Babylon Circus is a French ska-punk/alternative rock band that has incorporated a wide variety of influences. The exuberant, horn-driven outfit has favored a bilingual approach; lead singer David Baruchel sings in both French and English, and many of their songs have tackled political and social topics (for example, the Iraq War, which they strongly opposed, became a major subject for Babylon Circus in 2003).
Formed by Baruchel in Lyon, France in 1995, Babylon Circus started out as more of a straight-ahead ska band. But they ended up becoming a lot more experimental and eclectic, drawing on everything from reggae (which came out of ska) to British punk to jazz (especially guitarist Django Reinhardt's Parisian gypsy swing of the 1930s and '40s) and cabaret. Babylon Circus is an appropriate name for the band because some of their material has, in fact, been influenced by circus music, and their other influences range from French chanson (as in Edith Piaf and Jacques Brel) to African pop to East European folk (mainly gypsy music from the Baltic region). The list of artists who have influenced Babylon Circus either directly or indirectly is a long one, ranging from classic Jamaican ska and reggae stars like the Skatalites, Toots & the Maytals, and Bob Marley & the Wailers to British punk pioneers the Clash to the French worldbeat band Lo'Jo. Some of their work has hinted at early Tom Waits, and British ska revival bands of the '70s and '80s such as Madness and the Specials have also affected their far-reaching work.
Babylon Circus' first recording was a demo that they circulated in France in 1996. Their EP Tout Va Bien came out in France in 1999, and that release was followed by their full-length album Au Marché des Illusions in 2001. Babylon Circus' next full-length album, Dances of Resistance, was released in France in 2004 before being released on the Mr. Bongo label in the United States in April 2008. Babylon Circus' 2008 lineup consisted of Baruchel and Manuel Nectoux on lead vocals, Georges Chaccour on electric guitar, Basile Mouton on electric bass, Olivier Soumali on electric keyboards, Clement Amirault on trombone, Christophe Millot on saxophone and accordion, Laurent Sedent on trumpet, and David Doineaux on drums. ~ Alex Henderson