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An Interview with

Tristesse Contemporaine


I'd never say ‘no’ to a really good dance-pop record. I think the one for 2022, came from the hands of Tristesse Contemporaine. A group of artists who live in Paris and have been known to us since 2012, when they released their first self-titled album. Back then, post-punk sounds with roots from electronica introduced us to a band that admittedly caught our attention with its sufficiently rough sound. Followed by “Stay Golden” of 2013 and “Stop And Start” of 2017, the band softened its sound but at the same time, shaped its synth-pop sound with tracks like “Fire”. The different origin of each of them was anything but an obstacle for a harmonious collaboration and an excellent result. On the contrary…

2022 was literally going to be the year that would put them on the podium. With a multi-collective sound album, "United", the group shows signs of maturity and a particularly strong background of musical ideas. Some may think that dance music is easier to compose than some other genres but this can be deceptive. In a second and more logical thought, we will understand that dance music can’t be lukewarm or make "mistakes". ”Mistakes" in electronic music will either make you disappear from the music foreground or you will simply be judged by the missing dance movement. Tristesse Contemporaine seem to start their next musical circle with such convenience but at the same time with an excess of self-confidence, in a hugely competitive space that does not forgive mediocrity.

Apart from connecting different nationalities, "United" integrates musical genres such as rap, dance, cold wave and funk and this is surely a success! Club culture combined with pop and no-wave funk. It's impossible not to feel the atmosphere, like being in the middle of the crowd, being the one who dances the most, next to the DJ. Every track on the record is sufficiently effective and hits straight to its goal of rocking the crowds. But even "Forget", the last one of the album, although atmospheric and in a downtempo mood, keeps the same quality and musical fabric of "United". Another testament to how well-crafted this release is and how it deserved a place in the list of best albums of the year.

Bellow, our chat with them about what "UNITED" is...


UNITED - out 14/10/2022

 

The Basement: Hello Narumi, Leo, and Michael. First of all, thank you for joining us. Epic 5th album "United" on Record Makers. Please, introduce yourself to us.

We are Narumi, Leo and Mike. We met in Paris. Like in many cities, many bands and friends hang out together, that’s how we met.


The Basement: What does 'Tristesse Contemporaine' mean? Did you intend to introduce sadness in a different way to the music world?

The name 'Tristesse Contemporaine' ("Contemporary Sadness" in English) comes from a book called 'La Tristesse Contemporaine' by Hippolyte Fierens-Gevaert. It made sense to us to have a French name as we are all from different countries but live in France. And anyway, the name works perfectly with post-punk, our original style of music.


The Basement: What are the differences between today's album and the previous ones, for example, 'Stay Golden' and 'Fire'? Do you think there were major changes in your music?

This is our fourth album, the first three were made with the spirit of post-punk, very minimal yet repetitive and kinda monotone vocals, but we knew that it was time to change our approach, we love our style but didn’t want to repeat it for the fourth time.


The Basement: 'United' can be easily heard both in clubs or on the radio. It is a really versatile album that includes genres like pop and electronica, even reggae and hip hop. Tell us more about the process of production and the central idea.

This fourth album is musically a lot more colourful than the others, with guitar solos and keyboard runs, there are even some positive lyrics, but not too many. The big difference is that we worked with Lewis Ofman on this one, he brought a different energy and heaps of enthusiasm to the production.

The production process and the central idea was to do something fresh and unexpected. We wanted to surprise our followers by surprising ourselves. We very naturally went from style to style, rap, dance, cold wave, funk without even thinking too deeply about it. Of course, working with Lewis helped with this coherence.

 



The Basement: How did you meet Lewis Of Man and of course Record Makers Label?

We are introduced by Cesar from Record Makers. Cesar suggested that we should ask Lewis to produce the song Slyfox after listening to our demo, because the baseline made him think about Lewis.

At the beginning of our project, some people made jokes saying we were 'The Benetton band' referring to our nationalities, one Asian, one black and one white, like the famous advert for Benetton, like the iconic and cult picture taken by Oliviero Toscani.

But first of all, what united us was through music, cinema and books. Especially British music from the 90’s, post-punk to new wave and rave culture.


The Basement: Japan, Sweden, England-Jamaica are everywhere in 'United', coexisting in a brilliant way. Who's idea was the cover of your LP?

The idea of the flag came from Cesar from Record Makers, he suggested that why not unite your originality and different nationalities by creating a flag to make Tristesse Contemporaine one entity.


The Basement: Did you always live in Paris city? How's music life there nowadays?

We are from Tokyo (Narumi), Stockholm (Leo) and  London (Mike), but we’ve lived in Paris for over twenty years now. We always question what we're doing with our music but never try to follow the new thing. We need to know that we are making Tristesse Contemporaine songs even when staying very open and working with other artists and producers.


The Basement: Why do you write music?

To breathe, to liberate emotions within us, to dare to share with others. I guess you don't really choose this lifestyle. It's not just an attraction to music, it's an attraction to art.


The Basement: Give us three artists that would be a dream collaboration for you.

Lots of the artists we’d love to collaborate with have passed away (Alan Vega, Andrew Weatherall..) but why not Nile Rodgers, Daft Punk (they’ll be back) or Thundercat? That would be great!


The Basement: What are you up to after this new excellent release? Any gigs or tours planned?

We had a concert at Razzmatazz in Barcelona on the 10th of December 2022, then we’ll tour in 2023!


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