Beirut blues rockers inspire Ralph Lauren’s grunge

BEIRUT: A bearded man clad in a leather jacket and faded black jeans straddles the seat of his motorbike, his red helmet matching the red leather on the seat of his growling chopper, his eyes shielded by dark glasses. The camera cuts from one close-up to another, capturing an abundance of facial hair, black leather, stylish shades, earrings and sturdy driving gloves. In the background, the voice of a man calling instructions in French is gradually drowned out by the raw sound of an electric guitar and, with the roar of a revving engine, The Wanton Bishops swing into the opening lines of their hit single “Sleep With the Lights On.”

The track was chosen as the background to a video produced this month by fashion house Ralph Lauren to document the first Ralph Lauren RRL Riders Tour, a 99-kilometer motorcycle ride that took place on May 25 in Paris and the surrounding countryside. The 200-strong tour was organized in collaboration with custom bike builders Blitz Motorcycles to promote the fashion brand’s Double RL line, established in 1993 and inspired by vintage utilitarian clothing.

The Wanton Bishop’s singer, guitarist and harmonica player Nader Mansour told The Daily Star that a representative of Ralph Lauren asked permission to use the track, citing it as the inspiration behind the vintage-style video.

“As a matter of fact they sent us a Facebook message,” he said. “Believe it or not, social media does work. The head of marketing in Paris ... wanted to use our song, and it sort of inspired the whole video, apparently. ... It was very flattering.”

It’s not the first time that the Beirut-based blues-rock two-piece, which consists of Mansour and guitarist and banjo player Eddy Ghossein, has been approached by a world-famous fashion brand. Last year, Roberto Cavalli released the video for their men’s Spring Summer 2014 collection, selecting The Wanton Bishops’ harmonica-heavy track “Howl” to accompany the footage of moody male models in sharp suits, rich brocade and raw leather posing and pouting for the camera.

The bearded Mansour, who sports numerous tattoos and is known for his raw-edged voice and scruffy style, said that Ralph Lauren’s video was a great reflection of the band’s sound.

“This time, it’s got a little more beards and a little more motorcycles and stuff. The whole modern, urban, dandy, kind of well-dressed yet nasty looking, nonchalant thing going on – yeah, we like that,” he said.

The Wanton Bishops have been playing for less than three years but the endorsement from fashion houses is symptomatic of their growing international following. The group has already completed a number of short tours in Europe, Turkey and the U.S. and were recently signed up by Dutch nonmainstream record label Suburban, in addition to finalizing a publishing deal with the Red Bull Media House Audio Portfolio.

The Wanton Bishops are scheduled to play at the Jim Beam Rock Music Festival in Dbayyeh this Friday before embarking on further international tours in Europe, South Africa and the U.S., Mansour told The Daily Star. Their debut LP, “Sleep With the Lights On,” is due to be relaunched globally with three additional tracks in the coming months.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 23, 2014, on page 2.




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