With the release of their second EP Tendrement, Parisian garage-rock band Film Noir continue to build on their vulnerable, raw sound and storytelling.
Fronted by siblings Joséphine and Alexandre de la Baume, we get the pair to chat before release day on making music videos in lockdown, habits they need to break, and the trends they just can’t stand.
Was there a temptation to postpone the release of the new EP with everything that’s going on? And do you think it’ll be received differently throughout this time?
Alexandre: Kind of, but we talked about it with people and they told us that, in a way, it was even worse to postpone. Because everything’s being postponed to come out next fall when all of the projects [that] have been postponed too would have been…
Joséphine: … A bit of a traffic situation; we’re dealing with a traffic jam right now.
Alexandre: The good thing is that this EP is a bit more mean. It’s still a rock EP, but there is more of a contemplative vibe. So, I feel like it can work in a lockdown situation more so than the first EP for instance.
How would you describe your style of music?
A: It was really about playing live and recording live. Most of the time on tape, in pretty basic conditions. The idea being to really record the live and rogue sound of the band.
J: We wrote the songs, then played them live as much as possible. We wanted to figure out the songs first and what worked with an audience, rather than trying them out in the studio and then trying to recreate that vibe.
A: I would say the soul of the band is Joséphine’s lyrics, which started off everything. She’s writing a lot of visceral and sincere lyrics that kind of informed the general energy and sonic energy of the band.
This is your second band together. What’s different this time around?
A: We started playing music very young, as teenagers. Singtank came naturally from writing music and spending time together. We’re lucky that it turned into a project that got signed to Warner in France early on, and it was an amazing adventure. But then after the tour of the second Singtank record, we spent time apart working on different projects. I worked on a lot of film scores; Joséphine was working as an actress developing some television and cinema projects. When we met again creatively, she sent me some lyrics inspired by everything that had happened in her life and her later impressions on things. I really loved these lyrics and they inspired me a lot. As soon as we started, we felt it was something different. It was a little less playful than Singtank. Very early on, we felt like it needed to be…
J: A different project. Also, a lot of it was in French, so we just felt like it was completely different.
You drift between French and English in the songs, was that conscious?
J: I was trying to write in French as much as possible; it was a diary of how I felt at a certain point in time. French being my first language, it just came naturally. Then the English thing, it turns into English because I’m addressing myself, almost like letters whose language is in English.
A: Joséphine spends her time between Paris and London. I think English is almost as much a natural language to her so both came through naturally.
The new song ‘Hustling His Way’, what’s it about?
J: It’s about a man who basically tries to forget about his true love in the arms of other women. One after the other, but we’ve all done that. So, I kind of had this visual of this person in New York, couch surfing and falling into the arms of one woman, one after another trying to forget. Often when I write songs, I visualise movies. There’s a very cinematic aspect to the band so I had the movie Midnight Cowboy in mind as I was writing. It’s also based on a person, so I had this in mind at the same time. I romanticised it; that all these women are like nymphs and fall at his feet while he’s covering them with sexual attention. Then off he goes to the next and the next. It’s an erotic song; the whole French passage is quite filthy.
A: It showcases and defines the band pretty well. It starts as this intimate storytelling, pretty simple with just the guitar and the vocal and it really grows by the end. When all the guitars and the other sounds are in the crescendo, it’s very close to the band’s heart.
I got a sense this EP followed on from the first, is that intended?
J: The first one was definitely more about a specific time and person, but I think the second one has some residues of that. With less anger, more tenderness and a deep sadness. The second one has more perspective and it also addressed other stories and people I’ve encountered along the years.
A: The lens is a bit wider. It’s still somehow from the same state of mind. But it’s like the day after when you start looking out the window and see people in the street and you have a romantic and a poetic view on everything around you. You’re a bit less focused on yourself.
‘My Love’ was filmed in isolation… How was that?
J: I went to the countryside to work on some music and ended up being stuck there [in] lockdown. I was quarantined with a few creative people; we were all helping each other out. So, we filmed on an iPhone and tried to be creative using different filters like sunglasses and a crystal rather than me just walking around a forest. I think everyone liked having some kind of emission. It’s a bit limiting the amount of activities you have in lockdown.
How many of you were living together? You didn’t get on each other’s nerves?
J: When I was in the countryside, it was like six of us.
A: You were lucky; it was a very creative six.
J: Yeah, we set up a studio and were able to make music so we managed to achieve things while away. We didn’t, we didn’t even have one fight.
A: That’s impressive.
J: I also feel like in these times with everything that’s happening whether it’s lockdown and then George Floyd, Black Lives Matter. Everything is so heightened [and] it’s such an introspective time. With Black Lives Matter suddenly everything comes into perspective, and it’s something that needed to be addressed. So, all of our little problems and OCD’s co-existing with other people. What you might have got annoyed at or focused on becomes irrelevant, extremely secondary. There’s a drive to go back to the essential, and I think that’s why there was no fighting. I think there would have been if there wasn’t all this happening. Everyone’s become a bit more tender and understanding.
Are there any bad habits that you’ve both developed during lockdown?
J: I like to think that I’m not a smoker. I’ve maybe been in denial, as I mainly smoke cigarettes when I drink. But now I can sadly admit that I am a smoker. I smoke cigarettes! Yeah, I’ve been smoking quite a lot during lockdown. It’s going to have to stop.
A: Same thing with me, but with alcohol. You always have the excuse of being with friends and drinking at bars and all of a sudden, you’re by yourself and still you’re opening that bottle of wine.
How do you describe your style individually and as a group?
J: We don’t overthink it. But I would say that it’s important that the way you’re going to present yourself on stage needs to be coherent with the songs. The songs being quite sombre, we’re definitely not going to start wearing loud colours. Sometimes I like wearing gloves and I try a different shirt in a way that looks a bit cinematic. As I dance a little bit, maybe it’ll be something that flows in a nice way on stage and I feel comfortable in, as I move around a lot and some of the songs are quite sensual. So, it stays visually exciting on stage as well.
What’s a favourite music video of all time for you guys?
J: I really like Pulp’s video, what is it called Alex?
A: … ‘This Is Hardcore’. Pulp videos, in general. I had the DVD of all of their music videos, and it’s like watching a series of really good short films. They’re always really intelligent, anything in the Pulp video world I would say.
And if you were alone in a car, what song would you play?
A: I would go for one of the songs on Fiona Apple’s new record that I’m really obsessed with. The first one ‘I Want You To Love Me’. I really adore her last record, and that opening track is very beautiful.
Fashion trend you can’t stand?
J: The outfits at Burning Man festival; they make me sick. I can’t stand it. There’s something about the psychedelic Mad Max that gives me anxiety. I don’t mind the Mad Max and I don’t mind the psychedelic, but the combo of the two together, no.
Favourite job you’ve had outside of music?
J: I do acting as well. I had an amazing time on the last project [Madame Claude]. It’s a biopic about the biggest female pimp in the sixties, seventies and eighties in Paris. I was surrounded by an amazing cast and crew of women including the director Sylvie Verheyde. There was a lot of improvisation, so it was really fun. I played the comic relief of the movie; she’s very innocent, nice and naive even though she’s in that position.
A: Mine was definitely a long time ago, right after I graduated. I went to work for a National Park in Siberia, Russia. I spent six months there trying to help the park get proper maps and make a website, all sorts of things. It was absolutely gorgeous in the mountains, so it was a mind-blowing experience.
Finish this sentence. I feel sexy when…?
J: When I’m in love.
What do you spend too much money on?
A: Definitely food. And maybe music gear. You think you’ve got all your equipment, you have it good. Then you hear of a new or an old machine that could actually work better than the one you have and it’s a never-ending process.
Do you think it’s good to use old machines over newer ones?
A: It really depends. Songwriting is and will always be the most important thing. I’m trying to write and travel as much as I can at the same time, so I’m going for lighter stuff. Some of the new technology really helps with that. As you can have great sound with microphones and can move around with a record everywhere. That’s what’s great with new technology. You couldn’t do that in the sixties.
You both said food first, what are your favourite foods?
J: My favourite food, I love Vietnamese.
A: I’m obsessed with Italian food. I could eat only pasta and pizza.
Neither of you said French food, being French?
J: Sorry we grew up with it; we’re sick of it.
A: It’s very buttery.
J: Too much butter. When I go for food at my mother’s house, I literally can’t move for three days. That’s why I’m going for Vietnamese; clean, boiled, healthy.
Three things you must do every day?
J: I’d like to say exercise, even though it’s not every day but I try for most of the week. And if it’s not exercise, at least go for a long walk. So that would be one. The other one is I try and write a little bit every day and the third one I try and sleep as long as possible especially during lockdown. I had insomnia before and somehow, I’ve had really good sleeping habits during [this].
A: It’s the same for me, the same three except for sleep. I try to either start a song or pursue a song on a daily basis. I feel like you’re not always inspired. But sometimes when you feel like you’re uninspired, you start working on it and some of the best stuff can come out. So, you just have to force yourself sometimes. To get on the guitar or piano and try out some stuff. Going outside definitely. And I’ve been trying to get back to reading too, so I would say reading. There’s so many temptations now for entertainment, with your cell phone, TV series and even with the news. There’s so much stuff going on, it’s becoming harder and harder to just open a book and forget yourself in a novel. Sometimes it’s a struggle, but I’m really trying to read a couple of pages a day at least. Right now, I’m reading ‘Back To Russia’ [by Ronald R. Rowan]. It’s not very famous, but it’s absolutely beautiful. There’s one paragraph I just read last night that I found very interesting and beautiful. It says how people depict their true self when they’re laughing. And that you can cry in an affected way or show another part of yourself in another way – but when you’re laughing, you’re truly yourself.
That is beautiful! Last question leaving on that lovely note. When’s the EP coming out?
26th of June and LP beginning of 2021. Then hopefully the tour in the UK, October dates coming soon.
Check out Film Noir’s EP Tendrement, below!