Louis Romégoux is an Anglo-French musician born and raised in Sheffield, England but now living in south-eastern Austria amongst the vineyards and orchards of South Styria. Drawing on influences from both sides of the channel, as well as a few from across that larger Atlantic pond, Louis sound captures the essence of folk in its raw, free flowing form. Encompassing ever-expanding boundaries. Louis recently released his latest EP “Milou” and we decided to catch up with singer-songwriter to talk about and compare some very important things between his adopted and native homes. Like whether fish and chips are better than Schnitzel, and if English beer can beat an Austrian drop.
Ottakringer or a good old can of Carling? Ottakringer all the way! A can of Carling is for seriously desperate times like a genuine request from an audience member for a James Blunt tune half way through your set.
Schnitzel and Pommes or Fish and Chips? Difficult one. Had a fair few dodgy Schnitzels but the same can be said of Fish and Chips (don’t people say it’s always nicer the closer you are to the sea? If the same applies to Schnitzel then in Austria a sty is often just round the corner).
A Gasthaus Schnitzel washed down with an ice cold Austrian lager takes some beating, but there’s nothing like peeling back reams of newspaper and seeing that golden-crusted, vinegar-drenched fillet of cod staring you in the face, so yeah. Fish und Chips!
If there was one album you could have made or been a part of apart from your own, what would it be and why? I’m a massive fan of Nashville-based singer Caitlin Rose. Her debut album ‘Own Side Now’ (2010) is an absolute masterpiece and it’s one of the rare albums in which every song is a classic.
Her voice is up there with Jeff Buckley in the way it draws you into to every note and the album combines melancholy with certain confident cheekiness which I love. I would’ve been thrilled to have sung a few harmonies on that album or just watched the whole thing happen in the studio.
Hopeless romantic or pragmatic realist? Hopeless romantic. I mean singer-songwriters have to be don’t they? If we started being pragmatic it’d all get very dull.
If your music was a drink, what would it be? Zwickl, Austrian unfiltered lager. What you get is beer, but it’s hazy and doesn’t necessarily look like beer, but it tastes like it and after a few you’re too confused to remember what it was that perplexed you about it in the first place.
A traditional Vienna beisl or an English country pub? English country pub. Usually a broader selection of ales, less slapping of lederhosen-clad thighs and much less passive smoking. I’m partial to the odd Buschenschank (vineyard pub) in Styria though.
Austria or England (football team): Austria. They’re forever the underdog and being a long-suffering Sheffield United fan they get my vote. Plus I was an exchange student in Klagenfurt back in 2008 when the European Championships were here and have an Austrian club strip so I need to see it get some use from time to time.
If you were stuck on an island, which celebrity, which book, which film and which album would you HATE to have with you?
Celebrity has got to be Russell Brand. I’m not a great fan. Book would have to be something like EL James’ ‘50 Shades of Grey’, not really my cup of tea! Film would be ‘Juno’, I just don’t understand the hype and the characters pissed me off.
Album would be the Vengaboys ‘The Party Album!’, man! That song ‘We’re going to Ibiza’ was played so much on local radio as a kid and it still does my head in when I hear it. No you’re not going to Ibiza, you’re probably stuck in a traffic jam with the rain pouring down heading to Scunthorpe for a conference on abattoir management or something. (SiM – this song is probably going to stay in your head all day. Welcome to your nightmares)
Watching Skiiing? Love it or hate it? Why? I’m not that fussed about skiing. The slaloms seem to really get the Austrians going when the winter sports are on the TV, I often hear the neighbours whooping and cheering so it’s obviously to be taken seriously.
Ashamedly, I’m yet to ski in Austria since moving out here 4 years ago, so perhaps this winter I’ll take to the pistes, but to be honest from what friends tell me, it seems like a day of schnapps and not much skiing. I’m in!
Your favourite curse word? “Du Saubartl!” Most Austrian swear words contain a reference to pigs, in this case meaning, “You sows’ beard!” What an amazing insult! We’ve all met Saubartls in life and now they have a word.
3 songs which have to go into every “singer-songwriter” playlist:
A Dylan tune. There’s always a place for Bob Dylan so perhaps a classic like “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall”
John Martyn. I’ve occasionally done the odd Martyn cover or two. A phenomenal singer and guitarist who is probably most famous for ‘May You Never’, so that’s gotta be included here.
I’ve always loved Manu Chao’s music and a cover of his song ‘Clandestino’ usually goes down well with it’s laid back tempo and my dodgy Spanish.
If you could play a gig anywhere in the world, where would it be? I once saw a documentary on these tiny hill churches in Armenia, miles away from anywhere and centuries old. I’d love to take my guitar somewhere like that and play songs in such an ancient place with tonnes of natural reverb and a backdrop of spectacular, cascading views. Don’t know if many people would turn up though, a few mountain goats perhaps, but it’d be a once in a lifetime experience that’s for sure!
Acoustic or electric (guitar/music)? I’m a huge fan of both. Whereas a lot of people I know might look back with embarrassment on those nu-metal CDs they bought in their teens, I still love listening to the stuff I found cool aged 13 and would far rather listen to some loud guitar-driven rap-metal like Rage Against the Machine than some twee, sugarsweet acoustic indie-pop. On the whole I probably listen to more acoustic guitar based music, but genres are so interchangeable it’s hard to find purely acoustic music these days unless you delve deep into the folk world.
How many World Cup 2014 matches did you watch? Pretty much every game. I’m quite an addict, in fact I worry about what’ll happen to my evenings when the games are over and there’s less of an excuse for beer and barbecues.
Your favourite bar in Austria is…….why? Without a doubt my neighbour Hannes’ ‘Buschenschank Riedl’ in Petzles, a little hamlet where I live in South Styria. It’s a great place to get the lowdown on countryside happenings and in the long winters all sorts of card games happen.
The wines come from vineyards only 10 metres from my house and are affordable and delicious. Plus there’s this wonderful “medicinal” schnapps which is, as I’m often told is “good for you” after several Käferbohnen (scarlet runner beans) and Speck (cured meaty bacon thing).
Something you enjoy doing in Austria in the summer is……… Growing vegetables. I’m a bit of a self-confessed amateur gardener and I love being able to grow things you’d never have any luck with growing in the UK. Living in what the local tourist board like to call the “Mediterranean” part of Austria, we’ve got successfully fruiting olives and all sorts of different chili peppers that without a greenhouse you’d struggle to get anywhere with in Yorkshire.
Your teenage celebrity crush was……. Mena Suvari in the American Pie films. Hübsch!
4 albums you couldn’t live without…. why?
Neil Young, “On the Beach”. My dad has a rare vinyl pressing of this and I spent many an afternoon in my youth listening to it on repeat. Lyrics like “I need a crowd of people, but I just can’t face them day to day” (“On the Beach”) and “you’re all just pissing in the wind” (“Ambulance Blues”) are totally brilliant.
Jeff Buckley, “Live at Siné”. ‘Grace’ is a great album, but on this compilation of live recordings you get to hear that majestic, celestial voice of his roar out into a little NYC café crowd and then swoop down to a bare whisper. A bona fide genius.
The Doors, “Morrison Hotel”. I only really discovered The Doors a few years ago and what really won me over was the rousing opener “Roadhouse Blues”, which is probably the most played song in the car, especially when travelling through the windy roads up to Graz with the windows down and the volume up to 11.
Cave In, “Jupiter”. Cave In were my favourite band as a teenager. For me Jupiter combines all the best of the post-hardcore generation of bands. In ‘Jupiter’ they were unafraid to combine beautifully sung vocals with distorted guitars and Zappa-esque song constructions. That build up to the crescendo in “New Moon” is intelligent rock music at it’s finest. Check them out.
Sum up Austria in 5 words. Stunning, Regional, Traditionalist, Misunderstood, Tipsy
What have you got planned for the rest of the year? Any gigs planned on the back of your recent EP?
Lots! I’m heading back to the UK next week for some gigs in Sheffield and a summer university course, then there are several gigs planned in Austria for the summer and autumn. A highlight of my upcoming gig calendar has got to be my gig at Cafe Concerto in Vienna on Saturday 16th August. A very good mate of mine from Sheffield Andrew Duxfield is coming over for a gig. He’s an incredibly gifted blues & folk guitarist with a fine voice to boot so I’d urge people to head down to that gig. I’m also hoping to bring some of the musicians who (all based in the UK) played on my first full band EP ‘Milou’ out to central Europe for a small tour too, flights and funds permitting. I’d really like to return to Italy and do another little tour there sometime later this year as well.
Aside from gigging, I’m currently compiling and arranging traditional folk songs from the Südsteiermark where I live, with the intention of recording an album of reworked folk songs from Austria, Yorkshire and the Ardèche in France where my French family come from. It’s a project that’s got me really excited, especially all the dialects I have to learn and the little bit of Slovenian I need to master too. I’ll hopefully have something out for early 2015.