They've conquered the world by singing in French, pretending to rap, and releasing remix albums that are almost as acclaimed as their regular ones. Welcome to the topsy-turvy world of Yelle, where fashion, touring, and a love of Mike Meyers all collide ...
French pop band Yelle (an acronym for "Enjoy Your Life") burst into the music scene a few years ago with their infectious beats and a curious combination of street style and a very Gallic sense of humor. One of their first mainstream singles, "Je Veux Te Voir", contained the lyrics "Je veux te voir/Dans un film pornographique (I want to see you/In a pornographic film)".
Catchy songs and vivid music videos helped the group achieve a very special kind of worldwide ubiquity, starting with the bubbly pop-rap of 2007's Pop Up before launching into the more mature, song-oriented style that dominated this year's Safari Disco Club (and it's subsequent remix album). It's somewhat unsurprising that the band has achieved their level of fame -- even doing so while only singing in French. Now in the eve of one of their biggest tours yet, I spoke with front-woman Julie Budet about life on tour, their early days, finding the newest and hottest fashions, and her thoughts on joining Austin Powers on screen ...
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I know you've been on tour for quite some time now, can you tell me a bit about how that's been going?
Everything is going very well! We had a blast in South America. Three years ago we were already touring here and it was really cool. This tour gives us the chance to be back here, and people were waiting for us! Every night is a big surprise because the venues are crowded, and people sing and dance and have fun and the good surprise is that they know the new songs too. So it's really cool to see they are following us; they're trying to be aware of what we are doing.
That sounds perfect, one of my best friends saw you play in Brazil a couple of days ago and he was telling me that your energy performing live is unbelievable. Can you tell me a bit about the way you interact with your audience?
I like just to be connected with the crowd. It's really important for me to feel them and to get just to catch them, so I try to express myself and I dunno, just to play with them and to get to watching them and give my best. I think they can really feel this connection and because we are having fun a lot on stage, they can feel that too and maybe enjoy more the moment. It's just really important for us to be ourselves and express ourselves and yeah just play with them, like in a game, you know everything is like a game. Get to find a little treat to play with them and I dunno: I'm not speaking Spanish or Portuguese but I try to always have a little sentence in the language of the country. It's always something really fun for me cause I like to learn languages like that, it's still a game for me and I think people really like these little treats with them.
What would you say is your favorite song to perform in your concerts?
I think it really depends on the mood and energy and everything, but I like to sing "Mon Pays" because it means a lot to us. The song talks about the fact that we love France, we love our country but sometimes we are bored about it and we want to move and to discover new places, new people, new culture. And because we are traveling a lot in different countries, this song particularly means a lot when we are playing it onstage, it's a really intense moment. I love to sing it for people, because it's full of emotion.
Regarding "Mon Pays", what would you say are some of your fave countries to visit when you're on tour?
You know we are in Argentina right now and I love, I really love this country; it's really beautiful, I love the mix of people, I love the mix of different culture they have here and we had a blast in Brazil and in Mexico too, because I dunno, probably people have a different vision of life, I dunno, everybody is living in the street, everybody is outside -- because of the weather of course -- people are not shy and you know it's probably the main difference because for example in France, people are really living in their own, they are not sharing a lot.
I think it's a shame and I think it's really cool to see how people in South America can just give a lot of them and it's really beautiful! All around South America we had this feeling and in the US too, because I think people in the US are really open too and it's a really good thing.
Safari Disco Club: the Remixes is a great album and I love the fact you guys perform some of the remixes when you're on tour. You also tend to work with up and coming DJs and younger artists. Can you tell me how you end up working with all these people? How do you choose who will get to make a Yelle remix?
For us it's really important to have remixes but not not just to have a "boom-boom" version of a song or something like that, it's really important for us to have a different view and to notice how people can give another view of our music, give another expression of our music. We just try to ask people that we like, for example we asked Madeon, for the remix of "Que Veux-Tu"; he's really young but we heard about him and he's really talented and he was really into our music too.
We said "Yeah let's try something, we will see, we like what you are doing and maybe you can do something special for us," and actually he did a really, really cool remix of "Que Veux-Tu"!
Most of the time it's just about good connection, good moment and friendship, because in everything, you know, for me in music and my everyday life too, and for example the designers with who I work, it's really important for us to have a real good relation. With the remixer it's almost the same. For example, a band from Stockholm [Lo-Fi-Fnk] did a cover of "Mon Pays" and they are just really good friends of us and we love the music they are doing and it's just about that: pure love. It's connection and pure love.
Speaking of "Mon Pays", in the cover you realize that the song's melodies are truly beautiful. This can be said of the entire Safari Disco Club album, which has very sweet melodies. Conversely Pop Up was very aggressive. I always say Pop Up is perfect for sex and Safari Disco Club is perfect for romance.
[laughs] It's true!
What was the biggest change in mood between the two albums?
It's true what you said, we were really, not really really young, but we were like 23, 25 when we composed and wrote Pop Up, it was at a moment of our lives where we had jobs, we were doing music at night or during the weekends, so it was a totally different mood of composition and we were probably in a rush, because we were probably more -- I don't know how to express it -- but yeah more, in a different, totally different, energy.
For Safari Disco Club we were touring for almost three years with Pop Up and we had to take a pause after that and we were really peaceful and happy to be back in the studio and this was at the end of 2009. It was like: let's do something, not different, because we have our sound you know I mean our particularity, we wanted to keep it because we didn't want to disappoint people.
It was important for us to produce something different for Safari Disco Club, to work more on melodies, harmonies and lyrics too. We were more focused than on Pop Up , we were totally focused on it for one year. And I think it's maybe a little bit more homogenic in Safari Disco Club because we were more focused. So I think we didn't change, because we grew up a little bit, of course there is an evolution, it's totally normal and natural but yeah maybe we wanted to express us in a deeper way, explore new feelings and try some different stuff.
Even if the melodies are gorgeous, you seem to be doing much less of your "rapping" in Safari Disco Club, do you think people miss it?
I'm not sure because I think they maybe like the fact that I was kind of rapping, but I'm not a rapper girl. I like to sing, I've liked to sing since I was a little girl and it's important for me to keep that. I think people like the evolution in Safari Disco Club, they like the harmonies and this new way of expression.
Let's talk about your style: your fans love that you're always pushing boundaries when it comes to clothes and makeup. I like that you've gone in a Katharine Hepburn direction for Safari Disco Club -- with the waist pants, jungle looks and more severe hairdos -- do you have any favorite designers?
Yes I have favorite designers: I like to work with Jean-Paul Lespagnard from Belgium who did all the outfits on the album cover and we are using it onstage too. I'm a big big fan of Brian Lichtenberg from Los Angeles, with whom I work most of the time when I'm in the US. I like Stella McCartney, Gareth Pugh of course, and I try to continue to find new designers every day, to be curious and to have a new connection. For example I met a girl in France, she's from Argentina but she's in a design school in France and she's very talented, I'm sure we're gonna work together in the next [few] months.
I read you were in a short film and you'd like to act more ...
Yes, I played in a short movie, it was like two years ago and yes I'd like to act more in the next few months, it's going to be something really cool. I don't know with who ... I have a really good friend Jérémie Saindon (the guy who did "Safari Disco Club" and "Que Veux-Tu" videos), [and] he also did the next video for "Comme Un Enfant" with [fellow band member] GrandMarnier, they worked on it together. He's gonna write a movie and he wants me to be in this movie so maybe it could be a first step. I did this short movie, it was a really great experience. The guy, the director of this short movie is going to shoot his first [feature] in a few days and he asked me to be part of it but just for a little, little scene, so it's like a wink and he's a really good friend. I hope to have more opportunities and the chance to work with I don't know ... I'm not a real cinephile, I'm not well educated in movies [laughs].
You must have a few favorites though, any movie recommendations for us?
You're gonna laugh but I'm a huge, huge, huge fan -- I think it's probably the best movie in the world for me -- it's probably Wayne's World. I'm totally in love with the two of them and I'm a big fan of Mike Myers, he could be a guy with who I'd like to work with.
Maybe you can be the girl in Austin Powers 4?
[laughs] Yeah! Why not?