Amelia’s Magazine | An interview with the charismatic front man of La Shark: Samuel Geronimo Deschamps

La Shark_emmi ojala
La Shark by Emmi Ojala.

If you’re living in the doldrums, cheapest drugs London based band La Shark may be just the cure for your bored eardrums. It’s been a rare occurrence to come across a band that gets me excited, dosage but La Shark has got me PUMPED. La Shark’s charismatic front man Samuel Geronimo Deschamps talks their latest single A Weapon, touring with Paloma Faith, what to expect (or not) from the band in the future and what makes people so opinionated about their music.

In a chance first encounter with the band in a botched effort to see another band, my friend and I unknowingly stumbled into and were consequentially treated to the delightful mix of poetry and music presented by The Soapbox Club, a monthly club night hosted by Derek Meins (now performing as The Agitator). La Shark, previously Le Shark (inconveniently also a clothing company of the same name), played a refreshingly quirky set: full of danceable, sing-a-long-able, get weird-able songs dripping with personality, enhanced by Samuel Geronimo Deschamps’ characteristically unusual delivery. It immediately incited an antsy excitement at first listen. Suspiciously good for a band we had just happened to stumble across. This was back in May of ’08 when the band wasn’t yet blogged about and they were still a mysterious, hidden gem: the type of band one likes to “discover” and adopt as their own. Flash forward two years and you’ll find a lot of people have now discovered the charm of La Shark. The five piece New Cross based band have secured themselves a spot on the underground music radar through their quirky pop tunes, buzzed about live performances, and a rep for being that peculiar artsy band touring with acts such as The Maccabees, Good Shoes and Paloma Faith.

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The video for A Weapon.

The fresh and exciting vision of La Shark is really shaking things up. The band’s innovative approach to music has been dubbed a musical enigma, stumping just about anyone who has attempted to pigeonhole or categorize the band (Samuel Geronimo Deschamps, lead vocals; N.H.A. Buxton, drums; Lewis ‘Love’ Maynard, bass; Benjamin Francis Markham; Guitar, Sami El-Enany; keyboards). As a result, people are going nutty trying out appropriate terms (Vaudevillian Pop, Cabaret Pop, Freak Pop), searching for hints of something comparable to the whirring, whizzing, funhouse sound intermingled with a darker, off kilter, Vaudeville influence. During my phone chat with Deschamps, he suggests it’s because people like to be music critics, “At the end of the day they like to make sense of what they’re listening to and they like to go ‘I can hear a little bit of this in it and a little bit of this’. It’s their way of making sense of it.” He admits to finding comparisons interesting to hear, both negative and positive, as long as they aren’t consistently compared to one band or artist singularly. Otherwise, he stresses, “We’d be like ‘shit, we’re just ripping off a band that did this 25 years ago!’”

Talking Heads, David Bowie and Prince are some of the artists being thrown into the mix of the melting pot of genres from which La Shark draws inspiration, and to which they are compared. All of which can be noted on their single A Weapon (April, So Darn So) which is a new direction for the band: less dramatic, more groove. “Rather than releasing something old, we start off with something fresh and really truthful to us at the time” explain Deschamps, “We’ve been working a lot more on funk based dance music and working on interesting bass sounds.” While the band is experimenting with a step into something different, he points out they’re constantly reflecting on their material from the past so it’s still true to the band’s original aesthetic- what was once described as ‘riddle pop’.

La Shark by Katherine Tromans
Samuel Geronimo Deschamps by Katherine Tromans.

A portion of La Shark’s success can be credited to a reputation for their must-see highly energetic and theatrical live performances where the topsy turvy musical madness is visually and physically expressed – whether through the occasional painted face and costumes or Deschamps’ oh- so -deft dance moves. Controlling their set and giving the audience a journey is something La Shark focuses on experimenting with and building upon. “It’s about finding the balance between writing music that has sort of catchy pop credentials but also music that takes you into a new place, a new atmosphere that you’re not used to” he emphasizes, “It takes you out of your comfort zone musically and we see how that works live.”

Earlier this year, they took their live act on the road supporting the ever glamorous Paloma Faith on tour, which proved to be an intense experience for the band. However, the pressure of playing to large venues brought the guys together, “we felt like a unit for the first time… like one moving body of musicians moving together.” Whether loved or hated for their unconventionality, they gave it every last bit of energy they could. Deschamps notes his personal onstage strategy “dance until I’ve sweated a pint and hopefully people will be like ‘He can’t sing but at least he’s got a shit load of energy!’” With a live show he laughingly describes as “confrontational”, it has ruffled a few feathers. It’s not uncommon for his onstage persona (a French spouting, flame haired, ferociously vigorous madman- in the best way, of course), the band collectively, and/or the music to be misunderstood by the audience. “I feel very honest when I’m on stage- sometimes people completely misunderstand and make it something it’s not”, which has been a frustrating experience as newcomers to public scrutiny. But alas, Deschamps is not concerned, “At the end of the day, you just need a team of people whose opinions you really value”.

So what lies ahead for La Shark? The band is thinking about releasing a double sided EP to suit their two-sided musical tastes –part hip hop funk influenced dance tunes, part classically influenced, Edith Piaf-y drama. “Sometimes I just want to bring people into this world where they’re like ‘whoaa’ rather than them just whacking their heads”, says Deschamps of the forthcoming EP’s diversity. He does acknowledge the importance of the band finding the balance between skillfully executed eclecticism and confused, hot mess territory. The EP would act as a test drive so the band can gauge people’s reactions to both sides of La Shark’s musical personality. As for a potential future full length album, it’s possible there won’t be one. He explains “We might plan on releasing it in a different form…release one song a week, a year or something crazy like that. We don’t want to use the typical format, necessarily.” 

Not pursuing the predictable path seems to be a theme for the band- which is exactly why La Shark has been piquing interest in otherwise jaded music followers of today. When not touring, the band can be found playing their own gigs or with Brazilian artist Cibelle (as a few La Shark band members are also members of Cibelle’s band, Los Stroboscopious Luminous). They also can be found at their monthly club night Deptford Darling where you can expect to hear an assortment of covers.  “We want to do Changes by Tupac. We’re really into commercial nineties hip hop at the moment”, he laughs, “It’s different from us but so fucking catchy”. Whether covering 90s hip hop or absorbing the influence of the great French entertainer Maurice Chevalier, La Shark has a little bit of something for everyone.  Whoever said less is more?

Categories ,Cibelle, ,Deptford Darling, ,Emmi, ,Emmi Ojala, ,Good Shoes, ,interview, ,Katherine Tromans, ,La Shark, ,paloma faith, ,Samuel Geronimo Deschamps, ,The Maccabees, ,The Soapbox Club

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