Swiss Grooves: An Interview with L'Eclair

Photo: Riot Act Media

L'Eclair's third album effortlessly touches on funk, prog, dub, disco, ambient, and electronic genres, warming the chilled precision of Krautrock with danceable rhythms. Bass player Elie Ghersinu observes, "It just keeps on evolving every day, every month."


Beyond Beyond Is Beyond

24 May 2019

The Swiss band L'Eclair once played a three-hour set, grooving on and on, for an audience that, according to bass player Elie Ghersinu, was not yet ready to let them go. "A lot of times, if we get extra time to play, we stretch songs. We jam them. Basically, we play for however long you let us play," he said.

"Usually when we do that, it's because the audience is pushing us and wants the party to go on," he adds. "We have to do that. We cannot let them down."

The six-piece band from Geneva just dropped a third album, Sauropoda, on the Beyond Beyond Is Beyond label, a lo-fi unfussed over recording that Ghersinu says cuts close to their live experience -- though it is not three hours long. Recorded mostly over a couple of days at a vacation rental home in the Alps, Sauropoda captures the body-moving dub/funk/ambient/prog vibe of L'Eclair's in-person jams. It happened almost by accident, says Ghersinu.

"We just had a two-day session on the mountains, and we were just thinking of recording the last jams that we had developed during the last year's shows, and I think we just got inspired in the moment and we recorded some new jams, new songs, and it turned out to be an album," he explains. "It was not meant to be an album."

Clarity Versus Visceral Appeal

L'Eclair was formed when two high school friends from Geneva -- guitarist Stefan Lilov and keyboard player Sebastian Bui -- took a year's sabbatical in London, allegedly to study English. "Instead, they spent most of their time playing music and smoking hash. That's basically how L'Eclair was born," says Ghersinu.

Upon returning to Geneva in 2015, the two brought in a few friends: Ghersinu on bass, Yavor Lilov (who is puzzlingly credited with Kicker's Delight/Endless Kick/Bronto Kick on the group's Bandcamp site) and Quentin Pilet and Alain Sandri on bongos and conga. (For Sauropoda, friend-of-the-band DJ Laxxiste also participated, though he is not part of the permanent ensemble.)

Lilov and Bui also brought some demo tapes back from London, which became the source of L'Eclair's first EP, Cruise Control, in 2017. "The first songs they wrote in London were free-form jams, inspired by early 1970s German music, acts like Kraftwerk and Cluster and that scene. It was meant to be just for keyboards and guitar," Ghersinu explains. "But when we came together as a band, we decided to take a more groove-oriented approach, so in the early days, it was trying to make that funky sound with some more synthesizer stuff. And then it just keeps on evolving every day, every month.

Polymood, in 2018, was considerably more polished. "We recorded Polymood in a studio in Haarlem in the Netherlands with a sound guy called Jasper Geluk, who has done sound for Jacco Gardner, the Mauskovic Dance Band and also the Allah Las," Ghersinu explains. "That was much more of a studio album, crisper whereas Sauropoda is a bit more roots." Their latest album, he says, "is really rich in low frequencies. It's not as clear as Polymood. But it captures better our sound when we play live than Polymood."

Danceable Kraut

Sauropoda bridges funk, disco, electronics, prog, and ambient styles in a very natural way, finding a warm, body-conscious thump that brings everything together. Asked if he and his fellow band members spent a lot of time thinking about exactly what kind of music they make, Ghersinu says, not really. "We are always trying to blend things, and so all the genres that you said before, that's things we listen to and we keep in mind when writing songs. But we mix it up all together," he states.

Ghersinu points to Can as a prime influence on the way L'Eclair joins krautish propulsion with funk. "We are all big fans of Can in the band, and we just absolutely worship Jaki Liebezeit, the drummer, and I think is probably one of the grooviest drummers ever," he says. "The funk is a really important part of what krautrock is about for us. Not every krautrock band is funky, but there's a lot of funk in krautrock."

Ahem, what about Tangerine Dream, I ask. Not much funk there. "Yeah, yeah, that's more leaning towards Kosmische Musik, which we also listen to a lot," Ghersinu responds. "Maybe that music we're going to write is going to be influenced by a little more of the Kosmische stuff. More repetitive and less groovy and rhythm-centric."

L'Eclair also works without vocals, a choice that Ghersinu says began out of necessity but now seems right. "At the early stages of the band, we did have some vocals, but we were not super talented at performing with vocals," he admits. "Maybe it's better not to have vocals than cruddy vocals."

Soundtracking Movies Yet to Be

L'Eclair's music has a relentless forward motion, a sense of scope and expansiveness that can't help put you in mind of movie soundtracks. I ask Ghersinu if he can see his band's music in the context of film, and he answers enthusiastically. "Yeah, thank you for saying that. We listen to a lot of soundtracks, movie soundtracks, and library music, so that's a big influence for us," he says. "That's one of our dreams, to make a movie score or to play for a film. That's something we would like to do in the future."

What kind of movie? Ghersinu ponders for a minute, then hazards, "I think it would be an atmospheric and slow kind of movie," he says, before shifting gears completely. "Though it could be a Blaxploitation movie. Let's settle for something in the middle of the road between a Blaxploitation movie and some kind of Mad Max atmosphere."

Feeding on Reaction

L'Eclair is getting ready to pack up for some shows, shoe-horning six musicians and lots of gear into a van for performances in France and Switzerland. "We're going to do as many shows as we can, trying to take the album on the road. And just keep on making music. We're already thinking about the next record and shaping ideas," says Ghersinu.

Wherever they go, the members of L'Eclair will be seeking that elusive connection between band and audience that transforms a show -- and even occasionally allows a three-hour set to occur. Says, Ghersinu, "The more the audience dances, the better we play and the better play, the more they dance."

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