Growing up in Nimes, France, Kevin "Frenchie" Sciou always had an affinity for American rock and roll.
It started with his dad's record collection, which included English bands influenced by American music such as the Rolling Stones and Cream, as well as actual American rock bands like the Doors. By age 17, Sciou had honed his guitar skills and earned a reputation as a child prodigy in his hometown. That's when he realized his thirst for rock and blues was too great to be sated in France, or even in the Brit-pop-intensive London scene of the late '90s, where he says he found that "French people and British people don't really mix."
So in 2001, Sciou packed his bags to chase his American dream.
"I didn't think too much about it," Sciou, now 38 and the front man of band Frenchie's Blues Destroyers, says by phone in his French accent. "I just figured out how to get a plane ticket and picked the city I wanted to go to and I did it."
Choosing Los Angeles over his other top choices of Nashville and Dallas came down to his hope that a Frenchman would blend in better on the West Coast than in the South. Being a stud overseas was one thing, but Sciou understood that no matter where he ended up, he would need to "measure up to the American players," he says.
After a few weeks of playing in a southern rock cover band and answering wanted ads for guitar player in Music Connection, Lex Lipsitz, then drumming for Shooter Jennings' band Stargunn, caught some of Sciou's jamming and invited him to try out with the group. Although Sciou was barely familiar with Jennings' legendary father, outlaw country icon Waylon Jennings, the Stargunn guys were blown away.
Stargunn went all-in on the guitar player, who quickly became known around town as "Frenchie," and even helped Sciou obtain an American work visa as a musician through a company Waylon operated. Stargunn gained a loyal following around L.A. and completed some touring, including a swing through Texas, but the group broke-up not long after Sciou joined. It was time for Frenchie to find a new place to call home, and crossing back over the Atlantic wasn't an option.
In 2003, Sciou moved to Texas where he previously met some emerging roots-rock talents such as Wade Bowen and Stoney LaRue while on tour. He landed some gigs here and there, and in 2006 joined Jack Ingram's band as lead guitar player.
Pete Coatney, a North Texas native and Ingram's drummer since 1994, was one of the musicians Frenchie got to know well, and was instrumental in recruiting the guitar player to the band. As the years progressed, Frenchie became inspired by Ingram's approach to songwriting, and by the revered Texas songwriters Ingram introduced him to, such as Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. That, coupled with Coatney's persistent encouragement ("Pete wouldn't leave me alone!" Sciou says), led the guitarist and the drummer to collaborate as a duo.
During the course of countless soundchecks, rehearsals and plenty of late-night bus jam sessions, the pair worked on fleshing out the songs Sciou wrote. Although they made their livings in the country scene, the new arrangements were the kind of full-on rock and revved up blues Frenchie had fallen in love with in Nimes.
"We've never tried to reinvent the wheel," Coatney says. "But when you sponge up a bunch of different stuff and squeeze it out, things are going to look a lot different."
Coatney even came up with the band's name in an effort to head-off any snooty criticisms they might get from elitist musical types.
"Let's call it the Blue's Destroyers," he says with a chuckle. "Because blues purists are going to turn their noses up at us, and maybe the people that like us will say that we're killing it."
In 2012, the duo was ready to jump in front of the curtain, and true to form, Coatney had a plan for taking the next step.
"Pete said, 'why don't we play at Adair's [Saloon in Dallas] and see what happens?'" Sciou recalls. "And I had a blast singing and I got a good reaction from the people I sang to, so I thought, 'OK, let's do this.'"
The duo kept scheduling occasional gigs even though Sciou left Ingram's band, moved to Nashville, played in other bands and continued to write more songs with other people, including country comedian Colt Ford. But after becoming an American citizen in 2016, Sciou re-joined his pal Coatney in Ingram's band in 2017, enabling Frenchie's Blues Destroyer's to make a real go of it.
The pair released a fine self-titled record in 2017, but Love is Blood, the duo's energetic, fiery new album, is the urgent statement signaling the band's true arrival. With plenty of sonic nods to British rock greats such as Cream and Jeff Beck, blended with doses of greasy ZZ Top licks and punky Social Distortion riffs, the tightly-knit chemistry between the two mates makes the record immensely enjoyable, imminently danceable and impressively cohesive throughout.
Sciou might be an American citizen now, but judging by the crowded schedule he and Coatney will keep in the months ahead, he hasn't forgotten how his nickname came about. The child prodigy from the south of France will just keep destroying any border he comes across, whether it be geographical or musical.
Plan your life
Frenchie's Blues Destroyers perform in D-FW throughout Nov. and early Dec. Tour dates here.