Niall McCann’s “Lost in France” explores the mid-’90s indie music scene in Glasgow, Scotland

By on May 13, 2019

Irish filmmaker Niall McCann’s 2016 documentary Lost in France explores the rise of the the mid-’90s indie music scene in Glasgow, Scotland, focusing on bands like the Delgados (who founded their own record company, Chemikal Underground), Mogwai, Bis, Arab Strap, Franz Ferdinand and other seminal acts.

McCann’s film also recalls a career-defining chaotic trip to Mauron, France, where several band members returned to again after nearly two decades.

Watch it now on Night Flight Plus.

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Eighteen years previous, several of these bands had all boarded a bus made the 900-mile sojourn to the tiny and apparently very quiet little town of Mauron, France — a commune in the Morbihan department of Brittany in northwestern France — to play together at what turned out to be an all-too-brief music festival.

McCann was also on hand to document a handful of members from these bands — including Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos, Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite and Chemikal Underground co-founder and ex-Delgados singer-songwriter Emma Pollock, among others — who were making the trip across the English Channel again, this time to play an intimate reunion shows when, as a title card shows us, they were “definitely older” and “possibly wiser.”

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McCann’s film — an Irish-UK co-production funded by Irish Film Board and Creative Scotland — is, as you might expect, an exploration of their enduring friendship after more than two decades as much as it is about the music.

During the film, the participants talk about that prior trip eighteen years earlier, reflecting on how returning to Mauron was providing them with a chance to feel the pang of bittersweet nostalgia.

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Apparently, back then, everyone was exceedingly drunk, and two decades later they all seem to be a little embarrassed about some of their antics, which included throwing deckchairs on the ferry from Dover to Calais.

This is described onscreen as an example of “bawbaggery times ten,” and from what we can tell, a “bawbag” is the Scottish slang word meaning “ball bag/scrotum” (literally) and “idiot” and/or sometimes “scumbag” (figuratively).

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“To go back to Mauron was to throw ourselves into a past that we couldn’t recall very well,” recalled the Delgados’ Emma Pollock in this 2017 interview with Britain’s I-News.

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Pollock:

“From the moment we got on that bus we were hammered. Those who weren’t hammered were sleeping or being hungover. It was quite emotional because you realized ‘wow this was eighteen years ago.’ You’re not always so proud of the way you acted twenty years ago, you’re also always slightly embarrassed at how we all thought we were going to conquer the world back then. Although, for some of us it could be argued we have – for most of us it could actually. We’ve all gone on to develop quite unique sounds, which is wonderful.”

Here’s the theatrical trailer for a special screening of Lost in France:

Read more about Lost in France below.

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Emma Pollock, Alex Kapranos, Paul Savage, RM Hubbert and Stewart Henderson reflect on their time in Mauron, France

The Scottish indie rock band the Delgados — Alun Woodward (vocals, guitar), Stewart Henderson (bass), Paul Savage (drums) and Emma Pollock (vocals, guitar) — originally formed in 1994, in their hometown of Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, south east of Glasgow.

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In that interview with I-News, Pollock recalled how Chemikal Underground label’s first release — in 1995, it was set up to release their first single, “Monica Webster”/”Brand New Car” before going on to break many new Scottish bands in the Nineties — arrived amid of the London-based music weekly-fueled Britpop rivalry between Oasis and Blur (curiously, we’re shown an Arab Strap single in the film listed as “CHEM 001″).

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It was this type of distraction, Ms. Pollock says in the I-News interview, which allowed the Glasgow music scene to flourish in its own way, although it was largely underappreciated at the time, and she thinks it also “suffered from being too out of the way, and the UK’s media is too London-centric.”

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Forming in 2002, Glasgow’s Franz Ferdinand — Alex Kapranos (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards), Nick McCarthy (rhythm guitar, keyboards, backing vocals, Bob Hardy (bass) and Paul Thomson (drums, percussion, backing vocals) — came along much later but still were part of Glasgow’s enduring indie music scene.

They were actually named after a racehorse named “Archduke Ferdinand,” who’d won a race they saw in 2001 (no doubt the horse was named after the Archduke whose assassination kicked off The Great War, a.k.a. WWI).

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They weren’t a Chemikal Underground band, having signed instead to Laurence Bell’s Domino Recording Company, but they were one of the band’s who made the trip (twice) to Mauron, France.

In a 2015 interview for The Skinny, Kapranos praised the significance of the Delgados’ record label, which he said was important to the independent music scene because of the individualistic, DIY approach to music, and how it “ties up really nicely with the Glasgow scene.”

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Kapranos:

“A lot of the support has to do with the size of Glasgow. When you go to bigger cities like New York, L.A. or London, you tend to find that scenes are very localized. Glasgow itself allows for the right amount of interaction between people, without it being too big to splinter off into smaller scenes. It brings people together with completely different tastes in music. There’s a total contrast between bands, but people would listen. That’s how you get something new.”

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Chemikal Underground, by the way, is still in operation and continues to champion new artists to this day.

Watch Lost in France on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.