When the bass player quit, The Inspector Cluzo marched onward as a two-piece.
All the advice they received said otherwise, and the precedent said otherwise, but Mathieu Jourdain and Laurent Lacrouts felt they could play funk music as a duo. With no bass.
"We started with a bass player, but he wasn't good enough, and he decided to go and play different stuff. We said, 'Go away. We don't care, and we'll make it work as two-piece,'" says drummer Jourdain. "Groovy funk rock without the bass seems to be not possible, but we did it."
Jourdain and singer-guitarist Lacrouts have been playing together for 17 years, first in the band Wolfunkind, and for the last three years as The Inspector Cluzo. The Frenchmen refer to themselves as the "original funk 'n' roll duo."
"We're used to each other, and this is why it is working. We play really tight, and the energy produced is big," Jourdain says during a phone interview from a tour stop in Atlanta. "We've been listening to funk music for a very long time. We were really into it, and we're very sensitive to the groove from the funk music."
With a style that passes from Fishbone- and Red Hot Chili Peppers-style funk to the groovier side of Rage Against the Machine, The Inspector Cluzo have toured relentlessly since 2008, building a fan base from Europe to Australia, and playing festivals in Japan, Korea and Taiwan.
While growing up in France, Jourdain says, funk music was hardly prevalent. As fans, he and Lacrouts would need to hunt down import releases in small record shops. As funk musicians themselves, a local welcome was slow to come.
"In France, it was hard for us, because they don't have the culture of funk music. They're more mainstream in music. If you hear French radio, you would throw up," he says. "We first started getting abroad, and it worked better there than in France. Because it worked elsewhere, France started waking up, and we could build something."
Fishbone was among the funk bands that were able to break through in France, and the pair opened for the Los Angeles band a number of times with Wolfunkind. They befriended Fishbone, and singer Angelo Moore suggested they name the new project The Pink Panther. Legal concerns brought about the new name, The Inspector Cluzo.
They also borrowed their energetic performance style from Fishbone.
"We don't want to get off the stage without making sure that the audience is on fire. We took that from Fishbone. They're like that, really into making people crazy," Jourdain says. "That's what we're trying to do every night. It's never the same show every night, because depending on how the audience reacts, we try different ways."
The band has released two albums in France, The Inspector Cluzo and French Bastards. Both albums were repackaged into a single release for the band's first full U.S. tour.
"We're having a lot of fun, and we have very good feedback from the shows. We are totally, happily, surprised at the good reactions that the audiences have," Jourdain says.
Despite growing success overseas—530 shows in 28 countries, and selling 50,000 albums in three years—the band had a difficult time breaking into the United States.
"It's a different experience. We made it by doing everything ourselves. We're music craftsmen. We do everything from the recording to publishing to booking shows," Jourdain says. "We were not used to the U.S. market, so it was hard to find a way to enter it, to make promoters answer e-mails, but finally, we could hook up a whole proper tour."
Because high-energy funk music is hardly the norm for French bands, Jourdain says, The Inspector Cluzo have been able to take advantage of the element of surprise, giving audiences way more entertainment than they might have been expecting.
"It's funny. Here, the audience doesn't expect that kind of music and that entertainment. I think they just expect a band playing, but there's a lot of interaction and jokes, and we're pushing a lot."
The band has a third record ready for mixing and mastering once they return to France, but Jourdain says they couldn't refuse a chance to extend the "French Bastards Tour" to the United States.
"The music is full of energy, groovy, so it talks to everybody. You can dance; you can head-bang on some parts; and the energy is shared with the audience. Whatever the language, wherever you are, it seems to work," Jourdain says. "That's why we keep on going and try to visit as many countries as possible."