I met with the very sweet and humble YELLE (who’s PLAYING THE 9:30 CLUB TONIGHT with French Horn Rebellion) inside Paris’ Point Ephémère. I walked into the empty venue as she was soundchecking with GrandMarnier on drums and Tepr on keyboard. A couple of hours later, the space would be packed, filled with fans faithfully singing along to every word. When she asked them to get loud, they got louder. When she told them to jump, they jumped higher. And when she put her hands up in the air to form a heart…
BYT: What did teenage YELLE listen to?
YELLE: A lot of Nirvana, especially the “Unplugged”. Kate Bush, Madonna, Snoop Dogg…I listened to a lot of different things, but one CD that I played for a long time as a teenager was Kate Bush’s “The Whole Story”. It made an impression on me.
BYT: Do you remember the first record you ever bought?
YELLE: Yes! It was the “Best of Eurythmics”. I saw a commercial for it on TV, and I thought it was so cool. I remember being struck by the singer’s face.
BYT: What have you been listening to on repeat lately?
YELLE: We keep listening to the new Britney Spears. When we toured in England, we listened to it every single day, trying to decide which ones we liked and didn’t like. There are some really good songs.
I’ve also been listening to Robyn a lot. Her CD came out a bit ago, but I still really like it. It’s so varied, and I like the mix that’s in the album.
BYT: I know you all have different tastes in music, but it there something in particular that unites you three?
YELLE: Yeah, we do like different things….well, I guess it’s been the Britney. We listen to it together on the bus. It’s funny, our sound tech, Olivier, is really into indie rock, yet he loves Britney. He was the one that really wanted the new record!
BYT: Have you seen her new video?
YELLE: No, not yet.
BYT: She makes the end of the world look really sweaty.
YELLE: That’s funny.
BYT: The making of a second record is always a different experience, especially since you know everyone’s waiting for it. What was it like making “Safari Disco Club”?
YELLE: During “Pop Up” we worked in a weird energy, because it was fast and in a short amount of time. We had so many demos. With this one, we worked on it for a year and really concentrated. I think you can hear it on the whole of the album. “Safari Disco Club” is much more coherent. The songs have more links to one another. But at the same time, we had as much freedom as we did on the first album. We weren’t pressed by time, so it was really great to do everything in the rhythm we wanted.
BYT: Where did the inspiration come from for this animalistic theme? You’re even wearing a leopard print sweater right now…
YELLE: Hahaa, I know! Well, the words “Safari Disco Club” came from GrandMarnier. They had been floating around in his head for many years. But then, we realized it worked well with this beat he was working on, and we wrote “Safari Disco Club” around that.
We liked the idea of exploring the tribal and animalistic aspects of a club. Like, when you go to a club really late and see the way everyone interacts, you can see that they have this primitive way of relating to each other.
BYT: When I saw your video, I felt like I was watching a segment off National Geographic. I love the bit when you slide down the pole, and then the way you’re exposed after you drop the branch. How did the concept come together?
YELLE: We wanted to make videos for both “Que veux-tu” and “Safari Disco Club” and it had been years since we wanted to work with the director, Jérémie Saindon. He had this idea of people with their heads in the ground and of this parallel universe existing underground.
We ended up deciding to link the two videos together. We thought it’d be cool, since the concept doesn’t really exist. But it was also beneficial financially, since we’re also producers, to shoot the videos in LA for four days with the same team. It was a really great experience.
BYT: Tell me about “Que veux-tu”…
YELLE: It’s this fantasy of the working city girl, who’s attracted to this man from the country, who’s this farmer with ponies. He lives in a world completely different from hers. It’s also the concept of leaving your life for someone else, even though it’s the opposite of everything you know.
BYT: Do you mostly write about personal experiences or do you usually find inspiration elsewhere?
YELLE: I’d say both. GrandMarnier writes the majority of the texts. It really depends on the day. Sometimes, he’ll dream of something one night and will wake up and talk about it the next morning. He’ll start to write something and pass it to me, and I then I’ll change some things. There’s always this ping-pong thing between us. Some stories are imagined and others more realistic, but they’re always inspired by everyday life.
BYT: It’s interesting that you have a relatively large American audience, given that you sing in French. It’s rare. Do you have an idea why?
YELLE: We always ask ourselves that. What do we have that’s so particular for it to work in the States? We have no answers. Maybe it’s partly the fact that we’re spontaneous and sincere or that our shows are very energetic, which might attract people. But I don’t have a real explanation.
BYT: Your tour with Katy Perry is about to come to an end. How has it been?
YELLE: Great. We were a little bit scared at first. Just like we said, we’re a French band singing in French. Katy Perry has a strong fan base, so we thought, “oh they’ll boo us”. But it actually went really well. We got great responses. The audience was curious every night. When we invited them to dance, they’d do it. It’s been really cool. And we realized through Facebook and Twitter that we got some new fans, who discovered us through the tour.
BYT: What’s a memory from being on tour that stands out amongst the rest?
YELLE: There are so many. You know, before 2007, I hadn’t taken a plane before. Since then, we’ve toured so much abroad, that I caught up. But what’s really touched me the most has been to meet so many people with different cultures. It makes you realize that through music you can touch people who don’t speak the same language or don’t have the same way of living. We’ve been touched and had great shows. It’s been all of this. There have been so many memories and adventures.
BYT: Do you have a favorite city in the States?
YELLE: I’ve always liked New York, because I feel comfortable there. More recently, we’ve been to LA, where I found something else that I really liked. But, if I had to live somewhere in the States, I think it would be Austin. I’m a country girl, and Austin has this city vibe, but I like that it’s close to the country. It’s beautiful. The people are a little odd and cool and nice. There are so many musicians, and places to play music. There’s an energy that I really like about it.
BYT: Let’s end with a video. I’m in this trance where all I want to do is watch videos that remind me of summer. Choose one.