Interview by Séphora Talmud // Photos: Élodie Daguin.
Translated by Christabel Chubb.
These two anti-conformist women could be the heroines of a new-generation novel based on friendship. Independent, ambitious and ingenious girls next door, they redefine the feminine role model of tomorrow. Both authors-composers-interpreters and the leader of their bands, they share everything (or nearly everything) both in their city and on set.
2 great girls, friends for life!
Cléa Vincent: You and I are like twins!
Michelle Blades: Yes, in fact, Kim calls us ‘the twins’. When I sell your vinyls, people think I am you!
Cléa Vincent: When you really think about it, it’s rare to find your soul sister. You are a bit like Kim, actually. You are both my artistic conductors; people who don’t compromise themselves, respect each other and make choices together. You are models for survival, without huge egos! It’s rare in the music industry. But when I think about it, it’s me who saw you first, no? You sang in the opening scene of Vieux Léon, in 2013.
Michelle Blades: Yes I remember well.
Cléa Vincent: I was so impressed by your performance, it really intimidated me. The next time I saw you was at the Point G squat party. It was a great set-up. When you came to speak to me, I thought you were really cool.
Michelle Blades: I was a bit stressed then, because there was a leak and loads of electric instruments! I thought I was going to die.
Cléa Vincent: Ha really? You covered up your stress very well. Just after that; we started to record with Victor Peynichou, at the Midnight Special Records Studio.
Michelle Blades: You were there all the time! We have been Best Friends Forever since.
Cléa Vincent: Yes and we did tour after tour, 2 Do It Yourself tours in France, at first with a band and then just you and I. We shot a music video and we left with our musicians to go to America. There, we started our third DIY tour, with Fishbach this time. Every time, it’s great! I enjoy every part of it!
Michelle Blades: Even the stress.
Cléa Vincent: Even the really sticky situations which have us all in stitches of laughter. The worst Do it Yourself situations which we’ve had to solve should be in the Guinness book of records because they’re so outrageous.
Michelle Blades: We talk more about it than good concerts, I think. The ones where we have a laugh. It becomes legendary. Every time, it’s a challenge. We have to sort it all out by ourselves and so there can be restrictions… We’ve had to evolve, and find solutions which don’t require money.
Cléa Vincent: What characterises us both is that we have our own rhythm. If we had to wait to have money, we’d be waiting forever and would run out of steam.
Michelle Blades: It’s true, but with money we can do cool things as well.
Cléa Vincent: The possibilities are endless. From the moment that you decide to look after yourself, you’re unstoppable. And given that we are in the industry of the exchange of knowledge, all the time you meet people who are very capable and can look after themselves. My song « Non mais oui » (No but yes), it’s another way of saying “do it yourself”. When one door closes, another door opens. If you are a ‘no’ person you become a ’yes’ person. Instead of saying ‘yes but no’, you say the opposite. Thats our school of thought. And over time you find the strength to go ahead with whatever you’re doing.
Cléa Vincent: There was a moment when I wanted to get involved with big labels again, even though it doesn’t really suit me. I’m not that malleable. At the moment I am becoming more and more independent, I am even going to start self-producing. I have managed to live off my music alone for 3 years thanks to Polydor and my work in the entertainment industry. I was very lucky, because if I hadn’t been signed really early, and really quickly, I would have struggled a lot more. That’s why you can’t turn your nose up at the big labels, because in reality, they are part of the economy, they support the livelihood of many artists, they provide the money. I have a lot of respect for them. It’s them who create true financial worth. We bring the added value of creativity.
Michelle Blades: The big labels can sometimes complicate the artists vision. For me who grew up in the US, there was no irregularity and it’s more difficult to live off of your music alone. There, I managed to get by on other projects I was involved in. I can actually live off of art, but not off of music. You can really succeed by ‘doing it yourself’, if you are well organised. I think about Mélissa Phulpin, the PR who works on both popular and indie music. It’s thanks to this type of person that we can develop ourselves. You can be very popular while being indie. The big labels are a bit outdated, I find. That said, they suit other genres of music.
Cléa Vincent: There is no vote of confidence amongst the big labels. Because if they don’t manage to get you media attention, they simply drop you. Our relationship, on the other hand, is completely unique. With us, we’d never let each other fail. When we say we’ll do something, we mean it. That keeps us engaged on a personal level.
Michelle Blades: Yes, we aren’t just a product.
Cléa Vincent: Between us, there is a certain respect that you wouldn’t find in the big corporations.
Michelle Blades: We eat together, we sleep together, we both work with our close friends, even if we meet them through the music industry, they become good friends nonetheless.
Cléa Vincent: Everything that we surround ourselves with is indispensable.
Michelle Blades: We are lucky enough to work with people who both inspire us and who don’t judge us. It’s cool.
Cléa Vincent: I feel like it would be a mistake to go on holiday with the person that you work on music with. It’s a very intimate thing to compose with someone.
Michelle Blades: Yes, you have to be able to do professional things and day-to-day things with the person.
Cléa Vincent: I compose with Raphael Leger from Tahiti 80 for example, and we get on really well, we laugh, we cry, we row but it all goes at 200 miles an hour. At the moment I have to be there at 2 to compose, but that could change, I always leave myself the choice.
Michelle Blades: It’s the same for me. In repetitions, I show the songs to the musicians, they adjust things, and we find a middle ground together. I’m always open to ideas, and I can never say no to projects.
Cléa Vincent: Sometimes it’s hard to say no. You want to do everything! Like, the album which I self-produced needs a bit of updating. I am in the process of becoming artistic director, producer and organiser of parties- I love doing that on the side! Then I’m working on the vinyl for Disquaire Day with Midnight Special Records, we’ve already had 2 EPs out together. Also, there are some side projects which go hand in hand with my main project. I’m working with Les Chansons de Ma Tante, with Kim, Batist, David Argellies, the Kim & Cléa show and finally Garçons with Zaza Fournier and Carmen Maria Vega, we are going to play throughout July at the Trois Baudets. I’ve also been asked to play the keyboards for different pop groups, which I love!
Michelle Blades: Yeah, it’s cool being behind the scenes sometimes. I am going to play the bass with a really cool group, Laure Briard, on Midnight Special Records’ next album to come out. I also have side projects which aren’t related to music. I direct music videos, and I’m also a photographer. But I barely ever sleep, it’s a disaster.
Cléa Vincent: At the moment, it’s ‘wow’, I told myself «no burn outs this year», but I think that soon I am going to run out of steam. It always lasts a weekend, I cry non-stop and then afterwards I feel fine again.
Michelle Blades: We did that one weekend. You at your house and me at mine. We called each other saying ‘I don’t want to go out to a restaurant, I’m in my pyjamas. I haven’t washed’.
Cléa Vincent: ‘It’s raining. I’m eating cereal alone in my bed’. I feel like because we are so hyperactive, we sometimes have phases where we are totally dead for 3 days.
Michelle Blades: But at the same time; it’s depressing when we have nothing to do. I’d rather not sleep than sleep too much. It gets me down to do nothing. Even on holiday, you get yourself together or you have ideas of what you want to do.
Cléa Vincent: Yes, I think too much when I have nothing to do. And when it comes to being a woman in music, I don’t know what you think but for me, I can spend an hour and half finding an outfit even if i’m trying to wear something graphic instead of looking feminine! Us women always have a side to us that wants to «please our man», but at the same time, naturally, if you want to be closer to ourselves and to nature, we let ourselves go a lot more! There are singers and musicians like Philippe Katerine or Mac DeMarco, they are completely natural and sometimes, they’re really quite unattractive and fat and they seem to fully take it on. And then other times they are total sex symbols. I would love to pull that off.
Michelle Blades: For me, my role model would be Patti Smith. She always does whatever she wants. She’s a badass.
Cléa Vincent: She doesn’t try to be sexy- she doesn’t give a shit!
Michelle Blades: No, but she is sexy, while accepting herself! It’s really important for me. I am very aware of the fact that I am a woman in the music industry. I believe it’s important to support yourself. But I also want to assert the fact that I make music. If I feel like dressing sexy, I do it, but if I want to look like a dustbin, I do that as well, to assert my existence and make a mark. Like Brian Eno, I want to make my own image, to force the stigma about women in music to change.
Michelle Blades – How Many Shadows Do I lay On
Cléa Vincent: I like the idea of looking good in what you wear. I don’t want to cake on make up. There are some things that I find restrictive about looking feminine and that I don’t really want to do, which means I look like a slob sometimes.
Michelle Blades: You can do it, but it’s not compulsory.
Cléa Vincent: Yes, but I find it nonetheless super important to be put-together. I’m no longer a complete feminist to the point of not waxing for example.
Michelle Blades: Yeah, you’ve given yourself full reign over your appearance.
Cléa Vincent: Yes. When you’re on tour, for example, you don’t wash that often.
Michelle Blades: It’s true. At the launch party of “Polylust”, I wore a cool top and high heels, but I hadn’t shaved my armpits. I want to shock those men who think “Wow! She’s beautiful”, and then when I lift up my arms “AAAHHHH!”. Nobody laughed at me, but I got a few looks.
Cléa Vincent: Great! I’m yet to get to that point. I like that people can have hair under their arms I think it’s great!
Michelle Blades: Being a feminist doesn’t mean you have to let everything grow out. If you wax, you do it because you want to, not because you feel you have to.
Cléa Vincent: That’s the point I want to reach, but there are so many things which are in my way.
Michelle Blades: You bet!! You are going to come back for your next tour looking like a bear!
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Interview by Séphora Talmud // Photos: Élodie Daguin.
Translated by Christabel Chubb.