Cold Wave of Love: An Interview with LOVATARAXX

WL//WH Interview  Lovataraxx

Photo by William Dumont – Live in Amiens 2020

The Grenoble based duo of KLEO PATTERN (KP) & ALMOND BLOSSOM (AB), A.K.A. LOVATARAXX. in addition to being nice and kind humans, which is rather uncommon nowadays, above all create damn exciting and intriguing, dark and hypnotic, 80’s tinged minimal synth-driven coldwave as evidenced by their brilliant debut album ‘Hébéphrénie’, surely one of the best releases of last year of its kind.
Constantly on tour over every corner of Europe and overseas, catch them if you can, you will not regret it.

  • Thanks so much for the interview. Let’s trace back to your personal roots, where did you grow up and how did you get into music? Who were your musical inspirations growing up?

KP: I grew up in the countryside not far from Lyon, surrounded by pop and FM music… I felt into music through literature and theatre. I began to discover bands and alternative sounds through shows in Lyon.

AB: I grew up in the suburbs of Lyon in France. There was not much to do in this dull « dormitory town », but I have been lucky because my parents listened regularly to music and I discovered at early age artists and albums that I still love, like for instance ‘Rock’n’ Roll Animal’. As a very young child, I was fascinated by the album’s cover, the blurred picture of Lou Reed on it, his theatrical posture, etc. Same for ‘Sticky Finger’ by the Rolling Stones: I used to play with the fly of the pants on the cover while listening to the album and trying to make a sense out of it… I have been also impressed at a very young age by some videos, like The Cure‘s Lullaby’ that I saw on TV for the first time when I was 6 years old.

My grandmother was a piano teacher but I saw her very rarely. She gave me once one of her synthesizers and I played with it for hours in my bedroom, trying to reproduce what I heard on the radio.

  • Let’s talk about the genesis of LOVATARAXX How did you meet? What attracted you? Your name, the sound you had in mind…and above all what are the elements that made your music relationship so unique and longstanding?

KP: Oh ! Lovataraxx began by accident and fun…One afternoon to be precise, A.B. asked me to help him to play. And Lovataraxx started!  I never played music before. I found the pleasure to learn this new language since then.

I guess that we had a common culture and pleasure. A.B. is a machine of ideas! And step by step, having more and more knowledge, I started to make propositions also. It’s a good balance: I consider music like “a game field without rules” and he is more into “construction”…

A.B: We were a couple before playing music together. K.P. was more involved in theater at this time. I had classical bands with guitars and drums, but was looking for a different way to play music, so I started to experiment on synths and drum machines, and I asked K.P. if she wanted to form a duo.

AB: Concerning the name of our band, it is a play on words based on the collective General Idea that turned Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture into an AIDS picture to fight against the fear of the disease. « Ataraxia » is the name of a stoic concept, badly exploited by the drug industry to sell anxiolytics under the same name.

AB: Concerning our music relationship… we know each other very well so it has pros and cons to play together!

  • How is born your attraction for the cold, dark, noisy, uneasy and gloomy sound?

AB: I have been into the minimal wave and weird synths projects for a couple of years, listening to Geneva Jacuzzi, Lena Platonos or stuffs like that. In the beginning, Lovataraxx was a little bit more « childlike» with high pitched airy voices, fairy tales atmospheres and gloomy organs. I think that we wanted to create some strange feelings by switching from shiny to shadowy moods, like a dream morphing gradually into a nightmare. Once someone came to us and told us that she didn’t feel at ease during the show because she was dancing and partying on our music, and then the track had progressively become frightening. We weren’t totally aware of that at this period, but it is probably what we were looking for.

Also, people came after the shows comparing us with bands that we didn’t know and we listened to all those bands. Then we discovered more and more dark wave, minimal and gothic projects thanks to some live shows, recommendations, web radios or record stores. While travelling in Greece we discovered, for instance, a record store called Le Disque Noir based in Athens, dedicated to those styles of music and the owner gave us a list of great bands that we didn’t know at all, like Regressverbot or Selofan. It’s a chance that we can still have that kind of conversation with music store owners, bands, or anyone coming to a gig.

KP: I like this ambivalent universe. It’s like those old songs very dark in the lyrics and musically danceable. I guess I was always attracted by this kind of an oxymoron.

  • Can you remember what was the first concert, record, song… that gave you that overwhelming sense of excitement and wonder that has marked forever your musical sensibility?

AB: I can still listen on loop the 28 minutes of ‘Carnage Visor’ by The Cure. It’s on my MP3 and when we are on tour I like to stumble randomly on it. KP asks me sometimes to change for another track.

Every time I want to get crazy I will listen to ‘Shrivel Up’ by Devo, ‘Kinderzimmer’ by DAF, ‘No Tears’ by Tuxedomoon, or things totally different, like ‘Lemon’, by Bachar Mar-Khalifé, or ‘Born Slippy’ by Underworld.

I have specific memories of some melancholic songs that I discovered when I was very young and that had some impacts on my mood while listening. For instance ‘Midnight Tango’ by Steve Miller’s Band. I listened back to this song during some record sessions with my friend producing ‘Hébéphrénie’ album and he told me: « ok, this song is great but what has this to do with your music ? ».

It’s really difficult to choose an album that marked me forever, they are too many, and the same for the songs. So I would say totally randomly: ‘Seventeen Seconds’, ‘Deserter’s Song’, ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawns’, ‘In Utero’, ‘Harvest’… some Severed Heads, Throbbing Gristle albums …

  • Tell us about the music scene of your hometown Grenoble and if in some way have influenced your music…

AB: The music scene in Grenoble is very lively and we have definitely been influenced by the DIY venues and the punk scene there. I think that it gave me somehow the desire to play bass on stage and consider it as an answer to the machines.

  • Have you ever thought about the possibility of moving to Berlin or London?

KP: Ah the big question. Big towns can be attractive because you’ve got the impression that everything can happen. But the reality of living in a big city is different. We will see later if moving there makes sense.

AB: We thought sometimes to move to Germany, maybe in Berlin or in another city for cultural reasons among other things, but it’s not really in our plans right now.

  • How do you approach the creative and recording process? What are the individual efforts and strengths that each of you brings to the creative process? Which comes first between the lyrics and the music?

AB: There are multiple ways to create a song. The best to me is when we have already something in the head that we try to put out. Of course, the outcome is always different from what you had in mind. Sometimes everything comes at the same time just by playing and experimenting. Most of the time the music comes first and then the lyrics.

KP: I guess we always created anything from the perspective of performing live. It changed when we started to record. We don’t have any rules about the order between lyrics and music. It really depends. Sometimes it starts with a beat of the drum machines, or a melody, or two sentences that we like and sing, a bass line …it’ s kind of magic when every instrument takes its place and plays its part.

  • How much draw your lyrics from personal experience and how much from an external source? What about the German language for “Angst” and the title “Araknée”?

AB: There is always a mix of personal and fantasized experiences in the lyrics. But everything comes out from words caught here and there, or readings. I never had any desire to tell a story and even less a personal story. I don’t really like narrative lyrics. We are often inspired by science-fiction, mythology, and romantic poetry.

‘Araknee’ comes from the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud called ‘Rêvé pour l’hiver’, and it is also a reference to Ovid‘s ‘Metamorphoses’. The term « knee », like to be « on his knees » echoes the song ‘Prostration’ and the feelings of being bogged down.

KP: We love to dig in the literature: romantics, poetry, mythology. ‘Ana Venus’, for instance, is a rewriting of ‘Venus Anadyomene’ of Arthur Rimbaud. For the German part …it’s not the first time I used this language that I love. At the beginning of Lvtx’, I declaimed a scene of the Schiller’s piece: Raüber’. For Angst’, it came naturally…

  • The title ‘Hébéphrénie’ is a psychosis of youth, that brings a disobedient, oppositional, annoying, polemical behaviour…is it maybe about the distress, the anxiety of living in the current individualistic, consumerist, ‘Big Brother’-alike society?

AB: I discovered the term Hébéphrénie in a novel by Phillip K Dick called ‘Humpty Dumpty in Oakland’. It has something to do with this anxiety that you are mentioning, for sure, plus the surrounding pessimism, and the feeling that our civilization is ending. The first romantics had already this feeling at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It’s also about the generation gap, the lack of communication between people from different generations, the fact that elder is often afraid by, and moralistic with younger people. As though the youth was a disease to heal… «  Ok, time will take care of it ». But when you feel stuck in an « awkward stage » of your life, you have the impression that it’s never-ending, so the « adults » answers are not always soothing. Now I really have the feeling that we are not necessarily wiser when we get older. Ok, boomer! How can you give morality lessons to the Millenials? Look what you’ve done with this planet? This « big brother » society is the poisoned chalice that we are offering to the future generations, without any guilty conscience. The fool is not always the one we believe. But anyway, those moments of despondency always gives you back a renewed energy.

Photo by William Dumont

  • The LP is the outline more than 5 years of the band’s life, are the songs created over the years and refined live or come from a recent session? Could you give us a deep insight into your album?

AB: When we started the band we wanted to play live very quickly. Our first gig was after one month of practice. We didn’t want to wait until we were ready for playing live. So then the first years we played regularly to feel more comfortable on stage. We have been more patient to make an album, we wanted to take our time. “Hebephrenic” is a mix of ancient and recent tracks. But even the older songs have been shifted during the record sessions. We also threw many songs into the bin.

  • The album includes, I guess for the time, 2 songs sung by Kleo, the most jittery and danceable ones, harking back to the French synth-pop of the 80s, was it spontaneous or did you feeling the need to vary the otherwise more atmospheric coldwave tones?

KP: For my part, it was more spontaneous. It’s my way to sing …for the moment.

  • Do you consider the album a closing chapter or part of an ongoing evolution? Do you have already some hints of your possible sound development?

AB: To me, this album is a part of ongoing evolution. We changed some tracks while experimenting during recording sessions, and then we changed our live sets, it’s a constant back and forth between recordings and concerts. We do have some hints of the sound development, actually, some of the songs that we are now playing live will be recorded for the next album.

  • How did you hook up with Unknown Pleasures Records? Did you need promotional support?

AB: It has been a very good surprise. We had a list of labels that we liked and what we wanted to contact. The first email that we sent was to Unknown Pleasure Records, without waiting for anything, and he answered very quickly. So it was done like that! We have been lucky to be directly in touch with someone really passionate.

Concerning the vinyl, it is out now on Kakakids Records. This is a label based in Geneva. We know the persons behind this label for many years, so when they proposed us to put out a vinyl we were very enthusiastic.

  • You had very comprehensive European and American tours, rather surprising for a DIY underground band without any label behind, how did you build them? How have those long tours enriched you as humans and musicians?

AB: Concerning the tours that we made, we just sent emails here and there and got in touch with people, organizers, bands, etc. As we are speaking by mail with some people that we meet during the shows it’s sometimes as we already knew each other a little bit. And then we go back on tour and meet back some of those people and they become friends of ours. So, for sure, those tours changed a lot of things for us. We have been greeted in the houses of a lot of persons and shared more than just basic shows.

  • What are your highlights and lowlights so far? Do you remember your first gig?

AB: As we told you our first show was just after one month of practice, so it was technically a disaster! But during this concert, we met someone that became a true friend of ours. He told us after this first show: « you are belonging to the big family of punks! » And then we made a couple of tours with him. That’s great souvenirs!

  •  What excites you the most in what you’re doing?

AB: I would say that performing a show is a way to be right in the present moment and leave behind you all the daily concerns, so this is rather exciting. Creating a new song is also really fulfilling, when everything falls into place, out of the blue.

  • It has been a long time since a high energetic charismatic band breaks into the mainstream, in the same way probably the last was Nirvana… Do you think the cultural importance, the threat and the power of music have been lost forever in these quick, liquid and superficial days?

AB: I am a little bit suspicious of « charismatic » people in general and the notion of power in the music. Because of those notions, music in itself becomes sometimes secondary. I hear often people saying: « This show was a smash in the face »! That’s cool, but being too demonstrative can also be boring sometimes. Jumping on stage doesn’t mean that you are more genuine or authentic. I would say that someone like Elliott Smith wasn’t charismatic at all but everybody shut up when he was playing alone, seated on a chair.

« In utero »  was the first album that I bought by myself, and it was in a supermarket…. so not a very revolutionary place. I still really love this album, this band, thanks to that, I discovered more obscure bands later, and I think that Nirvana already criticized those same « quick », « liquid » and « superficial » days that you are mentioning. They belong to the «  X generation » and represented it. There are a lot of references to liquids and fluids in Nirvana’s music, by the way. They probably had already the feeling that life was getting too fast. And I think that they had to deal with some « superficiality » also. They were surely aware of being used by the music industry and they didn’t become « Nirvana » by accident. So I don’t know if they really « broke into » the mainstream industry or have been invited to the big capitalism table.

To answer your question, I would say that music can still be threatening, and powerful, but it has nothing to do anymore with very big bands that follow a marketing action plan like Nirvana at the time.

  • Which bands would you love to make a cover version of?

AB: They are many of them! I am currently working on a cover song, but I have to ask permission first. We also thought about making a cover of ‘No Tears’ by Tuxedomoon.

  • What kind of music and who are you personally listening to at the moment?

AB: I just discovered the band « Physique » coming from Olympia. That was a real blast. I listen a lot to Stacian and Tearful Moon‘s albums at the moment. And also Oberst Panizza.

  • Could you name one of your favourite albums, movies and books and why?

AB: Definitely the book would be « The Catcher in the Rye » by J.D Salinger. The main character Holden Caulfield is really touching and true-to-life.

For the movie, I would say ‘The Big Lebowski’. Obviously, dude!

  • What´s the plan for the future (…I bet another long-lasting tour …) and if there’s anything you’d like to add…

AB: We will be on tour in France and Germany in Spring ( between February and April). And preparing another tour far away for this summer. We also interviewed some US bands and would like to make a kind of documentary. I am now preparing a solo project and we also have a lot of new songs to record with Lovataraxx.

The limited 12″ Vinyl edition of the first Lovataraxx LP, in addition to the Unknown Pleasures RecordsCD one,  is available directly on the band’s and Kakakids RecordsBandcamp. 

Here are the forthcoming (pandemic allowing) tour dates :

23/03/20 : Lyon, FR @ LE SONIC
10/04/20 : Dijon, FR @ LES LENTILLÈRES
11/04/20 : Paris, FR @ LE ZORBA
17/04/20 : Vesoul, FR @ LE GRAND CAFÉ FRANÇAIS
18/04/20Köln, DE @ WEM GEHÖRT DIE WELT
19/04/20 : Würzburg, DE @ DENCKLERBLOCK
20/04/20 : Nürnberg, DE @ KUNSTKELLER
21/04/20 : Kassel, DE @ NEU KAFÉ AM WEINBERG
22/04/20 : Frankfurt, DE @ THE CAVE
23/04/20 : Mannheim, DE @ JUZ
24/04/20 : Leipzig, DE @ UNTERSCHALL
29/04/20 : Göttingen, DE @ CAFÉ KOLLEKTIV KABALE
30/04/20 : Dachau, DE @ FREIRAUM
01/04/20 : Strasbourg, FR @ FESTIVAL INACT
02/04/20 : Freiburg, DE @ SLOW CLUB
15/05/20 : Eindhoven, NL @De FABRIK
16/05/20 : Tilburg, NL@GIFGROND
23/05/20 : Nevers, FR @ FESTIVAL SOCQUETTE
27/06/20 : Hannover, DE @ FESTIVAL BRUITS DE LA CAVE
14 – 26 / 08/20 : JAPAN TOUR

Keep up with Lovataraxx:

Photo by William Dumont