Considering the recent success of Brooklyn-based indie rockers the French Kicks, it's hard to believe that only a few years back they were playing a gig to drunk kids at an unnamed Philly frat house. Vocalist and drummer Nick Stumpf recalls playing to "forty-five of the most messed up kids you've ever seen," but can't seem to remember where exactly he and his then relatively new band performed.

When they first got together in 1998, the French Kicks had every ingredient in the recipe for the quintessential indie rock group. From the town to the look to the clever band name, they had it all. But six years later, after the release of their second full length album The Trial of the Century, the French Kicks still appeared to be missing a distinct sound to call their own. It seemed like the Kicks would be swept away with the rest of the mediocre New York indie groups to make way for a new wave of, well, whatever subgenre was cool next.

However, Stumpf says that their diverse sound is exactly what enabled them to piece together another album. On Two Thousand, which hits stores July 18, Stumpf and bandmates Josh Wise, Aaron Thurston, Matt Stinchcomb and Lawrence Stumpf (Nick's younger brother) cover a lot of different territory. "There are some pretty strange combinations that I don't think other people are doing and we definitely haven't done before," explains Stumpf. "Like you could play one song and then another and be surprised that they're on the same record."

Stumpf describes the Kicks as "experimental pop," which might just be the only way to classify their combination of melodic (but sometimes monotonous) vocals with just about any type of beat you can imagine. On their debut self-titled EP, the French Kicks were praised for their thunderous drum beats and '60s-inspired guitar, but on their last two albums, the band seemed to stray away from the unpolished garage rock sound that inspired them as teens in the D.C. hardcore scene. Ironically, Stumpf explains, "When we first got together we were going to be a quiet country band. Very quickly it turned out not to be that." The group has continually modified its music since then, which Stumpf attributes to the fact that he and his bandmates are "always trying to put sounds together in ways that we haven't heard done before. We try not to do anything too obvious. Not mathy at all."

And though they admit to stealing from their influences on some level, the French Kicks seem confident that by never deciding that "this is going to be our sound and we're sticking to it," they can stand the test of time. With bigger choruses, homemade keyboard beats and acoustic guitars (which they've never used before), the Kicks hope that Two Thousand will showcase the group's development over the past few years and quiet critics' complaints that they've got potential but haven't really gone anywhere with it.

The French Kicks and Ladytron will play the TLA this Sunday at 8 p.m.


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