The Tab Meets: Jacques Caramac And The Sweet Generation

TRISTRAM FANE SAUNDER’S sweet tooth is rewarded with an interview with Jacques Caramac and the Sweet Generation.

album launch EMI Jacques Caramac and The Sweet Generation Jean-Baptiste Marc Riley Music Raphael

Jacques Caramac and the Sweet Generation are a mess of contradictions; silly, but adamantly not a novelty act.

Lead singer Kevin is dismissive of the music industry, so it comes as a surprise to learn he knows it from the inside (he’s worked for top indie label One Little Indian). His Scottish drawl seems custom-built for sarcasm, and he’s eager to criticise other musicians, but when challenged about his own music he speaks with a workmanlike earnestness.

Speaking to The Tab shortly after playing a session for Marc Riley on BBC 6 Music, Kevin gave us ten minutes to pick his brains.

What’ve you been up to today?
We were on television today for the first time, so that was a bit of fun. It was actually the BBC London news, believe it or not. But it was harmless, let me assure you.

You haven’t been robbing banks then?
No, not yet. Things haven’t got that dire just yet. We were talking about a new exhibition of paintings based on vinyl records. Jacques has released two singles on vinyl, and were talking about why we chose to do that, and why we thought vinyl was still important and still relevant.

And why is it?
I walked into that, didn’t I? It’s a quality difference. It’s the difference between a meal in a very good restaurant or a meal from a takeaway. You’re satisfying the same need, but there’s something you get out of vinyl that’s a bit different from just playing it onto your phone.

Funky budget music videos

Tell me about the band. The other members, Jean-Baptiste and Raphael..?
…Are in a band called The Underground Railroad, they’ve had three albums out and I’ve respected them for a long time. I had some songs and an idea, and they very kindly thought they’d come into the studio and help me. Then we thought – well, we’ve got an album, we might as well see if anyone wants to hear it. It’s all just snowballed. We made the album without really trying. We haven’t tried very hard at all, but people seem to be enjoying it, which is lovely.  So we’re going to continue not trying. I like to think it’s some sort of zen realisation.

But you’re no stranger to the record industry, are you?
I was signed to EMI a couple of years ago, with a group called the Be Be See, so I’ve experienced what a major-label situation is like. You wouldn’t know that, because we never told anyone that. It’s not because we were trying to cover it up, we just didn’t think it was relevant. [A major label’s] interference can go the wrong way, and artists can end up less focussed than they would be. So we didn’t have any of that. We’re not signed to a label.

Now, the edible elephant in the room. All Jacques Caramac’s songs seem to have a confectionary theme. Where did that come from?
It sort of coalesced. We wanted to make something with a slight over-the-topness about it. I find that there’s a tendency, certainly in parts of east London, for bands to dress entirely in black and get all existential about the world. We wanted to make something that was the antithesis of that. Hopefully there’s a sense of playfulness about the theme. You get the idea straight away that we’re not going to be writing eight-minute songs quoting Camus at you.

For the reptile lovers within us all

Describe your album without comparing it to any bands.
Psycha-tronic subliminal golf-songs.

When was the last time you felt scared?
I‘ve felt very – not frightened, but very uncomfortable recently about the NSA, and the mass surveillance by the American government of EU citizens. I suppose it’s not entirely unexpected, but it never makes you entirely comfortable, let’s put it that way.

Anything you don’t want them to uncover?
Oh, yes. Of course. I’ve got loads of early demos.

If your band were a type of hairless living creature, what hairless living creature would they be?
A furry caterpillar would be wrong. Let’s say a woodlouse.

Because we’re made up of lots of very little, very necessary segments.


Jacques Caramac’s debut album, The Highs and Lows of Jacques Caramac and the Sweet Generation, is out on January 17th