The sound of The Limiñanas may make deliberate reference to music from the ’60s, particularly the stranger side of the French pop scene and Italian giallo soundtracks, but multi-instrumentalist Lionel Limiñana is quick to point out that his project is “absolutely not a nostalgic or vintage revival band.”
“We don’t record on a vintage tape machine,” he says. “It’s too expensive. I use a MacBook and I use a modern preamp. But the music we love is that kind of music. When I record bass, it is reminiscent of [Serge] Gainsbourg’s stuff, that’s true, but I don’t think about that when I do it.”
The duo’s sound was cultivated almost by osmosis. The pair grew up on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, a place that connected them to the sounds from neighboring countries and tourists.
“We have been listening to American, English, Italian, Spanish and French music since we were children,” Lionel says. “It’s more than an influence. It’s in our veins.”
How that comes out through the hands and mouths of the Limiñanas is as a tangy mix of swinging beats, come-hither vocals, and a cool reserve that will have you reaching for a pair of dark shades and a pack of filterless Gauloises.
The group’s latest album, Costa Blanca, has an even greater emphasis on the past, as many of the songs hearken back to Lionel’s childhood, particularly trips that he and his family would take the titular coast of Spain. The songs aren’t melancholic, though. The album maintains the chirpy energy of the band’s past work while emphasizing the multiculturalism of the coastal region by shifting between French, Italian, Spanish and English vocals, provided by a variety of guest singers.
Robert Ham caught up with Lionel Limiñana via e-mail on the influences that drove the creation of Costa Blanca and their heady pop sound, and the relationship that forms the heart of the band. He also asked them to share their favorite moments in French pop. You can read about and hear their selections here.
On bandmate/wife Marie Limiñana:
We met at age of 17 and fell in love. I was listening to a lot of Back from the Grave [garage] comps, Remains, Stooges and Otis Redding. Marie was into the Sex Pistols and Berurier Noirs. We began to idolize the Seeds, the Chocolate Watchband, Serge Gainsbourg and developed a real deep obsession for the Stooges’ Funhouse and the ultra-obscure American ’60s garage stuff. It was before the Internet and totally exciting. You only got the info from the LP liner notes. Who were these bands? Who is the Nova’s singer? Who is Randy Alvey?
On moving from a romantic relationship to a creative one:
We played together or separately in the garage-punk scene for 20 years. We played together in the bands Les Bellas and Les Migas Valdes. In 2009 we recorded a two-track demo together and put it on Myspace. That’s how we met Trouble in Mind and Hozac from Chicago [The two labels that put out their records — Ed.].
On the influence of Lionel’s childhood trips to Spain:
La Costa Blanca is an incredibly cinematic part of Spain. My grandfather Octave Macia had the charisma of a French or Hollywood actor of the ’40s and ’50s, like Jean Gabin. He lived in Alicante in front of the Algerian coast. He had a type of elegance and life style that has completely disappeared today. Costa Blanca talks about that — traveling, heat, family and maybe a piece of the story of all the people who came from Algeria to France and Spain in the ’60s, like my grandfather.
On the song “Votre côté yéyé m’emmerde” (“Your yéyé side annoys me”):
We recorded this song with a very beautiful Italian friend and actress Francesca Cusimano. We hate the boring French yéyé songs, so the song is a list of stuff we love. We took the opportunity to appoint many of the artists we love — actors, friends, filmmakers, singers, songs, “Louie Louie.”
On the song “La Mercedes de couleur gris métallisé” (“Metallic-grey Mercedes”):
It was my father’s car when I was a kid, the old Mercedes with which we drove on the roads of Spain in the ’70s and ’80s. I remember she had red leather seats and my father was listening to Little Richard and Ike and Tina Turner on a cassette player.
On choosing what language to sing in:
It changes from one song to another. Sometimes we even make half of the songs in English and half in French. French is a difficult language to use in pop. English or Spanish is much easier. But we love the French storytelling style of Ronnie Bird and Serge Gainsbourg.
On life outside of the band:
I’m not working at the moment. I spend all my time recording and take care of my son, which is for me a dream life. Marie has a job she loves. We spend most of our time watching movies and playing music.