Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Airwaves Festival

I attended the London Airwaves festival in Shoreditch and rangled some interviews with french electro pop-punks The Teenagers and Folktronica pioneer James Yuill

The Teenagers

You guys have played a lot of festivals this summer. What’s been your favourite one so far?

I really like Glastonbury, Summer sonic in Japan we all liked, the crowd was amazing, there was loads of people, it was well organised plus it was in Japan which is really exotic, everyone was nice…even the sound engineer! Usually they are a bit rough but in Japan they are very respectful.

Do you like playing festival shows as much as you like playing smaller shows?

Yeah we like to play for bigger crowds. This kind of mixed thing is cool the airwaves festival. We did some others in the summer in Germany and also Brighton fringe festival, that was cool.

I heard you’ve said you don’t want to be associated with emerging French rock bands, what’s your reasoning behind that?

We just don’t have the same sound or do the same music
A lot of them try to sound English, I think the English are better at that sound. So it’s a bit pathetic.
There is no point trying to do something the English can do better.

Why did you move out to England then?

What happened is I moved to London after my studies. We made music when it was the three of us in Paris I would come back and we would gather there. I moved out for an independent reason but we all had to move out because our label was English and it was easier to have all of us here. We don’t feel part of the feel part of the elctro scene in Paris or any scene in Paris.

What’s the difference between that and the scene here?

It’s more dynamic and it’s growing very quickly here.

Did you find it difficult growing up in Paris?

You accept it, you’re either happy or you leave. Everything is really different. It’s a beautiful country and there’s some good things as well but its for music and art and stuff its very slow.

I heard you started doing rage against the machine covers and your all keen on Hardcore punk and heavy metal, why doesn’t that come through in your sound any more?

Well we don’t think it would work, with a mosh part in a pop song, abit out of step, I don’t think people will get it, but maybe we should try with the vocals

What like gang chants?

Yeah a sing-along

Your also Britney spears fans right?

Yeah we all like a lot of different music, so many genres, it’s impossible to put everything in. I like Metallica for example but I don’t want to sound like them.

How did you develop your sound?

There was never a time we said “lets do this type of music” it just happened, we just wanted to mix some indie rock and electronic music, to have both guitars and synth and to sound decent, that was the start of it and after we did what we could with what we had.

What made you want to become musicians?

The fame and the sex and the drugs I guess. The boredom of the suburbs. Listening to Guns and Roses, when I was 15 growing up, Kurt Kobain was my idol, I wanted to be A Rock musician like him.

Presumably without the suicide, is it quite rough in the Parisian suburbs?

We are from the South West which is ok, it’s a quiet environment.

How did your environment influence the aesthetic of your music?

People are more creative when they grow up in the suburbs, cos like it’s not that boring but we didn’t hang out in bars or pubs, we were just at home most of the time so you have to do something creative.

Were a lot of your friends creative as well?

In secondary school a lot of people would get high and say “im gonna do like paintings lalala….” There were big art sections with art freaks and we wanted to be them with dreadlocks and clubs…I don’t know

but it didn’t quite happen?

No. we failed.

Do you see your music as an artform?

I think it’s just entertaining. Its true we do the music and the visual so it’s kind of like a whole pack.

How did your tours go in the states?

Cool, really cool. The second show we did teamed up with Team Robespierre, I don’t know if you know them but they are very cool, they have a very good live show and I think we learned from them, which is cool to be able to learn from the people you tour with. When you do like 10 days together, at the beginning you are forced but afterwards you are happy to hang out with people that are not in your band.

What have you got planned for the future?

We will keep on touring until next year, then we will write some new songs, we’re just starting.

You write new stuff while on tour?

No! we are not like that, we like to be comfy. It doesn’t work I don’t know why, we just don’t want to do it, in between concerts I just want to sleep and eat I find it hard to be creative. Maybe this will change.

So after you finish the tour you’re going to work on a new record?

We’ve already started, but we have plenty of gigs lined up, we’re really gonna start on new years eve. We should start soon. But in between now and then we play Germany, then Mexico, Singa Pore, New York, Japan, so it’s cool. We’re not big anywhere btu we have lots of mini-fame here and there.

You’re quite big here now, more so than in Paris

I dunno, but we’re not like Jack PeƱate, do you know what I mean? We’re a little bit everywhere, but I find it a lot more exciting than to have a big following somewhere then to find another place and it be like your first show. We’re a bit shitty but everywhere.

A lot of your songs are about girls, so I’d like to ask, based on your travels, where your favourite girls are?

Sweden and Scandinavia, all Scandinavia, Finland, Denmark. And England!

You’re just saying that because your in England!

No no! people say in France that English girls are ugly but we don’t agree at all, we think English girls are really hot!

James Yuill

Did you enjoy you enjoy your set this evening?

I did enjoy my set, it was very loud, and very enjoyable.

Folktronica is an interesting genre, how did you go about developing your sound?

I started out just doing singer/song writer nights, got very bored with that so I incorporated my laptop to try and replicate what I did on my last album, live. Then I got heavily into dance music, since then I’ve just been making it heavier and heavier.

When you say heavier..?

More electro

So what made you want to become a musician? Were you always into musical things?

Yeah I have. What first got me interested in music was listening to Nirvana’s Nevermind when I was in my early teens, it was the first CD I had and it really got me into the guitar so I started learning loads of Metallica and Nirvana songs, and I’ve got in to other things as I’ve become older and wiser.

What genres have been your most recent discoveries?

I got heavily into Indie for a few years, then when I went to University I got into world music and was inspired by Jeff Buckley, and obviously Nick Drake’s detuning the guitar was a massive influence. I started producing music when I left university I bought a studio just some bits and bobs, back in 2003, then got into dub, the chemical brothers, aphex twin, all the juicy stuff. I think the only genre that’s really progressing is electronic music, because everything else has been done pretty much. Recently Jackson and his computer band made everything completely different that influenced me a lot and Justice turned things on their head although it’s becoming pop now which is weird.

How do you see you self fitting into the scene in relation to your contemporaries?

I’d like to think that I make it a bit more interesting with the lyrics, meaningful lyrics and shit, although I don’t know what I sing about half the time. I thought it’s never been done before, I originally tried to sound like Amon Tobin meets Nick Drake but I kind of got heavily into electro stuff, it just seems to work together really.

Where do you find inspiration for your lyrics?

I kind of just sit down, I’ve got a guitar riff or something and whatever comes into my head, I’ll try and steer it in a certain direction, it’ll just be random shit. Then “oh that kind of sounds a bit like that” and then I’ll twist it. I don’t really know what I sing about, I kind of sing about being lonely most of the time, weird stuff like that….that no one sings about, moaning.

I really like your roots manuva remix…

Oh cool! You heard that?

Do you enjoy doing remixes as much as doing your own songs?

I absolutely love it, probably even more really because the hard bits been done, you know, the vocal melody. You have free reign to do whatever you want over someone’s track, you can really change it completely, I like trying to change the chords underneath it to see if it could be a better song. I really enjoy it.

You say it’s difficult to construct a vocal melody, how do you go about doing it?

I try and make it as catchy as possible but normally it’s about whatever chords your playing, it’s kind of dictated. But you have to make sure you’re not repeating yourself, I don’t want to sound like my last song. I basically want to have a really strong melody.

At the same time you want to create a sound that people recognise you by?

Yeah but I think that comes from the acoustic guitar and the vocals mainly, but yeah I’d like people to be able to hear a track and say “yeah, that’s James.”

I heard the score you did for the short film ‘not a perfect world’….that was dark.

Oh God yeah! Well basically it was part of the 24 hour film challenge thing so we had 24 hours to come up with the idea, film it, and do everything. It was good fun. You can’t really hear it in the mix, the reason I put it up on my blog to download is so you can hear the work I actually put into it, because you can’t really hear it in the actual film.

Are you interested in doing more film scores in the future?

Yeah when I have a bit more time, they’re really laborious, what happens is you get a rough edit, you work to it, then they change all the edit points and you need to re-record it. So I don’t know, maybe further down the line.

How would you like people to feel when they come and see you play?

It’s a good question. I don’t know really…like they’ve seen something completely new, I’d like them to feel happy. It’s weird because I don’t think people feel happy when they listen to my music, but I’d like them to feel happy, just to know there’s someone a bit more fucked up than they are.

What have you got sorted for the future?

Got a tour in October, pretty much the whole of October is touring, album on the 13th single on the 6th and loads more remixes as well, I’ve got two I’m doing at the moment, that I haven’t even started yet. So yeah just busy trying to do as much as I can, I wanna start deejaying as well, if I can work out how to actually do that. It’s another form of income, I can just bring my CD’s instead of dragging all my stuff everywhere, its much easier.

Do you think your new single ‘this sweet love’ will be a hit?

No, I don’t think so, it’s the most commercial thing on my album, but I don’t think it’s….

at this point a Random wide boy with stolen bike wheels it up to us and says
"Ay, you interested in a bike bro?"

James: ......No thanks….....No I don’t think its gonna be a hit, because I haven’t got a big enough fan base, and it’s a limited release. I suppose if enough people buy it digitally it could be.

If you get the radio play and stuff?

Yeah exactly like Elvis Presley. Radio 1 needs to play it a lot more in the day time, but I don’t think they’ll be putting it on their play list. There’ll be 600 vinyl for people to get hold of.

Are you a fan of modern folk music?

Oh yeah, most of my friends are currently working the circuit, that’s where I spent 2 years playing the singer song writer circuit, so a lot of my friends are doing some great stuff, there are hundreds to check out.

Any emerging artists who you particularly respect?

Post War Years are really good, doing something completely different, and I live with a member of the Operators who are a new band, also really good, the sound of Bailey, Rod Thomas, there are so many it’s ridiculous. I worry I’ll get lost amongst all these new bands.

Do you enjoy doing festivals and large events like this?

I did latitude and secret garden party, but I prefer doing ones in the city like this because you don’t have to worry about the weather, you don’t have to worry about your stuff because it’s all inside and safe, your not sitting on your arse waiting to be rained on.

Do you get a better audience reaction in the city?

I think the sound is sometimes better, although I’ve only been playing smaller stages at festivals. As long as the sound is good it doesn’t matter where you play.

Where would you say your musical stomping ground is?

I guess London, because I’ve played more gigs here than anywhere. I don’t live here, I live in Ealing so I get to escape the whole scene, but yeah it’s great here, I love it. I’m not really a part of it, you can tell by the way I’m dressed, I’m not trendy.

You’re looking pretty smart…

Well yeah, that was my manager’s advice; he wants me to dress up a bit because I used to just wear t-shirts. I looked like I’d just got out of bed, so now I’m trying to look a bit smart.

Does your manager have an influence on the way you perform at the moment?

Well, yeah, the whole team around me, the Moshi guys will suggest things, although I am who I am pretty much, sorry to be corny. They might advise me to rearrange my set, and I might say actually your right.

Who will you be watching at Airwaves?

I want to see Cock n bull kid, Casio Kids, A-human and Digitalism if I can.
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