Yelle – An Interview

Yelle (french-pop-band-oh-so-amazeballs-realness) have released their third studio album “Complètement fou” last September. They are touring THIS VERY MOMENT around the world to promote their new born baby. Lucky me – I got the full package: one insane concert AND one exclusive interview filled with crazay infos that are going to blow your mind. #complètementfou #totallyinsane


KALTBLUT: You’ve just started touring in the US, with over 30 dates. How do you explain your success over there, especially knowing that you only sing in French?

Yelle: We can’t explain it, really. We did try to make sense of it all, but in the end there is no secret recipe for our success. We feel that people in the US discovered us with our live show, and then they stayed with us. It was a very gradual process.

First we did a show, then 3, then more… We can see that fans are quite loyal over there, they come back to see us play and they are here whenever we release a new album. It’s not necessarily because of the album though. We could do a show every 3 months and they’d still come back every single time. People tend to talk about you when they like what you do. Hear say plays a big part.

yelle4KALTBLUT: Do you feel that there is a difference between an audience that dances to your songs and an audience that sings along?

Yelle: That doesn’t really bother me. I like the fact that there are many different ways to listen to our music: there’s people who come to see us play because they like the energy but don’t understand the lyrics, there’s those who will try and find out what the lyrics mean, and then there’s those who only understand a little bit. I, for one, don’t always pay attention to the lyrics when I go see a band, but I go because I love their energy on stage. During our live shows I love playing with my body and my hands to try and act out the story that I am telling, so maybe that’s enough for some people.

KALTBLUT: Your tracks are very upbeat and catchy…

Yelle: Absolutely, we love to make people dance and we know that some people only come to our shows to dance and have a good time.

KALTBLUT: How do you set up a live show? // Tell us about your live shows

Yelle: When our second album was released, our live show was just like a DJ set: very upbeat tracks that built up progressively. With the third album, we want to break the rhythm so it’s a little less crescendo but we have a lot of fun with the different tracks, versions and remixes, mixing it all up… we have a couple of tracks that are live-only versions, but in the end it’s nothing but a big game: we just want to have a LOT of fun!

KALTBLUT: Your latest album “Complétement Fou” was produced by Dr Luke. It’s the first time you’re working with someone that’s not in the band. How did this collaboration go?

Yelle: When we started working together, we met this person who said: “OK, I love what you’re doing and I really want to help with your project. I know what you can bring to it, and I also know that you can teach me things. And together we can do something interesting.”


He also said that he didn’t want to make us into something that we’re not or to tell us what to do. Hearing this before we even started working together was very comforting. No one ever told us what to do. When we were in the studio, working on our tracks, we would make suggestions, and so would he. It was a two-way street. We never found ourselves in a situation where we said “wow, that’s awkward.” He completely understood what we wanted to achieve and where we wanted to go, and so it all happened very naturally.

KALTBLUT: Your previous album “Safari Disco Club” is very smooth and up-tempo. It feels like “Complètement Fou” is a lot calmer and melodically diverse. Does it have anything to do with your collaboration with Dr Luke?

Yelle: I think it’s a normal evolution. It’s true that on our first two albums we were younger, and we wanted things to be explosive, we had this head-first attitude. Here we have a little more background and we wanted to try different things that we hadn’t allowed ourselves to try until now.

When we did “L’Amour Parfait” in between both albums, it was something that we really wanted to do and this track took people by surprise, but in the end it was something that mattered to me, that I wanted to do. It’s a sound that I listen to.

Even songs like “Dire qu’on va tous mourir” or interludes like “Nuit de la baise” are songs that we gave ourselves permission to do. They just happened. They’re a little different but we’re going to record them anyway because they represent what we are. With age and experience we tell ourselves that we can do these things without it being too off putting.

KALTBLUT: Speaking of “Nuit de baise”, sex is a recurring theme in your work but it feels much more present on your latest album

Yelle: It’s funny because when we re-read our texts we realized that we did indeed talked a lot about sex! But I think it’s because we talk a lot about sex in our everyday lives. It’s easier for us to talk about these things than it was for our parents’ generation. We talk about it with our friends, with our boyfriends and girlfriends. It’s not taboo anymore. It’s a simple topic and I want to talk about things that come into my mind, and sex is one of these things!


KALTBLUT: Your music videos have always had this aesthetic quality, even though you’ve worked with several directors. How do you usually go about filming a music video?

Yelle: We always come to the table with our own ideas. The people we work with, we pick them not only because we like what they do but because we feel this connection. I’m thinking of Jeremie Saindon who worked on the music videos for “Que veux-tu”, “Safari Disco Club” and “Comme un enfant”. With Jeremie we had a brotherly connection, he became one of our best friends. So yes, we came with an idea, saying OK here’s what we would like to see.

For our first video clip “Complètement Fou” we wanted to work with 3 young directors, and we did give them a lot of leeway. We just said “we want a giant corn cob, a friend of us is going to make one for us, so this is what you need to work with, the rest is up to you!” We’re very flexible though, we are opened to our ideas being challenged and discussed.

KALTBLUT: Fashion and music go hand in hand, kind of like two peas in a pod. You’ve worked with JC de Castekbajac. How has fashion influenced your work?

Yelle: For me dressing up for the stage and acting in my own videos is essential. I have a lot of fun with clothes, both personally and as an artist. It’s all about finding what’s going to fit with the easthetic you’re trying to convey.

We like to play with visuals. But then it depends on the situation. On our US tour for instance, our suitcases were practically empty and once in New York we had this day off and so I said to the guys “Let’s go to Opening Ceremony, there’s a sale, we’ll find anything we want”.

There was this dress from Jacquemus that I had my sights set on and it was perfect but I knew I would never be able to afford it. And here we are in New York, at Opening Ceremony, and it was there, so I tried it on and it became clear: this dress was made for me, for our live shows, it was perfect. And when I look at the pictures taken at our shows and posted on Instagram by our fans, I know I was right.

Generally speaking, you don’t need to look that hard, it’s better to work with what already exists. There’s also moments when you have a chance to work with designers and create unique pieces. Right now for example our friend Jean-Paul Lespagnard is working on our outfits. We did this in the past with JC de Castelbajac and I think we will collaborate with him again in the future because he is very pop culture savvy and he loves music and musicians. He understands what it means to be on stage, and he knows that I don’t need just a dress.


KALTBLUT: You’ve created your own label Récréation Center and produced your first artist ToTorro. What made you want to start your own label?

Yelle: We created it during the Safari Disco Club era. Before that we had had our first experience with a label, we had signed with Source Etc which is part of EMI. It was a great experience because we learned a lot, we were surrounded by a great team of people that really helped us. It was really good. And then after that we thought why not create our own structure and put to good use all these things we had learned. And so we produced the album. It didn’t cost us very much: we worked in our home studio in Brittany, the guys were mixing and mastering on their own. We had signed a contract with Barclay at the time, and that too was a very good experience. Since we were on our own, organizing budgets was a bit tricky… but in the end it was very rewarding.

“If no one says anything, nothing will ever happen.”

YELLE_blue rays c 2014 MACIEK POZOGA-61593123With this album it’s different because we’ve signed with Dr Luke. And signing with a big American label is completely different, but you learn a lot in the process. And we created this structure because we wanted to produce other artists and we knew sooner or later that it was going to happen. It happened last year with ToTorro who we discovered during a festival. It was love at first sight, even though they are an instrumental band who do mat rock which is on the opposite end of what we do. But it was a very good experience: they’re young, they have a lot to prove, and they’re hungry for new experiences. We’re organizing their first american tour. They’ve never been there. There’s no budget so it’s gonna be very DIY. But we really want them to do this because it’s going to be an awesome experience for them. We know firsthand because we’ve done it several times, we started with the bare minimum and then we got more comfortable, so it’s going to be a little tough but you have to experience that. And these guys are part of other bands on the side so you never know how long this is going to last, but for now it’s something that we want to do, and it’s something that we feel they need to do, then we’ll see. Right now we’re just following our hearts.

KALTBLUT: And being a producer is very time-consuming. Yelle is a pop band, DJ set, a production company. How do you manage wearing so many hats?

Yelle: Yes, that’s a lot of things to deal with. Right now for example, I’m here with you, while they’re somewhere else filming a music video. We emailed again this morning because they ask a lot from us and that’s normal because we are their label but at the same time they know that they have to be a little bit patient. But that’s cool because we are honest with each other, we speak on a regular basis, and they can always rely on their agent, so it’s not like they’re alone. They understand that there’s things that they need to deal with on their own, we’re just here to make suggestions, but if they want to go to the next level they need to really put themselves into this.

KALTBLUT: It seems to me that creating your own label was also your way of breaking free, of declaring your independence…

Yelle: Oh yeah, absolutely.

KALTBLUT: There’s a lot of talk about royalties and online streaming in the musical industry right now. What’s your opinion on the Taylor Swift / Spotify case?

Yelle: If no one says anything, nothing will ever happen. For her an artist of her calibre to say something, it’s a big deal… she’s right. Of course she doesn’t need Spotify’s money, that’s not the problem, it’s just a question of acknowledging someone’s work and how artists are getting paid for their art. It’s a very complex issue. I for one, use Shazam to identify songs and then go to Spotify to listen to them but I do buy a lot of music.

I got a set of turntables for my 30th birthday so I also buy a lot of vinyls, in part because they are beautiful objects. I find it quite hard to explain to people what’s happening, especially the new generation. My nieces don’t understand. If you tell them that for 9€ / month on Spotify they can listen to all the music they want anytime they want, why would you expect them to buy music? Even if I tell them that for me that’s 0,00005 cents… they don’t understand. We need to educate people regarding the way they consume music and how much that type of work is worth to them. It’s going to take some time.

KALTBLUT: Maybe you need to tour more…

Yelle: Yeah, that must be it…

KALTBLUT: We felt that “Bassin” might be your next single…

Yelle: Well yeah it might be our next single.

Bassin_05World exclusive, Yelle having a little fun in her “bassin”!

The show was -Seriously- astonishing. The trio had such tremendous energy! They managed to turn the crowd into some sweaty burning mess. Literally. Dance or Die!

This could be the perfect pitch for this tour (it is, as a matter of fact the moto on their merch, shop here). Yelle are still touring and I could not recommend you more to check out when and where they will land next. If you have missed them in Berlin (or if you are ready for a sweat bath round 2), they will be back in February in Lido. Plus, Complètement Fou is out and available NOW. So are POP UP and SAFARI DISCO CLUB, their previous LPs.

To end this great post, I will leave you with Yelle’s favourite tracks of the moment. This is Yelle’s Playlist.

Translation by Bénédicte Lelong. Specials thanks to Valentin Plessy and Fashion PDG.