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C'est magnifique ! - An Interview with Marble Arch's Yann Le Razavet

Pic by Benoit Drouet
3 September 2019

Photo by Benoit Drouet
The most alert ones will recall the name of Marble Arch from the Saint-Laurent Paris Sessions photoshoot made in 2015 by music lover and fashion designer Hedi Slimane. Back then, Yann Le Razavet was not the most famous face of the photoshoot having bands such as La Femme and Melody’s Echo Chamber. However, the man behind Marble Arch was already a brilliant hope for the French pop music pool. His first record from 2014 The Bloom Of Division (Requiem pour un twister / Le Turc Mécanique), drew modest attention but was more of a bedroom pop experiment. It was a very intimate project made from his native Brittany, France; far from any scenic influence.

Named after the London-based monument made of white marble and located on Oxford Street, Marble Arch have really thought their second record through; contrasting fewer artistic road blocks with greater financial issues, hence the title; Children of the Slump. Meanwhile, Yann Le Ravazet had some time to think about the musical tone and sounds of his new record. He didn’t want it to be labelled shoegaze or dream pop. As a matter of fact, you’d be more likely to hear reverberated pop (“Reminiscence”), infectious saturated pop (“I Am On My Way”), nostalgic pop (“Moonstruck”), synthetic pop (“Instant Love”) or even contemplative pop (“Gold”). “I think of Children of the Slump as being my real first album as opposed to the former one which was more like a collection of demos”, the thirty-years-old artist confessed. The nine songs were mastered with the support of Barthelemy Bouveret (Good Morning TV, Brace! Brace).

Touchstones could easily couple the vaporous and heady repertoire of Marble Arch to bands such as The Radio Dept., Slowdive, Sarah Records_-era The Wake and Deerhunter for they all share a mutual admiration of shady guitars and pop-like sensibilities. Two years of writing are summed up in the ending title “Children of The Slump” in which Yann goes from laughter to tears. The Lannion, France-born artist has enriched his leaning towards melancholy much like the roses on the grey Mercedes of the album cover. _Children of the Slump by Marble Arch is the first release of the Géographie Label co-founded by Nicolas Jublot (Point Éphémère, Hello Acapulco) and Rémi Laffitte (Atelier Ciseaux).

Special thanks to Rémi for all the long distance efforts in coordinating this piece!

James Broscheid: Congratulations on the release of your second album and first for Géographie. Your first LP, ‘The Bloom of Division’ was released in 2014 so I am curious, what accounts for the length of time between the albums? Were you apart of other projects during that span of time? Either way, the new record is worth the wait!

Yann Le Razavet: The release of this second album took time for several reasons. I immediately began to compose it at the release of The Bloom of Division with the same method. However, at the time we had concerts and several changes of line up within the group. That’s why the creation part didn’t go too fast. In 2016, I had in stock 17 demos, that I wanted to present to the labels so that they could make their choice. After several tries, Nicolas Jublot (my manager), suggested that I re-record some tracks to gain quality (out of the lo-fi), which took a little more time. 
But also he told me of his desire to create his own label with Rémi Lafitte, to be able to get it out. With “Children of the Slump” Géographie Records released their first album-artist! The promo is quite DIY, it’s brand new. In addition to the creation of the label, we have the promotion etc. which is why it took so much time to release Children of the Slump.

JB: How were your methods to writing and recording ‘Children of the Slump’ different from your first record? The production is more refined and fuller when listening to both albums one after the other.

YLR: Actually the production is cleaner than the first one. The lo-fi side of “The Bloom of Division” is not an artistic choice but a lack of means to record. Indeed, everything has been done in my bedroom, it’s pure bedroom pop. For “Children of the Slump” I simply wanted to gain clarity, to benefit from the possibilities that I had at my side to get rid of a particular style. As for the voice and its treatment, I wanted to get out of this shyness-reverb, which implies a consistent emphasis. That’s why my girlfriend helped me a lot with the lyrics. It’s a part of creation in which I would like to improve.

JB: The press release for the new record states there were less artistic anguish leading up to recording it. Can you elaborate on that? Also, can you delve more into the album’s title?

YLR: For these two albums there were two different environments. When I composed “TBOD” it was a rather gloomy period, unemployment, a return to the parents far from everything. The birth of this album is a little lonely; ”COTS” was composed in Paris. Since I arrived there, I followed odd jobs to try to develop Marble Arch. It is a not very resting condition between galleys and good news. It’s a situation that allowed me to have a critical look at our generation. The title of this album and in particular the track reflects a statement on our society between dream and despair, on an available and disposable youth, in the instantaneity and the ephemeral.

JB: I think Children of the Slump is a natural progression of where the shoegaze genre should have ended up (refining actual song craft/melody), as opposed to formulaic, effects-driven noise and tone bending. Does it bother you when your work is compared to shoegaze/dream pop? A track like ‘Today’ really says it all because it is more of a collision between the genres of yesterday to contemporary pop, like Wild Nothing or The Radio Dept. where synth experimentation is welcomed and not hindered.

YLR: That’s so right. Since the beginning of Marble Arch, I have called my music POP because I try to mix all my influences in it. However, it is true that I come from shoegaze, it’s a kind of music that has fed me a lot: My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, The Wake, etc. I think we will always find this little touch in Marble Arch; especially in the singing. Today there are bands that evolve this style while keeping this melancholy like Deerhunter, Radio Dept., etc. and they help me a lot to find the sound in Marble Arch. In any case, I try not to put myself in boxes.

JB: As a fan I am always curious to understand the creation process for records I adore and how they connect to me. Where do you find inspiration for your work? Whether it be from the arts, natural world, your hometown of Lannion, France, etc. Did the limitations of living in a small town like Lannion inspire to lean more towards creating music?

YLR: Since I was a kid I always made music. Like many friends I could have done football but I don’t like competition. There’s not much else to do on weekends in Lannion. With a friend we set up another group: Maria False (very shoegaze). Then years later I finally created my personal project. We can say that Lannion pushed me in this direction! For Marble Arch, I always create the music first, the texts come at the end. I work by crush, by envy, if I force (it) there is nothing that comes out of it. 
My dictaphone is full of idea, riff, melody. I try to put things in relation. I seek inspiration everywhere, I put myself no barrier, but it often comes at night in the dark of the bedroom. For the lyrics, I try most often to talk about things that happened to me, it’s simple and more honest. But it is true that it is a complicated exercise every time. So on COTS, my girlfriend wrote me half of the LP, it was a kind of in order. She writes very well and has a lot of ideas, she helped me a lot!

JB: Expanding on that further, how supportive is the scene you are surrounded by now compared to your hometown? Are there some local artist/bands you can recommend?

YLR: Yes, in Paris there are many groups that I like. For example, Rendezvous, Territory, Good Morning TV, Brace Brace, T / O, Bryan’s Magic Tears … We all come from the same scene. We are friends. In Lannion it’s more complicated.

JB: The ‘Children of the Slump’ cover art is also pretty revealing in that the imagery is steeped in dicotomy. The beauty of the roses atop the beaten, drab Mercedes 190 D. What does the cover art say about the contents inside the album sleeve?

YLR: It’s a car from my neighborhood. One day I took a picture of it and I immediately liked it. 
By adding roses on it, I thought there was something powerful; beautiful but sad. Can we see a following of the “bloom” of division? I like the colors of it, a kind of broken beauty, like a symbol.

JB: Will Marble Arch be hitting the road soon? In particular, any plans to play the U.S. this year? Also, I am assuming you have a full band to assist for live performance?

YLR: Yes it would be so rad to play in the USA! Moreover, our drummer is Californian! It’s a work in progress, it will probably be possible for the summer 2020 or before. Now we have some contacts thanks to our friends from Froth, especially at The Echo in Los Angeles. They have been wanting for us to play there for a long time!

JB: I recently read a brief article online when ‘I’m On My Way’ was released as a single late last year that describes the music of Marble Arch being orientated towards childhood and experimentation. Can you elaborate on that? Did that feeling of nostalgia carry over from your first LP?

YLR: Yes childhood, nostalgia, melancholy, have always helped me to compose. I feed myself with a lot of holiday memories, tv, sounds, atmosphere, etc. I think that when we are children, our brain and naivety helps us to collect a lot of information. Personally it’s something that I find a lot in Atlas Sound.

JB: What initially inspired you to break out of (shoegaze band) Marie False and create music as a separate entity from that project?

YLR: Maria False is not really finished, it’s just that we all live a little far from each other. As time passes, we stopped playing together. However, I still compose things. Marble Arch was born the day I started collecting demos created for Maria False. Initially there was no desire to create a new band. Once the tracks were out on Bandcamp and after understanding the enthusiasm that it generated, I decided to create the band.

JB: You choose to sing in English as opposed to French, why is that? There is certainly a degree of beauty to French vocals, especially stuff from the ‘60s like ye-ye pop.

YLR: I never really listen to French music except the classics (Serge Gainsbourg, Étienne Daho, etc.). I’ve always been fascinated by pop; US/British scenes. It just makes sense for me to start in that way.  However, I will probably think about it one day, because it could help me write and put words right on my lyrics!

JB: You mentioned having 17 demos on hand for labels to choose from. Will those demos be seeing the light of day soon as completed songs? Will songs not used on Children of the Slump make up tracks for your next LP?

YLR: Well, this is a good question… I am not sure myself of the future of these demos. 
There are some that I could finish and that are ready and others that I think will remain in my computer. They are dated and don’t really represent the sound of Marble Arch. Some others will be re-arranged and re-mixed I think.

JB: With all the line-up changes you faced with your band (delaying work on COTS), is it difficult to bring new band members up to speed with your vision and how you want Marble Arch to sound? How do you go about recruiting people who you feel will fit in well and generate cohesion?

YLR: I have always been lucky because the Marble Arch members are either friends, friends of friends who become friends but they are always people who are close enough. That’s why it’s quite simple to get them into the Marble Arch ambience, usually they already know the project. Paris is a small city!

JB: With COTS getting more production resources, were there any moments during recording where you may have missed certain lo-fi elements deployed on your first record? 

YLR: Definitely yes! I lost in lo-fi to reach a cleaner level but it’s really not a regret. The lo-fi side has always been a consequence and not a will. However, I do not deny my first album, things are done naturally. But I did not want to redo a similar album because I had the tools and the helpers.

JB: How difficult is it to replicate your band’s sound in a live setting? Are there certain tricks used during recording that you have to do without when you play live?

YLR: Yes certainly, we can not exactly reproduce the album. However we are five on stage and I find that we manage to gather the essentials of the album. We also have a sampling pad to play some passages that we can not play ourselves.

JB: Do you find more rural settings like Lannion to be less inspirational for your songwriting? A little different from say a painter who does landscapes like impressionists from the 19th century where seclusion and country/nature made for some absolutely astounding pieces of art. Is it different for you as a musician?

YLR: No because Lannion was very important for the creation of my first album. I composed it during my period of unemployment, back in my teenage room at my parents. It really nourished this album. The second was composed in Paris. It is different, more colorful, less sad perhaps. I think every place is different but important (genius loci). These two albums were created each at a specific moment in my life, and in a precise environment. I think we should take that as it comes.

JB: Any updates as far as playing the states? Will make the journey from Arizona to California (if you happen to make the West Coast!).

YLR: It’s a dream come to play in the USA, we are already talking about it, to try to plan for March 2020 … it will probably be a West Coast tour indeed! Thank you soooo much for your support!!

For more information visit:
Marble Arch
Géographie