Thursday, May 13, 2010

She's a Swann Fatale

Tucked away beside a hearth in one of Brick Lane’s many cafés sits a Swann. And no, it is not the bird kind.

Chloé Lenique is a singer-songwriter from Paris, France, interning at Dazed & Confused magazine as part of her advertising degree. The name Swann, she explains, is a character from a Proust book, A la Recherche du Temps Perdu. “Swann is a man who loves art and who considers it is something that can convey much more than it seems to”. Apart from the little obstacle of the sex, Chloé does just that with her folk music, conveying emotions along with her tales of loneliness and love.

Paris has been her home since she was born and living in London for the past few months has had quite an impact on her. “London is much livelier than Paris. It has been a great experience. I’ve learnt to be more open-minded about everything and more confident as well. People here are more outgoing and less ‘classic’ than in Paris.” This classic look she speaks of sums her own style up perfectly. With chestnut brown hair and a blunt fringe, a black lace shift dress and little ankle boots, she is the epitome of Parisian Chic. She does however, “like the idea of making Parisian style less classical with a pair of Topshop shoes for instance”. She’s a fan of French designers and notes Claudie Pierlot’s retro looks as a point of style inspiration.

The twenty one year old and her younger brother “grew up to the sound of music”, as she aptly puts it. Her mother’s guitar playing inspired her to pick up the instrument herself and she recalls music being played during dinner and whilst in the car. “I can remember listening to my Mum’s records of Leonard Cohen and Neil Young when I was eleven and to my Dad’s records of the Rolling Stones and Lou Reed when we were in the car. It has always been very natural in our family and this taught me to be very open-minded about music”. This influence so young sparked a rebellious side to Chloé as she recalls her first record she bought was something to the effect of ‘Barbie Girl’ by Aqua. She laughs whilst trying to justify the purchase, but comes to the conclusion that there is no acceptable excuse for such bad taste in pop music. Of course, we’ve all had one of those embarrassing music store impulse buys that we danced around our bedroom to so we’ll let her away with that one.

Playing live holds a big place in Chloé’s heart, and the emotive way she performs proves this. “Playing live for me is both a challenge and a painful moment. Not in a bad way, I mean, I need to feel my songs from the inside every time and be very concentrated, that’s why it’s painful. It’s a moment when I have to face fear and pain”. This pain and fear she recounts is not witnessed while she is on stage as it seems she is at home up there, with her guitar as a shield perhaps. On some of her London performances, Stephen Munson has accompanied her on stage with a harmonica, electric guitar and backing vocals, and this elevates her performances in bigger venues. But on songs such as ‘Lovely Girl’ and ‘Will I see you’, her folk influenced voice bellows out and captivates the room in an instant. Her favourite gig so far has been at The Old Blue Last, Shoreditch, but she also made a trip home albeit volcanic ash to play a gig at L’International which stands out for her also.

Inspiration for her heart felt songs depends on her mood. “Sometimes I feel like writing the lyrics first or sometimes the melody comes to be first. But the most important thing is that I always work on both at the same time so they’re coherent and one sticks to the other perfectly”. Her slow tempo songs are infused with ideas of loneliness and sadness, topics which often remain unanswered. “I write the words that come to my mind naturally. Most of the time, I won’t really know why I wrote it and it’s only a few days or months down the line when I understand”. Her demeanour is reminiscent of a young Francoise Hardy or Nico, the latter whom which she is a fan of along with the Velvet Underground. Some of her favourite haunts in London are flea markets and record shops where she recently picked up a copy of The Tallest Man on Earth’s latest record The Wild Hunt. Her eclectic music taste, she feels, is noted in her songs and that it’s a mix of all the music she loves.

Chloé’s time in London is drawing to a close and soon it will be back to Paris to record another demo. She also hopes to tackle an album, one that will be flowered with more country and folk filled songs no doubt. Next time a swan glides gracefully down a river or lake, be sure and listen to the joyous delights of Swann. You will not be disappointed.
Upcoming Gigs: The Constitution (London) 21st May
Le Bus Palladium (Paris) 18th September

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bill Hicks Lives On

Bill Hicks was a true visionary in the world of comedy who highlighted the corrupt politicians and commented on the US' major hiccups in both an intellectual and humorous manner. His abrupt jokes and harsh beliefs paved way for a new generation of thought provoking comedy, but his status has yet to be overthrown.

"Fifteen years after his death, Bill Hicks is now more popular than ever, and is widely regarded as one of the best comedians of the modern era. However, in America, where he challenged institutions and accepted ways of thinking, he suffered censorship and was never truly recognised. In the country which enshrines freedom of speech in its constitution, his story is truly about what it means to be an American. American: The Bill Hicks Story blends interviews and historical footage with a stunning new animation technique – manipulating 1,000s of photographs to uniquely immerse the audiences in Hicks’ world."">

Here is a list of the main British and Irish showings:
London Curzon Soho 14.05.10
London Greenwich Picture House 14.05.10
London Odeon Covent Garden 14.05.10
London Ritzy Brixton 14.05.10
London Screen on the Green 14.05.10
London Clapham Picturehouse 15.06.10
London Stratford Picturehouse 15.06.10
London Brentford Watermans 18.06.10
Glasgow Glasgow Film Theatre 14.05.10
Edinburgh Cameo 14.05.10
Edinburgh Filmhouse 29.05.10
Dublin Irish Film Institue 14.05.10
Cardiff Chapter 14.05.10
Bristol Cube 14.05.10
Manchester Printworks/Odeon 14.05.10

Extra Extra!

It's one thing to have a blog and publish your work online, but to see it in print in magazines is such a wonderful experience. I was lucky enough to be published in both Dazed & Confused's May Issue with Tilda Swinton on the cover, and Velour's first edition this month. The two copies sat side by side in the local newsagents and both had a similar colour schemes which made them stand out on the fashion magazine packed shelf. To quote Penny Lane in Almost Famous, "It's all happening..."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dazed & Confused May Issue)

The Passion of Joan of Arc, a silent film directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer in 1928, is being musically reinvented by Adrian Utley of Portishead and Will Gregory of Goldfrapp. The two artists have previously collaborated on a few different projects and a film score was their next port of call. Adrian admits that “We want to bring our own kind of musical aesthetic to it but without forcing it onto the film”. This new venture will encourage them to take the inspirations from their respective bands and unite on this iconic film about the trials of Joan of Arc. Will is “just delighted to be able to get our hands on all those different sonic possibilities”. The new score will be performed at the screening by Utley and Gregory, along with the Monteverdi Choir under the conductor Charles Hazlewood and is sure to enlighten the audience with an original collective sound. Adrian closes with a promise to create something innovative for the film; “We’ve deliberately tried not to listen to any music that has previously been composed for it because we just really want it to be something that is totally original”. The film will be shown at the Colston Hall, Bristol, on Saturday 8th May.

Full interview with Adrian Utley of Portishead and Will Gregory of Goldfrapp.

How did the project come about? Were you approached separately or together?

Adrian: Well Will and I had done things together before and we have this connection with Mark Cosgrove at the Watershed cinema, an independent cinema here in Bristol and he really started the ball rolling by showing us loads of films. Will and I wanted to collaborate on something and Will had already done a film score in fact you had done quite a lot hadn’t you Will?
Will: Yeah a lot of silent films.
Adrian: It went on from there really. And we decided we wanted to do one together and with Mark we watched a load of films and then decided on The Passion of Joan of Arc.

Was there any particular reason why you chose that film?

Will: Yeah I think that when you’re working to a silent film you’ve got to be careful. There’s a lot of films out there which are wonderful films but are very narrative driven, edit driven or plot driven in a way that makes writing music for them much more difficult. It puts you into a very much supporting role where the music is just serving the function of helping to tell the story which is fine. But if you’ve got a lot of edits or jump cuts a lot of change of plots or locations it’s actually quite hard to write a continuous piece of music that sort of adds up to something in it’s own right. Whereas this is one of the very few silent films where that is totally not the case. It’s very much these long slow moving, often very beautiful, close ups- yeah it’s got these close ups where the faces becomes sort of landscapes. It just means that you’ve got a tremendous amount of time to breathe with the film but also kind of go in your own musical direction in a way that’s not going to inhibit some of the musical directions that you might want to go in.
Adrian: Which was what were very keen to do, fairly strong ideas about kind of what we wanted to do musically or at least we can start to think about doing or experimenting with. And you know like Will said because of that narrative thing it’s actually really hard to find any films where you can do that, it’s incredibly difficult. And also ones that haven’t been really done many times before. I guess a lot of people are approaching silent films in the same way, there are people that are absolutely amazing at writing music or improvising to silent films in the old way but we just desperately didn’t want to do that. We want to bring our own musical aesthetic to it but without forcing it onto a film. And this seemed like it really would fit you know.

How do you plan on separating your work with Portishead/Goldfrapp from the score in order to create a unique sound for the film?

Adrian: From my point of view, my work that I do with Portishead is within that world. And sometimes it’s incredible, we have so many rules about what we will and what we won’t do within our music writing that there’s a whole world of music that I really want to explore that I couldn’t possibly explore with Portishead if you know what I mean so it’s a very good chance for me to explore those things with somebody like Will who I’ve worked with for many years and really enjoyed that other side of my life.

Will: Also I think that collaborations are very much about the chemistry between the people involved, and I think that you know obviously Adrian collaborates with Jeff and Beth and that I one set of kind of outcomes and you know I collaborate with Alison and that’s another but I think the mere fact that we’re collaborating with each other mean it will again be something automatically different. It is going to be very different what will come out of that just because of the two different heads.

Did you study the film and the original score, or try to steer clear of previous scores eg Cat Power?

Adrian: We chose to ignore it really. I’ve never heard the Cat Power one I don’t know if you have Will. I’ve heard the orchestral/choral score that was done for it, and you know that’s completely brilliant in its way is fantastic but its completely nowhere near what we want and it’s not really going to influence what we do. It’s really important not to listen to those things, I prefer to just take it as a piece of film and start from there

How much does it differ from the original score itself?

Adrian: We’re in the process of writing it at the moment, we’ve just started now.
Will: We haven’t even written it yet which is all rather previous, we’re slightly, eh we’re just trying to work it out basically!
Adrian: That’s what I was saying about it, being a chance to do this thing I don’t/usually do. I’ve been working with electric guitars like a mass, I’ve just did a piece where I’ve picked the electric guitar not long ago so for me this is a voyage of discovery in that world and um for Will also I guess. But Will you’ve been working with Choirs haven’t you for a bit?
Will: Well I think that was it really, we decided the parameters that we wanted to, because obviously we’ve talked about things we’ve really wanted to do over the years and so we decided that we wanted guitars, we wanted a choir. I think there’s a very strong religious subtext to the film where it’s sort of 3D printed onto the screen. But I think for that reason a choir would be kind of appropriate sound world but obviously how would you explore that and use that. I think we’re just delighted to be honest to be able to get our hands on all those different sonic possibilities. What is fantastic about working with Charles Hazlewood the conductor is that he’ll hopefully be able keep it going while we’re dealing with the fact that we’ve got to play a part on guitars or synths or whatever it is that he’ll be there sort of keeping everyone together and cueing all the things happen in the right places so that will be taking weight off our shoulders.
Adrian: Exactly he’ll take total responsibility for that
Will: Ye see he’s so good it won’t go wrong! So that’s good thinking.

And will you be be performing it on the night live?

Adrian: Yeah it’s going to be in the Colston Hall in Bristol which is cool and we’re quite keen to do it in places that generally aren’t cinemas so we’re looking at various venues for it to live on a bit longer and do some more performances, possibly in different spaces other than cinemas. So you know it would be great to do it in a church for instance cause it has, well the music we’re writing will suit and certainly the subject matter will suit well for being in a church.
Will: It’s a totally new score. And I think we’ve deliberately tried not to listen to any music that has previously been composed for it because I think we just really want it to be something that is totally original for this film. The great thing about film is that it’s a kind of thread which can draw a lot of different elements together and so we’re going to be able to go a lot of different places in the music. And the film actually is quite linear in the way that it looks which means that the more variety that you can bring to it in the music the better it’s going to be. So really it’s a great platform for music I think this film in a kind of unique way.

What kind of research have you done in terms of the film, have you read the transcripts from the trials or anything like that?

Adrian: Well we have got the transcripts of the trials that were actually published which might in some way kind fit in with hat we’re doing. But I think doing something like this gives you an opportunity to learn more about what was happening in the world at that time and it’s really interesting from that point of view, it’s a sort of lesson about history if you like. Although we’ll just be working to the film, just learning about what happened to Joan of Arc and what was happening at that time in history has probably formed our opinion of the film as well.

Will: Yeah I mean I think film buffs generally are very in love with silent film because it’s such a pure expression and it’s also right at the beginning of the birth of cinema so in a way there were no rules and Dreyer had that wonderful freedom that you find with any kind of new genre to kind of go wherever it wanted to go. And this in particular stands out amongst so many of the others as being influential, kind of has relevance beyond it’s own period and I think in that way, in fact I’ve heard people say that they think it is one of the greatest films ever made.

Adrian: I’ve heard that too, and we were saying that the influence it’s had on film Sergio Gianni, like you look at the close ups of Joan of Arc, that’s got to be really powerful. Like those huge close ups in Once Upon a Time in the West or A Fistful of Dollars or whatever. Or Clint Eastwood ye know all of his face on the screen and Dreyer who directed Joan of Arc had that vision all that time back that which is amazing. Which also makes it a spectacle in a really big space with the giant faces on the screen.
Will: And that’s all they have to express themselves with um, apart from the odd bit of subtitle. So it means that the film has to work in a very pure sort of way to tell the story literally with people’s facial expressions.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

May Music

First gig of the surprising early summer is The National at the Royal Albert Hall on Thursday, 6th May. Their new album, High Violet, has been streaming on the NY Times Online in order to create a bloodbuzz for their fans that will be lucky enough to catch them at the famous theatre in London. The five piece band originally from Cincinnati, Ohio but came together as a group in the heart of Brooklyn, NY, are on the bill of many a festival this summer but have scheduled in this one off gig for their British fans. If anyone wishes to go with me please don't hesitate to call me as I am not brave enough to go it alone.


Swann, French singer Chloé Lenique, has been interning at Dazed and Confused for the past few months and has taken advantage of the London music scene playing a handful of intimate gigs. Her folk inspired love songs and delightful accent makes for an interesting live performances. With a great set in many iconic London venues such as the Lock Tavern (Camden) and The Good Ship (Kilburn) under her belt, and two more in the coming weeks, Chloé is sure to make a name for herself here before returning to Paris in the summer.


Upcoming Gigs:
- 10th May : 93 Feet East (Brick Lane)
150 Brick Lane

- 21th May : The Constitution (Camden)
42 St. Pancras Way, Camden

The Brian Jonestown Massacre are renowned for on-stage brawls and bust ups, most famously the one that was caught on camera during filming of 2005's documentary DIG! which followed both BJM and the Dandy Warhols in a bid to become the better band. Anton Newcombe, lead singer, guitarist and song writer has come a long way since then but some say his new clean image taints the music BJM produced back in the 1990s. No doubt it will be showcase of new material, but here's hoping they throw a few classics into the mix in their set on 14th May at the 02 Shepherds Bush Empire.


Fm Belfast hail from Reykjavick, Iceland, and were formed after a humorous birthday present of a mix-tape turned out to be the soundtrack to the party. They will be playing at Madame Mo-Jo's off Regent St on the 18th May and again at the Stag and Dagger festival on the 21st. Don't miss out on their catchy electro beats and wacky lyrics combo.


I'm sure there a many more but assignments and deadlines will prevent me from going gig crazy until June.