Weekly Wire
FW Weekly Savoir Flare

By Lisa Garrett

JULY 6, 1998:  Just as gypsies travel as a way of life, absorbing and combining cultures to create their own, Austin's 8 1/2 Souvenirs apply their collective knowledge to create a musical style original in its diversity. For the five-member lineup, their music is a lifestyle, vocalist/guitarist Olivier Giraud says, "a way of approaching and playing music."

Giraud, originally from Paris, exemplifies only a sample of the band's nomadic background, both geographically and musically. Along with upright bassist Kevin Smith, Giraud claimed residency in the Asylum St. Spankers at one point, and the two were in their own respective bands upon arriving in Austin. Detroit drummer Adam Berlin, backing beat extraordinaire since the conception of 8 1/2 Souvenirs (along with Giraud), spent time with insurgent country act The Derailers. Finally, New Orleans-born pianist Glover Gill did time on the San Francisco circuit and played with Arthur Brown and Charlie Sexton. Along the way, through several singers, vocalist Chrysta Bell was finally added, rounding out the current band of roamers whose sound has been done, yet stayed original.

Although their quasi-new release Happy Feet, a re-recording of their first album, covers such notables as Italian pop star Paolo Conte and French crooner Serge Gainsbourg, most of 8 1/2 Souvenirs' repertoire is original songs. Swingin' like swing, rockin' like rockabilly, dancing on top of lounge and as mysterious and intricate as jazz gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, 8 1/2 Souvenirs takes the best of several worlds and skips over the categorizations to make a unique sound.

The band's seemingly nonsensical nom de guerre proves both hindering and helpful, Giraud believes, and "if you're not familiar with the obscure influences, you have nothing to link it to." Indeed, most would not know of the Federico Fellini film 8 1/2 or the Reinhardt song "Souvenirs," but both are such an integral part of the "cinematic and multidimensional" music, many show-goers soon find themselves renting the film or perusing the jazz section for Reinhardt's albums. For the curious audiences, these unfamiliar influences bait them to explore different sources for inspiration, like 8 1/2 Souvenirs has done.

For example the Fellini feature's main character directs a film in progress, piecing together his past to take the audience, and the movie's characters, through a film about a film. The movie, and consequently the protagonist's film, becomes autobiographical, a concept parallel to 8 1/2 Souvenirs' goal.

Overlapping reality with fantasy, a quality in cinema, by no coincidence turns out to be the goal of the band. "Every song is a movie, with characters and a story," Giraud says. "A movie that transports you to another place." The perfect example being "No Lo Visto," an original song that paints a picture of a brokenhearted man in an Italian bar imploring another patron to explain why his woman left him.

With the mystique and charm of a quaint unknown place, audiences are turned on to 8 1/2 Souvenirs' international cocktail flair, unable to resist the story-like songs in le fin, where everyone links hands and dances with joy.

Page Back Current Issue Next Issue Page Forward

Music: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Cover . News . Film . Music . Arts . Books . Comics

Weekly Wire    © 1995-99 DesertNet, LLC . FW Weekly . Info Booth . Powered by Dispatch