Interview: Benoit Viellefon and His Hot Club at Harrogate International Festival

Starting Harrogate International Festival in sultry style is Benoit Viellefon and His Hot Club.

A couple dance to Benoit Viellefon and His Hot Club.
A couple dance to Benoit Viellefon and His Hot Club.

The finest musicians on the London jazz scene promise flair and vintage romance as the 1930s Parisian café scene meets American jazz. The ensemble is in demand across Europe, and have played for the likes of Madonna. An evening of sultry sounds, Hollywood elegance and a little ooh la la. Monsieur Benoit answers our Q&A…

To the uninitiated, how would you describe your music?

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We play the music of the 1920-30-40s, hot swing with male three parts harmonies. Think Mills Brothers, Inkspots, or the Four Tops if they were playing swing rather than soul, or Andrew Sisters with a beard. And we play the instruments at the same time at a high standard just because our lives need to be more complicated. To my knowledge nobody does it in the UK, or if there is, they probably sing a on a backing tape as it is almost impossible to do everything well if you have to do sing and play at the same time.

Benoit Viellefon

What would you say to someone to tempt them to come along to the Spiegeltent to try out some new sounds?

I would say it’s old sound, very old, and very cool, the type of gorgeous sound that has been forgotten and replaced by a hosts of beats programmed on a computer. Rediscover the magic of real music, people always get amazed by live performances. I mean, how much is there to see in music played a by a programmed machine?

What’s your ultimate direction for your music? (Fame and fortune?)

Trying to stay alive, we’re always on the brink of extinction. Art budget cuts, venues closed, people have student debt, big mortgages, and the list goes on and on, so nobody wants to pay for music nowadays. We’ll have to stop playing and become estate agents soon I fear... The last five years have been particularly bad for live music and artists in general thanks to the government political and economical choices.

What do you do outside music to rejuvenate your creativity?

I used to play live every day for 12 years, and did nothing else out of necessity to try to make it work. No day off, no week end, no holiday. We’ve tried every form of transport and sandwiches known to humanity. Now I try to slow down, I love literature, history, I study Baroque music on the Ukulele, and I play chess. I also live by the sea since 2017 and it makes a massive difference.

Out of the other acts at the Spiegeltent – who would you love to see and why?

I really don’t know. I’d like to see them all if I had the time, and meet the guys, but they probably have the same predicaments...

I love circus and comedy.

What do you hope audiences will leave with after experiencing your performance?

A copy of my new CD in their pocket obviously, a big smile on their face and some tunes going round and round in their head that will make them want to sing a little... I hope.

What are you most looking forward to about your visit to Harrogate?

We love the production team, they are so cool compared with most of the places we play, and obviously the wonderful audience and the gorgeous Spiegeltent (the pillars are most interesting!)

Anything to add?

Yes, if people like it, please join the mailing list. We don’t use social networks for all the reasons you know.

So we’ll be able to stay in touch with them.

Friday June 29, Spiegeltent, Crescent Gardens, 7.30pm. Tickets: £12. Book online Box Office: 01423 562303.