Being a fan of the first Les Discrets album, 2010’s Septembre Et Ses Dernières Pensées, I was thrilled to find out the German label Prophecy Productions was releasing a follow-up early this year. The French post-black metal trio’s sophomore outing is Ariettes Oubliées…, which leads them further into the course of rich layers of melody they initially set out the last time around. Guitarist, vocalist and principle songwriter Fursy Teyssier, vocalist/lyricist Audrey Hadorn and drummer Winterhalter have each refined their approach to make Les Discrets more cohesive, more confident and bolder in their increasingly individualized progression. Ariettes Oubliées… is wholly their own.
I recently had a chance to chat with Teyssier for a phoner about the new album, the visual art he brings to the band, his time on the road as a touring member of Alcest, and much more.
Can you talk about the interplay of acoustic and electric guitar? I’m thinking especially on Ariettes Oubliées… and using electric guitars as background for pushing acoustics to the front.
I think it comes from a choice of—to me, an electric guitar is a cold instrument. To me, the sound is cold. And the acoustic guitar and the folk guitar is something which is really warm. Just like I did on the first one, the first album—on the first album, there is always, always, always, even when there is distortion guitars, there is two folk guitars playing in the background, mixed very low, but still there are, to get some warmth to the music.
On this album, I didn’t do it, but I changed a little bit the way of mixing and intertwining both. I think if I do that, it’s mostly because I really need some warm atmosphere, and I really like the wood, when you can really hear the wood in the instruments and in the drum kit, for example, or in a bass guitar, because Les Discrets is a project I really want to be warm and that you can really feel the organic side in it. So I think the acoustic folk is there for this reason, mostly.
How does the album cover relate to the music and how is the visual side intertwined with the musical side?
How to say? Basically, the pillar of the album is the song which is called “Ariettes Oubliées…” the self-titled song, because it’s taken off a poem by Paul Verlaine, [who] was a French writer.
The name “Ariettes Oubliées” means forgotten songs, but ariettes is also a French female first name, and when I read the poem, I preferred to read “forgotten woman” instead of “forgotten songs,” but what Verlaine meant was really “forgotten songs,” this was just the way I interpreted it and I chose deliberately to see “woman” instead of “songs.”
And then the poem was even fatter in meaning—because it sits very well when you think it’s “woman” instead of “songs.” So we based all the album on this idea of losing someone and stuff like this. And when it came to do the cover art, this is something I really wanted to underline—the fact that there is someone lost and forgotten, and you can feel this as the art presents, but you cannot really see in the painting.
You can see a lonely guy with some kind of dress in the ends, and you can show the picture is very sad and the guy is very sad. You have some flowers on the right, which are red, the color of love and stuff like this. You can feel some emptiness and you cannot really see who is away, who passed away, who disappeared, and that’s a little bit for what the cover art tells.
I think that Les Discrets is really a project which is as much visual than musical. Both sides are really, really important, and this is the perfect example, because without the picture, and without associating the picture to the music and to the lyrics, you cannot really connect what I meant. I’ve chosen a lyric poem, which speaks about forgotten songs, and the picture which I’ve chosen for it and I meant for it somehow tells that there is a human missing and a woman missing.
It’s only when you have both picture and music that you can really see what I meant.
Which came first? After reading the poem, was it the image or the music?
The first was the image, definitely. How to say? I compose the music, and I was recording the music, and when I finished recording the instruments, I had some ideas about vocal melodies and stuff like this, so I took the first book I found—it could have been anything, like a dictionary or a music magazine with guitar reviews, I don’t know—but you know, just to sing some words, and it was by chance the book of poems, and I turned the pages very quickly, and when I found this poem, I thought, “Yeah, this is wonderful,” and when I finished to read it, then I really understood what it meant and how beautiful this poem was.
When I finishing reading it and when I had the complete vision of it, a picture sprang to my mind and that was more or less the picture I drew. It’s very difficult when you imagine something, you know that in the picture, you know you imagine a guy indoors, dark atmosphere, but now after this, doing it exactly like you want is much more difficult. But yeah, that was the picture that came first, and that’s really often the case.
Do you feel like this art and this album captures that image you had in mind?
Yeah, definitely. Definitely. This is why I’ve chosen it to be the cover art.
I know you do a lot of animation as well. Do you see a correlation between how you build an animation scene by scene with how you assemble a Les Discrets song layer by layer? Are those processes similar for you?
Yeah, definitely, because when I’m doing the music, I’m always trying to tell a story. Just a story of feelings, you know. There is always a kind of introduction, a development and conclusion, something progressive, just like a story. Almost each song of Les Discrets is based on this shape and this structure.
And it’s just like a film. There is an intro and then a problematic development and then a conclusion. You know, it’s a very basic cliché about structuring a film or music, but still, this is exactly the way I compose the music. Definitely. And that’s also the way I compose the book, the art book edition, with the pictures in the booklet.
Because all the songs and all the pictures together, if you have at least my vision that nobody will get it and this is not meant to that people will really get it, but to me at least, there is really a story between all the pictures. Like a comic book, a little bit.
I know you obviously just finished the tour with Alcest. What are your plans for the spring and into the summer? Are you coming to the U.S. with Alcest on their tour?
No, no, no. I’ve been proposed to come, one month ago, especially for the second part of the tour, but I had to refuse, because I don’t want to tour so much, because music is not my job. To me it’s just some kind of holidays when I’m going on tour, and I have a lot of work in animated films and directing and stuff like this here.
It was the two latest years where I was really mostly dedicated to the music, and now I really need to work on animation and to go ahead with my job, so I will slow down a little bit for the music. I will continue to make some shows sometimes, some single shows in Europe, or maybe a very, very short tour, four or five dates, in the Europe, but going to the U.S. is very complicated because of visas and walking disasters like this.
Nothing is expected now for the U.S. I think Les Discrets will certainly come to the U.S., but not before two years, I guess. One and a half or two years.
I guess you’re kind of working on both all the time anyway, but is it a big change for you to go from working on music to working on animation?
No, not at all. Not at all because even when I’m doing music, I’m thinking about animated films, and when I’m thinking about animated films, I’m thinking about what I could do in music. My mind is always mixed in between both, but my hands are split. What I do is different.
But no, there is no difficulties for me to switch, and I could do one hour of music and one hour of drawing, one hour of music, one of drawing, if that would be possible, and I would have no trouble to do this at all.
Les Discrets’ Ariettes Oubliées… is available now on Prophecy Productions. For more on the band and Fursy Teyssier’s animated and graphic work, check out lesdiscrets.com.
JJ Koczan knows it’s been a while since he did a column. He’s pretty sure you’ll forgive the absence. firstname.lastname@example.org.