We constantly feature notable rising artists in the alternative scene on the verge of success. Meet the latest artist in residence:
GRAND BAIN is a franco-american electro pop duo composed of singer/lyricist Erica von Trapp and composer/multi-instrumentalist Jules de Gasperis. The two met in 2013 when Jules auditioned Erica as the singer for a former project. They discovered many musical bonds quickly and the two started creating their own musical style using sound research, poesy and life events as inspiration. The name “Grand Bain” (translating to “deep end” in French) was born mid-lap swimming in one of Paris’s municipal pools. The group is based in Paris.
We had the chance to chat with Erica and Jules and talk with them about their influences, the French music scene and everything alternative culture.
This is a loaded question. If you’re asking what sparked out interest in music in general, we’re practically going back to diapers. Early on, Jules felt his first sparks with bands like Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson or Nirvana— for Erica it was also classics, like The Doors and The Rolling Stones, and songs she could belt along with to like Erykah Badu. However, currently speaking, here’s three albums that inspired GRAND BAIN to make the sounds we do.
- Portishead - Dummy
- Caribou - Swim
- Metronomy - English Riviera
What are your fondest musical memories?
Jules - As a listener, Kings of Leon, 2005, concert in Paris. I found myself completely absorbed by the music and into it, and asked my friend to lift me up so I could crowd surf. I was lifted all the way to the stage, and started dancing with the band until a security guard came to catch me so I jumped into the crowd. More lately, the Son Lux concert at Café de la Danse in Paris was the best concert of my life.
Erica - yeah, the Son Lux concert pretty much topped it as far as being a listener goes.
Lately what musical periods or styles do you find yourself most drawn to as a listener?
Erica – When I first started working with Jules it was on a New Wave/Electro project, so I found myself into more digital/synth-y sounds, like Moderat or even Twin Shadow. But once we started writing songs for GRAND BAIN and searching for what turned us on as listeners and creators, I found myself gravitating towards music that’s a bit more simple, songs that stand alone acoustically with engaging melodies, raw messages, and clear stylistic sounds. This would be exemplified by Interpol, Movement, or The Kills.
Jules - I have two extremes - from my music producer lenses, I’m drawn to things that are more complex and more geared towards sound research, like Oneohtrix Point Never, Nosaj Thing or Shlohmo. And also I agree with Erica that I’m drawn to something very raw and more direct — something that speaks to people, like Interpol or Arcade Fire.
What is Grand Bain currently working on? Any new projects?
We are developing the live set — as it’s just the two of us in the studio, we’re figuring out how to recreate all of the sounds you hear on the recordings using our collective 40 digits. We’re making two versions of the live set — one with just us two, 3 keyboards, 1 guitar, our analog bass, and our Vermona drum machine. The other formula will essentially be the same but the Vermona will be largely usurped by a real drummer. This has been revealing to rediscover the songs we’ve already recorded, and an indication to the final arrangements on the EP.
What is your dream collaboration and why?
Although his name was already mentioned once, it bears repeating: we would love to do a collaboration with Son Lux. Going back to the concert alone, his maturity was so blatantly advanced in how they put together the set. Ryan handled the live versions of his very well-known songs like someone having 100 years musical experience. Aside from our immense admiration for the group, we’re also close in terms of genre, so a collaboration would be stimulating, to say the least.
How would you describe your band’s sound and aesthetic? What has influenced you into creating this type of performance vibe?
We like to be well surrounded. We bought a bassist, his name is Michael. He comes from a long line of musicians bearing the name Moog. He’s 100% analog, he’s made of steel, and is always on time. Although his face is rather covered in knobs.*
But seriously, to find our performance vibe with just two people, it was helpful to get inspiration from The Kills, as the duo dedicates their energy into playing their harmonic instruments and singing emotionally over backing drum tracks. However, you couldn’t pin too many things sound-wise to The Kills from us. It’d be more like if you put Metronomy and Arcade Fire in a bed for one night. (But with way way less people.)
*The Moog Minitaur is a fine piece of machinery.
I’m a believer that music creation stems a lot from the environment it’s created in. Different scenes and countries and origins create different and unique sounds. You’re based in France. Describe to us what the French indie/alternative music scene is like. What are the trends and major music influences? How has being based in France influenced you in creating your sound?
It’s safe to say that both of us have different relationships with creating in France, given that Jules is from France and Erica’s from California.
Jules: I grew up in France and I spent most of my life in Paris. But ironically I have a hard time feeling very connected to the traditional French music scene: typically, French music is very dependent on the lyrics, and the popular songs emphasize so much the singers to a point where the musical arrangements are pretty much neglected (and people don’t really seem to care about that, which probably stems from a lack of musical education here). So when I was younger, there were a bunch of kids like me in Paris who looked up to musical scenes that seemed to be more full and interesting from a purely musical standpoint, especially geographically close ones such as London or Berlin. So it’s not surprising to meet a French musician who is keen on music itself and tends to search for more receptive audiences abroad. And what’s funny is that although we’ve had big names developing these last years such as Phoenix, Justice, Daft Punk etc., they all seem to reach a certain level of renown in foreign countries first before they come back to France and become big.
Erica: As an American living in Paris, I find this place to be very stimulating from a sensorial point of view. Of course, whenever you quit your comfort zone, and are presented by new sounds, buildings, people, food, smells, etc, your creativity will be really raised. Also, the music that people listen to here globally is more electro in nature, and that’s opened up my ears to hear things in a different way. However, I do agree with Jules on the lack of good music that is both created and played locally. What prompted me to seek musicians to play with was because I was in the middle of intense culinary studies in Paris and was looking for a musical outlet for my stress. In the states, having lived in places like Los Angeles, New York, and Portland, it was easy for me to have a sort of catharsis simply going to see a well-played, even raw, live show. But I found this harder to locate in France, so searched for musicians to create with to experience this live expression.
What is your writing process like? How do you create your music? What subjects/experiences do you draw inspiration from?
I think The Arcade Fire’s frontman said it very well when he said that to make music is to be living.
Feeling, experiencing, being present, are what make this a compelling medium to communicate our reflections and share sounds we find inspiring. It’s what keeps it changing, it’s what ties things together.
When we write, we start out by composing the raw songs together with just voice, piano, and guitar. Generally it’s Erica who takes care of the lyrics and Jules who does the composition, but of course that has its exceptions. The subjects of the songs always come after the melody, the words serve the music, and their inspiration ranges from life events to emotions that either the song or interior sentiments bring about. We then take the songs into the studio where Jules works (where we have the chance to use when it’s not booked). We lay down many ideas, using drums, synths, guitars, etc, so now we have songs that are really pure studio creation. This method is a bit dangerous and a bit limited sometimes: there’s a world of sound to add and only two creating all these sounds. So, for the live we’ve found we’ve had to tame our ideas and keep the songs more toward their simple origins while keeping the arrangements that really strike us. This work has been revealing. The album should resemble something in between the songs you hear on soundcloud and the simplified versions we play live.
Your sound currently reminds me of MS MR and CHVRCHES, in having that same 80s influenced synth sound—yet updated, edgy and contemporary. What do you think about alternative music’s current trend to reinvent this bright electropop sound, rather than the past trends of mellow indie-rock or guitar based grunge/punk rock?
E: Since it’s Jules who primarily takes care of production, I think he’s best to answer this question.
J: For me it’s a combination of several things. To start, I really come from a rock & folk background — my dad had me listen very early to The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, even stuff like Lynrd Skynrd etc. At a younger age I was playing in many line ups that were kind of heavy in guitars, bass, and drums. But while I had this background, I think my curiosity was always peaked by rock genres that seemed to reach out for new sounds, such as Muse, Radiohead, and Bloc Party. So, I can’t really describe myself as a retro-lover, but more as someone progressive. I then started to discover synthesizers, and they at once took me to a much broader musical world and experience. After I got my hand on a first one, as I’ve always been kind of nerdy, I really enjoyed tweaking their sounds, knobs, all that. So now, I am not too much attracted by retro-lovers like The White Stripes (even if I highly respect Jack White’s talent), but I’m always interested in new textures and sounds. These often relate to synths, thus what people call “80s influence”, but the same sounds can be found in groups like Son Lux, Metronomy, James Blake, and so on.
Finally, a question we have been asking all of artists lately: which songs are you currently obsessed with? What new acts do you recommend to our listeners? What bands do you believe are your best kept secret in the indie community?
Songs that employ strong sounds are of particular interest of late. Songs that have a particular style. Groups that push the envelope. Our ears can’t get off of the go-to’s, meaning things like The Arcade Fire, Metronomy, James Blake, etc. Groups like Movement and The Acid have some really fresh new sounds, a clear environment is created, and the very different vocals and their treatments add a good amount of texture.