Adorned in sweat, vintage and off-the-wall attire, Frederick Bang, singer and spokesperson for West London's Les Incompeténts is filled with hope, fear and ideas. Weeks of radio sessions, debauched live performances and skewed interviews have brought his band to the cusp of success, leaning on the edge of their opportunity to break.
Les Incompeténts is a dual headed pop monster, a ragtime collection of indie ethics, anarchic rock performances and cleverly attributed bag of pinched ideals. They are the Chas 'n' Dave to Pink Floyd's opera; a mess of bleeding skank guitars and incandescent boozey belters, both on live and on vinyl.
Armed with this gang of pop songs and a fierce intelligence to match his theatrical on-stage demeanour, Fred speaks to DiS.
"Being in Les Incompétents is a bit like being a spoilt Victorian child," he says, "you do what you want to do, when you want to do it... it doesn't always go too well because of the lack of thinking every single detail through but it stops you from having to compromise what and when and how you want to do things."
Fred's outlook on his band and the perception people initially take are surprisingly similar; waiting for Les Inc's soul to be unearthed and embraced once accusations of novelty and mindless teenage musical vandalism pass.
Debut double a-side single 'Reunion' / 'Much Too Much' , released in July through the White Heat record label, was the perfect introduction.
'Much Too Much' being a typically intelligent capital-city ramble over a scuzzy hook filled brawl. The constantly enthralling thing about Les Inc, is their ability to surprise, both musically and lyrically.
While less, hero of the proles than stars of the bourgeois, Fred and Billy's twinned vocal attacks lace incisive socio-political street poetry with occasional terrace-esque chanting.
The pinpoint precision of Shaun's wandering guitar stabs at the most opportune moments, backed by the pulsating rhythm of second guitarist Chris, drummer Lawrence and bassist Tommy Atomic.
Les Incompétents are a band that go out of their way to play all-ages shows, in addition to their myriad of London club gigs. "People aren't turned away from gigs for their racial heritage or sexual persuasion, so why should you forfeit the right to experience live music just because you are not old enough to order a drink at a bar? If you meet anyone who's been to any of the recent Way Out West gigs at Brentford Football Club and asked them to tell you what differentiates the crowd at one of these gigs to a crowd at a usual gig they will spell it out to you purely and simply; THE CROWD ARE HAVING FUN! My favourite three gigs we've played all have something in common. They were to people of all ages, enjoying the music and the performance without looking over their shoulder to laugh at the shoes being worn by the person behind them. Get a chance to play in front people before they have had their brains beaten to death by NME giving them lists of what's cool and what isn't and they'll tell you what they really think of your music."
I've had the pleasure of following Les Incompétents for over a year now, charting the slow refinement of their obvious talents while becoming one of my most enjoyable live experiences. But I was always intrigued when it came to translating the dramatics onto record. "It's definitely a challenge getting the energy of a live performance across on record when you're singing/playing the same song for about the twentieth time that day. In terms of our gigs however I'd like to think that the spectacle and theatrics of our shows rely on the music rather than vice versa. I think there is a danger that the 'show' can sometimes overshadow 'the gig' but we've recently been putting maximum effort in getting a complete live experience with equal measures of great performance and great music."
...and through all of this effort and boisterousness? How easy is it to maintain the dignity and intelligence that the band posseses?
"Anyone who saw Test Icicles and Mystery Jets in their early days will agree that completely off the hook shows and still appearing to be 'all there' has been achieved countless times. Their gigs could border on the apocalyptic without once leaving the realms of a purely intelligent/interesting performance. Once what your doing is well thought out and extremely tight, you can then afford to mess about with what you're doing and completely let go of yourself without ever losing control of the music. This has been going on for years though. I once saw some footage of a prog band called The Nice performing on the Old Grey Whistle Test. The organ player (Keith Emerson I think, later of Emerson, Lake and Palmer) was going absolutely mental kicking over hammond organs and jamming huge knives into the keys to hold them down, without once letting go of the melody. Footage of some At The Drive-in performances does the same, and a few years back in London, a band called Menlo Park were performing at a level that I can't even describe, yet keeping the music on top form and never looking stupid or crass like when metal bands try to wig out. I could go on and on with references. In fact itï¿½s funny that this question's been asked because pretty much anyone who I would cite as an influence is an influence because they 'really let go and be completely off the hook and still maintain dignity and an air of intelligence".
Latest single 'How It All Went Wrong' is in many ways, however, the antithesis to what many of Fred's influences peddle musically. The beauty of Les Incompï¿½tents is the graffiti-wall of influences and ideas that conspire and intertwine to build what we're presented with. "Billy, Chris and I originally bonded over the Strokes and the Libertines when we were about fifteen or sixteen but since then we haven't really been into the same things at all. We'll rarely go to the same gigs as each other unless we're playing them or if it's an exception. e.g. we all love the Mystery Jets, Jamie T etc. but in terms of influences, the bands we like are barely in the same decade let alone of a similar style."
I'm addicted. Openly in love with the idea and execution of this band. From some of the most entertaining live performances I've ever witnessed, to an early contender for one of the singles of the year, Les Incompétents are sitting, waiting for you to grow up with them. Swallow your fringe and let yourself go, as Fred's parting shot quite perfectly puts it, there's one over-riding reason to love Les Incompétents, "BECAUSE YOU ARE BORED!"
'How It All Went Wrong' is out now on CD and 7" through White Heat Records and via digital download (iTunes, Napster, 7Digital etc.) on the Drowned in Sound Singles Club.