Underground Railroad

Paris-born, London-based Underground Railroad is Raphael Mura, Marion Andrau and JB Ganivet. Their third album White Night Stand is both intense and touching, taking in influences from Radiohead and Liars to American alternative rock. We caught up with the band to chat about their move to London, working at Agent Provocateur, and of course, their new album.

How did Underground Railroad form?
Like many teenagers growing up in suburbia, we didn’t have much to do. The good kids stay home and study, while the bad ones go out and break stuff – we were in the middle. Everyone was starting a band, but there was only one rehearsal space in St Quentin, Versailles where 30 bands met each week. We met in the smoking room of the studios: Marion thought Raphael was a little nerd and wasn’t interested in him, JB bumped into Raphael on the street and asked him if he wanted to play music and JB sneezed on Raphael. It didn’t work out, but after a few more encounters, we ended up forming a band.

Can you describe your sound?
The new album is quite dark and almost cinematic. We wanted people to be able to listen to it as a soundtrack with textures carefully mixed on top of the regular rock instruments. We’ve also added lots of cello and electronic elements, which are mixed in with organic instruments, strong melodies and percussion. We were inspired by David Lynch and thought we could evoke with sound the emotions you get from watching Lost Highway or Twin Peaks.

I wouldn’t say that’s very Parisian chic – is this why you decided to make the move across the Channel?
Well at one point we’d only wear Chanel bags and YSL perfume, trying to get a job at Agent Provocateur, but we realised that punk rock history doesn’t come from Paris, it comes from London and New York. We had a desire to experience life in Europe’s biggest city. We’ve met such interesting people here, and seen so many good bands that would never play anywhere else. It can be alienating of course, and alienation is what White Night Stand is all about.

It has been almost three years since Sticks and Stones came out – what has been happening with the band since then?
We spent 2008 and 2009 touring pretty much non-stop and got burnt out as most bands do. To be honest, we travelled too far, lost money, went through depression, moved house and got new jobs. We all settled into our new lives for a few months then slowly started to write new material. You can see why it’s a powerful album in terms of the emotions attached to it. We were in a very dark place.

What does the future hold for Underground Railroad? Do you plan on playing any festivals this summer?
We are playing a few festivals in France in August, but we’re looking to tour Europe and the UK again in the autumn. We’d like to co-headline a tour with our friends from Gallon Drunk, but we don’t want it to be overkill. The plan is to finish up some songs and release a four-track vinyl later this the year. We’ve been inspired by the Jim Jones Revue and want our next album to be raw, loud and dirty.

Bethany Rex