the interview with Black Lilys, indie pop nugget

I hate this silence just before the storm ”. Over the years, the Black Lilys duo have spread their unique, sunny and visceral pop, to make a name for themselves. Tsugi was able to meet them just before their first concert at Pleyel to talk about their young career, their recent tours, what inspires them … and above all about this new album that is in preparation. Interview.

Black Lilys is a sister and brother, Camille and Robin, united by bonds as strong as they are invisible and which they (re) find thanks to music: the group was born shortly after the loss of their mother. After the EP Blood ties they walk the streets, grow up, then release their first album cans in 2018. They had an unexpected international notoriety when their title “Nightfall” appeared in the Elite event series, hosted by Netflix. They do some flashy opening shows like Pomme, which follow on several dates, from La Cigale to Olympia.

Black Lilys is a marked, intriguing universe, and a music that touches the heart for those who know how to listen to it. They claim to be inspired by Cat Stevens, Bon Iver, CocoRosie, Fever Ray and Agnes Obel. And some evoke a bit of The in their compositions XX, by Ben Howard, Björk, Angus and Julia Stone or Aurora. We will leave you alone as judges. Their music is soft, often, and animalistic the rest of the time. Upon returning from a tour of Great Britain, support of the Nouvelle Vague group, we wanted to talk to them before their first date in Pleyel, opening for Zaz ‑oui oui.

Well, let’s talk about this tour across the Channel!

It was really our dream to do a tour like this and reach people who are used to listening to our musical style. Our musical influences, all the bands we listen to come from there. We felt in our place, in the right place for our music. The reception was insane, the audience was super friendly. In the club or in the concert hall, we had a great listening even in the first part. In some rooms of Scotland, the spectators listen but are talkative, cheerful, expressing their joy out loud.

After the interruption of the covid, do the automatisms and emotions return soon?

Otherwise. But yes, of course, it comes back very quickly. Being able to play every night for a month was crazy! We no longer take things for granted after this period of emptiness. Every time you step on the stage, you see the halls full again, it’s cool. For many it was their first concert after the covid … We felt quite elated to be on stage.

It’s our first long tour without going home: 18 dates in 25 days, which don’t leave many days off. It helps you not to think too much. In music, everything takes time. You prepare a clip for filming in five months, finish an album so that it comes out a year later … On tour, you prepare your gig, do the soundcheck, play and move on. It’s good to be in the action, in the present.

© Regenweibchen Photography

4 years since your first album, the last one was April 2018. You’ve been releasing singles lately. Do you have an album in preparation?

Yup ! It’s ready. It will be released in the fall. We needed to leave, to find ourselves with nature to inspire us, as often. And you need to let yourself go to a place where you have some silence …

Can you tell me where it was created?

The album was made between Scotland -Edinburgh mainly-, Lyon … and the French Alps in Méaudre, in an empty family home. There was no studio, so we brought our entire system. And we isolated ourselves there. We made this album entirely in the home studio. We had to do it at home too. We also composed it a bit from a distance, because the covid has arrived. And in fact, we loved it! One in Scotland, the other in Lyon, and we had everything we mixed from a Norwegian, Odd Martin -musician who was in particular co-author and producer of many Aurora titles-. We mingled with him who was in Bergen, each at home with the same headphones, and listened to what came out of his console live. It was a work of listening and constant discussion. He really kept what we had already done, but he improved it.

So was imprisonment, paradoxically, an opportunity for you?

We were among the people who had something on fire before imprisonment. He gave us the time we needed. We have also been lucky to be close to nature, almost always. There wasn’t much in Méaudre but the mountains all around. I notice that in our music we often need it. Need for emptiness, silence to be filled.

We heard a lot of organic sounds on the first album, in your last tracks there are places. Is that what we will find in the new album?

This album is going to be very organic, as it was homemade, you have a lot of sounds. One of the tracks was recorded in a very old Edinburgh apartment with Victorian windows. And in fact when the neighbors raise them it makes a (insert a very nice fake window that opens) when you open the window. You can hear it in “Störm”. I remember being with my helmet on, waiting for the neighbors to wake up and do the (return of the beautiful imitation) waaaak. We also recorded semi, ambient guitar sounds, rain in Méaudre for “Gymnopédie”. There has always been this idea in our music: to capture a unique sound in a specific place, which does not reproduce, to incorporate it into our songs. Even sounds we couldn’t control, ‘accidents’ we decided to keep.

There is something changed in your percussion, right?

There in the album, percussion will have a particularly important place. And we wanted it to be something other than drums, so we chose different sounds. Taiko drums, lots of Asian percussion… I also think it’s a desire for the stage, to let off steam on the big gongs, à la Woodkid you know.

Among your latest titles we have “Yaläkta”, which you have already been playing live for some time.

Yaläkta ”undoubtedly is THE title that will follow us for a long time. It resonates strongly with us, we will always find meaning in it. “Yaläkta” is just a word made up together, because this title is changeable. Sometimes, giving a title a title blocks the path of possibilities. This opens up several topics. Sometimes on the record there are words, songs that are completely made up. A more emotional language.

At the beginning of Black Lilys the piano didn’t have a huge place, besides the titles it was embellished. And then there is the complete piano: how is it done?

In “Gymnopédie” we returned to a very bare piano voice. Erik Satie’s melody represented our childhood, our mother loved playing it for us. I have [Camille] still humming this melody, he began to invent lyrics. And Roby told me “but really why shouldn’t we put our story on it?”. Plus this artist has a history between Scotland and France, so the bond was crazy! And it’s the first love song I’ve ever written.

The same with “Invisible Strings”, much more belligerent. On this album we have both, there is something of a little bit of warrior rage quite new to us, with shouting, tribal percussion, like a release … But we still have a lot of soft titles! Again the ‘Black Lilys’, this balance that always follows us, from dark to bright. And the latest single “Störm”, I think it’s our favorite title from the album.

Can you weave a link between these titles? A common theme?

This album has several colors. The first was like the moods of a human being; the new one is about a lot of different subjects and people, plus one thing about the band. The red thread? Sweetness on all titles, but also anger, healthy and assumed now, as we can all hear. We had power over the first album, but a lot of modesty. The anger was internal, there we project it.

Seeing you in the first part of Zaz, on so many dates, can seem surprising.

We had made 3 appointments with her prior to the covid. After our tour UKasked us to join her for her Royal Albert Hall in London … “Anyway, it’s in 4 days, could you come?” : and well we started! This room was crazy, the craziest and coolest we’ve ever done. There have been too many lives in there, you feel something powerful. We were also pretty relaxed. Anyway for the Royal Albert Hall! It was fantastic, on stage we looked at each other between brother and sister, it was unreal … Do you know that there, the queen has her bathroom? When there are breaks, she won’t go the same as everyone else’s, she’s got her. It was a bit of a mini-search, finding the queen’s baths!

After the concert, Zaz told us he really wanted us both nights at the Pleyel, so we feel lucky, we are very grateful to have been invited.

These first parts, what sets you apart from visibility?

It is a real exercise. People don’t come for you, that puts an extra stake. And it allows us to play in places where, alone, we could not have arrived right away. The goal is to return OUR concerts. That’s what happened to Zaz: he opened for the Royal Albert Hall ten years ago. And then a bit like with Apple, he’s a very bright person. We found ourselves humanly, on delicate topics … We felt linked on the protection of the planet, on the social and climatic emergency.

Find Black Lilys streaming, on their networks or of course live:

14.05 Le Jam // La-Chapelle-sur-Erdre
11.06 The musicals of the Rhone // Laveyron
02.06 Music Festival // Thionville
19.10 Old Belgium // Brussels
29.06 The modern grocery // Lyon
04.07 Golden slippers // London
09.07 Leith Depot // Edinburgh

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