The Penelopes make sparkly electropop, with elastic bass lines, lush keyboard sequences and funky guitars. We managed to grab the French duo for a half an hour chat. Axel and Vincent talked candidly about how they have found living in London, finishing off their album, the food, the night life, their influences and what they have planned for 2012.
HBF: Hello Penelopes, how are you today?
The Penelopes: We are well. We are drinking some red wine, hahaha. We really miss our French wine, but our friends came to visit us and brought us some – so we are really happy at the moment.
HBF: What was the reason in moving to London?
The Penelopes: We have been living in London for 8 months roughly. It’s funny as English people don’t realise that it’s more a lot professional here than in France for what we are doing. There are more producers in what we are doing here, and you can gig in London easier. For a French band that sings English, there are a lot more opportunities in London. There’s only a small scene for this in France. 60% of music played in France on the radio is sung in French, so for us who sing in English it’s a lot easier in London.
HBF: Do you write your vocals in English?
The Penelopes: It’s more natural for us to write in English. A lot of the bands we used to listen to when we were younger were English bands, so it’s easier. For us it’s a lot more direct than French. The phrasing is much easier and simpler to write and compose in English. It’s better for anything that is pop-related. In French you use more words, but with English it’s tighter and preciser – so it works a lot better with the melodies and harmonies.
HBF: Does the second album sound a lot different to the first?
The Penelopes: It’s really different. It sounds tighter and the production is much better. Before we worked on our own, but now we are working with producers. The editing is more efficient, and the composition is more direct. We think it’s good to sound simple and more pop. English producers are a lot better when it comes to vocals. In France people don’t seem to care about the vocals as much. In England people want to produce better vocals, for you guys it’s very natural to create harmonies within the vocals, but in France engineers want to work on the instruments more than the vocals.
HBF: What bands and artist have influenced you?
The Penelopes: It’s a tough question. We like a lot of stuff. Our background is New Order, Primal Scream the Happy Mondays. When we were kids we wanted to be different. In the suburbs everyone was listening to hip hop. We originally thought we were a pop band, but then we’ve come to realise we actually are more influenced by disco and many other styles. We’re a bit like a big salad. Yes. A big fucking salad, hahahaha. At the moment we are listening to Edwin Van Cleef, Gigamesh, Classixx, Van She, Aeroplane, Destroyer, Delphic and Cut Copy.
You might not know this, but for us our influences are Manchester bands. In Manchester people have mixed electronic music and rock in way that was never really done before. From a French perspective its really important. In France we don’t have an equivalent. We don’t have bands like Joy division, New Order, and the Happy Monday’s. We never really had this crossover movement.
HBF: So what can we expect from you in 2012?
The Penelopes: We’re going to finish the album. We have two or three tracks to finish. We plan to do some gigs in the UK and US, do some videos, remixes and collaborations. The main goal is the gig in the UK. The album will be out in six months. We’re going release two tracks beforehand: ‘Sally In The Galaxy’ and one more. It will be out on our own label, with a famous French guy helping us out. But this is business, so we cannot say who it is yet – but you’ll know who it is.
HBF: If your studio was on fire and you could save one thing. What would it be and why?
The Penelopes: Normally it would be our drugs, hahaha. Vincent would take the computer. But for us both it would have to be our TR-808 drum machine signed by New Order. We bought the TR-808 in France, and back then it was the most expensive thing we bought when we were kids. It was our first ever drum machine. Then New order were doing a signing in France, everyone else came with Vinyls and CDs to get signed, but we came with our drum machine.
HBF: What you have noticed culturally that is different between Paris and London?
The Penelopes: We have listed a ton of funny things. The way you pee, the football and the food. We have supported Arsenal since we were young, so we like to watch them. But the main difference is the food, it’s is really bad, hahaha. It’s a total mystery to us. We’ve tried the scotch eggs and the pies, which we quite like. But we tend to get friends to bring us some wine, cheese, and sausages from France. Because we don’t have time to go out and buy French produce. We love the cosmopolitan restaurants – you can get any food you want whether it’s French, Indian or Thai – so we love this.
We love the English pubs. People are less arrogant than in France and are a lot more friendly. In France people want to show off it’s their pub or club. The Nightlife is a lot funnier and is a lot more drug orientated. For example if you walk down Dalston or Shoreditch at 4am it’s like a scene from Michael Jackson’s Thriller – full of Zombies. Londoners don’t seem to give a shit, they don’t seem to hide it as much. Clubbing in London is better, it’s more funky and Londoners are a lot cooler. In France people don’t want to look silly, but English people like to dress up, we like this.
HBF: Describe your sound in 5 words?
HBF: What sayings, phrases or words have you learnt that you will take back to France with you?
The Penelopes: That’s easy: A cheeky pink, hahaha.
‘Sally in The Galaxy’
Out Monday 5th March 2012
On Pour Le Monde Records