The New Order - Paradis
Seemingly effortlessly, Paradis has managed to craft the impossible, fusing French songwriting and house music. The duo, composed of Pierre Rousseau and Simon Mény, coincidentally met each other at a party in 2011. They’ve been making romantic dance music ever since, the kind that makes non-speakers want to learn French. We meet a sunny morning in the park of the Buttes Chaumont in Paris, close to where both of them live, three weeks after their first headlining shows at the Gaité Lyrique. The gigs were an undeniable success, unveiling an exciting scenography and giving a new life to the tracks of their first album Recto Verso, without a doubt one of 2016’s best records.
During the show both musicians wore unique sequin jackets conceived by their dear friend, APC designer Louis Wong under the outerwear label Louis W. It was the perfect occasion to work together and try something new, working with shiny, supple and lightweight fabric that catches the light while remaining classic: Pierre was wearing a bomber jacket, Simon an oversized teddy. “We’re not the kind of band that loves the spotlight” tells Pierre, “so we enjoyed the fact people in the audience paid more attention to the jackets than to us, making it feel like an invisibility cloak.” For years now, they’ve nurtured an artistic, organic friendship with Louis and A.P.C. “Paradis’ universe is very close to my tastes in terms of aesthetic and music” tells the designer. “I’ve grown up listening to Pet Shop Boys and New Order, that ambiguous choice between sentimental pop music and club anthems. In Paradis, I’ve found a French version for the very first time”. Both band members harbouring different visions of clothing, Louis admits that finding the right design initially proved to be somewhat difficult. But as he saw them live at the Gaité Lyrique, he realised how well the concept worked: “Every lighting effect is reflected by the jackets, every movement flows with the spotlights. The jackets become a metaphor for the nightclub”. One of the first brands to foster its relationships to all sorts of musicians, the label even boasts a music department called Section Musicale that is supervised by Paradis’ very own drummer Victor. In 2012 A.P.C released a tee-shirt to celebrate the release of Paradis’ first E.P called Hémisphère.
The band is often solicited by fashion houses such as Acne Studios to play their music during shows, probably thanks to their impeccable taste. The band is very inspiring to Louis: “They look like the Louis W. boy that inhabits my subconscious mind: a poet who is urban and fascinated by the artistic quest of the self. They possess their own kind of elegance.” Their favourite labels include of course A.P.C as well as Lemaire, Jil Sander, Comme des Garçons. Pierre loves Japanese stores like Nepenthes, Blue Blue Japan and Okura.
Beyond their fashion sense, their carefully crafted image is the result of a fruitful collaboration with Andrea Montano, a photographer who truly understood their universe and helped them shape their visual identity in a very natural manner. For example, Andrea followed them on tour, and captured a rare moment on film as Pierre and Simon were spontaneously playing in the water at the Cap Ferret. The picture ended up as the beautiful cover of their first album. “We knew the image was strong but we didn’t know what to do with it at first” tells Simon. “On the picture you can’t quite tell if we’re hugging or fighting. And eventually it made perfect sense for it to illustrate our record, as its overarching themes are duality and ambiguity.” The duality also comes through the work relationship they have to one another. “We put so much of ourselves in our music. We're not trying to please anyone. It is first and foremost an emotional adventure” says Pierre.“It is an extremely intimate process that demands us to reveal ourselves fully to one another and confront each other. Exposing yourself in that way can be difficult”. Pierre admits he found it easier working with artists he’s admired his whole life than to work on his own album, which took three years to make.
Writing and singing the songs in French was an obvious choice. They believed, rightly so, that they were charting new territory. They might look to a few musical references, but never truly felt like they were following in anybody else’s footsteps. In terms of inspiration, they love party culture and film. Their ultimate dream as a band would be to create the soundtrack to a Japanese animated film.
In fact, Pierre’s recent first trip to Japan was revelatory. “All my senses felt constantly awakened” he recalls. “As an electronic musician, you naturally feel a kinship to Japan as most of the music we love and make is created using Japanese machines.”
So far the hardest aspect of their career and even of their lives was moving their record from the studio to the stage. The process might have initially felt brutal, but they now feel a real sense of pride as they’ve learned to perfect and love live performances. This might even influence how they will write songs in the future. “Every song can take on a different colour depending on the gig, it’s an ever-changing thing” observes Simon. Touring has taught them a song always has the ability to evolve. Pierre notes that this is the exact opposite to studio music, where once a track is finished, it is done forever. Concerts on the contrary, feel like an infinite artwork, an abstract concept, “like the Cloud” he jokes. ”In the long-term, I love the idea that we could be a band that’s constantly touring, that perfects itself over time” tells Simon. With their next concert at the prestigious La Cigale having sold out pretty quickly and many other dates lined up, this might very well come true.