Le Prince Miiaou: Feline Happier

While at Les Francofolies, Rockfort spoke to young musician Le Prince Miiaou (aka Maud-Élisa Mandeau) about how she records, how music gets her up in the morning, and about the possibility of being part of John and Jehn's band.
Rockfort: ‘No Compassion Available’, with spoken-word lyrics in French, is our favourite track on your album. We wondered why you don’t write more in French.
MM: The first album was almost all in French, actually. But it’s because I want to sing, in English, not in French, so I speak in French instead. The songs in French are very sad and dramatic, so it’s very heavy for an entire CD to have only that, so on the second album I wanted something more shiny, more happy. So I did it in English, because I can sing in English and I think rock n’ roll music, you have to do it in English.
Rockfort: Have you worked with the same musicians on the first and second albums?
MM: Actually I did everything alone in front of my computer – the drums, the cello, everything – and then, yes, I always have the same drummer, the cellist with me in the studio, but they just play what I wrote, so it doesn’t make a big difference, even if they have their own way to play their instruments.
Rockfort: How did you meet the other members of your band? They seem quite a bit older than you.
MM: The drummer is a very old friend, and I began playing music with him six years ago, because before that I didn’t play guitar. And the cellist for the first recording, some of my friends – the band Mellow – have a studio and knew this cellist and got me to meet him.
Rockfort: Are you a multi-instrumentalist?
MM: Not at all, I don’t even play guitar well, but I have a computer and it’s my best friend, and with some software like Cubase and Reason I can do everything by myself.
Rockfort: Are you self-taught on those programmes?
MM: Yes, but I’m lucky enough to have a brother who is a sound engineer so he taught me a little bit, and when I have some difficulties I can call him. And the same for the drums, sometimes I do things but I don’t really know what I’m doing with the pattern, whether it’s in 4/4 or not, so I call the drummer and sing what I want. So they help me, but yes I learned by myself.
Rockfort: Do you have a studio set-up?
MM: First I make the demo at home, then the first album I recorded at Microbe in Paris with the sound engineer and the two musicians, and the second one I did in my brother’s studio in Charentes Maritime with a different engineer and the same musicians. On the second album I recorded the bass, the piano, the keyboard, the guitar and the singing myself, and then the boys did the drumming and the cello because I can’t play them –
I tried, but my brother said “Stop please!” (laughs), so I can’t do everything. But I don’t want to learn music, because when I see my musicians, they are from the Conservatoire, so they know which chords could go well together, and I prefer not to know the music and to do anything and everything. And sometimes I’ve had some good surprises, and something maybe a bit more personal and original. My brother is always saying “No, you can’t do that!” and I say “Yes I can, look I’m doing it.” But I learn more and more, even if I don’t want to.
Rockfort: How do you write?
MM: I turn on the computer, and then I take my guitar or piano and the ideas come, and then I add drums and so on. But I never take the guitar on my sofa and play like that. Which is why when some people say I make folk music, I disagree, because I don’t have a song that I could play acoustically. I always need my pedals etc because I do everything on the computer first.
Rockfort: How did you find a label?
MM: I don’t have a label, that’s the very sad thing about me (laughs). Everybody says “Ah, it’s great, we like it” but nobody wants to sign me. So I’m just waiting and trying to play some gigs to show I could be signed, but so far it hasn’t worked!
Rockfort: So is Les Francofolies an important platform for you?
MM: I guess so, I don’t really know the professional people so I don’t know if they are present or not, but I think my style is a bit outside Les Francofolies, a bit indie, and so I think there are a lot of people from Universal and this kind of label but I think it’s a bit indie for them.
Rockfort: What would be your dream label to be on, then?
MM: Before I wanted anyone, any label would have been fine, but now I think that I would like a quite big label like Because. But I don’t want a little label, I don’t want to sign with them for three years because I have a little bit of money, and if they don’t have more money than me then I will be in jail with them and I want something more! Otherwise I prefer to do it myself. And an English label would be better for me than a French one – I have big dreams, so 4AD that kind of thing. It’s more the music I listen to, mostly English, Anglo-Saxon music, so I feel closer to the English bands than the French.
Rockfort: Which English bands in particular?
MM: Well English or American, but I’m a big fan of PJ Harvey, Animal Collective, Arcade Fire, Mogwai, these kinds of bands.
Rockfort: So you don’t feel France is very receptive to the kind of music you’re making?
MM: I don’t have many examples of this kind of music working in France, except maybe The Dø. The only bands that we know work outside France are Phoenix or Justice, but I’m not that kind of band. I don’t know if it’s that French people don’t like this kind of music, or if it’s that they’re not given the opportunity to listen to it. You can go on France Inter, Lenoir’s show, and that’s very targeted, it’s a niche audience, but otherwise you don’t hear that on mainstream radio.
Rockfort: We thought that perhaps Mansfield TYA are close to what you do in some ways?
MM: I’ve already been told that by someone else, but I don’t know them. I saw Sophie Hunger last night and I felt a little bit close to her, but she’s the only girl I’ve seen here that I felt close to.
Rockfort: On stage you put on a ski mask and a cape…
MM: I made a video clip by myself for the song called ‘Football Team’ at my parent’s house, and they were just things I had in my old room, and I’m like a superhero and I run in the fields and climb the trees and other… bullshit… and I wanted to wear them on stage because a few people like the video. And I don’t have a lot to offer on stage because I’m very shy, so I thought maybe a disguise would be funny.
Rockfort: Were your parents at all concerned about you when they first heard your songs? You know, “What’s wrong with our little girl?”
MM: I think my mother can’t really tell the difference between the first song I wrote when I was sixteen and what I do now, because she doesn’t really listen to music, and my father… I don’t really know, but they know that I’m kind of depressed and they understand that my music is so sad… and they’re happy, by the way, that the second album is a bit happier because they’re like “Oh she’s feeling better now!”
Rockfort: Are you feeling happier?
MM: Yes, but I need help from music to feel better, I like to put on some music in the morning which is very energetic, so I wanted to make a CD like that, something I could put on in the morning to help me wake up, so that’s why I wrote some happier songs.
Rockfort: So we’ll wait to see what the third album sounds like…
MM: Actually, the third album is almost written, and it’s easier I think, more verse, the chorus, then verse. And happier as well.
Rockfort: You’re from the region around La Rochelle, are there any groups from the area that you like?
MM: Yes, John and Jehn…
Rockfort: You played with them in Paris, didn’t you?
MM: Yes, I might be their guitarist and bassist for them on the next tour. I have to audition for them first, but they’ve asked me to come and try out.
Interview by Ludovic Merle and David McKenna