Honestly, I was expecting Poney P., lead singer of the mysterious "petrochemical rock band" Les George Leningrad, to be more of a monster. On stage, she's a howling-mad, animal-faced force of nature, and everything I've read about the band suggests that she'd be elusive, if not outright deceitful, in an interview. But while on the phone from the band's native Montreal, she proves polite, even demure, frequently apologizing for her perfectly passable English while explaining the band's bizarre mythologies. Les George Leningrad have matured, and their old games have become less of a necessity—even if they still sometimes play them.
Part no-wave band, part dadaist art collective, Les Georges Leningrad are as much a performance-art project as they are a musical group. The trio have invented every aspect of the band—from their public identities to their grotesque artwork. But Les Georges Leningrad have decidedly seedy origins for such a high-concept outfit.
"We met by accident at this little bar in a very dodgy area with lots of drugs and prostitutes," explains Poney. "I was with Bobo (Boutin), and Mingo (L'Indien) was trying to steal me. They got in a fight, but by the end of the night they were talking about music. The next day they made music, and they invited me to join. So it began because of a little fight.
"At first I couldn't sing even at the rehearsal," recalls Poney. "I had to sing under a table because I was too shy."
Hiding under a table was not a viable long-term solution, of course, so the band adopted crude costumes and characters, dubbing themselves a "petrochemical" rock band and telling absurd stories in interviews.
"This element of character just came as a way for me to be someone else so I could avoid being me, the shy girl," says Poney. "But now I'm more comfortable on stage, so now I just feel like this character I invented is an extrapolation of the real-life person I am. It's just become a fun thing."
This newfound confidence is apparent on the band's new album, Sangue Puro, Italian for "pure blood." Featuring the same dirty, distorted synths and powerful beats of Sur Les Traces de Black Eskimo, it boasts better production and more audibly forceful vocals from Poney P.
"For this experiment, we went outside of the city, into bat caves, recording," claims Poney. "We wanted this album to look like a specific animal, and Les Georges would definitely be a bat. 'Bat' in Italian is 'pipistrello' and we really liked it, so we decided the name of the album would be Italian. It's raw and nature and just very strong, like something pure blooded, with no parasites—the ultimate bat album."
The title track introduces the album with six minutes of droning noise and thundering drum rolls. "Skulls in the Closet" updates the spasticated funk of Black Eskimo, adding echoing, gothic wails and a steadier rhythm. "Mammal Beats" mixes animal growls and staccato vocals with heavy high hats and three-chord fuzz. On "Mange Avec Tes Doigts," Poney hurls Quebecois over a sinister surf guitar and "Eli Eli Lamma Sabbacthani" takes a piss on the tribal drum jam. The album concludes with several minutes of ambient haunted house gloom. Sangue Puro may be "the ultimate bat album," but it's certainly Les Georges Leningrad's best record yet.
"We are more consistent with what we're doing now," admits Poney. "In the beginning it was really instinctive. We didn't know what we were doing. I can pretend that we really did some art brut at the beginning, like there was no bullshit there, but now it's really different because we know exactly how to be powerful. Now the beats kick your face. We always had this power but we didn't know how to deal with it, but now we are controlling this game."
Still, something of their first random, violent encounter continues to fuel Les Georges Leningrad's creative combustion, according to Poney. "When we play shows we have to find this energy. We have to sit on electric chairs or hypnotize each other, but there's always been danger and tension. Without this element, Les Georges Leningrad wouldn't make any sense."