Swide's Ben Taylor became obsessed with Avec Sans’ music after hearing their cover of Bon Iver. He caught up with them to talk impulsiveness, sleeping on roofs and who has more emotional baggage.
Since featuring Avec Sans in December's '5 new sounds' I have been on keeping a close eye on their activity and, so, it was no surprise to see the latest effort from them 'The Answer' to be turning the heads of the music bloggers and critics out there.
London based Alice Fox and Jack St. James are the force behind Avec Sans, having hooked us with their cover of Bon Iver's 'Perth', 'Heartbreak Hi' and, more recently, 'The Answer'. As I wrote when I first came across their latest release, 'the chorus is sure to become something of a mantra for their fans and one that will be shouted out with conviction at their gigs'. It won't be long until you'll have the opportunity to be shouting out their lyrics loud and proud but, for now, let's find out a little more about these guys. Here's what they had to say for themselves:
Let’s start with the basics first, tell me how Avec Sans came to be and what you were doing before the birth of the band.
Alice: We’d both been involved in making music our whole lives. We’d gone through so many phases, punk bands, indie bands, guitar bands. Avec Sans happened by chance at a point at which neither of us had a project on the go. We kept finding ourselves at all the same gigs in London as we had mutual friends and we’d really connected over the music we liked. It didn’t occur to either of us that perhaps we’d be ideally suited to work together. It took a friend suggesting it to us, for us to realise the obvious.
What is it that draws you both to electronic sound and production? Who does what?
Alice: I love the complexity, beauty and pureness of sound in electronic music. I write the vocal top lines and lyrics and Jack takes the production lead and I co-produce with him. We’ve got a very clear idea of what we want Avec Sans to sound like.
Jack: For me electronic music excites me because of its limitless possibilities. With guitar based bands you can easily be put within one genre, where as electronic music is much more of a sliding scale. From a production point of view I love the challenge of electronic music. Every new synth sound is a brand new challenge.
Avec Sans, why the name?
Jack: It means With Without in French, and for us that’s the crux of life and music, it’s about the presence or the absence of something/someone
You chose your awesome cover of Bon Iver’s Perth as your first track to put up on the internet. Why this song?
Alice: Some songs are just great songs at their core. We heard a pop song in Perth’s chorus “still alive for you love”. When the core’s solid, you can put a song in most genres.
Jack: For me it was the guitar riff which really caught my ear. The notes are really emotive and powerful. I wanted to try and give that emotion a bit more aggression and pace.
Since then, you have given us two more gems to get our ears around. There is a sense of sad love in both. Whose emotions are we dealing with here, Alice’s or Jack’s?
Alice: I guess that would be me as I’m the lyricist, although I’d argue that Jack sets a mood in music that I run with. RE: with/without, I think sometime the “with” can be as bad as the “without” if it’s a negative force in your life. Ultimately I’m an optimist, if life’s shit, dance through it .
Talk me through The Answer. It’s clearly defiant. Where did the inspiration from?
Alice: I think you pretty much had it down in a previous article for Swide, “Their new track acts as a dark war cry for those of us going through hard times with someone who perhaps expects too much of them'. So many people find someone, especially someone new to them, and they cling to them thinking they’ll be the solution to things they can’t handle. It’s a lot of pressure for a person and ultimately something that’s impossible to live up to. I’ve seen that from both sides of the equation.
Crack In The Road picked you up within an hour of putting a track online, nice work! When was the last time you did something impulsive?
Jack: I love breaking into the parts of festivals I’m not supposed to be in. If I see a slight lapse in security, I go with it. Highlights include walking on to the stage right after Smashing Pumpkins, The Klaxons and New Found Glory a few years back. I've been drunk with some of my heroes that way. I’ve done it 4 or 5 times and it’s always been a rush.
Apart from music, what else are you inspired by?
Jack: Films. A film like Take Shelter inspired a song for instance. Visual aesthetics, lighting, art, fashion etc are also inspiring to us. We have friends who are designers, publishers, dancers, film makers etc and all of their passions in their various fields definitely inspire us and push us to be more creative.
Alice: As a kid I was never allowed to watch horror films, so now I’ve watched pretty much every scary film ever made. I think that in a song like the Answer you can probably spot some of that imagery coming through. Someone described it as “doom-pop”.
On a night out, I’m usually the one that dances until the last beat. What about Avec Sans? What are you likely to get up to?
Alice: On one of our last big nights out we ended up sleeping on a roof. Everyone eventually passed in the early hours and a friend (still drunk) woke us all up with some presents: a live goldfish in a washing up bowl and a Durian fruit that the shop opposite fleeced him £15 for… and which tasted like foot.
Best advice you’ve been given?
Andy Warhol said “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art”
You can download Avec Sans' 'The Answer' via their SoundCloud link below:
Interviewed and Written by Ben Taylor