If Paerish were based in the U.S., its journey would have been much easier. The four-piece, which recently released its new album, You’re In Both Dreams (And You’re Scared), would have been better able to become part of a scene, able to tour with, building up its audience through the traditional route of grinding away on the grassroots live circuit. Unfortunately for Paerish, it is based in Paris where its heavy, grungy, Smashing Pumpkins and Hum-inspired music doesn’t have much of a place in the mainstream.
“The biggest thing in France for the last 20 years,” says vocalist/guitarist Mathias Court over Zoom, “has been French-speaking rap music. It’s by far the most streamed genre and what we play is so far away from that.”
By playing the kind of music the band plays, Court admits he’s “choosing difficulty” for it. Although English-speaking music does has some draw in France, only the most popular 1% of bands can have success. Outside of Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift and Imagine Dragons, France’s album and singles charts are consistently dominated by artists who have very little presence or draw outside of the country.
Another problem? Its songs also have English lyrics.
Paerish–formed by Court and bassist Martin Dupraz in 2010 while students at a Paris film school–may never be that big, but it has to deal with other consequences of singing in English. Much of that is due to a law that was passed in France in 1994 which stipulated a minimum number of songs played on the radio that had to be sung in French. As if getting radio play wasn’t hard enough for newer bands, it’s been almost impossible for Paerish.
“When this law was made, everything changed,” says Dupraz over Zoom. “Rock music disappeared. So if you’re a rock band singing in English, your chances to be on the radio in France are almost nothing. So most bands from here say OK, we’re going to sing in French.’ But we don’t want to do that, so it’s really hard.”
Despite that uphill battle, Paerish has never been driven by commercial aspirations. Perhaps it’s the art school background, but the four-piece–completed by guitarist Frédéric Wah and new drummer Loic Fouquet– just wants to indulge its love of American alternative music, regardless of whether it’s popular in France. Even with the little crossover there is between the French alternative scene–because there really isn’t much of one at all–and those in other countries, the band has attracted attention. It played shows with Sum 41, Silversun Pickups and PUP, and 2016’s debut album, Semi Finalists, which has now amassed over 10 million streams. That’s both due to an increasingly dedicated fanbase, and the international reach of streaming has allowed the band’s music to cross the French border.
The band says its proudest moment, however, is getting to make a second record, Fixed It All, with its dream producer, Will Yip. One of the most renowned names in alternative music today, Yip has worked with The Bouncing Souls, Circa Survive, Superheaven, LS Dunes and many other respected bands of that ilk. So having flown to Philadelphia to work with him in late 2019, Pærish understandably felt like it was on the verge of a breakthrough in the States. However, the pandemic delayed the album’s release and prevented the band from touring. Everything started feeling like a waste.
“I still get messages from American bands asking us how we got Will Yip,” says Court, “and that makes us want to prove ourselves to people even more. So I feel like we’re here for a reason, even if it’s so much harder and even if we’re French and just complaining about it all the time. A guy in a hardcore band that we’re friends with said that, for us, it’s like running a marathon with foam legs. So we knew that things were going to be hard already—and then when you get hit by COVID, it feels unfair.”
Dupraz, for his part, channeled the experiences of his day job to keep his negativity at bay. Working as a filmmaker with athletes, he saw firsthand how many had trained incredibly hard for the 2020 Olympics, only for the event to be canceled. Their dedication to just one competition inspired him to keep going. Court was disillusioned but decided the best thing he could do was just keep writing. So he set about working on new songs in an effort to create the momentum he felt had been taken away. Soon, dismay morphed into determination.
“It’s like when you’re in line for something and it takes so long and you’ve been there for two hours and you’re still far away from the door,” Dupraz adds. “You’re like, ‘Fuck it—should I go home or stay there and wait to get to the door?’ We’ve spent 10 years waiting for things to happen, and I want to go through it and see what’s behind the door. So let’s stay in the fucking line, you know?”
That’s what Paerish has done.
Though unsure if it would even be possible to work with him a second time, the band was able to work with Yip again on You’re In Both Dreams… Not only did that result in the record Court says Paerish has always wanted to make, but it fully restored their enthusiasm and love for making music. Circumstances brought on by both where the band is from and a global pandemic had threatened to undo Pærish. Now, they’re ready to make up all that lost time–and can perform in the States for the first time. Barring any other worldwide catastrophes, You’re In Both Dreams… should see Paerish’s persistence pay off. Glowering and gloomy and full of riffs that trigger both nostalgia and a sense of being alive, it’s a stunning album that sees the band at its best.
“Will literally said to us that if we don’t tour the U.S. with this album, the album is wasted,” beams Court.
The band could be resentful about having to do so, and the extra effort it has already taken and will continue to take, but it’s not. There’s still a long way to go before they reach that door, but Paerish is getting ever closer to opening it and seeing what’s on the other side.
“We’d been playing almost empty shows for seven years,” says Court, “so being able to say that you’ve done all that we’ve done, it’s always going to be worth it from now on. We still have that drive, and when you know where we come from, I feel like it’s really not an easy task, so I’m really fucking proud of us. ”
“And we’ve done all of it,” adds Dupraz with a wry smile, “without cheating.”