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Nouvelle Vague - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 24 / 4 / 2019

Nouvelle Vague - Interview


John Clarkson speaks to Olivier Libaux from French band Nouvelle Vague, who have divided fans and critics by covering late 70s and early 80s punk and new wave songs as bossa nova tunes, about their new compilation album 'Curiosities' and current European tour.

French band Nouvelle Vague first drew public attention with their 2004 eponymous debut album, which consisted of a collection of slowed-down easy listening and bossa nova covers of late 70s and early 80s punk and new wave songs. These included Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, Depeche Mode’s ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’, Public Image Ltd’s ‘This is Not a Love Song’, the Dead Kennedys’ ‘Too Drunk to Fuck’, and the Undertones' ‘Teenage Kicks’. Nouvelle Vague are centred around Parisian producers Olivier Libaux (bass, guitars, keyboards, arrangements) and Marc Collin (keyboards, programming, arrangements) and a large rotating cast of female singers. They have since gone on to make another four easy listening albums, ‘Bande à Part'(2006), ‘3’ (2009), ‘Couleurs sur Paris’ (2010) and ‘I Could Be Happy’ (2016), largely sourced again from the late 70s and early 80s. Nouvelle Vague have split thought amongst critics and fans, some feeling that they are bringing new life to old songs, but others dismissing them as a novelty act. They have, however, won the respect and approval of many of the original artists, and ‘3’ found their revolving set of girl vocalists duetting with Martin Gore on Depeche Mode’s ‘Master and Servant’, Ian McCulloch on Echo & The Bunnymen’s ‘All My Colours’ and Terry Hall on the Fun Boy Three’s ‘Our Lips are Sealed’. This year has seen the release of two new Nouvelle Vague compilations of unreleased material. ‘Rarities’, the first of these, came out in February and is only available digitally. ‘Curiosities’ came out in late April, and has been released on both CD and download; it features covers of the Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams’, Madness’ ‘My Girl’, the Pretenders’ ‘Brass in Pocket’, Richard Hell and the Voidoids’ ‘Blank Generation’ and the Passions' ‘I’m in Love with a German Film Star’. Nouvelle Vague are currently touring Europe on their 15 Years Anniversary Tour. Pennyblackmusic spoke to Olivier Libaux about Nouvelle Vague just before the release of ‘Curiosities’ and the beginning of the tour, which includes shows in Britain. PB: You are about to release ‘Curiosities’, which will be your second collection of previously unreleased material this year. How far do these recordings go back and why did you not release them at the time? OL: We thought that the material on ‘Curiosities’ and also ‘Rarities’ did not fit in with the other songs on our albums, so these songs stayed in the computer. Now we are celebrating our fifteenth anniversary of tours and making albums we decided to release them. PB: Do you have other material still which you have not released? OL: At the moment, no. I believe that everything is out now. When I listened back to ‘Curiosities’ I couldn’t remember most of the songs on it. It was the same with ‘Rarities’. There were some songs that I had not heard for a while. PB: You are currently touring across Europe. You have always gone on tour with a rotating cast of female singers. Who will be touring the UK with you on this occasion? OL: That will be Melanie Pain, who is a historic singer who has been with us from the first album, plus Elodie Frege who has been our main singer for four years now. PB: You have always divided music critics. Your harshest critics have said that they don’t see the reason for you doing what you are doing. Surely, however, you are introducing classic songs to new and often younger audiences. Is that one of your prime motivations for doing Nouvelle Vague? OL: I can understand why some people don’t like us. If you go back to the roots of things we were, and still are, absolute fans of punk and new wave music. We grew up listening to all of those bands and all of those songs. They are still very close to Marc and my heart. It is not interesting for us to cover the band or the song in the same way it was done originally. We had this idea which was very strange back in 2004 to try and cover these songs in bossa nova versions. The 1970s and 1980s were tough times in the Western world, but we were translating these songs into the style of the 50s and the softness of bossa nova. We tried this idea and it worked so well that it was amazing. We were very happy that it worked. We were showing people that great punk and new wave songs could become beautiful bossa nova songs, which was a celebration of the songs themselves. It proved very successful, and one of the good things about it is that younger generations have become fans of it and sometimes, many times they did not know the original. Sometimes these younger people have listened to the original version and preferred the Nouvelle Vague version, but about that we can’t do anything (Laughs). PB: A lot of people have commented that they have found themselves listening to the lyrics of your versions much more carefully and intently than they did with the original versions. OL: Oh, yes, probably. There is more space and the tempo is slower. When we converted this classic 70s and 80s music into bossa nova we asked women to sing these songs, which were written and performed originally largely by men, and I think that too has had an effect. PB: What are you most proud of having achieved with Nouvelle Vague? OL: When we realised that the original artists were happy with what we were doing, that was very satisfying. I remember when during our first US tour, which was in early 2005, we arrived in Boston for our first time there and were doing a radio show. The DJ gave me that day’s newspaper and said, “Have you seen the Martin Gore interview in the newspaper today?” I said, “No,” and I read the interview, and Martin Gore was, of course, talking about Depeche Mode, but was saying how he was a massive fan of Nouvelle Vague and how he was playing the record all of the time with his friends, and how all his friends also were going out and purchasing the record. That morning I was super proud. We wanted to celebrate the music without stealing from anyone. As soon as we realised the celebration was appreciated by the original artists it was wonderful. PB: The European tour finishes in July. What are Nouvelle Vague’s plans after that? OL: I think that we are going to play to the end of 2020. We are going to play many, many concerts. I haven’t checked the plan lately, but I know the aim is also to tour Asia and the USA. It is a long world tour. That will take a lot of time, but it will be a lot of fun too. PB: Thank you.

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Nouvelle Vague - Interview

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