Yelle | 3 | Definition of Pop

April 2nd, 2011

What is Pop ? What is Youth ? What’s up with the French Touch ? How do you change and remain true to yourself ?
Last part of our YELLE interview…

Yelle by René Habermacher

YELLE by René Habermacher, in Marios Schwab FW 2011/12. Styled by Inès Fendri. Make-up by Akiko Sakamoto.

ANTOINE ASSERAF: YELLE is just the 3 of you, but sometimes it’ just refers to Julie, especially because there is “elle” in YELLE… How do you manage this YELLE = 3 or YELLE = 1 ? I guess it’s a bit like THE RITA MITSOUKO — they needed to explain that the singer was not RITA MITSOUKO so they added THE — you don’t feel the need to become THE YELLE ?

JEFF: Actually on the album cover,  (photo by Grégoire Alexandre, style Jean Paul Lespagnard) you have the 3 of us, but it wasn’t planned, it was just the best picture from the session. We thought “this photo is strong” and that’s it, not “oh it’d be good to show us as a band.” Naturally we also show ourselves as a trio because after all these years of touring, it becomes natural. But we’ve completely accepted the pop rule that the singer gets more exposure, she carries the group in a way, and it’s fine that way.

That way if the 2 of us don’t feel like doing an interview we don’t show up and let Julie do it alone (laughs).

It’s pretty unique that you guys are singing in French, because since the FRENCH TOUCH started, no one sings in French anymore…

JEFF: It’s a bit inexplicable, maybe it’s linked to the energy…. for us the best example is when you’re a kid, you listen to Nirvana real loud, you sing in “yoghurt” [making up words of syllables to lyrics you don’t understand], you don’t need to get the lyrics to identify…

That’s exactly what I like about your songs, you’re not afraid of making stupid rhymes, it’s like English-language pop in a way… I get the feeling that French songwriters all want to be poets but forget to be melodic… You guys have so much energy that as a listener you want to go along even if you don’t understand the lyrics…

TANGUY: When Jeff and Julie work on the lyrics, they work on the musicality, it’s possible, even in French.

JULIE: We write in a very spontaneous, almost spoken way.

JEFF: We write like we express ourselves, with punchlines, repetitions, stupid phrases that get stuck in your head… If you read things lyrics for “Tristesse / Joie” or “Les Femmes” on the first album, or on SAFARI DISCO CLUB you can hear the musical side or dig a bit deeper….

TANGUY: I was listening again to the album the other day, and there is this double-entendre, if you don’t pay attention you have these audio snapshots, these big images that pop out, but if you listen closely you find the depth…

JEFF: There is the influence of Etienne Daho, with lyrics that may seem naïve or even cheesy on the surface, but which you have to give a careful listen…

In French Music, what are some references ?

JEFF: Chagrin d’Amour, Etienne Daho, Richard Gotainer,

JULIE: Areski & Brigitte Fontaine,

TANGUY: Les Ritas Mitsoukos

JEFF: Booba for the punchlines, the slogans… perfect for tshirts.

In both albums there is a feeling of youth, in the energy and in the lyrics…

JULIE: It’s true there is a teenage side in some songs or in the overall approach, like in  CHIMIE PHYSIQUE, teenage love, return from the holidays… We’re a bit like that ourselves, young adults, old teenagers, without being “adulescents.”

Let’s go to extremes now — do you see yourselves like Madonna, at 60, cooing  “have I seen you somewhere?” in a mini-skirt ?

JEFF: I hope we won’t reach that point…

And yet it seems Madonne tried to age gracefully with AMERICAN LIFE and it just didn’t work out for her at all!

TANGUY: but that album was good!

JULIE: I know that CONFESSIONS ON THE DANCEFLOOR was a success, but for me it was kind of a failure to see her regress  as if she were 15, with a leotard, stretching her legs…

I think it’s because that album did so well that she went into this “time machine” total regression, implants, “my daughter could be my sister… Getting old isn’t so easy — so how do you see yourselves at 35 ??

ALL: 35 ???? that’s tomorrow !?

TANGUY: We’ll just be coming back from this tour! it will take 4 years ! (laughs)

JULIE: i’ll have a kid by then.

JEFF: Kids or a crepe-stand on Venice Beach.

JULIE: Either way, a radical lifestyle change.

At  35 you’re not old, just too old to play the teenager…

JEFF: Right now we’re not playing teenagers, we use simple words that can apply to any love story, it doesn’t apply to the whole album equally…

SAFARI DISCO CLUB + QUE VEUX-TU music video, by Jérémie Saindon.

I  was thinking of QUE VEUX TU…

JEFF: It’s a horse fantasy, something ambiguous, the little girl that wants to ride a horse, the 40 year old woman who wants to mount a stallion…

But there’s a lot of other themes on the album: MON PAYS about leaving, S’ETEINT LE SOLEIL which is actually existential, when you watch the stars in summer and think  “i’m a worthless shit”, UNILLUSION a bit cynical, on the illusion of being unique, things maybe said in a naïve manner, not to cling on to adolescence, but to express ourselves in a simple way.

Going back to those lyrics about ponies and horses and studs, when I read the lyrics I was really wondering — is it humour or not ?

TANGUY: That’s what i was talking about with sentences that trigger images!

JEFF: “you have horses, ponies, let’s make babies…” it’s pretty clear! You have everything it take to raise a family.

TANGUY: You see the scene.

JULIE: It’s because we’re from the country, we were born into this imagery.

JEFF: It’s not “My Little Pony”, we’re talking about real ponies, real horses, that you can use to have a stroll together as a family.

TANGUY: Julie was born in the country side and has a horse since she was a kid!

Come on, you can’t deny the MY LITTLE PONY side…

TANGUY: For me it’s about manliness…

JEFF: It’s about power, the black stud, the oak tree which is sturdy…

But there is a fairy unicorn lol side, and a more literal sexual side…

JEFF: We also have ” charismatique / jean magnifique” (charismatic /magnificent jeans), because we don’t want it to be too heavy, it’s like real life, you mix big ideas with little details, we always try to have this balance.

There’s also an undeniable humour in the videos that reinforce that aspect.

TANGUY: I think it’s part of what’s blocking some people from getting into Yelle, because they like the music but find some of the lyrics cheesy, they have a hard time reconciling it.

When I heard LA MUSIQUE, before the video came out, I thought it would more trippy, less humourous, but when I saw the video I was a bit disappointed, like you were returning to the lol myspace stuff — I was awaiting something more out there for the video to match the music.

Music video for LA MUSIQUE by We Are From LA.

JEFF: That was the delicate with LA MUSIQUE, we knew it was going to surprise a lot of people, maybe some people would get a bit lost because it was released outside the album. On the one hand it was a surprising track, and we wanted to surprise again with the music video, but we didn’t want to give the album away at that time either. The message was just “Yelle is coming back – it’s going to be a mess.”


EYE 2 EYE, EYE HEAR
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