Françoise Hardy Has a New Favorite Band

The legendary French singer on Cigarettes After Sex, "which I have been looking for all my life."

Last May, Étienne Daho, a close friend and very talented and popular French singer, emailed me that he had just discovered the group Cigarettes After Sex’s music and loved it. He sent me the link for the songs “K.” and Apocalypse because he knows me well enough to guess that I would love it, too. It took me only a few seconds to be tremendously excited. It was a real thunderbolt: It was exactly the music I prefer, and which I have been looking for all my life.

I bought all the songs from Cigarettes After Sex’s second album on the Apple Store because their first EP had not yet been released in France. I was amazed, because all the songs made the same magical effect on me. They all have the same atmosphere, but are all different, too. In July, their first release, I., was at last released in France, and I immediately bought all those songs, too. I’m drawn to this music because of the magical, ethereal guitars, flooded in large reverbs. The way they arrive, and what they are playing—the tunes, the sound, the voice—are literally enchanting. It is such sentimental, sensual, and inspired music. I love everything in it, and will never get tired of it. Unfortunately, I don’t understand the lyrics very well because I don’t speak fluent English, but I am sure they are as inspired as the rest of the band’s sound.

Cigarettes After Sex reminds me of “Sleep Walk” by Santo & Johnny, or by the Shadows (particularly, I’m reminded of Hank Marvin, the lead guitarist for the Shadows), “Bad Boy” by Marty Wilde, “Travellin’ Light” by Cliff Richard, and, from more recent years, “Blue Light” by Mazzy Star. Music with this kind of strange and fascinating atmosphere is quite unusual! I feel like I’m also hearing the influence of the sixties. It is difficult for me to explain, but “Sweet,” for instance, has the simplicity, and probably the same kind of musical chords, often used during the sixties. There’s also a kind of repetitiveness to it, which makes the tune so easy to remember. I can’t help singing it when I listen to it (and many other of their songs, too, but I have a slight preference for this one).

If something may define me and my songs, it is romantic loneliness. It probably has something to do with the lyrics, but what all of Cigarettes After Sex’s songs suggest to me has more to do with love, sensuality, tenderness, beauty, and melancholy than with the opposites of those things. I don’t have so many really sensual songs, and all Greg’s songs are sensual…only some of mine are like that.

It was the surprise of my life when I was told that Greg Gonzalez, the singer of Cigarettes After Sex, knew my songs and appreciated them. I could not believe it! When I met the group for a dinner in Paris, Greg, or one of the other musicians in the band, wanted to know what I did while listening to their songs. But they overcome—bewitch? thrill?—me completely, so it is difficult for me to do anything else but listen. If anything, I can do something at the same time which doesn’t need reflection, so I can still enjoy the music. Here in Corsica, I want my husband and our friends to be as fond of this music as I am, so I play it over and over again, as loudly as possible. Though I feel very young in my head, I am unfortunately too old now to play Cigarettes After Sex’s music during a romantic night with a “fiancé”—as many of their other fans certainly do.

Françoise Hardy was born in January 1944. She sings and has written songs since 1962. She is married to Jacques Dutronc, the singer, musician and actor. They have a son, Thomas Dutronc, who is a jazz guitarist and also a singer who composes many of his tunes and writes his lyrics.