What do French ye-ye pop, psychedelic post-punk, the California desert, Guided by Voices, Jean Luc-Godard, and Columbus, Ohio, have in common? Probably only one thing on the planet: the band DTCV. Pronounced “Detective,” this duo — James “Jim” Greer, who recorded and toured with GbV during their mid-’90s heyday, and Guylaine “Lola G.” Vivarat, who grew up in the French Alps before ensconcing herself in Los Angeles’ garage-rock scene — came together by accident, the way most bands do. Jim ran into Lola at a festival in France, Lola showed Jim some songs, Jim drunkenly agreed to play a show for the first time in 15 years, Lola suggested they start a band for the occasion… Four years later, that little one-off now has three sprawling full-lengths along with several EPs and 7˝s to their name.
DTCV has also cultivated a reputation for sultry, soaring live shows that belie Lola and Jim’s humble personalities. “It’s a lot of fun,” Greer tells Folio Weekly. “I had totally forgotten how much fun it was to play live. That’s why we’re still doing so much of it.” The duo released their strongest album yet, Confusion Moderne, earlier this year — a meditation on consumerism, social justice, environmental activism, and political maneuvering delivered entirely in French.
“It’s the best album we’ve made so far,” Lola says. “They’re political songs, but I didn’t want the words to be too direct. I try to write poetically, in a symbolic way.” About her and Jim’s motivation to write another album so sonically sumptuous and lyrically deep in such a short amount of time, Lola adds, “Living in the California desert pushed everything further. You could see climate change and evil development happening right in front of you. And we recorded it very quickly, at the worst of the heat wave last year. The last day I was doing vocals, I almost passed out. It was 108 degrees. A surreal experience.”
And one that pushed Greer and Vivarat to continue their eastward migration. This time, they ended up in Columbus, Ohio — which both believe is perfect for their ongoing plans to keep touring as often and as flexibly as possible. “Chris Dunn was our drummer in LA, but he can’t tour because of his day job,” Greer says. “He’ll play whenever he can, but here we can find musicians willing to be our rhythm section and able to tour as much as we need and want to. We’ve had really good luck — there are a lot of great musicians and great bands here in Columbus.”
If that seems like an unlikely statement from a suave, sophisticated outfit like DTCV, well, it is. Greer and Lola gave themselves that “anarcho-symbolist rock” tag. Oscar-winning filmmaker Steven Soderbergh directed the duo’s first music video from Confusion Moderne. Greer has written several critically acclaimed novels and short story collections, along with the screenplays for Hollywood hits like Just My Luck and The Spy Next Door. And Lola is so damn stylish she could probably design her own fashion line.
And yet DTCV has played perennial Oldest City haunt Nobby’s several times over the last three years, and on this tour they’ll even grace Northeast Florida with that rarest of occurrences: one show in Jacksonville and one show in St. Augustine. “We always have a blast at Nobby’s and in Jacksonville,” Lola says. “The crowds are great. I had never been to Florida before when we went there for the first time, so I didn’t have any expectations. And everything was really cool.” Greer says his parents live in Vero Beach, which means their only experience with DTCV live since 2012 was at a Nobby’s show. “They stayed up late!” Greer raves. “Past midnight. That’s way past their bedtime — it’s past my bedtime. But they stayed for every song.”
Beyond that live show, which Greer and Lola both assert has gotten “way better” since those old Nobby’s appearances, there’s an unmistakable but indescribable je ne sais quoi about DTCV’s music that’s heightened on Confusion Moderne highlights “Histoire Seuel,” “Bourgeois Pop,” and “Capital Ennui.” For most of us, the whole sly DTCV moniker only adds to the mystery, although Greer swears it was an accident. “We named ourselves after a not-very-well-known Godard film, but then we couldn’t translate the French accent marks in the name to the Internet, so we got rid of the accent marks, which made it impossible to find us under the blizzard of homicide reports… So we came up with the bright idea to take out the vowels from Detective, and then it became a thing. Now it looks like we’re taking that thing to its absurd extreme, but really we just thought it was going to be funny. But this happens: you don’t think about your name when you casually start a band — and then you’re stuck with it.”
Her infectious laugh dying down, Lola gets more big-picture about DTCV. “There’s always a compromise,” she says. “In an ideal world, we’d live in a cabin off the grid. But right now, that’s not really feasible. I don’t like living in a city — but it’s easier when you’re in a band.” Still, she admits, having total creative control over it is a plus. Speculating for a second about hiring a big outside producer for their next record, Lola quickly purges the idea: “I feel like that would drive me nuts. I’m kind of a control freak. With music — not with other things.” Jumping in, Greer says, “She doesn’t really like to do things she’s told. Me? I’m good at doing what I’m told.” A beat passes, during which I think about how critical this synergistic banter must be for a duo that lives, writes, records, and tours together. Then Lola chimes back in, choking back laughter again: “Somebody has to fill that role or this wouldn’t work!”