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Serena Basra speaks to sultry French songstress Mélanie Pain ahead of her European tour.

Mélanie Pain is perhaps best known for singing with the new-wave cover band Nouvelle Vague; her jazzy vocals on the band’s smooth cover of ‘Teenage Kicks’ is one that immediately springs to mind when her name is mentioned. However, she also possesses a blossoming solo singer-songwriter career with a number of albums already under her belt. Her latest, titled Parachute, is an experimental, explorative hybrid of classical harmonies and electro-programming.

Pain often mentions in interviews that she chose Parachute as the album’s title due to its definition: “a device to slow down the movement, to slow down the fall of a body”. She explains further, “I realised after I wrote all the songs that they were all about my deepest fears, but each song was like a little parachute. I felt lighter singing them. I always thought singing happy songs was the way to feel happy…but I’m a true melancholic and singing sad stories and dark feelings actually works as a great therapy for me.” Naturally, one wonders where Pain finds the inspiration to create such intricate, textured pieces. “Lately I started with the words,” she says, “the sound and the meaning of the words got me into composing the music and the melodies.” Poetry also plays a key part in her songwriting process, “I tend to read the same poets over and over. My favourite is Pierre Reverdy and even after reading it 100 times, I am still amazed by his magic”.

“I tried to go deep in my emotions, and not hide.” The result is an intriguing and personal album which often plays on oppositions. “I wanted a contrasted album with lots of nuances, silences, textures, really dynamic piano playing as a way to translate my feelings.”

Unlike previous pieces, the melodies on this album are centred around the piano. The conscious decision to not employ guitars illustrates Pain’s intention to take her music away from her pop-folk influences. “This album is very intense and much darker than both my previous one and with Nouvelle Vague,” Pain explains. “I tried to go deep in my emotions, and not hide.” The result is an intriguing and personal album which often plays on oppositions. “I wanted a contrasted album with lots of nuances, silences, textures, really dynamic piano playing as a way to translate my feelings.”

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Pain chose to collaborate with Gael Rakotondrabe (Antony and the Johnsons) on this album and it is the first time that the two have worked together on a piece. Pain explains how the collaboration came about: “I knew his work with Coco Rosie and Antony (and the Johnsons). I got his contact and we met for a coffee and decided to try a week of music together. At the end of the week the direction was clear and he understood exactly where I was trying to go musically. The ‘no guitar’ thing came quite naturally, it was a way for me to escape my old pop-folk habits and explore new, more electro sounds.”

With her show at The Fleece only a couple of weeks away, the conversation soon shifts to touring.* Pain reflects how she always has a “great time” touring in England. Pain is unfazed by flitting between the new wave of Nouvelle Vague and her solo work, explaining, “I’ve been singing with Nouvelle Vague since the beginning in 2004, so it’s like a second skin for me. I’m looking forward to presenting the new album, I’ve been touring in England regularly so it’s like going back to an old friend and giving him some fresh news.” Let’s hope that she keeps bringing us good news like this for many years to come.

*Unfortunately Pain’s concert at The Fleece has since been cancelled, but Epigram hopes she will return to Bristol soon!


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