SPOTLIGHT SERIES | French Class on Experimental Beats, Festival Season, and Making Room for Silliness

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French Class: Megumi Kimata (left) and Gabriela Ocejo

Welcome to Spotlight Series, a regular feature shining a light on emerging local music makers in the stellar music community in Manitoba. 

By Cierra Bettens

Megumi Kimata's electronic musical project, French Class, is a genre of its own.

Within seconds of pressing play on a song, one wonders: have I entered the mystical world of a children’s television series or an experimental beach rave? Wherever it may take the listener, French Class’s music exists on an entirely different plane, where everything is whimsical, silly and neon. 

Kimata dreamt up the name “French Class” while taking language classes and reminiscing on childhood trips to France that instilled an admiration for French culture.

“I thought that (it was) a cool band name. It’s kind of ironic, it’s kind of funny, a little bit weird,” Kimata says.

French Class took off in 2019 after Kimata's song, “Robot Tune”, went viral. Soon, the project attracted a trio of regular collaborators: singer/guitarist Gabriela Ocejo, bassist/singer Lindsay Woolgar, and singer Tiana Garcia.

“The music scene is like a huge hug.”
- Megumi Kimata


“I build it like a whole song, then I perform it by itself, or the instrumental. Then I bring it to Tiana and we write a song together, and Gabby plays guitar over it,” Kimata says.

At the height of Winnipeg’s brisk autumn, just days before Halloween, the band launched an album reminiscent of warmer, balmier times. With titles like “Honey Bee” and “Cumbia Fever”, Hot Girl Summer combines flirtatious lyrics with playful, early ‘00s beach sounds.

It’s as if Mitski’s “Washing Machine Heart” met Aqua’s “Barbie Girl”.

“We were just joking at rehearsal, and we literally said ‘we should write a song called Hot Girl Summer’ and it should be a disco song, and then Megumi has so many beats stored that she hasn’t done anything with,” Ocejo says. “She showed me the beat, and then I started singing the melody and the words. We literally wrote it in 10 minutes.”

Over the phone, Ocejo gushes over Kimata’s musical process and creativity.

“She has, I would say, the innocence of a kid and the genius of a kid too. Sometimes she’ll put elements together that I wouldn’t even think of putting together, but it works,” Ocejo says. “I’ve never heard anyone that sounds like Megumi.” 

During this year’s summer festival circuit, French Class quickly became a household name. In just a few weeks, the band will open for Freddy & The Fire Nation at The Handsome Daughter on November 25.

“This year, I played Real Love and then Rainbow Trout,” Kimata says. “Gimli Icelandic Festival was my favourite show. It was by the beach, there were old people, kids, everyone.”

“The music scene is like a huge hug.”

For Kimata and the gang, good fortune is on the horizon. After releasing a music video for their song “Bon Bon Bon” animated by Jay Mellor in August, French Class fiends can rest assured knowing a handful of new projects are on deck.

“I am planning a music video with Jay, and that is called “Taxi Cab”. He’s going to make an animation of me and Gabby in a taxi going to the studio,” Kimata says. “The next whole album idea is there, and we got a grant to record it.”

In a sense, French Class is so unlike anything the Winnipeg music scene has heard before that it adds to its versatility. French Class is equally the hype-fueling opening act and the 3 a.m. energy boost. 

What French Class does best is acknowledge that music can—and should be—a little bit silly.

Cierra Bettens is a writer, editor and student based in Treaty 1. She edits the arts and culture section of The Uniter. 

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