Nirvana-grass video from The Grasslers

The Grasslers – photo by Peggy Porquet

We’ve covered The Grasslers once before, a French bluegrass band with a passion for steampunk imagery, 19th century Americana, and sweeping cinematic vision. Oh, and the music of Curt Cobain and Nirvana.

When we last caught up with them, they were raising money for a short film, a full-on Western-style music video for Smells Like Teen Spirit, the 1992 mega-hit for Nirvana which launched the grunge movement. The Grasslers have re-imagined the song in a fantasy old west where there are motorcycles and automobiles, but somehow it all works in this extremely detailed and large scale production.

Christophe Richard, aka Johnny West, is the band’s guitarist and lead singer, and he tells us that they pulled the shoot off with a cash budget of only 3000€, which they raised online. That covered the camera and lighting rental, plus a director and catering costs. The location for the shoot was traded for a pair of unpaid concerts by the band, and the costumes and accessories for a credit in the film.

Richard must be a very persuasive fellow, as he convinced several dozen folks to take part just for the fun of it – including a lengthy bar fight scene.

“We are a young band, without a lot of money but with so many ideas, great motivation, an unfailing trust in our projects, and a special ability to communicate this energy around us! 

There were 70 persons during the 2 days of the film shooting: 50 extras and 20 technical staff. Everybody volunteered for the sake of fun and not for money. So the filming days’ ambiance was so dynamic and unstressed. I prepared a lot of things ahead of the shooting in order to be more relaxed during those days. The only person having a film making experience is the director, but he had never played a game like this with so many people to manage. He used to film some firm promotion videos and weddings.”

The other members of The Grasslers played the remaining lead roles: Yvan Bouc as Trinity Gordon on banjo/dobro, Nicolas Desvignes as El Padre on mandolin, Christophe Gamonet as Thomas Spencer on bass, and François Brey as Willy Wild on fiddle.

The Grasslers are based in the Mediterranean town of Cabriès in the south of France, where they perform regularly with their mix of standard bluegrass along with covers they describe as PopGrass. Some of the other familiar bands they cover include The Beatles, Avicii, Bruce Springsteen, Depeche Mode, Rag’n’Bone, and Dire Straits. You can hear more on the band’s YouTube channel.

Christophe says that they hope to get started on an EP early next year, with an eye towards touring in the US at some point.

Well done!

You can follow The Grasslers online, or on Facebook.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.