Interview with We Were Evergreen: nursery rhymes, peanut butter and “weird” French quotas
|July 25, 2012||Posted by Jade Cuttle under entertainment, international, interviews|
The alternative-indie trio from Paris, We Were Evergreen, have recently supported the likes of Ed Sheeran, King Charles and Emeli Sandé. They create mesmerizing melodies that reduce the world and its worries to a heartbeat and beats fit to burst, and their enchanting vocals dip in and out of harmonies, hypnotizing the average hipster and bringing electro back to life. This band doesn’t just make music, music pulses through their veins as they rise and fall to the tinkling xylophone dancing gracefully through the summer air.
In an interview with The Student Review, Michael Liot, the lead singer, guitarist and ukulele player of We Were Evergreen, who dances with enough energy to break the stage into two, reveals how his up-and-coming band sprang from a New Year’s resolution, the struggles French music artists face, the influence of nursery rhymes and his addiction to bananas and peanut butter.
Jade Cuttle: So your band came together after a New Year’s resolution? What’s that all about?
Michael Liot: Well, I think I was 20 at the time and had been making music by myself with guitar and voice, I had recorded some stuff with my computer and said to myself, “I’m going to show it to people, not hide myself in my room, show the world that I have this music.” And so I put it on MySpace and the band started two weeks after in January. I knew Fabienne [xylophone and vocals] from the drama classes we were doing together. I told her I was playing music, she said, “Oh, what are you doing?” and I showed her. She was playing piano.
JC: What about the third member, William Serfass?
ML: They knew each other from percussion classes they were taking at a French academy for music, so she asked him to play with us. At first it was only the two of us, and then he joined about four months later.
JC: Do you think you’ll grow any further or are you happy as a trio?
ML: We’re happy as a trio, but we’ll see later on. It’d make life simpler in a lot of ways to have more people – it’s complicated but we like that. We have the challenge of bringing all of this together as a three person thing, but maybe later, I don’t know. We could add additional musicians but the band itself will always be the three of us I think.
JC: Where do you take your inspiration from?
ML: A lot of things. Lyrically, I’ve always liked the idea of childhood tales and nursery rhymes, so I grow from that and build something more personal and implicate it in the songs. Nursery rhymes are just like myths in modern mythology, they’re the basis of what children learn. When I learned English, they were what I learned first: “The cow jumped over the moon, the dish ran away with the spoon.” They teach you that language is playful. I want the songs to be playful but also be darker and more personal.
JC: Do you have a favourite English nursery rhyme?
ML: I really like Hey Diddle Diddle. There were a lot of others I had on a VHS cassette when I was young, but I think in general I just like myths and that sort of thing with strange creatures.
JC: So how did you end up in London?
ML: We were asked to play there about a year and a half ago for an acoustic session with Sofar. [Sofar host intimate gigs in secret living room locations across the globe.] That was the first time we played in London, and it so happened that we met our current manager there. We did some shows and festivals and really liked how it was getting along and the welcome we received, so we decided in September that it made sense to move here. It was exciting for a French band because almost no French band we know has moved to England to try to develop itself. England is very close to its own music and so it’s very hard for people outside of English-speaking countries to make themselves known. We had this opportunity and said, “Let’s take it, come here and see how it goes,” and it has been going well so far.
JC: Where did you get the idea for the band name, We Were Evergreen?
ML: It came from the idea that something that lasts forever, in the sense that it’s always the same shape like evergreens, would create a paradox in the phrase “we were evergreen.” It’s possible to say “we are evergreen,” but to say we were something that is supposed to still be something doesn’t really make sense, and we like that.
JC: That’s quite clever. So why do you write your songs in English?
ML: Most of the songs I listened to growing up were in English, my dad really only listened to The Beatles. I can’t say there’s one inspiration that draws me to sing in English, but I think it’s also because the time when I was growing up was coincidently when the internet arrived, so you could hear a lot of music from other countries that you wouldn’t hear on the radio. It’s a weird system in France, they don’t allow too many songs from other countries. There was liberation and freedom at the beginning of the year 2000 when people were discovering American and English music – I think that’s why a lot of my generation became a little disinterested in what was happening in their own countries. French production was more sterile. There’s a lot of good stuff happening in France, but it’s a generational thing that a lot of indie bands in France sing in English.
JC: Do you think it makes them more marketable?
ML: Not to France, because the system makes it more difficult for bands to sing in English. There’s a quota where 60% of all songs on every radio station must be sung in French. I think it’s the only country in the world that has one. This means English singing bands were put in difficulty because labels were saying, “There’s a very slight chance of you getting on the radio so there’s no way you’re going to be successful.” There was a moment when there was a wave of English singing bands, it worked for a bit but now it’s dying because people are becoming old-fashioned again. In France it’s difficult. The fact that we came to England means we don’t have that difficulty, but we do have to compete with a lot of English bands. There’s nothing cynical about our choice of singing in English, it just so happened that was the way we felt.
JC: Any memorable moments from your gigs?
ML: The first real festival that we did in England was The Great Escape in Brighton, and that was really great. It was packed and there was a great atmosphere. It was surprisingly great. We’ve had a great welcome. That’s one among the many.
JC: And finally, what’s your favourite flavoured ice cream?
ML: Hmm, I’m going to have to say banana. I’m a fan of banana, everything banana. I hate banana flavoured sweets but I love banana milkshake and banana ice cream. It’s like my favourite thing. I also like stracciatella.
JC: Have you ever tried banana smoothie with peanut butter?
ML: Yes! I’ve done it at home. I love it! I discovered peanut butter in England. I was addicted for a while when I came here. Very strange. But then I sort of got sick of it. For a while I had it every day, every morning with banana.
We Were Evergreen are set to leave their French footprint on the indie-alternative scene this summer as they sprinkle their innocent charm and hypnotic melodies at Camp Bestival, Wilderness Fest, Festibelly, Bingley and Shambala Festival to name a handful. The perfect summer soundtrack, sure to leave your ears hungry for more. Check them out.
With special thanks to Michael Liot and Becky Cuttle.