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Interview: Quinquis

10 March 2022

Photo by Richard Dumas

Quinquis – a/k/a multi-instrumentalist Émilie Tiersen (who was also formerly known as Tiny Feet) calls from Ushant – a rather isolated island off France’s west coast (with a population of about 800 people), where she’s lived for the past decade. That place and its people – and her own deep roots in the region – inspired her album, Seim (out on May 20 via Mute Records). The album’s ten subtly synth-driven tracks – which incorporate rare languages such as Breton and Faroese – are at once cinematic yet intimate. European audiences will get to see her perform throughout the rest of the year (full dates below). In the meantime, audiences everywhere can check out the singles she’s already released by watching the videos below.

Why did you do this album as “Quinquis” instead of continuing under the name Tiny Feet?

QUINQUIS: I had a big change in my way of working, and many big changes in my life during that whole period when I was working on the album. I’ve been working for three years on this album. I was a new mom. I had just re-learned the language of my country, which is Brittany, which is the west part of France. Technically, it’s part of France, but it has its own language and its own culture, which is really strong. I had just a few tracks on my previous album that were in the Breton language, and the rest were in English. But on this album, I really felt that I was getting deeper into the Breton language, so I tried to go further on this path. I also thought that it would make no sense to stay with that name that was really linked to an old me, an old way of working. So I really tried to find the more sincere name that I could have, and in the end it could not be anything but just my family name – a Breton language name which has been Frenchified when Brittany was taken by the French people a long, long time ago. I thought that this was part of my identity, to be that Breton girl that has been living in a country which is part of a bigger one called France.

What would you like people to know the most about this album?

QUINQUIS: It’s an album about cosmic energy and hope. Just feel the energy and just realize when things are meant to happen, they just happen. We just need to see the bright side of things and don’t forget about that. This album is really about trying to tell stories, and if we focus on the bright side of stories, then we can make history a bit brighter, I think.

Did you know how you wanted this album to sound when you started, or did it evolve as you worked on it?

QUINQUIS: Strangely enough, it is exactly what I was picturing when I began working on it because I had that first track, “Setu.” When I worked on that, I was like, “That’s the kind of thing I would like to do to begin a new album.” So I was really picturing something that was close to that. I had worked with [producer] Gareth Jones previously on the mixing of my album called As an End to Death. And he said, “I would love to play some synth on some of your tracks, if you want.” So we tried with one, and in the end, he played synths on every single track. I was on Ushant island and he was in London, so we were trying to go back and forth and nourish each other’s ideas and to make it grow. I thought this would send me somewhere really different. He was really the light to my darkness. Because before, it was really hard for me to incorporate light in my music. And Gareth is so light-ful and super intense and sweet, like a place where you can rest. It really felt like this during the whole process, he was really the place where I could rest.

Did you feel dark because of this pandemic?

QUINQUIS: No, no. It’s because of many other things that happened to me since I was a kid. We finished the recording during the very first month of the pandemic. This darkness is, of course, even worse at the moment – but also, it’s not the same way. It’s not personal now. It’s like a shared one so it doesn’t feel the same. Like, the darkness you can carry on from your childhood to your death is not the same darkness as you can have when you come on a dark event or very massive things such as what is happening in the world at the moment. So now I feel super lucky for the life I’ve had. I can see that in the end, what happened to me when I was trying to grow, it’s just almost nothing compared to what’s happening to some people at the moment.

Living on Ushant seems a good way to find peace, too.

QUINQUIS: Yeah, the people of this island have really reached my heart, I think! Here, it’s extremely beautiful. The landscapes. The weather always changing. The storms. The wilderness. It’s a place where you can feel that if you are respectful enough, then the place can give it back to you. That was the very first thing I said about Ushant island. But then I’ve begun having proper relationships with people, with Ushanters. Now I’m in the city council and I’ve got many friends that I can see every day when I bring my son to school. Ushanters are a bit cold at the beginning. It takes a while to be really part of the community, but once you are here and you try to help and people can tell that you are doing your best, then after that it’s really like an open door to many crazy stories. Sad stuff sometimes, tender stuff sometimes. They know they are here, and they will be here forever. So we are going to be at school together. We are going to be married together. We are going to die together. So it’s a really special feeling because then they try to be extremely respectful, even if they don’t agree sometimes with someone else. If there is anything wrong going on with someone at some point, the whole island is around to help. And the whole island is respectful. And this is so precious. With the world how it is now, knowing that if you are about to fall, then you would have people around you to prevent you from falling. This is really marked into the lyrics of my songs. I think they appreciate knowing that they are part of my work and my life.

QUINQUIS European Tour 2022:
May 10 – Bern, Switzerland – ISC *
May 11 – Turin, Italy – Circolo della Musica *
May 12 – Milan, Italy – Biko *
May 16 – Munich, Germany – Strom *
May 18 – Berlin, Germany – Lido *
May 20 – Stockholm, Sweden – Nalen Klubb *
May 21 – Oslo, Norway – Revolver *
May 22 – Copenhagen, Denmark – Stengade *
May 23 – Hamburg, Germany – Knust *
May 29 – Totnes, England – Sea Change Festival
September 4 – Geneva, Switzerland – Alhambra ^
September 7 – Brussels, Belgium – Cirque Royale ^
September 8 – London, England – Roundhouse ^
September 10 – Berlin, Germany – Tempodrom ^
September 12 – Malmo, Sweden – Malmo Concert Hall ^
September 13 – Gothenburg, Sweden – Pustervik ^
September 15 – Stockholm, Sweden – Filadelfia ^
September 21 – Roubaix, France – La Colisee ^
September 22 – Rouen, France – Le 106 ^
September 23 – Nancy, France – L’autre Canal ^
September 24 – Dijon, France – La Vapeur ^
September 27 – La Rochelle, France – La Sirene ^
September 28 – Bordeaux, France – Krakatoa ^
September 29 – Toulouse, France – Le Bikini ^
September 30 – Clermont-Ferrand, France – Cooperative de Mai ^
October 1 – Marseille, France – Le Moulin ^
October 4 – Tours, France – Le Temps Machine ^
October 5 – Grenoble, France – La Belle Electrique ^
October 6 – Strasbourg, France – La Laiterie ^