Stardust Memories

Jupiter, who describe themselves as "cousins" of Nantes' Valérie collective and sound rather like Sally Shapiro being given a French Touch makeover, individually go by the names 'Q' and 'A'  (that's Q on the right and A on the left in the picture above). So, naturally, Rockfort had to catch them for a (cough!) Q&A the night after their live debut in Paris - and just before their first UK performance at the Old Blue Last in East London.

Rockfort: Last night you had your first-ever gig in Paris supporting Metronomy, how did that go?

Q: First and a half, really – we did a warm-up show in Norway – but last night was really a trial-by-fire, there were quite a few people.
A: At first we didn’t really think we could do it, but in the end since there were lots of people and it went well, we were happy.
Q: Maybe it’s a bit clichéd to say this, but the crowd really helped in the sense that we were anxious about their reaction – it was obviously Metronomy that they were there to see – but once it was clear they were enjoying themselves watching us too then it was fine from there.
Rockfort: How much of the music are you able to play live?
Q: Well there are two of us and our sound is pretty maximalist – not minimalist in the slightest – so obviously we play only a few of the instruments, but we play whatever we can, there’s no dead time. And the same for singing.
A: Yes I do the singing, there’s a little backing vocal but that’s it.
Rockfort: Are you based in Paris?
A: Yes… before we were based in London and we made music here, then moved to Paris.
Rockfort: What were you doing in London?
A: We both studied music here…
Q: And we fell in love too! That was the first stage of the group.
Rockfort: What did you study exactly?
A: Composition, production, songwriting, there was a bit of sociology to understand how it all works…
Q: It’s basically a bit of an excuse to be able to do music…
A: But the parents are happy when you tell them you’re studying! (laughs)
Q: If I told my parents I was going to spend three years making music, that wouldn’t work, but if you tell them you’re studying… 
Rockfort: Did you gain anything from it, any ideas in terms of your sound, marketing an image?
Q: Honestly, not a lot.
A: It motivates you, they encourage you to work on projects. It was there that we did our first demo, which essentially started as a school project.
Q: You have to show that you’re actually doing something, so there’s that little bit of pressure that you have to produce something every day, whereas I think to do that by yourself when you’re 18 is not easy for a lot of people.
Rockfort: Did the British music culture rub off on you?
A: In England there’s really this idea that you don’t care about what other people think, and it’s very kitsch and colourful, so I think if we’d lived in Paris our music would have been calmer, less… maximalist as you said (to Q). It’s quite extravagant for us to make this kind of music.
Q: People in Paris are very self-conscious, careful to never do more, or less, than anyone else. So I think London had a big influence, yes.
Rockfort: Are you striving to make a kind of ‘perfect’ pop?
Q: We make pop music that’s quite clichéd so that it resonates in certain way…we all have a relationship to certain pop songs that influence our music tastes. Even people who listen to the most ‘indie’ music still have pop references from their childhoods that are hugely important without them realising it, and I think we try to play on that a bit, so it has a link to childhood.
Rockfort: And that’s the 80s in your case?
Q: 80s and 70s…
A: Disco…
Q: We try to have a bit of a groove, sometimes 80s stuff is a little colder and more minimalist… ok, that’s a big generalisation… it’s not as simple as that, but its very important that it has a groove, but obviously this kitsch late-70s, early 80s thing is a big part of what we do.
Rockfort: Do you have a link to the Valérie collective, or are they just an acknowledged influence? 
A: Actually, we didn’t know about Valérie at all, it was really Anoraak who found us on myspace…
Q: And was largely responsible for promoting us initially, but now they’re really more like friends, and they have their thing, their vision and we have ours, so we’re on friendly terms…
A: We’re a little bit like their cousins…
Q: But our approach is not the same as theirs, I hope that comes over a little bit in the music. We are going to be on a compilation, ‘Valérie and Friends’… its important to stress the ‘friends’ part, as we are definitely friends!
Rockfort: We’ve talked to Anoraak about the closing credits to Knight Rider, and you have a song about ChiPs…
Q: Yes, we’re all kids who grew up in the same era, and I think they have the some philosophy of playing on the nostalgic aspects of childhood, but after that the musical medium and the sonic and aesthetic approaches are not quite the same.
A: There this vision we have of the United States, in France we’re all very influenced by the TV series we watched when we were younger…
Q: But essentially we’re looking for a different sound.
Rockfort: How do you write and produce the music?
Q: It’s quite chaotic, and it’s so different from track to track…
A: We do it all together, that means that sometimes we don’t have any ideas and we sit together in front of the piano and try things, and that’s how a song starts.
Rockfort: So you it starts with composing song?
Q: Yes, it’s very much voice and piano to begin with. We tend to think that if a song doesn’t amount to much like that, and in spite of the fact that we like adding loads if instruments, then it’s kind of smoke and mirrors.
Rockfort: Do you like pushing your production ideas quite far, like with the ducking on ChiPs?
Q: We try to vary the approach quite a lot from song to song… it can be a bit disconcerting to listen to, but we try not to repeat ourselves.
Interview by David McKenna and Ludovic Merle, translated by David Mckenna