Monday, May 16, 2011

Exclusive B&S Interview with Yelle

I had the great opportunity to interview Yelle before their show in Carrboro, NC on April 26th. For those of you who don't know, Yelle is a French band consisting of lead singer Julie Budet, main producer and percussionist Grand Marnier (Jean-François Perrier), and keyboardist/producer Tepr (Tanguy Destable). Their fun brand of electro pop is extremely infectious and has brought them around the world. Currently finishing off their fourth US tour, they will be off to play throughout Europe, Australia, and South America. Make sure to check out their tour dates to see if you can catch them in your part of the world. Here's what they had to say:

[Bright & Shiny]: Was it a big transition coming to the US from France? Are the crowds noticeably different?

Julie: yes, the French crowd is definitely different.
Grand Marnier: French crowds are different from all other crowds. In France, the people understand the lyrics so it is not just about dance and energy. Here it is about the energy and the dancing. Some people here understand the lyrics but not many. In France, everybody understands... so they first understand, then dance. It’s pretty progressive during the set. But here it’s like boom! (does a little dance). It is very nice for us to look at people singing in French when you are actually in France and to know they understand what we’re saying, but it’s also really nice to see people just having fun here. So it is a different mood, but both are good.

[Bright & Shiny] Yeah I feel like the general consensus is that the US is notorious for people loving to dance and have a good time… all the time.

GM: We see it also in Canada and Australia. And even in South America, people are really crazy there.
Tepr: We do party in France as well, but it’s not the same. It’s not like going crazy. Everybody is concerned with how others are dressed and things like that.
GM: There are a lot of laws in France about noise levels. Even in Paris music is getting very buried. Like you have to stop the music at 2 am.
Tepr: There are no underground parties anymore. You don’t really go out to have fun, you go out to be seen. It’s a different energy.

[Bright & Shiny] Is this a more recent development?

GM: This is something more recent. It is also something political. France is not really fun, it’s just ok. It is not the coolest country in the world like some people think. The best time to be in France has switched to the summer because of the festivals. We have a lot of music festivals. But during the year it’s not very exciting.

A cause des garcons (Tepr remix) by YELLE

[Bright & Shiny] Have you found music festivals in the US like Coachella to be similar to French music festivals?

GM: Coachella was similar to French festivals but bigger and nicer because of the weather, the palm trees…
Julie: Summer in France can just be rainy and not very good for festivals.
GM: But it can also be perfect too. The sun seems to always be out here in the US, especially in California.

[Bright & Shiny] So this is your fourth US/Canada tour, what stands out as your favorite US venue?

GM: Well each tour has gotten bigger and bigger. The first was three shows, then eight shows, then 20, now this one is 28. As for our favorite venue, we really liked Washington D.C. and the 930 Club.

[Bright & Shiny] The 930 Club gets a lot of great reviews from artists.

GM: We also loved playing in New York and LA.
Julie: The last tour we did we played at a little club in Salt Lake City. It was not sold out, but it was really good, and that was the first time I went stage diving.
GM: It was always very happy and everyone is in a good mood here in the US.
Tepr: Being able to tour here and have Americans know and sing our lyrics is great… So this transition for us is a big deal.
GM: People in France just don’t believe. We have to show them. We have to bring someone to film us for them to believe that we have fans here.

[Bright & Shiny] You have a really great aesthetic, especially fashion wise. How did you develop the look for Yelle?

GM: We started to perform and then we met people really quickly. So basically when you start to perform and play this kind of music, girly kind of electro pop, you always have connections in the fashion industry. You meet lots of cool people and designers and you keep good relations with them. It is important for us to have everything matching.
Julie: There has definitely been an evolution of sorts. At the beginning I would just buy stuff for shows at American Apparel, but today it’s really great to be able to work with designers to collaborate and invent something with them. With Jean Paul Lespagnard it was like that, you know? It was all about the music and what we wanted to portray to our audience and fans.
GM: Jean Paul Lespagnard designed the outfits that we are wearing on the cover of our new album.
Julie: The outfit that I’m wearing in that picture is crazy. It is made of plastic and it’s beautiful but it is very hard to move in it haha.
GM: At this point many designers just send us outfits and things to wear.

Ce jeu by YELLE

[Bright & Shiny] What are your musical backgrounds? Did you start at different styles and sort of evolve into your current sound?

GM: I started playing the drums at 10 and I was really into Nirvana and RHCP and Rage Against The Machine and Beastie Boys. So basically I am coming from a rock and rap scene. Haha I even listened to a little Limp Biskit back in the day.
Tepr: I also came from rock like Nirvana. So when I was younger I just bought a guitar. We all come from small towns so we didn’t have all that many people to play with, so I bought some equipment like a microphone and a computer and began to get into different music and produce my own music. I had my own side projects. Eventually I met Julie and Jean-François and they invited me to join them on stage.

[Bright & Shiny] Yeah I’ve noticed that your guys’ music that you produce by yourselves, specifically Tepr, tends to differ from what Yelle produces as a group.

GM: Yeah when we all play together it’s a collaboration so you need to be able to share your ideas and trust what other people are going to do until you have a complete product, so no regrets. As for composition/production it is me and Tanguy (Tepr)... and Julie does writing. I am sort of a round-a-bout because I am involved in both.

[Bright & Shiny] Who were some of the first artists that influenced you to get into dance music?

GM: Actually if you listen to some bands like Rage Against The Machine, you can really dance to them. I mean, dance music doesn’t mean forming ‘kick music’. It’s just about moving the body. Every band is really trying to get people to dance, even if it’s a hardcore band from New York City. It’s all about head banging and dancing. So it’s natural for us to like songs like that and compose songs in that way. It’s natural for us to love music that has great lyrics and a good melody, but also music that makes us shake our bodies.
Julie: When we were teenagers we had the radio, and much of it was dance music in a sense like Prince.. Cindy Lauper…
GM: Yeah, mainstream music was pretty cool when we were teenagers. Not anymore. It’s a lot of R&B. I mean we love Rihanna and artists like that but on French radio, it’s a lot of R&B artists trying to copy American artists so it’s not that original.
Julie: Back then radio was more unique. You could listen to Cindy Lauper and Rage Against the Machine on the same station, now it’s all more classified.
GM: There were not taste makers back then that dictated what would be played. Now they just play the same songs over and over and they are like, ok people like this so this is all we are going to play now. It is not about discovering new music anymore.

Cooler Couleur (Crookers feat. Yelle) by YELLE

[Bright & Shiny] How did you make the decision to tour with French Horn Rebellion?

GM: We discovered them on a Kitsune compilation. We decided to try them as an opening act in New York City six months ago and they were really cool people and it’s important for us all to get along during our tour. We wanted to get Katy Perry but... haha

[Bright & Shiny] Didn’t you guys to an official remix for her?

GM: Yeah, we did a remix for her song Hot N’ Cold. We actually opened a few times for Katy Perry during her UK tour. It was definitely good exposure for us, because the UK is such a mystery. It is really different from here and everywhere, and we were playing in front of tens of thousand people.

[Bright & Shiny] So I guess let’s talk a bit about how your write your songs. When starting out do you tend to focus on one aspect of a song first? What is your creative process?

GM: There is no rule about that. I mean, a song will just come from an idea we have in mind. We might come up with it while driving or something. Once we have a good idea we start to develop it. An idea might be a loop, a melody, a rhythm, a sentence. It can be from Tanguy, Julie, or me. It is never quite the same process. But finally we are all in the studio and contributing to the end product.

[Bright & Shiny] So do you prefer writing originals to doing remixes?

GM: Remixes are fun, but it’s not something from nowhere. It’s not original. I feel like originals are more respected.

[Bright & Shiny] Yeah I agree, remixes are played for a month in the clubs and then they’re gone.

Tepr: Yeah. Originals are much longer lasting.

[Bright & Shiny] (At GM and Tepr) So you two both DJ in France. Do you prefer playing in a band as opposed to djing in a club?

GM: Djing is just a way to not get as involved as an artist. It is cool to dance and drink, and you can also dj while you dance and drink. And you are paid haha… and the girls can see you hahaha. It is the biggest joke ever. But there are some DJs that are huge and they deserve it and they make DJ history.

[Bright & Shiny] Yeah it’s gotten to a point where as long as you have a computer all you have to do is download Traktor and bam, you’re a DJ.

GM: Haha exactly. If you have a name, you can be a DJ. Everybody. I mean, a lot of DJs are just so bad. There are so many DJs that just have a name and maybe an EP, a lot of cool friends, and then they just get paid a lot of money for shit.
Julie: We need and love to have a connection with the crowd as a band.

[Bright & Shiny] I feel like playing as a band with instruments is much more organic.

GM: Yeah we really feel like we’re making something on stage.

Je veux te voir by YELLE

[Bright & Shiny] So what can we expect in the future from Yelle? Are you going to take a break after your US tour or are you going to immediately start working on new material?

GM: We have a few summer festivals to do in Europe after this. We will not have a break from touring for at least another year… or more. We will be doing a Europe tour, Australian tour, then we have a South American tour, Europe again… then we can begin recording again next year.

[Bright & Shiny] Are you able to focus on writing music while touring or is it too hectic?

Julie: We can maybe do one song or a collaboration
GM: But it’s a different thing to focus on something like a new chapter. It’s difficult to start a chapter when you’re still stuck in the present chapter.
Julie: Before out latest album we had been touring for almost three years. We took a three month break and after that we were ready to start recording again.
GM: We are not one of those rock bands that can come up with a new song during sound check with just three chords. We have to have a place to focus… But now we really need to get food before our show. Do you have any good places for us to go?

[Bright & Shiny] Haha ok well thanks a lot for the opportunity to interview you guys. I can’t wait to see the show tonight and I hope you play well. There’s a great food market right across the street with pretty much anything you guys would want called Weaver Street Market…

Here is a video of the crowd that night that should give you an idea of what the crowd reaction to their awesome set was...

Be sure to follow them for news and updates on Yelle:

Love, Patrick

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