Originally from the Paris suburbs, Axel Basquiat and Vincent T have pretty much lived in one another’s pockets since they were children. With a mutual appreciation of 80s electronica and a love of experimenting with an eclectic array of sounds, the duo decided to flee the stagnant music scene of France and relocate to London as The Penelopes.
Penelopes: where are earth did you come from?
We are The Penelopes and we are from Paris. When I was one year old, my parents moved to the suburbs right near to where Vince was living. We literally grew up together in the same building… I was living on the second floor and Vincent on the fourth.
As a collective, what is your musical background?
We love post-punk music in general. Vincent loves Cocteau Twins, The Cure, New Order, The Smiths. I was really into David Bowie, Joy Division, Devo and Primal Scream. But we didn’t want to copy our idols, so we started to explore electronic music alongside rap and other contemporary club music.
How has Paris shaped you as a band?
Paris itself is a very conservative city. All the Parisian bands namedrop the same “cool” bands. They wear dirty shoes to look cool. We were growing up in a very cosmopolitan and poor suburb. The funk, disco and rap music we heard growing up outside our windows is what has influenced our dance approach.
Notice any drastic cultural differences or comparisons since the relocation to London?
Yes, Paris is very, very snobby. The English mind set is more entrepreneurial. French people pretend to be open-minded, ‘liberté, egalité, fraternité’… But it’s bullshit. In London, the council estates are incorporated into the city. Even in Chelsea , you have some council estates. In Paris, the estates are in the suburbs. Parisian don’t see that. They live in their bubble.
Do you think that your ideas and inspirations have altered since you’ve been in London?
In the UK, we feel we are different from the other British bands, which is good. We have the same influences and approach to those bands but we also bring a disco edge and a very continental electronic approach in the production.
You supported The Human League last November. How did that happen?
It’s gonna sound strange, but we don’t really know how it happened. A very good friend, a Sheffield-based producer, talked about us to THuman League’s management. We were ecstatic when we found out that we were going to be supporting them at The Royal Albert Hall. Being on tour with one of your favourite bands is an incredible experience. We’re learning a lot from them.
You’ve done two albums, but Never Live Another Yesterday is your first UK LP. How do you think your sound’s evolved from album to album?
We made our first album in our bedroom. We were naive and we wanted to experiment with sounds. The overall aesthetic has not changed… We want to mix pop song with a contemporary and edgy production.
You have a very distinctive stage presence. What can we expect from your headlining live shows?
Pretty much the same thing in a more consistent way. We want it to be fun and loud and for the audience to have as much fun as we’re going to be having.
Never Live Another Yesterday is out now. www.thepenelopes.com
Words: Shane Hawkins