Got You Covered takes a look at the nominees in the Best Cover Band category of the Beijinger's 2015 Reader Bar & Club Awards (vote here through May 17). This time around we talk to Marie-Claude LeBel, the frontwoman, accordion player, and chief songwriter for Mademoiselle et son Orchestre.

The Band:
Mademoiselle et son Orchestre

The Current Lineup:
Xu Guang Jun (China) – Double bass
Daniel Brustman (US) – Lead Guitar
Vincent Vahramian (France) – Rhythm Guitar
Nicolas Mège (France) – Drums
Matthew Parker (Australia) – Trumpet
Frequent contributors: Doug Martin on guitar, Alex Morris and Jia Jia on drums, Emilie Calmé on flute, and Yellow Dragon on saxophone.

Sample Set List:
‘These Boots are Made for Walking’ (French version), performed by French Affair (originally performed by Nancy Sinatra and written by Lee Hazlewood)
‘Johnny, tu n'es pas un ange', Edith Piaf
‘Le poinçonneur des lilas’, Serge Gainsbourg
‘Les copains d’abord’, Georges Brassens
'Bella Ciao', Italian civil war era partisan song

Where you can see them next:
Wednesdays at VPlus
Thursdays at Trio at Beermania
May 22 and 30, Parlor Quarte
May 29, Caravan
June 12, Modernista

How do you balance performing cover songs with original material?
We do not see ourselves as a cover band, because we’ve had original material from the beginning. Fifty percent of our songs are originals when we play in bars, and 90 percent of it is original when we play in festivals.

We’ll often cover the Gainsbourg song 'Le poinçonneur des lilas'. Chinese people love it, because I explain in Mandarin that it’s the story of a guy working in a Paris Subway station, and his job is to punch the tickets. He is so bored that he dreams about Hainan. At the Shanghai 2010 expo, one man came up to me after the show and told me he was a ticket puncher for 45 years in a Chinese train station, and he never expected there would be a song talking about that. He was really moved.  

We also love to perform the French version of 'These Boots Are Made for Walking'. There’s lots of craziness on that one.

What is the key to performing a good cover song?
For us, the idea is to swing the hell out of the song, and try different things every time we play it. It is so boring to listen to a cover band that sticks to the original like a CD is playing. I think it’s interesting to use that frame as a base, but then try different things every time you play. Explore.

Video: Mademoiselle et son Orchestre

What are the advantages and disadvantages of playing covers at shows?
Well the covers we play are old French songs or songs from Québec. People don’t know them anyway, most of the time. When you see people dancing and jumping around on a song you wrote yourself, the feeling is amazing. If you sing 'Hit the Road Jack', and people get crazy because they already know the song, then that’s too easy.

How have cover songs informed the writing of your original material?
I think I was especially influenced by Edith Piaf because, for French chansons, the lyrics are very important. My songs are mostly funny stories, not depressing love songs like a lot of typical pop material.  

Which of your cover songs gets the best reactions from crowds? Why do you think that's the case?
I love it when we cover an old Edith Piaf song like 'Johnny, tu n'es pas un ange', and get young Chinese punks, with spider nets tattooed on their heads, to dance on it like crazy. It means that song was rock & roll, but Edith didn't know.  Also, we often end the concert with 'Bella Ciao'. We keep lots of space for improvisation in every cover, since we jazz it up all the way through. That’s especially true for 'Bella Ciao', because Chinese and foreigners know the song and sing along.

Follow along with all of our 2015 Reader Bar & Club Awards coverage here.

Photo courtesy of Mademoiselle et son Orchestre

Visit the original source and full text: the Beijinger Blog