By Dominique Vidalon
PARIS (Reuters) - In the 1920s Kid Bombardos was the ring name of a young French boxer admired for his hard punches and his speed.
Today, his three great-grand children along with a childhood friend keep up the fighting spirit but on the music stage.
Kid Bombardos, a rock band who sings in English and cites the Velvet Underground and The Strokes as key influences, has built a reputation at home for incendiary guitar riffs, well-crafted songs and intense live performances.
The Bordeaux-based outfit released a debut album "Turnin' Wrong" on September 19 that has won rave reviews from influential French music magazines "Les Inrocks" and "Rock & Folk" and could be the band's chance to break into the mainstream.
"We are super happy. It's reassuring to have an album after all these years of hard work but it also adds pressure to defend that album on stage. We will be scrutinized now," lead singer and guitarist, Vincent Martinelli, 21, told Reuters.
The band, which also includes bassist Thomas Martinelli, 25, drummer Simon Martinelli, 20, and guitarist David Loridan, 23, is part of a young rock scene that has thrived away from the French capital and the big labels.
In cities like Amiens in the North with The Molly's or Toulouse in the Southwest with The Dodoz, these youngsters have honed their skills for years on the bar and festival circuits.
A FAMILY AFFAIR
For Kid Bombardos, music was always a family affair. Supportive parents had them learn to play an instrument from an early age and even bought a van to drive the gang around the country to their gigs. There was also a music-loving uncle.
"Our uncle was an absolute fan of The Kinks and The Smiths. He would give our father all these music compilation tapes he made. We were immersed in music from the start, listening to Velvet Underground when we were three years-old," Vincent said.
The real inspiration to form a band came in the mid-2000s from international acts such as The Strokes, who together with The Libertines, helped revive guitar rock.
Powerful guitar riffs and Vincent's nonchalant and hypnotic voice led the Gallic media to dub Kid Bombardos "The French Strokes," a comparison the singer says is "flattering but simplistic."
Kid Bombardos was part of a new wave of French rock bands that were called les Bebes Rockers (Baby Rockers) because they were 15 or younger when they started.
Unlike many of those now defunct bands, Kid Bombardos did not rush to sign to a music label and release an album.
Instead they built a cult following among music fans and critics thanks to intense live performances across the country, opening for international acts such as Vampire Weekend.
"We did not want to rush. If we had released an album 3 years ago, it would not have been that good. We wanted to be ready. We had potential but we had to work hard and also meet the right people," Vincent said.
Playing the live circuit took the band to Britain two years ago, an experience they would love to repeat soon.
"We adored playing in Britain. We love the Brits even when they drink beer with their backs turned while you are on stage. When you have played a nearly empty club in Northern England, you can play anywhere," said Thomas.
Of the album, he said: "We initially wanted to do something raw like when on stage, then we realized it would be more interesting to develop the pop touch and give people more than just the punchy feel of the live"
The end-result are 12 tracks of short, urgent and coolly relaxed songs, which are like snapshots of their young lives.
"It's about being a teenager, the fear of becoming an adult, and girls, that kind of stuff,"
When asked where they see themselves five years from now, Thomas said: "Releasing our third album and touring the world, one night in Los Angeles, the next in Rio,"
"We will always have the dream to play alongside The Strokes. Otherwise we just want to be able to make a living from our music," Vincent added.
Release: Sept 19
Label: Sober & Gentle
(Reporting By Dominique Vidalon, editing by Paul Casciato)