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Bandit Bandit hold-up rock

Published on 21/02/2024

Born of a stormy romance and a deep love of music, the group Bandit Bandit sensually plays with the boundaries of rock. Brandishing wild, soaring guitar riffs and sharp lyrics in french, 11 :11, the first album by Maëva Nicolas et Hugo Herleman, who settled in Lyon five years ago, sucks the listener into an electric whirlwind of feminism.

Our interview with Bandit Bandit

Your very first album, 11:11, was released in September 2023. Could you give us the pitch?

Hugo: "We tried to make the music we love. Our guiding thread is obviously rock, but we’re also drawn to French chanson. The album has a few pop and some dance-influenced tracks. There’s sometimes a kind of self-censorship in the middle, with entrenched clichés, butrock can be classy and elegant. We want to break through this barrier!
Maëva: Yes, it’s not just for guys with motorbikes and black jackets [laughs].We also wanted to show people that they can go to a rock concert and hear melody and lyric-driven music. Being pop isn’t a bad thing; I grew up listening to it.

What are your songs about? 

Hugo: They’re very personal; we sing about our story together and humanrelationships. But we also touch on topics that are specific to our generation, including politics and feminism. 
Maëva: In our EP Tachycardie, for example, there’s a song called Désor ganisée, which is about premenstrual symptoms. We also talk about control and the #metoo movement… This doesn’t make my rock any less rock: it’s still wild and free. We want to bring more diversity to this genre’s audience, which is mostly made up of men in their 40s, and say to women or people in their 20s that this music is also for them; they can feel safe coming to our shows.

"Our songs are very personal but we also touch on topics that are specific to our generation."

Before being in a group, Bandit Bandit, you were a couple. Could you tell us about that?

Hugo: I met Maëva in 2015, in Montpellier, through Tinder. Our first conversation was about music. Even before meeting “for real”, we would send each other links to music videos all the time. I was playing in a band called Kursed back then and Maëva was working in music PR. We kind of organically started playing and writing stuff together. 
Maëva: Music has always been the bedrock of our relationship. The first three years were stormy, but we always managed to stay together through music. We were both kind of lost, with addictions and dark things like that… We saved each other through Bandit Bandit.

How did you handle the transition from couple to group? 

Hugo: It all happened very naturally. We made some demos on our computer. We found a tour manager and started playing live shows very soon after. It was a risky move because we were doing everything together. I’m glad that we did though. It was amazing sharing all that together as a couple. We broke up in spring 2023, but lots of people think that we’re still together, because we have this sensual side to our music and our attitude. It’s not an act; that’s just how it is. We have this chemistry.
Maëva: The love is different, but even outside of the “couple thing”, we’re kind of like a two-headed Hydra in Bandit Bandit. We enjoy playing with the hot cold side, and pushing the limits in terms of intensity or words.

Where does your passion for music come from?

Hugo: I got into music when I was 11, by playing guitar. There were no musi cians in my family, but I was brought up on rock by my dad, who was a big fan. I rapidly started writing songs and I knewthat I wanted to make a career of it very early on.
Maëva: I started taking singing lessons when I was 6, and I never stopped. Music really shaped my personality. The artist who I’ve listened to most over my life is Jacques Brel. He fed this compulsive melancholy that I still carry inside me. When I was a child, it was the only thing that could calm me down. Back then,I didn’t really dare to imagine music as a career, because it’s a tough life and I didn’t think I’d have what it takes. With Bandit Bandit, I feel like I’ve found my place in the world.

Do you remember your first show; wasn’t it in Lyon?

Hugo: Yes, it was in Lyon, at the Rock’n Eat in April 2019. It’s kind of a metal bar. We rehearsed a lot because we didn’t want to wing it. Loads of friends came to see us, and we played pretty well. I was used to being on stage, but for Maëva, it was a big thing.
Maëva: I actually threw up just before going on stage [laughs]. I felt so tense all over. After that concert, things happened really fast. We played in France, Belgium and Germany. In October 2019, six months later, we played at the Trianon in Paris in front of 1500 people. It was crazy.

You’re from the south of France and moved to Lyon five years ago. Why did you make this choice?

Maëva: I found a job doing PR at a label called Cold Fame and Hugo came with me. 
Hugo: We knew Montpellier inside out and we wanted to try a bigger city, but we didn’t fancy Paris. We knew lots of people in Lyon, who we had a lot of respect for musically, like the band Last Train. They welcomed us with open arms and became really close friends.

So would you say Lyon’s rock scene is good?

Hugo: Yes, there are loads of rock bandslike Last Train, Johnny Car Wash, After Geography…
Maëva: There are quite a lot of venues to play at like the Transbordeur, Mar ché-Gare, which recently reopened, Le Trokson and La Marquise. This is also partly thanks to the label and tour manager Cold Fame.

You both live on Les Pentes [Translator’s note: the slopes of Croix-Rousse hill]. Do you like the neighbourhood? 

Maëva: I live near Place Sathonay and I love it there. There’s a cool synergy, lots of clubs, bars and thrift shops. It’s silly but it suits us; we’re really proud of our neighbourhood. 
Hugo: I feel at home here. I see people who are kind of like me: men who are deconstructed or in the process of deconstruction; who are fighting for the same things as us. Today, I really feel like a Lyonnais. When people ask, I don’t say that I’m from Montpellier.

Do you plan to stay in Lyon, or is the capital city calling?

Maëva: We’re talking about it. I’m thinking about going to Paris next year. The problem with culture in France isthat it’s still so centralised, particularly with music, when it comes to meeting people, promotion, the media and so on.
Hugo: I haven’t made up my mind yet. If I left Lyon, it would be with a heavy heart

Discover Bandit Bandit's 11:11 album


Bandit Bandit is a story of the lives and music of 28-year-old Maëva Nicolas and 33-year-old Hugo Herleman. Maëva was brought up on a diet of French pop music in the region of Arles. At secondary school, she joined her first band and dreamed, without daring to believe it, of playing on stage. As for Hugo, his childhood in Montpellier had a rock soundtrack. Devastated by his parent’s divorce, music was a form of escape for him as a young man. The young Maëva also used music to heal her wounds. They met in 2015. She was working in music PR at a label, while he was an experienced guitarist playing in the English-singing band Kursed. The two music lovers fell for each other. In 2019, they formed a duo with Bandit Bandit. Filled with moody sensuality, their rock group released two well-received EPs and established itself in Lyon, drawn by an inviting network of fellow musicians. Singer, songwriter and composer Maëva captivates audiences with her powerful voice and enchanting choreographies. Musician, songwriter and composer Hugo complements her with his grinding electric guitar riffs. Offering highly personal and engaging lyrics, their first album 11:11 was released in September 2023, striking a fine balance between rock and pop. They are no longer a couple, but the duo’s on-stage chemistry stirs audiences up into a frenzy. You can see them on the 22nd of March at Ô Totem in Rillieux-la-Pape, as part of the festival Les Chants de Mars.

Maëva's address book

Chez les tartes
“As the name suggests, this is a restaurant specialised in tarts just at the bottom of ‘Les Pentes’. We love this place and hang out there a lot. We’ve become friends with the manager over time.”
“This restaurant deserves a Michelin star. It serves a fusion of Asian and French cuisine. It’s a tiny place and the chef is just incredible; listening to him talk about his dishes is a treat.”
Le théâtre de la Croix-Rousse
The programme on offer here is amazing; it’s so eclectic. I’ve seen some performances here that blew my mind.”

Hugo's address book

Les 3 Chauves
 The ‘croque-monsieur’ [Translator’s note: grilled cheese and ham sandwich] here is not expensive and they have great cider!”
This is a safe place; it feels like Berlin. I’ve been to loads of shows and after-parties here. I’ve seen some really cool things, even with electronic music, which isn’t really my thing. I have memories of people who are very open-minded.”
La Marquise
I used to play here a lot with my old band. There are some cool concerts here. Having this type of venue is so important for young bands and artists.