Version française ici.
Discovered last november after randomly browsing the internet, we cyber-ran into a link to her new album "Mug Museum". We never could get rid of it since then. So, we dug, and dug even more, down to her roots, excavated her first recordings in welsh, her proximity with Gruff Rhys (ndr : Super Furry Animals) who took her under his wing, and her first album "Me Oh My" (2009).
More acoustic, Cate would leave her mark there, sometimes sweet and shy, sometimes sour and valiant, a burgeoning talent.
The style was already there, pure and perfect melodies, dreamy words carried by her leading guitar. Because yes, in addition to being one of the finest voices of her generation, same could be said about her sound. Guitars, she loves them, those that capture us perfectly and simply, those that catch us in their harmonies.
We know that Cate listened to the English rock scene of the 90's, things like Pavement, rock classics with her father, and, we think, a lot of Velvet Underground. Not really thinking of Nico here, with whom she has been much compared (voice and accent) but the others : the Welsh John Cale, Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison, Moe Tucker, and their dark and illuminated symphonies married with guitars and rhythmic projections ...
In 2012, her album " Cyrk " and the small yet brilliant following EP " Cyrk II ", raise some distortion envies and overwhelming splendor as it can be heard on Fold The Cloth, What Is Worse, That Moon or Seaside, Lowtide.
And then comes "Mug Museum", released late 2013, and the reason to this tour. Recorded in LA where she moved last year, her music could grow and mature, maybe thanks to the sunbathes. It’s now strong and subtle, she’s on top of her art.
It is a success that was also praised by her peers. Bradford Cox (Deerhunter) and Tim Presley (White Fence), among others, have been slapped in the face by this young Cymric talent from the old continent, that one that also beautifully covered the song "Chairs in the Dark " from the californian.
After dissecting her discography, there is no other option than falling into a strong addiction, and the only solution is to dig again and again. We can therefore give her musicians a try. On the Welsh side, there are the guitarist H. Hawkline and the bassist Sweet Baboo but also Dan Ward, the drummer, and his project "Droor" who comes from New Zealand. They all released great albums to discover.
Cate Le Bon is part of this generation of artists that makes us quiver, and that carry us away nowadays. And if you dig a little, gateways between musicians that we admire, are not so far away. Then in passing, it seemed logical to us to ask Guillaume Marietta from " The Feeling Of Love " for his opinion, having noticed he also fell under the spell of the beautiful Welsh and her universe, not so far from theirs. He asks her a few questions here denoted with an *.
It is near the Reeperbahn in Hamburg, at the Prinzenbar and its beautiful almost evangelical scenery, that Cate Le Bon greets us this evening of the 4 of March.
On stage, she electrifies herself, serene, elegant, and grabs us adorably. Her voice resonates and the Welsh tribe is closer than ever. Dark and fatal, she charms our ears, chills are there and, without noticing it, it's over ... Bye Bye Cate, send some news very soon.
Now the interview…
x At what point did you assume your voice and your way of singing?
Cate Le Bon : I think I never thought of myself as a singer, because in the school I went to, it was more like classical singing that was held in, that had a value, and I can’t sing classically very well. But then, I just started a school band and you know, it’s like an instrument, the more you sing the more you can sing...
But for some reasons, I was always trying to filtrate my accent from my singing so I think even on “Me Oh My”, that was probably the first things I properly recorded, I was very consenscious about my voice. But since then, I think I’ve just kind of stopped trying to sing in any particular way and I’ve just let my voice be what it is, and not be frightened because there are some words, for some reasons, I just can’t pronounce but that’s just the way it is.
x So do you play with your accent?
Yeah and just let it be what it is instead of trying to... There are certain words that I’m drawing to accentuate the accent and I think I like the sound of it and I’m also putting a lots of extra syllabes into it. It can prove to be quite useful ...
x How could you define your relation with the guitar, I don’t know if it’s your main instrument?
Yes and again it was one of the thing I was always frightened of playing live... But I’ve been lucky to play with good friends, who would bully me into playing.
I mean, for years, there have been solos that I just would’t play live. And they got to the point where they would walk over to me and press my fuzz pedal and then I have to. It’s also just confidence which grows...
I remember Tim from White Fence once telling me that he loved how I play guitar and it absolutely made my day because he’s one of my favorites guitarist... So it’s just... I love playing guitar...
x And you have your own style...
Yeah that’s one way of putting it! (laughs)
x How do you make it work with your voice?
I don’t really think about it too much... I don’t know, it’s really difficult trying to explain how you write a song because I just do it and I don’t think about it. A lot of the guitar parts melodies have come from the vocals melodies so it’s some delicate balance...
x The relation with your bandmates seems very strong, are they your soulmates?
Definitely yeah, we’ve been close for years, playing together. We all played in H. Hawkline’s band, in Steve’s band (Sweet Baboo)... We’ve been very lucky to have that.
H. Hawkline and I live in Los Angeles together and Steve came to record the record but we stayed there and live there now.
x And at what point did you tell yourself that you wanted to move to Los Angeles? As I remember an interview in 2010 where you already were talking about that...
I’ve always wanted to go. I went here years ago for Neon Neon stuff and it’s just a weird and wonderful city and I was really animate by it.
I didn’t want to just visit, I wanted to live there and really understand how it worked… And it’s beautiful, it’s hot, amazing musicians...
Some time ago, I was out there and we played a gig, White Fence supported us and we became friends since then.
And I was talking to Joe (ndr : Josiah Steinbrick, one of the producer of the album) who was playing in White Fence at the time and I said to him "Fuck, I’d really like to go to Los Angeles to make a record" and he said "well why don’t you just do it then? We could make it happen".
And then the next night I went to see them play again at the Troubadour and I was sat right at the top and I was just watching Nick, the drummer playing… "Holy shit! I have to have him play on my record!"
I asked him afterwards and he said yes so I thought "Well it’s gotta happen now… and if I don’t make the move now, I probably never will". Then Josiah asked Noah Georgeson if he could produce the record as well and then it kind of fall into place... So just all happened really, suddenly...
x Were you kind of bored with your Welsh life?
I think you just need a change sometimes as it’s easy to get caught up doing the same old thing. And it’s nice to have a break and work with new people and be surrounded by different climate... because suddenly it would affect the music you’re making and so...
There are some records that I really want to make with people once I’m out there and take advantage of all that, these wealths of musicians who are new to me, new studios, I guess new attitude towards life even. So make as much music as I can when I stand there.
x And you’re not feeling as a stranger there with your welsh roots?
No! I mean, there are some people who don’t understand me, but that’s fine! That happens in England too so it’s ok!
x Is Mug Museum an American album? or did you work on it before moving to the US?
Well I wrote a lot of it in Wales. But it was more like, having that time in a different city than where you constantly are doing things or seeing your family or close friends and you haven’t that time to just sit and go "right, I’m here to make this record".
I was very aware that I would have been foolish to go out there with all new musicians because we have a very special relationship when we play music as well as friends would have. So I wanted Steve and H. Hawkline to come with me but then use Nick and then these two American producers.
I think it was a nice mix where you didn’t go too far into the realms of the unknown and strange while you can still have its deepth and what we have made and build in Wales…
x In the video of "Are You With Me Now", we can see you handcrafting mugs... *
I started doing it after making the record. It was initially to switch off because I was constantly just thinking about the record, the music and everything and it was starting to become annoying. I did it to have that time away, and to do something different. And when you get back to it your mind is fresh. I think it has been one of the best thing I could have done to keep going on. It’s so meditative...
I made hundred mugs for the first LP’s order of the record so the video is me trying to find time to make the mugs and make a video...
x What does this kind of handcraft bring to your artist life? Do you think it interacts, communicates or answers with your music? *
Well, I kind of have the same attitude towards the mugs that I’m making as the songs whereas I’m not a perfectionnist, and I like things to be a little bit :"that’s the way they are". It’s true a point has to come when you have to stop messing with something or you’ll just loose complete track of it . It was kind of the same with making the mugs and when you kind of fuck around with it, you start loosing what you were going for in the first place. There is that moment when you have to go "right, this is finished". I have draw the same lines in both way. I’m quite happy if it’s not perfect but it’s what I like.
It’s interesting, to know, to have to make that decision to go right because you can’t go back and correct something once you’ve baked it and you can’t go back once it’s mastered. It’s good knowing when to make that decision.
I have the impression that your universe is connected from a distance or close up to some spirits. Spirits of our deads, primitive spirits with an animal figure, or spirit coming from elsewhere…? *
Yeah, I don’t know, it’s something that you can tie in, I guess explore. But it can change quite significantely from one day to the next. And so I guess a lots of the songs are an exploration of some sort of spiritual world and it kind of bring sense to the meaning.
And I grew up in the countryside and I have always just been so fond of animals and their presence. They’re symbols for things, that kind of themes, can always be the strongest things you could go towards...
x Are you haunted by this kind of spiritual thing?
I don’t feel haunted in a bad way about anything. I think there are hauntings that could happen. Haunting sounds like such a bad word but I don’t think it is. I’m not crazy!
But yes in the way of, when you feel something, yeah sometimes.
x And in your daily life? *
No, not so much but you know. You have moments especially when you’re traveling and you have a lot of time to think. Sometimes it can be a wonderful thing and sometimes it can be a curse.
x We can also find love as a theme in your lyrics. What is your point of view about that?
I don’t really have a thing about romantic love, it’s mostly familiar love, or platonic love. Mug Museum is mostly about familiar love. And I think on the most part I’m quite positive. But I struggle to write about romantic love because I’m quite shy.
x In the themes that Mug Museum alludes to, there is also the late passing of your Grand Ma…
It’s not a morbid record, it’s about afterwards, how things changes in a family afterwards. And again, you know, about that kind of haunting but a nice haunting where you kind of still feel someone... It’s about how the closest I will ever be trying to pin some sort of meaning of life...
x And about the change of your role in the family?
I just feel older but in the nice way, more understanding of my responsibilities as a sister, aunty and daughter. This was a time when you realise "oh okay" and you’re part of this system that has to keep moving and evolving whereas people can leave...
x And the figure of the woman in the family?
It’s very much maternal and female kind of...
x Could you advise us some good Welsh Musicians?
Obviously these boys(Sweet Baboo & H. Hawkline) and also R.Seiliog, Islet, and a lady called Tender Prey, she’s incredible, they are my favorites currently…
B. & J.
Thanks to Steve Sweet Baboo and Guillaume Marietta (The Feeling Of Love)
Cate Le Bon - Guitar and lead vocals
H. Hawkline - Guitar, keys and vocals
Sweet Baboo - Bass and vocals
Daniel Ward - Drums and vocals
2007 No One Can Drag Me Down (Recordiau Randomonium)
2008 Edrych Yn Llygaid Ceffyl Benthyg (Peski)
2009 Me Oh My (Irony Bored)
2012 Cyrk + Cyrk II (Ovni / Turnstile)
2013 Mug Museum (Turnstile)