IT'S UNCANNY how much musical gold Revolver has sifted from American soil in such little time—not only the obvious Simon & Garfunkel and Bob Dylan influences, but further back to the barbershop quartet stylings inspired by the Mills Brothers. More interesting is the fact that vocalist/guitarist Christophe Musset doesn't know what a barbershop quartet even is.
The Parisian trio's infatuation with American music is countered by two of the members' classical backgrounds. It's most evident on their 2009 LP Music for a While, named after a composition by one of their lesser-known influences, English baroque composer Henry Purcell. There's a stateliness to the album, which bursts at the seams with hooks and those distinct harmonies. The members sing in English, less a conscious decision than simply part of their musical education.
"It came naturally," Musset explains from his apartment in Paris. "We learned how to speak English by listening to Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Elliott Smith." Musset is the most rock and roll of the three. Members Ambroise Willaume and Jérémie Arcache were classically trained from age six; the latter didn't discover pop music—or any other type of music for that matter—until his late teens.
Revolver (named, not surprisingly, after the Beatles album) began its crash course in American Pop 101 just over three years ago in a small apartment where paper-thin walls limited them to only acoustic instruments and their three voices. They released Pop de Chambre in 2008, a record whose songs leaned toward the folkier side. Their latest EP, Parallel Lives, is a return to those spare recordings where harmonies and strings are the centerpiece. "It was good to come back and play live songs acoustically," says Musset. "It fits these songs better."
The release coincides with the band's first-ever tour of the States (their only previous domestic performances were a couple of radio sessions). And with that, America appears ready to embrace these young, fresh fellows from France. For Musset, the thought of playing the songs he wrote in that small Paris apartment at SXSW and in Portland, the city he associates with his hero Elliott Smith, hasn't really sunk in quite yet. "From my point of view it's very exciting to be in the States just to play our songs," he says, although I have a feeling he'll get used to it.