Fishbach Is Bringing French Synthpop Stateside

Fishbach Is Bringing French Synthpop Stateside

After taking Europe by storm, the French experimental pop chanteuse sets her eyes on the U.S.

After taking Europe by storm, the French experimental pop chanteuse sets her eyes on the U.S.

Text: E.R. Pulgar

2017 was a big year for Flora Fishbach; at only 25, the French chanteuse from infamous poet Arthur Rimbaud's hometown has a French Grammy nomination and a sold-out show at Paris' legendary Bataclan Theater under her belt. After a big European tour, and playing the U.S. live for the first time last year, 2018 sees Fishbach returning to the states with the release of her debut record À ta merci.  The album, titled "At Your Mercy" in English, is an experiment in apocalyptic 80s synthpop via the 21st century, a record that stretches from emotional highs and lows of the dance floor (lead single "Un autre que moi") to sparser cuts (the spacey, FADER-approved "Invisible Désintegration De L'Univers"). At a time when French acts like Christine & The Queens and Agar Agar are reaching receptive audiences stateside, Fishbach stakes her claim with an emotive live presence and a charismatic, strange sound.

Making a return to the U.S. to play shows in New York's Nublu 151 and Texas for SXSW, V sat down with Fishbach to talk about playing the Bataclan, SXSW, and dancing even after the party's over.

I know you're from Charleville-Mézières; I feel like the Rimbaud question always follows you around.

Every time! [laugh] But now people know me and the beginning of my career and ask me what's going on and what's gonna happen, especially this year.

And they've already been happening! You were nominated for a French Grammy this year.

Yes, I was! It was a pretty impressive moment for a French band, but I don't really like the institution. I'm really grateful, but playing music on television is an exercise that puts artists in competition. For me, it's a little bit weird, because I see the other musicians as friends. But it was an exercise and a last moment with my band; we did a big tour in France, and our nomination was for the Best Live Act category.

After the Bataclan performance?

Yes! It was our last big gig in Paris. It’s a huge venue with a strange memory because that’s where the attacks happened. We made a big tour, and it's ending after 130 gigs in a year.

All over or just in France?

A bit in Canada, Japan, the U.K., Germany. I just  came back from a German tour, and now I think I'm at 150 or so dates.

Are you tired?

I am tired! [laughs] my voice is tired, but I'm full of emotion and inspiration. I live a lot of things, I write a lot of things in my laptop and the studio, and I'm ready to start anew. This tour was my last with the band, and now I'm alone. The musicians I contract are on project just for a year to play the album in France and other places.

And since you’ve gone international, do you see a difference between the music scene here and France? where do you prefer to play?

Playing in different places is like a relationship between you and the public. I think the first moment in a relationship is the best; it's a new meeting, and sometimes people don't understand the music because I sing in French, but they get the emotion I want to share. I'm a very expressive woman, and for me it's good learning to work in English, to give the emotion to the public without the words—the words aren't important. It's the music, it's the physique, it's the story you tell with your body, with your eyes, especially your eyes...I'm very glad to be back.

Would you say the emotion you want to convey is better conveyed live or on the record?

I think it's a balance. Today, I was in the studio with my friend Andrew. It was so cool to explore sounds, to try things together, find the good lines...it's a nice sensation. You don't think people can hear it, but after you finish and think your song is nice, it's a pleasure to share it onstage. I have no preference.

À ta merci is incredibly complete—you start with a lot of synths and then in the middle it segues into quieter, sparser sounds. With all these emotions on the record, what do you want people to take away from it, even if they don’t see it live?

I want people to ask themselves about their romanticism, to use the songs and find the locator of their romanticism. As for the songs live, they're not yours. You sing onstage and give them to people; they're not your songs. I give you that, and you decide if you want it or not and what it means to you, and voilà!

Do you have a favorite song from the record?

I say maybe “Le meilleur de la fête,” which means “the best of the party.” It has strange instrumentation, and since we're at the end of the tour, maybe I have seen the best of the party. This track specifically deals with staying at the party even after it's over. In the song, she stays at the party, and that's what I do. I'm really tired, but I'll continue to dance with you until the morning comes.

SXSW is one big party, so I'm wondering what you're anticipating.

I really appreciate the last two weeks I've had; I'm on tour alone, and I've found a new freedom after the big tour with my band. I played this song a lot, and it's a new sensation when I'm alone just with the public, and at SXSW it's going to be wild! I really appreciate that because I've always been in big venues with my band where everything was wild onstage, but this time it's up in the air. I'm playing two or three shows, don't know where, maybe I'll meet some interesting people, maybe not, maybe find another band and make new friends...I don't know what will happen, but I appreciate this way of playing music. I just want to have fun, and I think we're gonna have fun.

Stream Fishbach's debut À ta merci here

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