This HollySiz article was written by Ian Bourne, a GIGsoup contributor
French indie pop wannabe star HollySiz did her best to warm up this trendy little venue on a rare visit to London. HollySiz and her group have played 100 gigs and festivals in the past year, mostly in France with some in Belgium and Switzerland. The four musicians behind peroxide singer HollySiz, aka Cécile Cassel, are not the session musicians on her album, which is a good thing. The live sound is heavier and tighter than the record.
Cécile kicks off with a grand entry, beginning with self-aware opener ‘Intro’, a sort of sample of minor hit ‘Better Than Yesterday’, which will come later. She’s called HollySiz as Siz is her family nickname, short for Cécile, and she likes holly the plant because it’s pretty but spiky if you get too close (also she loves Sissy Spacek as Holly in ‘Badlands’).
Tonight’s humble stage is a far cry from some of HollySiz’s French concert venues and the group takes a while to adjust, having had no sound check. It’s just “plug and play”, she says. ‘The Light’ is delivered with a bit of a scowl. It may be too slow, contemplative and moody to put so near the start. ‘Sponge Friend’ is a more straightforward linear pop song and the tempo picks up another gear with ‘OK’, a bit like Suzi Quatro but with some pretty heavy electronic breaks. “Let’s do some rock ’n’ roll,” is the way HollySiz introduces it.
“Are you ready to dance, London?” is her pretty hyperbolic way to kick off ‘Tricky Game’, but it’s a solid piece of soaring 80s electropop with a nod to late 70s Abba. ‘Miss Know It All’ is all snap, crackle and pop, and ends on an Afro-pop riff. HollySiz hardly stops dancing, except when she’s trying to explain the ‘Dukes of Hazard’ joke behind the mock country and western of ‘Daisy Duke’. Somewhere it’s all lost in translation. The more familiar ‘Better Than Yesterday’ gets a raucous rendition and reception.
HollySiz changes tone with ‘Girl In The Corner’, which she calls a “revenge song” for girls who were never invited to dance at parties. “I used to be that girl. I still am a bit.” It’s hard to believe. There’s a touch of Lily Allen in the vocals, but HollySiz’s group is by now showing off its versatility. Bassist Pierre-Louis Basset plays keyboards and drummer Vincent Lechevallier plays electronic percussion on this track, while keyboard player Julie Gomel has earlier helped on the vocals and picks up a guitar when needed.
The sound gets harder for ‘Mrs Selfish’, like a vampish Depeche Mode. And then it all goes quiet for ‘The Fall’, which starts sincere and melancholy but soon rocks out, led by guitarist Peter Combard, until the headbanging ends theatrically with Cécile collapsed on stage.
An upbeat cover of Bronski Beat’s LGBT anthem ‘Smalltown Boy’ heads into ‘Hangover’, during which HollySiz is all shoulder shakes and hand claps. It’s part indie, part mod, probably the fastest track they play. Encore ‘A Shot’ has dark lyrics about addictive love, poison and prison, in which we get rhymes made up of “sick, tricks, chronic, ironic and narcotic”. HollySiz climaxes with an extraordinary version of ‘Come Back To me’. As the group plays a heavy bass-driven dance riff, reminiscent of New Order, Cécile walks into the middle of the audience, stands up on an instrument case and orchestrates a crowd singalong, then a mass sit down and finally a communal jump as she races back on stage. That’s it for the night. Cécile is writing for a new album, due next year, so there’s every chance HollySiz will come touring again.