Party like a rockstar

France Camp’s music and antics hearken back to a bygone era of rockstars

Local band France Camp pose for a portrait in Minneapolis on Sunday.

Lisa Persson

Local band France Camp pose for a portrait in Minneapolis on Sunday.

Grant Tillery

Jay Simonson hates his given name. In his eyes, it’s associated with sellouts jockeying to make a buck.

“My old name was Jared,” he said. “Jared diamonds, Jared Subway. These are all things that I can’t get over. I hate all Jareds.”

Simonson is a fixture on the local music scene, having played with Nice Purse and Howler.  While brainstorming band names with Howler’s Ian Nygaard, the duo came up with France Camp. It stuck.

“I changed my name [on] Facebook [to] it, and then I went to the DMV and changed my name forever,” Simonson joked.

He formed the band in 2012 and plays “casual punk” with James Wolfeatens, Dylan Rosebringeth and Kyle Kimm.

While bands such as Best Coast started the trend with their cloying jangle, groups like Fidlar and the Orwells reclaimed it from the throes of cheesiness by adding subversive punk cockiness to the mix. In the long line of such groups, France Camp is the next one poised to break out.

What sets France Camp apart from their counterparts is a healthy dose of REO Speedwagon in the mix. Known for their déclassé uncool, the bastions of bad dad rock understand their niche and cater to it with conviction.

You’ll hear Speedwagon-derived licks on lo-fi bangers like “Ghost Town.” The tune begins like a ditty that Jonathan Richman could’ve wrote, but it morphs into a classic rock groove that culminates in a guitar solo that wouldn’t feel out of place on REO Speedwagon’s “Roll With the Changes.”

Simonson remembered an REO Speedwagon concert he attended when he was younger.

“My dad took me to see Ted [Nugent] opening for Styx, who was also opening for REO Speedwagon,” Simonson said. “Best show I’ve ever seen. Ted Nugent sucks. Styx suck. Holy shit, REO Speedwagon is the best band I’ve ever seen. It was a dad rock concert, so chairs were set up where people would be standing. They had a Wal-Mart pop-up shop with a Great Clips.”

France Camp also takes behavioral cues from the rock bands of yore. They’re not nebbish snobs who pass their time playing rummy and drinking absinthe on the tour bus.

For France Camp, broken equipment and evading arrest are the norm. The little money they make goes into a fund for both instruments and bail bonds.

“We need a safety backup because we’re such a dangerous band,” Wolfeatens said. “When we went to Winona, [Minn.], Kyle … was breaking windows. He almost went to jail, and if [he] went to jail, we needed to make sure we had enough band funds to bail him out.”

While the rocker antics remain the same, France Camp’s music is undergoing stylistic changes. They’re migrating from blunt brash bangers to drawn-out groove jams (though not akin to Phish) on their next album, due at the end of October. France Camp concerts feature longer versions of their favorites, so the crew wanted the pedal-to-the-metal effect to translate to their albums as well.

“When we play live, it’s unpredictable and fun,” Wolfeatens said. “Now that we’re starting to write songs, we’re giving ourselves the opportunity to not have a specific structure. We can go as long as we want.”

While France Camp is a prolific presence in the Minnesota music scene, they’ve never played outside the state. That’s bound to change soon.

“I say this every interview, but whenever Jay has a winter break, we’re thinking [of touring] Milwaukee, Madison, Chicago,” Wolfeatens said.

One place they’ll never go, though, is Australia. Though that may hurt the band’s chance at renown, the land down under isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

“I hate Australia,” Rosebringeth said.

“An Australian slept with his girlfriend,” Simonson said.

“Don’t give her any more ideas,” Rosebringeth joked. “I know who he is. I know where he lives. I just can’t get the courage up. He crocodile-hunted my girlfriend.”


What: France Camp (opening for Cozy)
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Where: The Triple Rock Social Club, 629 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis
Cost: $8
Age: 18+