They’ve produced Shakira, Sha-Sthil’ed, released a secret Japanese album, toured Europe, and now they’re preparing their big Paris concert, before continuing more collaborations with WoodKid, Aikiu and Philippe Katerine. Ladies and Gentlemen, take your socks off for…The Shoes.
You guys DJ’ed at the Hyères Fashion Festival, then at Versailles for the end of Couture Week, are you infiltrating fashion ?
It was a fun DJ set, a bit camping/bar mitzvah, but well mixed.
We also played in Florence for Pitti, in a beautiful place.
Are you continuing to do production for other artists?
Benjamin: It’s a part of our identity we started and really want to develop, so we try to keep it going, in between festivals, concerts and other requests that come in. We’re working on the WoodKid (Yoann Lemoine) album, a track with Philippe Katerine, very different things as long as we like the artist.
Guillaume: With Yoann it’s a bit different, as he’s also a friend.
How long has your album been out – you seem to have a lot of different videos already ?
B: The album came out in March, I think like Mylene Farmer we’re going to make a DVD with all the videos… (laughs)
G: We’ve done 4 videos already, preparing Time To Dance for the fall. In the end half of the album is going to have videos.
The Shoes ft Esser, STAY THE SAME. Directed by Daniel Wolfe.
Is Cliché one of the tracks for which you’ll make a video ?
G: a lot of people have asked, it’s a track that chicks like a lot because it’s the only feminine voice on the record, but it’s not in the plans right now, we think Time To Dance will work.
B: We’ve seen people go crazy on that track even though it hasn’t been played much. It has an old-school, Underworld-style crescendo that lasts 2 minutes.
I’ve seen you at the Nouveau Casino the first time around…do you manage to get some of the singers from the tracks to come sing from time to time ?
G: that was really at the beginning! We have Ben Esser who comes quite often, Anita from Cocknbullkid came at Nouveau Casino. But of course the audience likes to put a face on the song.
It’s a bit unusual to have the lyrics pre-recorded with live instruments, usually it’s the other way around — live lyrics with instruments playback. Especially because you guys really are hardcore on the instruments, while the voice seems to come from nowhere…
B: that was the main criticism aimed at us at the beginning, and we hadn’t solved it when you saw us.
G: we were a bit shy, now we sing it ourself, it’s not perfect but it works more with energy instead. Now we’re starting to more or less control the singing.
The Shoes performing WASTIN' TIME with Esser at Hyères 2011, with Stage of the Art.
Do you sing it entirely live now or do you mix with the recorded lyrics by the singer ?
B: you’re getting into our trade secrets… we mix the voices actually.
G: we don’t try to hide it. it was a problem at first, but now we’ve worked it out – though of course when someone like Esser comes along it’s great, it gives it more of a band feeling and we can concentrate on instruments.
So how did you choose the singers and bands with which you collaborated ?
G: it happened by itself.
B: we were spending time in the UK, we met lots of people, making friends. It started with Primary One, we did the music for the track People Moving, he came to the studio in Rheims and we realized we could never have this kind of result with our own voices, so it became our first featuring. Then we contacted the people we had met with some demos, sometimes with lyrics sung in “yogurt”. No real name dropping.
G: none of the featurings are very famous people, it’s rather people who are at a similar stage of their career… since then we see a lot more Cocknbullkid and Esser.
Singing in French, is that something you’d consider ? I imagine the collaboration with Katerine is in French ?
B: for The Shoes, no, but for other artists we do it.
G: Benjamin does it more than me, but it’s not something for The Shoes yet.
The Shoes performing STAY THE SAME with Esser at Hyères 2011, with Stage of the Art.
What’s the current program, festivals ?
G: [this summer it was] festivals, the WoodKid album.
I’ve also produced the album of this artist called The Aikiu, which is a complete transfiguration of the initial project.
Is that the first real album by The Aikiu ? It seems it’s a project that has been on the verge of happening for a long time, I remember hearing a single at least 5 or 6 years ago…
G: They’ve had EP’s only so far, they asked us to come work on the album, we arrived and blew the whole thing upside down. We broke everything and started from scratch. I think Alex has a great voice, and that there’s great things to do with his voice — but that’s complete now and we’re working on WoodKid.
And working on WoodKid’s album brings some extraordinary conditions, we get to use unusual instruments. Yoann also puts a lot of constraints on us too, he knows what he doesn’t want, which pushes us to do things in different ways.
I was also very happy to discover that you (Guillaume) were behind Gucci Vump and the track SHA SHTIL which was THE track of the summer last year… Is that something you’ll continue or are you focussing exclusively on The Shoes ?
G: I’m focussing more on The Shoes, but Gucci Vump is a funny project, a bit shapeless, Louis (Brodinski) and I run into each other from time to time, we get commissions for remixes from time to time — like WoodKid’s Iron. It’s a dilettante project.
So after the festivals you guys are focussing on your own tour ?
G: Yes we have over 30 dates in the fall, the climax will be November 9th at La Cigale in Paris. We also hope to return to Japan.
You’ve already played in Japan ?
G: The album did really well over there, Japan’s the first country to sign us besides GUM, and they didn’t want to wait so long for the album, so we released an album just for Japan, with B-sides. People try to get their hands on that album, which is a bit of a collectors’ item, with demos and beta versions of tracks which later appear on CRACK MY BONES.
But we’re very focussed on our La Cigale date – with almost all the guests from the album, extra band members…
We usually have 2 percussionists, but we’ll probably go back to 4 – visually it’s beautiful and in terms of sound it doesn’t hurt. When you have 4 guys doing a sort of choreography, it gives something unusual.
The Shoes, photo by René Habermacher.
The last thing which stimulated you…
G: a DJ from a rap group called 1995, a French group, which made an amazing mixtape for the summer.
B: for me, it was the Solidays concert of Ebony Bones – I usually don’t listen to her music, but in concert it was impressive. It’s really made for a festival.
G: from time to time, you get groups that you don’t necessarily like that make a strong impression on you live, they transfigure their music. But you also get the opposite…
I had that with Gonzales. 10 years ago I liked his stuff, I went to see him live, and I hated it so much, I couldn’t listen to the music again for several years. And still now I like the music but I can’t stand his videos or his imagery in general.
G: it was really important for us to delegate the image to Pierre (LeNy), even if we have our ideas regarding what we like visually.
So far you haven’t appeared in any of your videos….but you’re not hiding either ?
G: You often see beautiful videos that fail as soon as the singer appears, the acting required from the singer brings the whole thing down. We want our films to be little bits of cinema – we’re not going to add anything to that feeling.
Special concert at LA CIGALE
November 9th 2011
Opening act: ESSER
STYLING: Michael Philouze
GROOMING: Tanya K @ B-AGENCY
PHOTO ASSISTANT: Fabien Campoverde
with special thanks to Pierre Le Ny & G.U.M.