Interview with Polo and Pan's Paul Armand-Delille
V talks to the musician about Caravelle and beyond.
V talks to the musician about Caravelle and beyond.
Text: Fred Sahai
Following the massive success of their debut album, Caravelle, French electronic duo Polo and Pan are back with a new single, “Gengis.” The track differs from their signature joyful vacation-inspired melodies. While Caravelle evokes a carefree gateway on, let’s say, the Côte d’Azur, “Gengis” blends psychedelic sounds with tribal rhythms. The duo, composed of Polocorp (Paul Armand-Delille) and Peter Pan (Alexandre Grynszpan), have been on the road in the US since September, with their tour hitting venues like New York’s Terminal 5 for a sold-out show. They’ve further cemented their French Touch presence in the United-States by performing at festivals like Coachella and San Diego’s CRSSD this past year. V chatted with one half of the duo, Paul Armand-Delille, to discuss the US tour, their dream gig and their forthcoming follow-up to Caravelle.
You’re about to head out on the second leg of your world tour in November. How’s the tour been going so far?
The tour’s been great. It was really fun being on a tour bus, and it was kind of exciting for us to tour in this new way and just drive through the US. I’m Franco-American but I’d never been through the US, so I discovered a lot of different parts of the country. We loved Colorado and driving from there to Vegas, we saw a lot of really cool things. And of course, the shows were great. All the shows were sold out except for one, and it was exciting to see that there was a real turnout of Americans in the audiences. It used to be a lot of French ex-pats at our shows, but now it seems there’s more Americans in the audience.
Do you feel a difference between English and French crowds?
I’d say like every city has a different feel so there wasn’t like a specificity about the American crowds per se. It’s also like the size of shows, we did some really big venues, some smaller venues. Some places we’re coming for the first time, some places we’re coming back. So it’s hard to say, you know, like Mexicans are like this, the French are like this, so it changes a lot. But we had a great time at the festivals especially. I really enjoyed the San Diego CRSSD festival. That was a great crowd. The Boulder crowd was amazing. And New York. I don’t know, there are some shows stand out for me and probably for Alex, some other shows, so I don’t really pick and choose.
Do you have any crazy tour stories?
Actually we are pretty tame. Like, we were like doing this not drinking tour. We were running every morning, so we don’t really have crazy party stories. We went out for one fun night, in Vegas. But I guess what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas! I’m trying to think of something I can actually say that would be fun. Well, we had a fun night in Boston last time we went to play. We got a message from a fraternity from Boston. So we went for a visit to Harvard and that’s not a crazy story, but it was pretty cool and it looked a lot like Hogwarts, so that was cool.
Caravelle went double gold. Were you expecting such a massive response to your first full-length album?
No, we weren’t expecting anything and it’s been a great surprise. The label kind of didn’t tell us. They surprised us this summer. They organized a little surprise party with all our friends and the people who participated in the record. We knew we would break gold in France from the numbers we had six months ago, but the fact that it really picked up in the US, and other countries, we weren’t aware of that. It’s super exciting. We’re really proud, happy, and it really gives us a lot of energy for the second record. We’re gonna try to and make something bigger and better. But yes, that really an amazing surprise.
So speaking of the second record, your latest is quite a different sound from the last album. What were you inspired by when you were working on this new track?
Well there’s other tracks, like maybe “Bakara,” that have kind of a deeper feel. After recently releasing “Arc-en-ciel” and the album, we wanted to the do something clubby, esoteric and a psychedelic side. And we explored a bunch of shamanic instruments like the shamanic drums and flutes and stuff like that. And we’re kind of making a little wink to the Burning Man crowd. I think down the line, we’d like to play there, although it wasn’t like a priority for the band, but like it’s something I really wanted to do and I think Alex is ready to jump on that ship as well. So maybe we’ll try to go out there at some point and so yeah, we wanted to use instruments that, kind of work with like desert esoterism and stuff like that.
What are other venues you’d like to play, or what’s your dream gig?
Well, we went to Coachella, so we definitely checked a box on our bucket list there. Madison Square Garden would be like a dream. I guess like, a beautiful venue in New York. We’re always trying to think of like interesting places to play, but definitely Burning Man would be one of my dream gigs.
Has your creative process changed, from working on the last one to the new one?
Yeah, very much so. So far we’ve been working a lot on the roads and now we’re gonna go back in the studio and it’s definitely different. When we met, I had the studio and I was doing a lot of production. He’s really improved his production skills and I’ve improved on other things that he was doing. Alex, he writes a lot. We’re also writing a lot of songs on our own a lot more and we’re kind of looking forward to being in the studio and starting songs from scratch together. But obviously, when we’re on the road, we’re working with headphones on and we can’t start a song together. Yeah. So we’re bringing each other ideas and now we also created a lot of instruments, sample, a lot of stuff that’s signature Polo and Pan sound. So we could practically produce a track on our own in the style of Polo and Pan, but it’s always better when we start really collaborating on a track and like we both get excited about an idea, it definitely bumps up a level.
Do you have a dream collaborator?
We have collaborated a lot, and we kind of made a conscious decision to not include ‘featuring this’, ‘featuring that’ on the album. But a lot of the songs feature various artists that came to record instruments or like vocals and stuff like that. For the new album, we’ve started on some collaborations. We collaborated with one of our dream artists this year, Vladimir Cosma, who was a film music composer in the 70s and did like all the big classic French movies. That was kind of a dream. There’s various people we’d love to collaborate with. For example, one that would be surprising, we really like hip hop and I would love to collaborate with someone from the G-funk era, like Warren G or Snoop Dogg, but that’s way up there. Composers of music from movies like John Williams or Ennio Morricone, they’re people that are really big inspirations to me.
How do your live performances differ from traditional DJ sets?
Well we play instruments, we sing, we perform, we talk a lot to the audience. There’s maybe a third of the performance that feels like a traditional DJ set. Some tracks are played, and we have DJ transitions sometimes between songs. We have guests that come on stage, we have a light show, as well. So you definitely know you’re coming to a live performance, although now, to the crowd I think, the lines are blurred for them between a DJ and a performing artist, or a live show. So, we’re somewhere in between that. We still use some DJ tricks cause we’ve obviously been DJing for longer than we’ve been doing live shows. So we want to keep some of the really cool stuff we can do DJing, but more and more we’re trying to use our songs. Also our songs are very complex arrangements with a lot of different instruments, so it’s kind of hard to get all those musicians on stage, so we’re trying to learn how to play our songs in the most efficient way so that the crowd can enjoy the production and they can find the songs such as they were created, but also get a live feeling and see us play instruments and perform. It’s a process we’re still working on right now.
How invested are you in the visuals that accompany your music, from light shows to cover art?
Yeah, we’re very invested. We’re very blessed to work with Noémie and Benjamin, who are our very good buddies. They’ve been doing out visuals from the beginning and now they’re doing the visuals on stage. They really take the lead on that, they’re very sharp artists, so we say “okay, make something for this” and they propose stuff. We’re very invested in the light show, Alex especially like, he’s always trying to control the light. I’ve super invested in fine-tuning the sounds, and I’d much rather have my hands on that. We’re, we’re fine-tuning the show constantly.