We had the chance to catch up with the mastermind behind the successful pop-folk outfit L'Or d'Orouni, Rémi Antoni, to talk about the release of his new EP Somewhere In Dreamland (Les Disques Pavillon) and the inspiration behind the dreamy music of the band.
Culturethèque: You have reunited with Emma Broughton who provides guest vocals on the latest album. How did you first meet and what was it like working together again?
Emma and I met in early 2012 when the group Thousand, which I love and in which she also plays, gave a concert at the L’International (Paris). But actually, we already knew each other prior to that, both through the exchange of emails as well as through mutual friends. After meeting her in the flesh, I invited her to sing on two of the track titles on the albumGrand Tour, released in 2014, and we never really stopped collaborating after that.
We also sang a duet cover of an R.E.M song ('Find the River') which was picked up by the music website A Découvrir Absolument, she performed in the music video of my song 'Firearms', which she later made her own and she will play songs from our forthcoming album. It is therefore entirely fitting that Les Disques Pavillon suggested Emma should sing on four pieces of Grand Tour.
Culturethèque: Your work has been described as being in line with that of Paul Simon, blending 'Anglo melodic pop music with instruments brought back from around the world'. Can you talk to us a little bit about your influences and how your music has evolved over time?
My very first recordings were made in student rooms with very little money. I already very much enjoyed studio productions, but I did not have the means to record myself: I was not in contact with any studios, sound engineers or classical musicians who might have enabled me to oversee a more honed production. In addition, I had a full-time job and could only make music in the evenings and on the weekends, which very much limited opportunities for collaboration. So I played all of the instruments (with the exception of a cello) on my first two albums. Fortunately, as I went to concerts and got some advice, I met people through whom I was able to record my third Grand Tour album. At the same time, I started listening to Senegalese, Zimbabwean or Brazilian music (Orchestra Baobab, Stella Chiweshe or Caetano Veloso), and I wanted to include these sounds in my music.
I also love to discover different architectural styles, national cuisines and diverse landscapes. This resulted in me travelling across a dozen or so countries between 2009-2010. Such trips have widened my perspectives and provided fresh material, in terms of the things I talk about in the lyrics of my songs. I have also been able to compose songs using instruments brought back from my journeys (like ‘The Sea Castle’ which features a cavaquinho acquired in Salvador de Bahia), while orchestrating some pieces in a more classic or Anglo-Saxon way, as evidenced by the track ‘In The Service Of Beauty’. I love it when groups try to create a link between aesthetics that may at first glance seem incompatible, and mix different influences, like Talking Heads, for example.
Culturethèque: Is it true that the film maker David Lynch inspired the track 'Beyond the Grave'? What is the story behind that?
Earlier this year, the site Indie Rock Mag launched a Twin Peaks-inspired compilation project to celebrate Season 3 of David Lynch's series. On a proposal from them, I recorded a composition inspired by the sounds used by Angelo Badalamenti on the soundtrack. As for the lyrics of the title 'Beyond The Grave', they are the basis of an imaginary monologue by Laura Palmer after her death. The full details of this project are explained here.
Culturethèque: Did all of the band members receive formal music training?
I am by far the worst musician in the band. After two years of learning classical guitar, I basically tried to hold my own. Our bassist / guitarist Steffen, however, is so good that he gives regular classes, and is highly sought after for projects (Emilie Simon, Loosers Klub, Hindi Zahra ...). Antoine, our drummer, is very versatile and also knows how to play the keyboard and the saxophone. Raphael, our keyboardist, is a formidable jazz musician: he masters the trumpet, the euphonium, and even played bass, at one time, with Cléa Vincent. As for Emma, she also comes from a jazz background and plays the flute on stage with us, but also practices guitar and keyboard.
Culturethèque: Most of your material and track titles are written in English, was this a conscious decision?
Indeed, this was a deliberate choice. Many years ago, I started writing my first songs in French, and I thought it didn’t sound great. So, despite some disadvantages, I switched to English. For me, everything in music has to be chosen. But one does not choose where one is born or one's mother tongue. Moreover, I use French every day, I am fascinated by its subtleties, and I really like this idiom when I read Stendhal or Zola. But I see no reason to use this everyday language when writing and singing songs, because for me music is a world apart of which I claim autonomy. Song writing is not a by-product of literature, nor is it poetry set to music, in my eyes, because it often suffers when it has to conform to an already established form such as prose: it is more free in the nature of its movements. So, my goal is to be as musical as possible. I always imagine the melody first, and then it's the words that have to marry with it. I try to make my albums sound pieces rather than semantic pieces. It turns out that it's by singing and writing in English that I feel I'm closest to achieving that goal. Besides, I'm not sure that we can reach an audience in Spain, Norway or the United States in the same way by singing in French (I think that the demand for Swedish pop groups to sing in Swedish, for instance, is probably quite low). However, I am not ruling out the possibility of writing songs in French one day. But again, it will require renegotiating everything, sentence by sentence and word by word, to ensure that it is not simply meaning set to music.
Culturethèque: Which French and British artists would you most like to tour with in the future?
In France, I like Dorian Pimpernel, O, The Dø and Barbara Carlotti, and among British bands, Teleman and Vanishing Twin, for example. I have to give a special shout out to Clementine March, who commutes between the two countries. I bet it would be great to tour with one or more of these bands.
Culturethèque: And finally, any plans to tour in the UK?
I would love to play in the UK, but without a tour manager or special contacts, it remains difficult for now at least.
Discover more music by Orouni and Thousand on Culturetheque