INTERVIEW: Woodkid Gears Up For A Dramatic Los Angeles Debut
By Cynthia Orgel; Thumbnail by Mathieu Cesar on October 11, 2012
Chances are you have contributed to at least one of the well-over 100 million views on Katy Perry's video for "Teenage Dream." You most likely are one of the almost 46 million views on Drake and Rihanna's music video for "Take Care" as well. If for some reason you've refused to take a look at these gorgeous visuals, simply because you've been hiding under your indie rock, don’t deny that you've gasped over Lana Del Rey's sexy deaths in both "Blue Jeans" and "Born To Die,” at least once.
Though all of these videos have been viewed millions of times, only one artist was responsible for their direction: Yoann Lemoine. The French director’s hypnotizing, out-of-this-world talents extend way beyond the visual, with his experimental and theatrical musical project called Woodkid. Last March, Woodkid released a six-track EP called Iron: hard-hitting brass, percussion, string, and keys paired with gentle yet booming vocals to form the most unreal indie orchestra of sound.
Presently, Woodkid is on an international tour, and will be showcasing his music in Los Angeles for the first time on Saturday, November 3, at The Luckman Fine Arts Complex. Check out what the tasteful singer/songwriter/director has to say about his hat collection, L.A., his latest music video, and more—all below.
Yoann, I’m so excited to hear about your Los Angeles debut at Luckman. We all know how much you adore Brooklyn. Do you think L.A. will have the same effect on you?
No! L.A. is very different. I mainly come here for work, and I love the dynamic here. I love how everything is easy. It's not as mellow as Brooklyn to me. I lived there and I had a very peaceful time. L.A. is more about energy to me. I also love the city of Los Angeles and the mood of it. I am very affected by the weather. The sun is an element that I mention a lot in my work.
Also I want to move to [feature-length films] in the next two years, and I will probably have to spend some time in Los Angeles for this: to learn, to write, to be in this industry [in which the] energy really excites me.
I was watching a video of your performance at the Electronic Beats Festival in Prague back in May. Amazed by how big the sound is due to the horn players, drummers, keyboardist, and you, of course. Will you be bringing as large of a band to Los Angeles? Will there be projections/other visuals as well?
Yes, we all tour together! We will be eight on stage, two symmetrical drummers, one keyboard, one 'machine' guy who plays percussions on a computer and three brass. There will also be massive projections, yes, the same one I developed on the Grand Rex Show I just did in Paris. The whole show is about symmetry and black and white, it recalls visuals from the videos but in a more abstract way. I also travel with four technical engineers who help us put this together.I was interested in creating a black and white light show, and styling my band members only with this constraint in mind. It's half way between a scenographic art project and an actual live show. That's why the Luckman theatre made a lot of sense for us.
One of the top comments for the Mystery Jets “Dreaming of Another World” video is: “How much does this make you wish you lived in the 60's/70's/80's. Dam 21st century.”
On a similar note, a comment on your Yelle video says, “makes me think of the 80's and 90's.”I started to look at all of your videos this way—how every video you create, whether it’s for your own music or for other artists, completely takes you away from the present moment, causing you to backtrack to another decade or get sucked into an action scene of a major motion film. What is it about music that causes you to create such intense visuals? They’re absolutely stunning.
Thanks! Well my work is a lot about childhood and the past in general. Don't misunderstand me; I live very happily in my century. I am a very optimistic person and I like my generation—I go on Facebook and I watch TV—but I'm interested in what builds the identity, what builds who you are. It's not really nostalgia, it's more psychoanalysis in a way. And this of course links to the themes of childhood and even further: family history. That's why I like exploring the past: I like ghosts and family stories. I like memories. That's what I'm trying to paint in my work: its very universal themes. Everybody can make those themes their own.
You announced on October 2, on Facebook, that you will be shooting a new Woodkid video the following week. Are you able to divulge any information about that? Will there be an exotic animal or fictitious beast? We know you’re not afraid to work with those. Will it seem to continue where “Run Boy Run” left off?
I won't say too much, but it is a sequel, yes, but many years later. It will explore more [about] the themes of love and religion. We're shooting in Iceland, and it will involve the biggest animals I've ever used! It will also be more cinematic as we are shooting in real locations. It's almost like the story; the world I'm trying to create with this project slowly becomes real.
Photo by Markus Alexander Voigt
I get a Phantom of the Opera sort of vibe from your music—the big production aspect, the heavy weight of the music, the looming melancholy. I noticed that in a live performance with Lana Del Rey (“Iron”) and in a clip of a string section performing “Brooklyn,” the way you lead the group and gesture towards them is reminiscent of a conductor. What are some of the places (or people) you pull inspiration from to create this sound?
Well, I’m very inspired by soundtracks. I remember being in my bed as a child, headphones on my head, sound level at its maximum, and listening to themes of films I did not even see, and starting to picture adventure stories in my head. My mum listened to a lot of classical music too; in the morning she listened to Vivaldi's “Stabat Mater.” That's why I decided to call a track “Stabat Mater” on my album. It has this big, religious and powerful dimension to it.
How many hats do you own? Does one of them happen to be a Viking helmet, similar to those seen in your videos?
A lot, actually! But I mainly wear my New Era Yankees black hat. I don't have a viking helmet, no! I'm more into the Hasidic Jew hat right now. Kind of Mormon too. Very Dior of me!
Why is your upcoming album and tour titled “The Golden Age”? Seems that “The Iron Age” would be more appropriate. When do you predict the full-length album will be out?
I think it will be out in January! The Golden Age represents childhood for me. I actually say "the golden age is over" on the first track of the album. It's about the loss of innocence and youth. It's about that moment in life when you turn into an adult— when you build your identity, your character. Iron is more about the adult age, about war and tough times.
I love the t-shirts with your signature crossed keys. Now your fans can rock the image you display all over your work. What is the meaning behind these keys exactly?
Ah! The answer everybody wants! My work is a lot about symbolism, and I like symbols because they can mean different things to people. Everybody can interpret and make a different story out of my work. I hate Hollywood movies when they explain everything about everything, where you come out of the cinema without thinking, without trying to understand anything. Of course the keys have a deep meaning to me, I've had them tattooed on my arms for more than six years now, but I like that people keep on inventing things about them. It keeps the dialogue alive.
I literally cried right after Elle Fanning did, in the video you directed for the Lolita Lempicka fragrance. Does the perfume smell like magic and reuniting with your best friend who you wish was more than a friend (if only he wasn't a stag)? ‘Cause that’s the vibe I picked up on.
The story we wanted to picture was a modern interpretation of Lolita by Nabokov: a young girl struggling with her growing feelings and her childhood. I wanted to create that very bipolar character that would easily switch from a very playful young girl to a deep troubled teenager. Elle has the perfect age and maturity for this. It's a little bit more than just a commercial with a pretty girl; we tried to put a lot of soul in it.