17 janvier. Encore embrumé dans le jet-lag, j'ai eu la chance de rencontrer Emily Jane White dans un café de San Francisco où elle jouait le soir-même, peu avant son départ pour une tournée sur le vieux continent. Première interview en anglais. Première interview tout court. D'une artiste dont je suis résolument fan. Beaucoup d'excitation, pas mal de stress et au final une rencontre très agréable avec une artiste vraiment sympathique.

En raison de l'abondance de neige sur les pistes de ski californienne, la traduction est toujours en cours. Je souhaitais néanmoins vous en faire profiter (en version originale donc), avant son concert de ce soir à l'Alhambra, pour lequel vous avez, j'espère, tous des tickets.

Tonight you’re playing in a small bar in San Francisco but next week you’re leaving for France. You’re having quite a critical success there, apparently more than in your own country. How would you explain that?

That's mainly the way it was released. I hadn’t been known at all and then it was released with a lot of exposure, particularly in Europe. So what happened is that I never released the record with strong promotion. And then I have still to release the second record here. It’s gonna be released in April.

On which label?

Well, it’s not totally finalized yet, but it will be released in April. But I mean, that’s the reason why. And since I had such an opportunity to tour in Europe, it ended up consuming most of my time. Between that and recording my second record… that was what happened. It was sort of the nature the way things went.

Most of your songs seem to relate to women from older times. Apparently it relates to your studies. Can you tell us more about it?

I studied women studies. I’m interested in narratives that talk about female protagonists and particularly like, for example, one of my favorite books is Wuthering Heights by Emily Jane Brontë and that’s, you know, kind of a good example of the type of narrative I talk about in my music. It’s not everything though. I mean if you wanted to know more specifically, we probably would have to talk about specific songs.

Do you identify to some of those women?

I think that my music is really timeless, what I choose to talk about. I don’t add a lot of modern day references. Some of those things are a little bit inexplicable and there are, for some reasons, some things that I’m really drawn to and it’s not intentional. I mean, I think, as a feminist and someone who studied feminism, there’s no way with which you can’t identify with a women’s role at different time periods and compare it to sort of a present day. So that’s a really simple answer to that.

You said that your lyrics were sort of timeless but in the song Victorian America, you talk about people losing their home in America or a flood taking New Orleans. Are you trying to connect with recent events or trying to get a little bit more political?

True. There isn't really like a basic statement about this songs, but eventually it was two things that I was really interested in at the same time. I mean, one thing that was happening, was this catastrophy of hurricane Katrina and politics and the other is that I was reading this book about Victorian culture in the US, which is really fascinating and particularly on a women's perspective, that's what I was focusing on and all the oppressive restrictions like social laws and things like that and what I sort of tapped into with both of those topics is that there's a lot of things that weren't really talked about, that were really being unjust. And that's why I wrote the song.

At the time, you described the music in Dark Undercoat as simplistic. For Victorian America you switched to a more orchestrated kind of music. How did it come? Did it change the way you write music?

It didn't change the way I write music because I wrote all the songs with no orchestration to them at all. I didn't co-write any of the the original material that I sing or play on guitar or pioano. That was all written before I brought it to these people. And then they wrote all the parts around what I wrote. So it doesn't have anything to do with the way I wrote these songs. But I can see how you can think thaht, because it's a really different sound from the first record. Which I was happy about. I was happpy that the two records were really different.

Sometimes when you try to get a lot of orchestration, you can get lost. The good thing with your record is that you don't seem to lose sight. You came with those songs and then people wrote music on it, but in the end it sounds like it was created in one piece. How would you explain that.

My explanation for that is that we all worked really hard on arranging the songs so that they were appropriate for the original. That makes me happy that you say that actually and I think my bandmates would be very pleased as well. I think then you go into arrangements that you feel are appropriate for the song, that allow the vocals and the subtleties of the original material and you work hard to make it perceptible in a way that does justice to the original songs. And I feel like we succeeded on that. It's good to know.

At the end of Victorian America you try more electric sounds, like electric guitar. Is that someting you would like to go further into?

Yeah, I would like to do something really different. I think my next record is gonna be so extremely different.


Well, it's certainly gonna be different than the first and the second one but it won't be like so different like a dance record or a metal record.

So, you're already working on your third record?

Yes, I'm working on demos.

When shoud we expect for a release? In France at least.

(Rires) I'm not sure yet. I wish I knew, but not yet.

You're from California, but when listening to your song, for me it sound more like other parts of the US: the Midwest, Louisiana... Doesn't sound that Californian to me. How would you explain that?

Woah that's interesting. I think there are probably people that would say that there are certain things about it that are very californian. But maybe from your perspective with being from Europe it seems that way because there's probably subtle differences, nuances, that you can't see but I can understand that.

So what's really californian about your music?

That's a good question, after I just said all of that. One thing in particular is my hometown, because where I grew up is a very isolated town in northern California and that has a lot of do. It kind of shaped my consciousness. The atmosphere I try to reflect in my music has a lot to do with where I grew up.

So while they might not be familiar with the places in your record, why do you think french people love it?

That's something I've been curious about, but I think that, for whatever reasons... I lived in France for a while, so my speculation is - it might not be true at all - that french culture and french people have more of an appreciation for art that talks about the shadowy side of life, the darker side of life. You have famous poets,like Beaudelaire, people like that who talk about very dark things and there's just much more of an appreciation for that. I imagine that a lot of french people who listen to my music don't understand the lyrics, but they can understand the sentiment and the mood and the atmosphere. My music is very moody and atmospheric and I think that culturally french people have more of an appreciation and a connection to that. I don't know if you agree with me, that's a really general statement.

I know you prefer to talk about your work rather than what others do, but are there any artists or bands form the Bay Area that you would like to recommend? I guess you mention some of them in your album liner notes.

Defintely those bands (NDLR : Or, The Whale, Chris Garneau, The Spindles, Lonely Drifter Karen...) and the bands that are playing tonight (NDLR : The Devotionals, Foxtails Brigade) and then also Jen Grady, who plays cello in my band, she also does solo music and it's really amazing. She plays a lot of show in the Bay Area. She's really wonderful.
I've been gone for the last six months so I'm trying to remember the last shows I went to in San Francisco.

In France, any bands / artists that you like?

My friend Julien Pras. He's gonna be opening for me on the next tour and he made an amazong solo record that's gonna be released in the next weeks or something (NDLR : 1er mars.). He's also in a band called Calc that are really good.
There is so many people. (Rires) It's hard to think of the top of your head.

You have a european tour starting next week. Any plans after that? Coming back and starting to record?

I will probably record and then I'm also probably going to tour a little bit more.

Your music and lyrics are very dark. Are you a dark person in real life? Because you don't seem like one.

(Rires) No. Not really. I think It's hard to define darkness among type of darkness. There's darkness and then there's morbidity and other things that I don't necesseraliy identify with darkness. I would say I'm a contemplative person, but not neceserrily dark.

I'm running out of questions. Anything you want to say?

I'm excited to tour in France and I'm verry happy and the whole tour is gonna be with all the musicians who played on the record. It won't sound exactly like the record but it will be performing those songs as they are heard on record.

Are you playing alone tonight?

No, I'm playing with the violonist and cellist who played on my record.

And for the coming tour? Are you touring with more people?

Yes, there's the violonist and cellist and my friend Henry who plays pedal-steel and electric guitar and then there's drums. And actually Julien Pras, who is gonna be opening, he's gonna play bass in the band.

Same band you toured with last year?

I toured with all those people before, but not all together.

Favorite place in France?

I like Toulouse a lot.

OK, I guess I'm totally out of ideas. Good luck with the coming tour.

Thanks and thank you for doing this.

Oh, thank you for doing this


Un grand merci à Sean, du formidable label bordelais Talitres pour avoir permis cette rencontre

Emily Jane White est en concert ce 2 février à l'Alhambra à Paris et dans le reste de la France ensuite

02/02/2010 Alhambra — Paris, France
03/02/2010 Cabaret Electric — Le Havre, France
04/02/2010 UBU — Rennes, France
05/02/2010 Krakatoa — Bordeaux, France
06/02/2010 Epicerie Moderne — Lyon, France
07/02/2010 6 par 4 — Laval, France
08/02/2010 La Fourmi — Limoges, France
09/02/2010 Le Ciel — Grenoble, France
11/02/2010 Poste a Galene — Marseilles, France
13/02/2010 Noumatrouff — Mulhouse, France
26/02/2010 Octubre Centre Cultura Contemporanea — Valencia, Spain
27/02/2010 Minifestival de Barcelona — Barcelona, Spain

3 commentaire(s):

Francky 01 a dit…


Bravo pour l'interview. Problème : perso, je suis nul en anglais donc pas trop pigé. Putain la chance. Aller en Californie, voir un concert de Emily Jane White et en plus avoir la chance de lui parler et encore plus pour une interview pour ce blog ! Ouawwh le top.

Et ce concert, comment c'était ??

En tout cas, moi je te dis bravo !!!

A + +

Erwan a dit…

Très belle interview en effet (et j'ai tout compris, je dois pas être si mauvais que ce que je crois en anglais ;-)

PS: c'est vrai que c'est beau "Beaudelaire" :p

Paul C. a dit…

@Francky01 : la traduction arrive, dès que je surmonte ma procrastination chronique. Le concert ce soir-là était sympa, sans plus. La faute à un public pas nécessairement attentif (c'était dans un bar). Beaucoup d'inédits, qui d'après Emily ne figureront pas sur le prochain album.

@Erwan : tu veux pas traduire ? :p