As Tender Mercy – one 2011’s sweetest gifts – drifts into pastel blue-tinted focus, it’s no wonder its creators, Au Palais, formed in a dream. Indeed, as David Commathe was busy gaining ground as a musician in Tokyo, he was approached by his sister, Elise, who gushed her grandiose chimera to him. Tasked to write a melody to lyrics she’d penned, David’s work side-stepped the lengthy techno pieces he erred towards, and glided rather triumphantly into pop reveries altogether more vaulting and evocative. Wonderland talk to the pair, who inform us that the world will come to an end in 2012; the year their debut LP will land.
You recently moved from Toronto, your hometown, to London. Why?
Elise: Originally, I had moved to London for work – I’m a graphic designer. As the music really began to take shape, London just seemed the obvious location for us to be in. David really didn’t get a choice in the matter: it was more or less a phone call saying: “You have one week to up and move to London.”
David: Toronto is an amazing city in its own right, but it’s not London – particularly if you’re playing in a band that’s not, say, another 60s garage revival band. The scene for us – like, the ‘dark, electro-pop’ scene, or whatever you’d call it – simply doesn’t exist back home. London, on the other hand, got it instantly. It really is an exciting city to be a musician in, and one that truly is at the forefront of music – constantly welcoming the weird and the wild fringes.
D: I think we feel a kinship with those bands, at least in terms of spirit. And of course, London is a city that only really comes alive at night. That was something I really missed about living in Tokyo – the ability to surrender yourself to the night, and just leave yourself at the city’s mercy. And thankfully, of course, you can totally do that in London; it’s all people DO here. The result is that you can have a really, really good night, but also a really, really bad night – like an actual nightmare – in a way that you can’t have in quieter cities. I hope some of that feeling of surrender and tension comes through in the music.
What’s special about your creative marriage?
D: I think the brother-sister dynamic really eliminates a lot of the tension and dissent that simmered below the surface in a lot of the other bands I played with. It allows for an openness to criticism that would maybe have hurt a lot of other bands. In particular, Elise is good at pruning back my more experimental impulses. She brings the pop, I bring the 30 minute songs about the metaphysics of car crashes, or whatever.
E: I come from a different background than David. I think having worked as a graphic designer and art director lends me a different approach to music making. I think I bring a developed sense of editing, and constructive criticism. Together we continually push to improve the sound, and think a lot about the details.
Why will 2012 (hopefully) count? What’s the plan?
D: 2012 is going to be a big one for Au Palais, firstly because the world is ending, and secondly because our full length will come out. We’re playing some shows in New York, and going down to SXSW, which has been a life-long dream and goal for both of us. Things are looking very good for Au Palais, but I’m not sure how we’re going to retain the gloominess that’s become a key part of our music. Need to pull some more terrible all-nighters, I guess.
E: …or just keep writing music in this London winter.
Tender Mercy ep is out now on The Sweet Sound of Nothing
Words: Jack Mills