29 Sep
Questioning The Parameter Of What A Band Is…And Could Be.


Words by Cristina Fisher / Photos by Robert Kieran

On a recent Saturday night at Mountain Bar in the tiled-roof heart of Chinatown, downtown LA, Optimo was billed to DJ. Ducking in between the pagodas, and walking up creaky steps to the 2nd floor, I was hit by a wall of fog in near complete darkness. The crowd was small, but a good mix of scruffy east side artist types, indie music heads, gay/straight, and a general splattering of random, unassuming people. Inside, everyone was wide-eyed and rocking to the infectious shouts of Rob English of the post-punk, electro group Panthère. Industrial, raw, minimal synths with pounding basslines, this live show felt more like the afterhour techno clubs of Berlin than a downtown LA soiree. It was a fresh respite from the heavy-handed, look-at-me Hollywood hipster scene.

Enter design collective Le Branché.

Le Branché is a multidisciplinary and collaborative crew of creative heads consisting of designers Jean Marc Virard, Rob English, Anthony Franco and fashion stylist Audrey Montgaillard, whose sphere of art also happens to include music. Their noise is so spot-on in fact that it’s hard to imagine that they are visual artists foremost. The sounds of De Signer easily rival some of the best electro/pop acts out there right now, where as Panthére channels a dark, post-punk, almost Factory Records sound. Both are modernizing their nod to a visionary era. And much like what was happening in downtown NYC in the early ‘80s, the Le Branché crew is questioning the parameter of what a band is…and could be.

“We reference LA a lot in the music, specifically downtown LA,” says English. “We felt like downtown was a metaphor for a new LA. When you think of LA for the most part you think of Hollywood, movies, Snoop Dog or heavy metal, and glam clubs. We took that as a metaphor for this emerging LA that has something kind of New York, Manhattan about it, something cultural. We really tried to rep that specifically so it connected to Downtown 81.”

The NY underground scene of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s was a time when genres collided, art birthed icons and fashion cemented its place on music’s alter. A time when the Clash got together with graffiti artist Futura 2000, when Keith Haring danced all night at the Paradise Garage and Jean-Michel Basquiat not only brought street art into the galleries, but played in a band, produced music and acted—check the aforementioned Downtown 81. The friction, the struggle, the daring fans—they all played a role in muddling the distinction between art and creator. It was a perfect balance of the unbalanced.

The group’s musical kinship with that legendary time becomes more poignant when you discover that their art is taken more serious than commerce and creativity always trumps formula. You hear it in JMV’s productions—how Audrey’s cold and seductive French manner rides effortlessly alongside English’s MCing. You see it in Ant’s videos that accompany their set. “This is why it’s interesting,” says JMV. “To go and mix things without really mixing them. Trying to respect each thing for what they are. When I first met Ant it was very interesting how he was into minimal music and minimal art. It was very avant-garde, very experimental. This is the area that we come from, from that ‘80s thing where there were no rules.”

De Signer “Francois Premier

De Signer “1-2-3 Love

De Signer “Virgin Air

Panthére “Lets Dance”

Looking at how the music industry isn’t doing so well, it seems like the ushering in of a new kind of musician, in that musicians are going to have to do a little bit more. It’s like what are you offering people outside of just music that’s going to help connect them to the music in an emotional way, and help them connect to you.”

– Rob English

Make the jump to read our interview…


top to bottom/left to right—like reading: Audrey Montgaillard,  Jean Marc Virard, Rob English & Anthony Franco

Is the LA scene, in general, becoming one meshed genre?
Anthony: There are still camps in LA. There are the Hollywood crews, the Silver Lake crews; everyone is sort of influenced by the same type of music now, listening to the same stuff.
Rob English: The culture is kinda light.
Jean Marc Virard: LA is so new, though, it’s a virgin spot. In every big city you’re gonna have tribes. Obviously you’re gonna find the same thing in LA. When Audrey and I arrived here six years ago we found LA pretty poor in terms of music. The best example, we’ve been doing this music for four years now and in the beginning people didn’t get rap with disco. We were doing the Italo disco thing while nobody was listening to disco. Disco for them was Earth Wind and Fire. They didn’t get there was another type of disco.

In Chicago, I’ve witnessed two disco revivals. In the early ‘90s loft scene, where the second wave of DJs, producers and record labels emerged, DJs played homage to disco classics and industry greats such as Ron Hardy and Frankie Knuckles, whose legendary sets at the Music Box and Warehouse spanned genres from disco to soul and new wave, and broke boundaries just a decade earlier. It wasn’t uncommon for them to drop a disco and classics set. Tracks like Machine’s “There But For the Grace of God Go I” easily erupted peak dancefloors and sounded just as exciting for a new generation. The filtered disco era of the mid- to late- ‘90s became massive and the French touch moment, ie Daft Punk, Cassius and Stardust’s “Music Sounds Better With You” took the sound to new global heights. Once again disco is the music of the moment. At a time when some throw the term disco around far too loosely, we continue to dig in order to find the quality and soul it once had. And like with any art, you must know its history before you can reinterpret it. Le Branché embraces this.

The crew came together organically, foremost as artists, with a shared art sensibility. JMV and Audrey hail from France. Audrey is petite and soft-spoken, but projects a sort of sharp modernity that is both inimitable and unforced. JMV, though always donned in super fashionable gear, comes across as unpretentious and genuine, greeting you with a warm embrace. Well-spoken and down to earth, English grew up on the south side of Chicago. He visited a friend in LA in the mid-Nineties and never returned (like yours truly). Ant is a Southern Cali native who gives off an artistic skater vibe. The group juggles Le Branché with coveted industry day jobs: JMV does marketing and consulting for Puma, Audrey styles and works at Fred Segal, English is an art director for a lifestyle ad agency and Ant designs for Stüssy. One might think having creative jobs would be enough, but Le Branché offers them an outlet to create exactly what they want on their own terms. Every artist’s ideal. The crew works on all projects on a collaborative scale, discussing concepts and story ideas as a team.

JMV: The way we conceptualize stuff we really think about 5th, 6th dimension. Marketing is actually like a form of art. We really respect each level of production of a song, a video, a graphic. Everybody thinks global, which is pretty common nowadays. This is the main idea when we start to come with the whole concept of bringing a new type of house; it is really like a creative bureau versus a record label or a video production company.
RE: There is a love of design and design culture coming from everybody. From architecture to fashion to books, style aesthetics. Everybody is getting influences and references from different genres of art. We’re pulling from our own personal resources. This is creative expression coming from me, whether it’s musical, or physical, or digital, or printed. Looking at how the music industry isn’t doing so well, it seems like the ushering in of a new kind of musician, in that musicians are going to have to do a little bit more. It’s like what are you offering people outside of just music that’s going to help connect them to the music in an emotional way, and help them connect to you.

At a time when peoples’ favorite track is simply a Genius Playlist slot on their iPod, this makes sense. They represent where music is headed, by means of social networking, and putting a face on their music. Through their website, their videos offer a feel for their brand, personality and style—a sort of abstract visual calling card, even though marketing can be tough, especially in a city of hustlers. Landing gigs has been challenging, partly because LA is “so clicky” and because they don’t fit neatly into one definitive box. “We never try to be exclusive, we hate that,” says JMV.

“If there is something exclusive about what we’re doing, it’s probably just because by nature everybody is kinda avant garde and a little bit weird,” English explains. “ It might be exclusive in the sense that you might not get it, but we’re always open. Feel comfortable doing you, because that’s gonna make us feel comfortable about doing us.”

Do you ever feel lumped in with the French invasion of electronic music, French Touch part deux, ie Ed Banger and Yelle?
Audrey: Yelle, she’s pretty big here. They play her at Fred Segal all day long. I’m like if she can make it, I can make it too. [But] I don’t compare myself to her…she’s a package to me. I don’t see myself as a package. But what she does is cool.
JMV: With Audrey it’s less planned out and more discreet. More mature, more sophisticated.
RE: JMV and Audrey, because they’re from France, it has always been a part of what we do, but it wasn’t like, OK, well let’s throw some French in it. It was more: so this is them expressing their side of the fence. I see it as less Yelle, more Visage. Because Audrey is a real, cultural fashion person from her background, with her parents growing up in a famous boutique in Paris, she comes to the mic like Donatella Versace coming to the mic, more so than Uffie. It’s not like let me pretend to be a rapper.

What’s next for the group is a physical release; they plan to spread their name on a larger scale. By following a DIY refrain, they have few demands and nothing to lose. “The powerful thing of doing the DIY shit is that you don’t have to explain anything. It’s such a luxury to have the capability to do whatever you want without any pressure from anybody, especially not numbers.”

This is not to say at some point they wouldn’t be open to signing on the dotted line. “The music industry is going through a forced evolution…fast. For someone like us our ideal partner would be someone like The Moca, Taschen, Comme Des Garçons…even Urban Outfitters,” English explains. “You need a company that understands merchandising, and how to build a  sustainable multi-faceted brand…with quality. Because music is free.”


No Responses to “De Signer + Panthére = Le Branché”

  1. Nikki Palace says:

    lovely piece…

  2. de la serna says:

    there is a lovely place in the postrevolutionary gulag reserved for those who commodify revolutionary commodification. poseurs, preparez-vous! art cannot be revolutionary until there is a revolution, and you, pauvres bourgeois, are not the revolutionaries.

  3. Andy Dick says:

    Solid production. I’m surprised they haven’t been signed yet.

  4. rosa says:

    WOW!!! I am becoming a fan for sure, aren’t they huge yet? i just found them on I-tunes now.
    Crazy sound, real modern, futuristic and very unique beats, outstanding, top-notch production, love love the combination of female voice (O.M.G! i saw her face she is so cute too, so French looking) with the French accent, very sexy new wave vocals and the male voice, very strong mannish but very different from the typical urban music, it is almost listening to the Hacienda era but in 2010.
    My new favorite band! DESIGNERSRULETHEWORLD

  5. Peter B. says:

    Guys! You guys look fresh. Next level!
    Thank you.

  6. patt says:

    Finally something with a real attitude and not some “deja vu”
    thing. Very impressive!

  7. Viktor Selma says:

    I was @ the Mountain Bar and saw them too the same day, and i got blown away! (by the way i wasn’t one of the gay dudes, lol) they looked so grimey, so modern punk disco shit, i mean i don’t even know how to discribe them, but they are not bobo for sure! i bite that shit.

  8. K-vibes says:

    Pure hotness!!!!!!

  9. camerin says:

    do it up son!

  10. BEATRIZ says:


  11. supaside says:

    Dopeness, something different and refreshing!

  12. Jimmy Cao says:

    4 X DOPE!!!!

  13. […] the Lost In a Supermarket Launch Party at Liberace’s penthouse, along with design collective Le Branché. We were totally overwhelmed by the RSVP response and had to shut the list down on Friday morning. […]

  14. […] a month ago we did a feature on art collective Le Branché. Peep the article here. We love these guys. Here’s a video they just made for their Panthére single, “Isis”. It was […]

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