became a Wine Genetic Research Scientist. One of my works contributed to the decoding of the genome of the vine! As a rock journalist, I’ve worked twenty years for the Portuguese and Brazilian Rock Press. I ‘ve interviewed so many great artists. Then, one day I met FRANK ZAPPA! I got into trouble for introducing my wife to "Uncle Meat"!
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