Champagne Superchillin’

Published on July 31st, 2018

Champagne Superchillin’ by Chambers Walcott

There’s something playfully snobby about the name Champagne Superchillin’ yet also kind of innocent, as though a French person trying to explain her culture to native English speakers decided this was a reference they would understand.

Fronted, as it happens, by a French expat, Juliette Buchs, and fully realized by keyboardist/guitarist Ben Trimble and drummer Charles Garmendia, the band formed in Nashville, Tennessee, where Buchs had landed after marrying an American musician. Trimble and Garmendia, formerly of Fly Golden Eagle and Clear Plastic Masks, respectively, found in Buchs a kindred spirit for their far-flung musical ideas. In a joint interview with PureHoney, band members called the whole Superchillin’ project “a great oxymoron,” like “Mike Tyson with a red beret.”

Their boxing dandy is an assemblage of French music (think yé-yé and French new wave), American surf, ’60s pop, heroin-chic jazz and Latin/World sounds — most of it sung or spoken in French. Driven and muscular without sacrificing sensuality and approachability, the music is oddly reminiscent of the legendary Lebanese chanteuse Fairuz crossed with the Gainsbourg family tree. More contemporary listeners will fit them on the same shelf as Nouvelle Vague and SoKo (the Cat). 

French as the band’s default language has rapidly receded as a point of debate. 

“We haven’t had to think about this,” says Buchs. At a recent gig in tiny Bristol, Tennessee, almost 300 miles from Nashville, Buchs said, the band came on after a house round of Singo — Bingo played with musical clues — “and the only person complaining there was no English was a French-Canadian man. Everyone else was happy to hear us sing in French.”

Buchs says the band’s most receptive fans are in Tennessee backcountry. But relocating to New York after their 2017 full-length debut, “Destino!” — in part to complete work on the follow up, “Beach Deep” — has been a boon for Champagne Superchillin’. Their sophomore effort is infuriatingly delicious — a product of “friendship, internal turmoil and perspective,” band members say. No need to speak French to enjoy. It hits all the points and lays out the emotional tonality in a meticulously balanced manner. It truly is a summertime masterpiece best enjoyed with the ceremonial sabrage of a cold jeroboam while chilling super hard by the pool.

More than a welcome and refreshing entry to the current playlist of American music, Champagne Superchillin’ is the perfect soundtrack for role-playing a bygone era without sinking into retro tropes. Running with the band-name metaphor, Buchs explains the trio’s taste and methodology: “We’re more into non-vintage champagne, like a vin de cuvée,” meaning the batch made for drinking right away from the first pressing of grapes. 

Is theirs a lazy name? Non, mon ami. What it is, is a hyper-aware moniker for a group that knows what it wants and, in a very short time, has gotten it on its own terms. 

Champagne Superchillin’ performs an early FREE show with Donzii on August 4 at Voltaire in West Palm Beach. ~ Abel Folgar

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