Yelle (aka Julie Budet) is French. So are Breton striped shirts. So are Nutella filled crepes. Donâ€™t believe us? Look it up yourself in that great repository of French facts: Rogetâ€™s Thesaurus. Now sure, put all three together and youâ€™ve got Yelle, wearing a Breton striped shirt, holding a nutella filled crepe…the fantasy of every garĂ§on from Metz to Marseille. But thatâ€™s missing the point. The point is one of these things is not like the other. One of these things broke out to international pop stardom with a hit song on the internet, followed up with 2007â€™s undeniably catchy Pop-Up album, and is now on tour for this yearâ€™s sharper, more sophisticated, yet still gaul-ingly blissful Safari Disco Club effort. Give up? Weâ€™ll give you a hint: itâ€™s not Nutella filled crepes. That was our guess. Itâ€™s Yelle, mon ami, Yelle! And sheâ€™s arrived. And sheâ€™d look great in a Breton striped shirt.
GUTFIRE! caught up with Yelle before a recent show in Paris.
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GUTFIRE!: Your last album, Pop-Up, had a definite 80â€™s pop sound. The new album, Safari Disco Club, builds on that sound but seems more sophisticated. Was that the goal?
YELLE: We didnâ€™t really have any concept at the beginning. We had toured for almost three years for Pop-Up and we got back home and wanted to take time to digest everything â€“ all the travel, which was intense but really cool. So we took two or three months off and then we started to work again on music and lyrics, and things happened really naturally. We wanted to concentrate a bit more on the melodies and the harmonies because I discovered I could sing (laughs).
GUTFIRE!: Weâ€™ve noticed.
YELLE: I wanted to find a way to express myself better. In the live shows on the Pop-Up tour we were playing a lot of drums, and we really liked the intense rhythm. So we added some other rhythms, some Caribbean rhythms, in the new sound. Itâ€™s the same with the synthesizer: we tried things and realized we could do different things, some more new wave synthesizer sounds. Itâ€™s a question of mood and feelings sometimes, and it was interesting to mix hotter rhythms and cooler synthesizer to see what happened.
GUTFIRE!: Does the evolution of your sound reflect specific events or changes in your life in the past few years?
YELLE: I donâ€™t knowâ€¦ Weâ€™ve added little things in our studio and just tried to find other ways to express ourselves. Itâ€™s not totally different from Pop-Up. We kept the sound, and the voice of course, and the energy. Maybe one day weâ€™ll do a violin record or something, but for the moment this is our way to express ourselves: to have something very happy and funny, but with some touches of sadness sometimes. I like to think you can listen to this album in different moods. You can come to a show and dance, but another time you can hear it and itâ€™s a different message. I like that.
GUTFIRE!: Judging from the Safari Disco Club motif, is it safe to say the leopard is your favorite animal?
YELLE: Not really.
GUTFIRE!: What about your favorite Yelle song?
YELLE: I donâ€™t knowâ€¦ Itâ€™s funny â€“ our sound engineer is a rock guy, but heâ€™s also a big fan of Britney Spears. So on tour recently weâ€™ve been listening to a lot of Britney. And the first time you listen to any new record, you may not like it. But for me, Iâ€™ve been listening to it again and again and I love it, particularly the song produced by the guy from Mike Snow. Weâ€™ve also been listening to the new Metronomy album. I was totally in love with their first album, and Iâ€™m a big fan of the new one too.
GUTFIRE!: Do you have any plans to sing in English?
YELLE: Not really. When we began working on the new album we had meetings with American labels and they asked when they could hear the new demos in English, but we said, â€śOk guys, thatâ€™s not really the idea.â€ť Weâ€™re writing songs about love and sex and our everyday life, so itâ€™s very important for us to keep the French because we can find the best words to express ourselves. I donâ€™t want to say it will never happen. We did a Franglish song with the Crookers, â€śCooler Couleur,â€ť which was fun. So itâ€™s possible, but we also realize that Americans and fans everywhere like the French. They might not understand every word, but itâ€™s cool to receive messages from fans saying Iâ€™m beginning French lessons because of your songs.
GUTFIRE!: Do you do most of the songwriting yourself?
YELLE: I write together with GrandMarnier. We work together and itâ€™s like ping-pong trying to find the right words or expressions and exchanging ideas. Weâ€™ve been working together since 2004 or 2005.
GUTFIRE!: Aside from pop, electronic, and rap, what other musical genres do you particularly enjoy?
YELLE: I grew up with a lot of really different musical styles. My father is a musician, a pop-folk singer, so I grew up with lots of rock bands. We were listening to Pink Floyd, the Beatles, lots of things. But we were listening to traditional French music too because I come from Brittany, a part of France with a lot of traditional music. Classical music too â€“ I was totally crazy about Ravel when I was a little girl. I like Keith Jarrett a lot as well. So, lots of different things. And in the band, we like different things. Tepr, the keyboard player, is really into rap and minimal techno. GrandMarnier is more into rock. Iâ€™m more into pop music, so the mix is interesting.
GUTFIRE!: How has American pop-culture influenced your music?
YELLE: The video for â€śLa Musiqueâ€ť is full of references to American pop-culture. I was a teenager in the 90s, so I watched lots of TV shows from the U.S. And GrandMarnier loves the U.S., and Los Angeles in particular. He was a big fan of some of the music there â€“ Rage Against the Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers â€“ and it was a big dream for him to go to America. Itâ€™s crazy and a dream for a French band to be known and tour in the U.S. So with the music, the TV shows, things like the skating culture â€“ Tepr is a big fan of skating â€“ lots of different things like that from all over the U.S. influence our music and the culture growing up in France.
GUTFIRE!: Do you see yourself as the heir to the legacy of legendary French female singers such as Edith Piaf or Francoise Hardy?
YELLE: You know, of course itâ€™s nice just to be associated with them. In France we have that culture of chansons francaises, and even though weâ€™re not doing chansons francaises in the band, weâ€™re inspired by that history. And I do love Francoise Hardy â€“ sheâ€™s charismatic and a really beautiful woman.
GUTFIRE!: Similarly, how do you feel about comparisons to other contemporary female singers such as Robyn in Sweden or Katy Perry in America?
YELLE: I think we are doing different music in a little different way, perhaps. But itâ€™s not a problem to be compared with them because I like the way they approach their careers. I think itâ€™s cool for female singers to have some power in the music industry, which can be uncommon.
GUTFIRE!: We noticed in the â€śSafari Disco Clubâ€ť music video that youâ€™re pretty fast. Care to race GUTFIRE! through Paris?
YELLE: You know, I do like to run. I did gym as a little girl and worked out a lot last year because we had more time. Sometimes I miss that when weâ€™re on tour, but itâ€™s ok because sometimes I like to be a lazy girl too, and Iâ€™m happy just to stay in my bed.
GUTFIRE!: So weâ€™ve got a chance?
Check out the videos for â€śSafari Disco Clubâ€ť and â€śQue Veux-Tuâ€ť here:
And get the latest on all things Yelle at www.yelle.fr