Brother-sister act Singtank hit the music world back in 2012 with the release of their debut album, In Wonder, 11 tracks of straightforward French pop The Guardian likened to lemon sherbet: "sweet and tart in all the right places." The pair's already earned a bit of fashion cred since half of the duo is Joséphine de La Baume, actress, sometime Agent Provocateur model, and wife of Mark Ronson. But brother Alexandre is no silent partner; he sings, plays guitar, and shares writing credits on the band's forthcoming album Ceremonies, due out in the fall. We caught up with them via email just as they were putting the finishing touches on their next single "Can You Hear Me," co-produced by Ronson and out next week, to talk inspirations, sibling rivalry, and why Paris is the perfect place to be lonely.
Your new album is about urban loneliness and digital dependence. Is Paris a lonely place?
I remember a Brazilian friend who lived in Paris told me one day, “I’m really depressed, but I’m in the best city to be depressed in.” In other words, it’s kind of beautiful to be sad in Paris! People are not very open here, and a lot of people complain about how hard it is to meet people in the city; however, I feel like people really cherish their friendships, and when you make friends you can really count on them — more than in the utilitarian, casual sense of friendship I’ve encountered in some other countries.
You describe your music as retro-futuristic, and influenced by movies like Blade Runner and Kar Wai Wong's Chungking Express. Can you explain the process of bringing visual aesthetics from movies into something like music and sound?
While writing the record, we both really related to the emotional core of these two films — the urban melancholy with dashes of romanticism, the way sometimes a city and its colors, lights, and atmosphere act like mirrors to the feelings you’re going through. It was actually the whole challenge of recording this album to find a way to translate this into sounds. We spent almost a year in the little lab/studio of the record’s producer, Samy Osta, trying out keyboards, pedals, effects, and textures that would match and evoke what we had in mind.
What’s the live indie music scene like in Paris?
There wasn’t much of an indie scene in Paris when we were growing up. The most interesting things were happening in hip-hop and electronic music, so it’s great to see that in the last few years there’s been a growing interest in new bands emerging. There are many small venues, but mostly [things happen] through organizations like Les inRocks Lab and Deezer Sessions, who curate great little events to help young bands reach an audience.
What's it like working with your sibling? How have you made the process work?
People must have horrible sibling experiences, because we keep hearing, “How can you work together? I would NEVER be able to work with my brother/sister!” We’ve always gotten along really well, and it’s never been an issue to work together. Knowing each other so well and connecting emotionally in happy and less-happy times in our lives helps a lot when writing songs. We know what the song is about because we can easily tell and feel what the other is going through. It’s a very natural process.
Your sound is hard to categorize. How did you go about blending so many genres into one?
We have very eclectic music tastes. We both really listen to all kinds of music, from hip-hop to folk, basically anything, so we never thought about the genre of music we were going to do. We were inspired by great songwriters like Harry Nilsson, Paul Simon, Nick Drake, and many others for chord progressions and melodies until the song really felt complete. The raw energy of Rick Rubin’s hip-hop productions and some of our favorite rock bands were a big inspiration, too.
What are some of your favorite Parisian/French bands and artists on the scene today?
What are your favorite aspects of Paris?
Paris is both romantic and melancholic, so it is and always has been an inspiring place and a great city to create [in], but it wasn't really happening for a while. [When we were] teenagers, there weren't many options or places for young people to meet. The city felt old, and even though it is incredible to be surrounded by all this history, when you're young you want to feel the energy of a city, and it just wasn't really there. But in the past ten years, Paris has woken up — there are old cafés taken over by young people who keep the old style but play great records. There are more venues, more dive bars, more curiosity — more excitement.