Brooklyn indie-rock quartet the French Kicks sidestep success to go its own way 

The French Kicks are a good band to know. In addition to making supple, engaging indie rock, the quartet seems to have great taste in opening bands.

"Opening for us is a great career move," frontman Nick Stumpf said. "There's a long list of bands that opened for us that have gone on to sell over 100,000 records. We were thinking we could charge money: If you're a band and want to take it to the next level, for the low price of $40,000, you can open for us."


While he may be laughing, Stumpf isn't joking. OK Go, The Futureheads, The Fiery Furnaces, Idlewild, Frightened Rabbit and Sound Team are a few of the bands to join the Kicks on tour, and local rockers Mayola and Toil and Trouble will join them for a 9 p.m. Sunday show at the Opolis in Norman.

Were they interested in limiting their music a bit and locking into a consistent sound, the band members might have enjoyed the same successes, but that's just not their way.

Indeed, when Stumpf met guitarist Josh Wise, their initial connection was over the Palace Brothers and weird, offbeat country-folk, yet their first recordings gravitated to the kind of angular post-punk long associated with their old home of Washington, D.C.

The pair moved to New York, tightening and honing their hooks along the way. Soon, the anxious garage-y bluster was earning approbation and comparisons to a passel of suddenly popular " and in retrospect, distinctly different " area acts like The Strokes, Interpol and old friends The Walkmen.

"It's always a little frustrating to be lumped into things because you like to believe you're doing your own thing. You want to talk about the ways it's not like everybody else, as opposed to the other way around," Stumpf said.

The band sidestepped backlash by continuing to grow its sound, leaning further to the pop side on 2006's "Two Thousand," with swirling keyboards, strummy guitars and tightly woven arrangements, highlighted by the still-edgy shuffle of "So Far We Are." The act followed it last year with the more laid-back and dreamy "Swimming." Labeled as an organic reinvention that shaved off the excesses of the prior album, it was hardly that calculated, though the group did produce the album on its own for the first time.

"The point of doing this for us is to try new things and try to keep our selves interested," Stumpf said. "We've always known what the record was going to be about only when the record was done. We've never had any plans of any kind. There's an upside to that and a downside, but that's always been how it is."

Last fall, six months after "Swimming" was released, the band put out its "Covers" EP, which was culled from more than a dozen tracks the members recorded on a lark.

"We were just jerking off," Stumpf said. The members then chose their favorite four songs, including a pass at Lindsey Buckingham's "Trouble," Carole King's "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" and "Caroline Goodbye," by former Zombie Colin Blunstone.

Stumpf said he doesn't know when the group will start writing music for its next album, but it's assured that he'll have no more idea what it'll sound like then than he does now.

"If you know what you're doing," he said, "you're inherently already over-thinking it.""Chris Parker

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