INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
Jefferson “Jeff” Fichou is currently best known for being the lead guitarist for Los Angeles-based, French-originated indie-rock/folk six-piece Charly & Faust, but now, he hopes to be recognised as a solo artist with a new musical project, J.E.F.F. II.
Having already released a debut single, entitled ‘Sleepless’, with the video for that currently getting much coverage on social media, and with his first album coming out soon, Jeff went into further detail about the project with me, as well as what he hopes to get from it.
How did this project come about?
I’ve been playing in bands for many years. I still do, but I needed to release my own music at some point. I had a lot of pre-written material in my computer, but it took me a few months to settle down and start to work on my tracks.
It takes some time to develop your identity as a solo musician, but there’s no better feeling than releasing music that is your own.
From where did the name J.E.F.F. II originate?
Well, my high school friends used to call me “J-E-2“, because they listened to a lot of hip-hop, and I was the only rock dude in the group.
I wanted to keep the name simple and catchy, and everybody has been calling me “Jeff” for years, so it was a natural choice for me.
I use the number II (two in Roman numerals) for aesthetic reasons, it also looks dope as a logo, and it’s easy to include in the merch.
I initially wanted to keep my real family name, but then, I figured out that it would be impossible for English speakers to pronounce.
I’m from France originally, but now I live in Los Angeles, so I’m trying to fit in!
How would you describe your sound?
It’s a blend of electronic music and guitar-driven rock n’ roll, with a bit of pop as well, and I think my music can appeal to electro fans, hard rockers, pop-punk guys, and guitar nerds.
It’s hard to put a label on it, as it’s too electronic to be considered as pure rock, but it has too much of a rock vibe to really be described as electronic dance music (EDM), and the riffs and energy are both similar to pop-punk.
What are your main musical influences?
As a producer, I like bands such as The Prodigy, for their beats and energy, and The Glitch Mob, for their very chiseled and interesting production.
As a guitarist and rock n’ roll fan in general, I like Jimi Hendrix, The Stooges, Guns N’ Roses, Van Halen, I also like punk rock, with its high tempo and high energy, and I also play funk and blues guitar, so I try to throw a few Fender Stratocaster licks into the songs.
My favourite guitarists are John Frusciante and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and I spent a few years playing with jazz musicians, so I do sometimes like to play some old be-bop tunes, but the jazz aspect isn’t really obvious in my music.
What is your approach to songwriting?
I usually start by writing a riff on the guitar, then I will record it with a synthesizer. From there, I will add a groove or a beat, then mess around with some effects and samples, and later on, I will throw some lead guitar licks into the mix, as for me, it’s all about vibes and textures.
There are no specific messages in my songs, I just want to write a good instrumental track that people will either enjoy in the comfort of their own homes, or during a live performance.
I like to play with dynamics a lot, my songs, with their ups and downs, are like a journey.
How is the experience, for yourself, of playing live?
At the moment, I’m actually rehearsing, to get ready for touring next year. I have done some solo gigs in the past, but never with the current formula, as I’ve been too busy being a guitarist for other bands/artists all of my life, and it’s going to be exciting to lead, as well as to showcase what I’ve been working on for months now.
Initially, it wasn’t easy for me trying to figure out a way to play my music live, but eventually, I started to build this concept of me DJing and playing guitar at the same time, with a bassist and drummer behind me. It’s like a rock band with a DJ/guitarist up front, instead of a singer.
Touring aside, what have you got lined up for the near future?
I will be bringing out a new album soon, and of course, there will be a lot of gigs to support that. Also, there’s a new music video, and single, in the works, maybe even a collaboration with someone, as well as some re-mixes, so for me, it’s going to be a very busy few months ahead!
The video for my last track, ‘Sleepless’, has been doing quite well on social media, so I will try to contact as many people as I can, to help my project move forward.
You mentioned a new album then. How has the recording process been for that?
It was a blast! I usually record some demos very quickly, then I will spend weeks and weeks editing them, adding some effects, some extra instruments, some vocals, but when you’re doing this kind of music, you need to set some deadlines, otherwise, you’ll be tweaking knobs and making constant changes to your tracks until the end of time.
And finally, what is your long-term aim?
Tour as much as possible, and to grow as big as possible! Also try to reach a new audience and to bring more people along on this journey.
To be honest, this is a tricky question to answer, as many musicians, in my experience, don’t really think long-term, and not a lot of bands can predict where they’re going to be in 10, even five, years, as the industry moves so fast, and we, the music makers, have to try to adapt very quickly.
‘SLEEPLESS’, THE DEBUT SINGLE FROM J.E.F.F. II, IS AVAILABLE NOW, AND HIS FIRST ALBUM WILL BE RELEASED SOON.