November 28, 2017 § Leave a comment
I am finally back from what was my biggest North American tour ever (10 shows + several video and radio sessions across 10 cities in the US and Canada!) and am slowly catching up with everything. I will write a longer post with links and photos from the tour, but before I do that, I wanted to post the last part of my Make your own clothes series which I ended up writing in Portland, as I ran out of time before I left, precisely because I was sewing a made-to-measure padded protection bag for my Soundcraft Signature 12 MTK mixing desk! ;-))) (PS: and it worked! the desk has survived the many flights unharmed, and at least 5 TSA inspections!!! ;-))) So here goes ;-)))
MAKE YOUR OWN CLOTHES! SERIES: PART 3 – FUNCTION, COLOR, HOW TO GET STARTED AND THE POWER OF LEARNING.
I wanted to close this mini-series with two of the main reasons why I fell in love with sewing, and then leave you with a few guidelines of how you can get started, even with very little money.
When I moved from Paris to Spain by the Atlantic coast, many of the things that made sense in Paris clothing-wise became irrelevant or even started to look ridiculous in a place where mostly what you want is freedom of movement to enjoy the beach and the more natural environment in general. At the other end of this need for practical clothing, I also wanted to have more special clothes for my shows, and one of my favorite items of clothing for both everyday and special occasion is shorts, and I couldn’t believe how difficult it was for me to find the type of shorts I wanted. So I could say I literally started to sew because I was tired of looking for and not finding things that did not seem *that* difficult to make, and did not even require a huge amount of fabric.
I had also started to feel the need to dress in brighter and lighter colors for a few years before I started sewing, and that need became overwhelming in the winter of 2015 when I felt so down: all of a sudden I literally could not stand the idea of dressing in dark colours (and this comes from someone who dressed in black and dark blue for years without even really thinking about it). The fashion cycle has a way of imposing colors on customers which I think borders on insulting, and when you sew your own clothes you have that many more possibilities to choose exactly the fabric you want, both in terms of its content/origin and color.
Once you’ve experienced the freedom that sewing gives you in terms of choosing pattern and fabric, it’ll probably be really hard for you to go back to a world of ready-to-wear, because your first reaction will be: Could I make this and do it better? and so often the answer is Yes! And you don’t even want to get me started on all the other things that you can start to make yourself: things for your home, the exact accessories that you need (I’ve just made a padded case for my mixing desk, for instance), even items for your pets (I made bedsheets for our cat’s bed thingy and it makes so much sense to be able to wash these, just like you wash your own bedsheets!)!
So how do you get started? I guess this partly depends on where you live: I imagine that if you live in a city where there is an active sewing scene, it would probably be a good idea to just get a few basic sewing lessons and see how the act of sewing makes you feel. But I believe it’s also totally possible to start sewing on your own – like I did – with just the help of online tutorials (I recommend Grainline Studio, Colette Patterns/Seamwork and Megan Nielsen for their extensive library of tutorials) and reading sewing blogs that correspond to the type of clothes you’d like to make (not much point looking at a blog that focuses on vintage-style sewing if your thing is minimalist fashion, and vice versa). If you have a friend that can let you use their machine, great (that’s what happened to me), and as soon as you can, upgrading to your own quality machine will really make a difference.
At this point I feel I should mention that there are many approaches to sewing and that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when looking at Instagram accounts and sewing blogs, especially those where the sewist produces a ton of different clothes every month or even week – it’s easy to forget when looking at these that producing these many clothes requires a considerable amount of time, not to mention money in terms of fabric, and of course it begs the question: is this type of sewing not just the sewing version of being addicted to clothes? I’ll leave you to be the judge of that, but in any case, I believe it’s totally possible to build a slow hand-made wardrobe, little by little, and I know that for me this is what really makes sense.
In the spirit of not overconsuming, I also believe that you don’t need to own a ton of patterns, and in fact a super simple way of starting can be to just carefully deconstruct some of your favorite but worn out clothes and make patterns out of the pieces laid flat. You can use bedsheets or thrifted fabric or oversized clothes from charity shops as simple fabric resources at least at the beginning. Once you feel confident that you could now make a real piece of clothing that you could actually wear, I do recommend buying fabric that you really feel attracted to, because that’ll be the crucial difference between a piece which is just ok and one that you just want to wear over and over again.
Last but not least, I really think that learning a new skill is *always* empowering and is one of the best investments we can do with our time, helping us to be appreciative of the good work made by others while remaining critical in a society overflowing with consumer goods. When I learnt ceramics for 2 years during my music break, I just loved how all of a sudden my way of looking at everyday items became different, and how I could judge for myself whether or not something was truly well made, or was worth the money it was being sold for.
I really hope that this short series may have inspired you on your own sewing adventure!
Top pattern: True Bias Ogden cami, fabric: Japanese Pearls seersucker, Miss Matatabi. Shorts: self-drafted, fabric: organic chambray, Les Trouvailles d’Amandine (great resource for French-produced organic fabrics!)
October 22, 2017 § Leave a comment
A flame my love a frequency is finally out and I have no words to tell you how happy I am about that! You can watch the tour trailer made by Flavia Martinez on my song “Another world” to see all the dates that will start in exactly one week from now, including a fourth European date at the Notwist-curated ALIEN DISKO # 2 festival in Munich on 16th December! And there will be more European dates in the spring!
Also, in seemingly unrelated news, but not so unrelated as you might think, I’m doing a mini-series of posts on Facebook entitled “Make your own clothes!”. Here are the first 2 parts and there will be a 3rd one right before I leave.
As always, thanks for reading and listening! :-)))
MAKE YOUR OWN CLOTHES! SERIES: PART I – WHY TALK ABOUT SEWING?
If you didn’t see this one coming, well, neither did I: if you had told me 2 years ago that 90% of what I would wear and carry in 2017 would be handmade by myself, I would have told you “Yeah, right”, and yet all the clothes I’m wearing on the press pics for the new album, recent videos and in the forthcoming live shows have been made by myself over the course of the past 6 months. And if you think this short series is going to be about “fashion”, well, not really: ethics, anti-consumerism, form and function, positive mood influence, empowerment through learning – all of these coupled with the beauty and quality of lovingly-made-to-measure items – are the reasons I make my own clothes. Why do I want to share this with you? Well, it feels really special to go on tour with clothes I’ve made myself (believe me, when you go on tour for a month with only one suitcase that is mostly filled with your gear, you really want your clothes to work for you), and there are definitely parallels in the way I see clothes-making and music-making: just as I believe that it is possible to make a record from A to Z on your own (with a lot of dedication, failures, steep learning curves and good advice thrown in, *obviously*), I wish I had known earlier how doable making clothes is, and since the aforementioned themes are important to me, I hope that if some of you reading this have been thinking about starting to make their own clothes but have been hesitating to take the plunge, perhaps these posts will be the small nudge needed for you to just do it: it is worth it in so many ways.
The outfit in this press pic is one I thought of even before the record was finished, as I fell in love with the incredible colour and pattern of the Japanese fabric, and knew I wanted some coords to mimic the look of a jumpsuit but without the inconvenients of the jumpsuit ;-) Fabric: ATELIER to nani IROMountains in blue. Top pattern: Trop Top by Ivanne S (for those of you who read French, I cannot recommend this pattern-maker enough). Shorts pattern: self-drafted.
PS: I have never been given anything by any of the fabric or pattern companies mentioned, and I’ve never posted anything up till now about sewing, so they don’t even know I exist or use their products.
MAKE YOUR OWN CLOTHES! SERIES: PART 2 – THE ENVIRONMENT, ETHICS AND ANTI-CONSUMERISM VIA SEWING.
As many of you probably know by now, either through my interviews or my lyrics, nature is very dear to me, and birdwatching since 2013 has taken my interest in and commitment to the preservation of the environment to another level. Protecting our habitats and all the creatures that live in it can only go hand in hand with respect for basic human rights, and in both those environmental and ethical aspects, clothing is one of the areas where our choices do have a real impact. Companies that are more transparent in terms of how they source and treat their materials, as well as their workers, are becoming more and more numerous, which is of course a cause for celebration, but there is also a lot of greenwashing marketing going on, and educating yourself on the complex matters of textile production and garment manufacturing, as well as trying to locate truly ethically-made “green” clothing, can lead you to days and days of online browsing, sometimes only to find out the company does not ship to where you live, that it’s just too expensive for you, or that yes it does seem ethical but they just don’t have what you’re looking for. Anti-consumerism and minimalism can solve part of the problem: buy less but better, and think ten times before you buy that thing you don’t actually need.
In all these aspects, sewing – not just your clothes, but also the accessories you use every day, the furnishings in your home, etc – is a really powerful tool, both in terms of providing the motivation to stay away from multinational clothing companies and obtaining the actual items you need. I can guarantee that once you’ve experienced or at least understood how much skill and time it takes to sew, say, a shirt, you will truly understand why a 10 euro price tag in a certain Swedish chain is completely abnormal – but the problem is further compounded by the fact that a higher price tag does not necessarily mean the worker has been better paid, or that the textile is greener. Sourcing organic fabric or fabric made in more respectful ways than the usual synthetic textiles or highly-polluting non-organic cotton that fills retail stores is getting easier and easier, meaning that making your own organic or “cleaner-than-retail” clothes is also becoming easier and easier, and can be way cheaper than buying it.
Of course this is a highly complex problem with no simple one-fits-all solution, and indeed I realize that not everyone can /wants /has the time to sew. I also lay no claims to perfection: I do my best, but I’m aware that I’m wearing Adidas trainers on some of my press pictures, hardly the most ethical company in the world… However I do believe that for those who are creatively-inclined, sewing can be an awesome doorway to respond to the basic human necessity that clothing ourselves is, while giving us joy, enabling us to disconnect, making our brains work, and leading us to realize just how truly grateful we should be for all the people that are behind the clothing we have or have had on our backs.
PS: Please see Alberto’s comment about second-hand clothes and my reply! :-)
Fabric: ATELIER to nani IRO Jewel Song Pocho quilted double gauze. Jacket pattern: Monceau by Cozy Little World (French pattern – I drafted and added a silk and cotton lining).
Photos by Isabel Dublang.
October 12, 2017 § Leave a comment
I am beyond thrilled to let you know that you can *finally* hear my sixth album A flame my love, a frequency, on NPR First Listen! I hope you will love the album as much as I do, and I cannot tell you how excited I am to be bringing the album to US and European venues in less than 2 weeks!
October 10, 2017 § Leave a comment
I’m soooo thrilled to introduce the second excerpt from the new album with this stunning video that young film maker (and freestyle skateboarding world champion – I’m not kidding!!!) Connor Burke has made for “Winter dawn”. This is truly one of my favorite music videos ever, and I’m not talking about videos made for my own music: I mean that if this had been created for another musician, I would have been in awe! I hope you will love the poetical and powerful world Connor Burke has created as much the song itself.
If you’re curious about Connor’s process, here are his own words about the video: “Utilizing a mixture of specialized acrylics, silicone, and painting medium, I poured nearly seventy cups of the mixture onto canvases and filmed the interactions from above with a macro lens. The acrylics underwent a simple chemical reaction as the medium isolated the colors from one another.”
The world had nearly ended yet the sky was blue
And I came home with a fistful of fear
O dear soul, flesh and bones
Love alone is your home
Deep and warm, golden dawn
Shine some more of that light of yours
Deep and warm, golden dawn
Give me more of that light of yours
On the European live front, I’m playing in my beloved ZDB in Lisbon on 7th December, and at the Notwist-curated Alien Disko festival in Munich on 16th December! And on the US side, I got the amazing news this week that Sam Prekop of The Sea and Cake will open for my show at the MCA in Chicago on 3rd November – so honoured and excited at the thought of that evening in Thrill Jockey’s adopted home! And guitarist extraordinaire Shane Parish will open in Asheville on 14th November!
As always thanks for your support, and stay tuned this week because the album’s premiere is finally happening!
October 8, 2017 § Leave a comment
We’ve now reached the end of this series, with a track from my fifth album, featuring melodica. Is melodica a keyboard instrument? Well, technically it’s a wind instrument that does have a tiny keyboard, so I guess it does qualify ;-)
I’ve always loved the melodica (you can listen to my “The melodica song” from my Mort aux Vaches 2005 radio session) and have always found it a shame that it’s so often associated with a kind of “twee” vibe that makes it more akin to a toy than a real instrument. As far as I’m aware, only the late great Augustus Pablo managed to make the instrument truly shine in its own right, and he is the obvious inspiration behind this track, one of the last two that I worked on when making the album (along with “Eclipse”, the other track where the dub influence is the strongest).
I initially had doubts about including the melodica on the album, precisely because I thought I’d get too close to the original Jamaican model (something that was not an issue with the viola da gamba, as it’s so un-Jamaican). But I had this bass line which I absolutely loved and nothing came on the viola, so I thought “Why not try it?”, and it immediately felt so right that the song literally came together in an afternoon.
Its title is inspired by a truly magical place, the island of Salina, part of the Eolie archipelago north of Sicily, where the night sky is just spellbinding: because of the low light pollution and the height of part of the island, you don’t need to look up to see the stars, they are right in front of you as you look out towards the ocean. When I heard the delayed melodica, it immediately reminded me of the immensity of the Salina sky and the feeling of being part of the universe that I felt over there.
Artwork is once again by the *stellar* Iker Spozio ;-) And the album is still available on both CD and vinyl, on my Bandcamp, Thrill Jockey’s website, and many other places.
I truly hope you’ve enjoyed this series as much as I have, I normally never listen to my older music so the trip was more surprising to me than what I would have expected! TOMORROW GET READY FOR THE FIRST VIDEO FROM THE ALBUM! :-)))
October 7, 2017 § Leave a comment
The Weighing of the Heart was released in 2013 after a long hiatus from releasing albums and touring, and perhaps because of that, it’s an album in which I tried to incorporate my love for the many different types of music and instruments I’d been listening to between 2008 and 2012. By that time I had moved from Paris to Spain and started to rent the space which I still use as a studio today, enabling me to explore more options in terms of which instruments to play, since I was no longer restricted by space or neighbour problems. I started to sing and use the treble viola da gamba, bought a couple of percussion instruments, and short of having real organs at my disposal, I got an M-Audio Keystation 61ES and the Native Instruments Vintage Organs software.
I’ve loved the sound of electric organs for many years: I remember vividly, when I was about 13, hearing an organ in the basement of the school friend who had lent me the blue and red Beatles compilation tapes that became my favorite companions for the next 2 years: her dad had recently passed away and no one was supposed to play his organ, but in secret my friend played it briefly for me and – perhaps because of that secrecy and the sadness associated with it- it made such a strong impression on me.
Later on in Paris I always fantasized that I would one day find a similar organ in an antiques shop, or a harmonium – another one of my keyboard obsessions in the early 2000s. Well, I never did find an organ or a harmonium (and where to put it would have been a big problem!), and the feel of a MIDI keyboard running through software – as great as that software actually sounds – was not really what I was looking for (I don’t think I’ll *ever* be a MIDI person!), but I did use the Farfisa Compact emulation for the ending of “Moonlit sky”, and it’s one of my favorite moments on the album – I hope you like it too :-)
October 5, 2017 § 1 Comment
Even though outwardly my music is not autobiographical at all, there is always a deep connection between what I feel or would *like* to feel and the music I end up making, and if there is one album of mine that exemplifies this connection, it has to be Les ondes silencieuses.
I recorded it in winter 2006, after learning the basics of the viola da gamba for less than a year, getting a sabbatical from my teaching job, and returning from my first Japanese tour. Prior to the sabbatical, the incompatibility between teaching and music-making on a near-professional level had become more and more glaring every day, and I felt overwhelmed most of the time. Problematically, I still felt overwhelmed even *after* the sabbatical was granted to me, since I was able to accept more offers, and was also trapped in endless administrative tasks.
The trip to Japan proved crucial to the final twist I gave the album, which I’d already half-composed earlier in the year: if my life wasn’t giving me the sense of calm I so badly needed, then I would give my music that sense of calm, in the same way that the Japanese traditional aesthetics made spaces and objects radiate with beautiful, essential simplicity.
I was obsessed with the more introspective side of Baroque music at the time, and short of being able to include a real harpsichord, I managed to locate and rent a spinet, its more modest cousin: I brought it home for a couple of weeks, learnt to get used to its rather stiff action, and recorded “Le labyrinthe” in the living-room of my Paris flat. The silence between the notes in the first section, which strikes me as extreme now, felt entirely natural then, and given the almost complete absence of electricity on that album, dominated by my bass viola da gamba, it’s only natural that the keyboard that ended up on this album should have been made only of wood and metal.
This album has been reissued on coloured and black vinyl by The Leaf Label this year (available through my Bandcamp – also available on CD) and will see its first tape release on 14th October on Beacon Sound (EU customers can order through my Bandcamp, non-EU customers please head over directly to Beacon Sound’s website here ). Both the digital and tape versions contain two unreleased bonus tracks recorded live in Japan during the aforementioned tour. The album is also available on CD.
Artwork is by Iker Spozio.