After laying the foundations with his take on elegant, vintage rock ’n’ roll, the French crooner shifts into second gear with an album running on Northern Soul sounds and Edwyn Collins riding shotgun. Vroom-vroom!
Bridging the glory days of The Kinks and The Smiths, Gaspard Royant is a walking anachronism. But it would be simplistic to define him as a well-versed 60s aficionado, even if his light penchant for dandyism does suggest that period. Gaspard is no taxidermist, let alone a grave keeper.
In one of his early self-penned songs, Marty McFly, he proudly sang of his admiration for the hero of the Back to the Future trilogy. Any lessons he may have learned from the past are simply absorbed into his ultramodern energy. In fact, ultramodern could also apply to his look, which might remind some of the glossy 60s French pop magazine Salut Les Copains until they remember that Sweden’s The Hives are also devotees of the style.
Gaspard, who has been around for a few years now, is no Johnny-come-lately. The man honed his art (and paid his dues) like Elvis in his Sun days. He has already released a number of singles on his own label, made a few videos and (obviously) played countless venues all over Europe.
In fact, it is because of his impressive early career, the power of his writing and his dazzling performances that a major record company has now helped him take things to the next level. Not many such jewels are to be found in these days of globalization and we cannot let them slip through our fingers.
Gaspard recorded a number of singles – including one with Liam Watson, who earned his stripes working with The White Stripes and The Kills. Then in 2014, he compiled them on an album dubbed 10 Hit Wonder. The sounds were disparate and the collection mainly marked the end of an era: his early years. It left him free to think about the future and a real first album, more coherent as a whole and with a producer worthy of the name. Working with Edwyn Collins was a childhood dream and a guarantee that Gaspard was headed in the right direction.
The album’s name, Have You Met Gaspard Royant?, is a nod to the flamboyant ads that directly questioned consumers in the 60s – ‘Would you let your daughter marry a Rolling Stone?’ or ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?’ – but it also invites the listener to get to know the artist. “Who knows who I am today? Almost nobody, I’m very aware of that. But things are going to change!”
Baby I’m With You explodes in our ears like a theatrical Phil Spector wall of sound. “I love those huge, powerful numbers from the 60s that always have a tragic feel to them. In the song, an unrecognized lover is rather desperately declaring his passion, but that doesn’t stop the beat from winning out.”
Gaspard Royant’s magical times are far from over, though. They are barely starting with this second album, a record that stylishly reconciles past and present while dismissing labels. Its fresh, spontaneous songs display a startling proficiency. Even better than the 60s, it is very much now.