Hailing from Bordeaux in southwestern France, les Hurlements d'Léo ("the Screams of Léo," allegedly from the title of a song by VRP) propose a high-energy brand of acoustic java punk rock rooted in the 1980s wave of French alternative artists. The alternative rock of les Garçons Bouchers, the French chanson of Mano Solo, and the multicultural influences of les Négresses Vertes and la Mano Negra all permeate their sound. After a few years of underground work, the eight-piece group began to gain national and international attention with their second album, La Belle Affaire, released in 2001.
An early lineup of four musicians began performing under the name les Hurlements d'Léo in the bars of Bordeaux in late 1995. The first shows were more raw, leaning toward punk rock, and featured a standard rock instrumentation. Until January 1998, the formation grows to eight musicians and shifts the focus to acoustic instruments. Only guitarists and singers Laurent (aka Lolo -- the members all use first names or nicknames only) and Erwan (aka R1) remain from the original quartet. They are first joined by saxophonist Benoît (aka Ziz or Benziz), bassist David (aka Daoued or Dawed), accordion player Jojo, trumpeter Pepito, violinist Zébulon, and drummer Remingo. A show opener for Pigalle (a project of former members of Les Garçons Bouchers) in January 1998 and a performance at the Marne music festival two months later got them rave reviews and attracted a manager.
At this point Les Hurlements d'Léo embarked on constant touring, a way of life that appeals to their Gypsy demeanor, stopping only long enough to record in a studio. A first, self-produced CD, Le Café des Jours Heureux, came out in early 1999. It was licensed to Pias for distribution and sold 25,000 units mostly on the strength of word-of-mouth. The group began to appear everywhere in France and Francophone Europe. For La Belle Affaire, they enjoyed bigger means of production. Recorded in the summer of 2000, it came out early in 2001. A tour of Quebec preceded the release of Un Air Deux Familles in December of the same year, an album written, performed, and recorded with the group Ogres de Barback.