Despite what you might think, France isn’t all electro. Ed Banger and co might be the country’s best known musical export of the last decade, especially in the populist stakes, yet the beau pays has also spawned some of the more interesting members of the new generation of beat makers who have updated the classic hip hop sounds of the 90s for a whole new generation. Amid these producers you’ll find Fulgeance, a Normandy resident who first burst onto the scene in 2007 with the “Chico EP” on his own Musique Large label. The EP introduced the world to a sound that was uniquely French in its blending of the country’s popular electro tendencies with a swing and bump that was undeniably hip hop. Like an updated version of what Para One and co had started a few years before. Originally christening his style Low Club as a bit of a joke, Fulgeance soon established himself as a seal of quality in the ever expanding, and increasingly bland, world of beats with releases on the “Beat Dimensions” compilation, All City’s trailblazing “7x7” series as well as the Detroit indebted “Smartbanging EP” for One Handed Music. He also set up another alias, Peter Digital Orchestra, that further jacked French electro and 80s synth melodies for some unadulterated party fun. Sometime amid all this – and his debut album which came out last year on Melting Pot Music – Fulgeance also started a side project with Paris-based DJ and provider of funk Soulist. Forming like Voltron, or to be more accurate in their case like Gogeta, they became Souleance: a project that blends their love of classic party and feel good music (funk, soul, house) with hip hop and electronic tendencies.
Souleance’s first release came in 2009 on the London-based First Word Records label in the shape of a 7” – “Le Plaisir” – and EP – “Le Monde” – which introduced the world to the funky sounds of the duo: pulsating basslines, irresistible breaks and addictive melodies chopped and re-imagined in a classic hip hop cut-and-paste style, the whole wrapped in a certain je ne sais quoi akin to the secret ingredient of any self-respecting French recipe. They made such an impression that they were instantly picked up by Gilles Peterson for the Brownswood “Bubblers” compilation. Since then the duo have continued to assemble an array of productions – as well as an extensive live history – most of which form their debut album for First Word, “La Belle Vie”, released in April this year. Preceded by the “Gourmandise” 7”, “La Belle Vie” features guests Raashan Ahmad, Homecut and Shawn Lee; and across its 19 tracks Souleance’s trademark modern funk is spread like a tasty musical marmalade. “La Belle Vie” is the perfect summer appetiser, music to make you smile and dance.
We caught up with Souleance shortly after their recent London appearances to chew the fat over the project, the album and the secrets to achieving “La Belle Vie” - the guys have also put together a mix to help you achieve just that.
Hello. For those who don’t know could you please introduce yourselves?
Fulgeance: We are Souleance, French duo composed of Fulgeance and Soulist. We are producers, musicians and DJs. We love funk, food, friendship, croque-monsieurs, real live shit, good crowds and open minded people. We play live with controllers and turntables improvising on beats and elements while trying to give the crowd what they need to dance. We also always try to make sure we enjoy ourselves so the crowd does too!
How did Souleance first come together? What was it that convinced you to do a joint project like this?
Soulist: We met at a short film festival in Trouville in Normandie five or six years ago I think. I was supposed to DJ and Fulgeance was performing live at the closing party for the festival. We ended up doing a DJ set together and had a great time. After this I sent Fulgeance some samples for a re-edit and some potential collaborative tracks and that is how Souleance was born.
How would you define Souleance to someone not familiar with the music?
F: Raw funk meat with a tropical mayonnaise, spicy enough for all tastes.
S: Some French groovy vibes to move your head, your legs and your ass to. All at the same time of course.
How do you approach the production process for Souleance? As you don’t live in the same cities is it a case of mixing online collaboration with physical sessions or something else?
S: It's a bit of both. Sometimes I send samples, ideas and loops to Fulgeance for him to work on and some of the tracks are made in session together at his studio or my parents’ place in the countryside where we produced some of the tracks for the LP. Fulgeance also sends me tracks he has worked on for me to get some ideas for the live set. I just wish we had more time to make music together in the same studio as that is the most enjoyable working process for us both.
What’s the best and worst/most challenging aspects of a collaboration like this for you?
F: Sleeping in the same bed?!! No I'm kidding [ed note: or is he?], we have such a good relationship that it's all about sharing music, meeting people and staying honest to our music and people who like it. The only thing we try to fight is clichés! When we make our music, even if we flirt with classic breaks and grooves, we always stay near what we want without going too deep into one side of our influences. We always try to keep it funky and danceable.
I think one of the things I like most about Souleance is that you combine all these different elements of hip hop – cut and paste aesthetic, sampling old/classic songs, scratching, chopping – and make them sound fresh again. There’s a part of the sound to me that’s throwback yet it’s still current too – especially the way you get some really heavy bass in some of the tracks. Is that something that you guys consciously went for or was it more a by-product of working together?
F: I think this is perhaps because of my influences as an electronic producer. I can't avoid chopping or pumping some extra bass into the mix sometimes. The most important thing is the balance between these elements though. Soulist sometimes will stop me when I go too deep into technical, rhythmically heavy stuff. We are thinking about updating our sound for the next releases, making it more modern in a sense by bringing more electronic ideas to the table and not sticking to real drums and percussion so much. Of course I don’t want to do music that sounds too much like Fulgeance with the Souleance project, but we’ll maybe make our funk sound more futuristic.
S: I think making “La Belle Vie” has been a way for us to go through some of the genres we were into – from hip hop to soul, raw funk to boogie and even house – and put our own touch on these influences. We are definitely moving on for the future and we always try and stay versatile, heading for some French, futuristic funky touch monsieur.
How different is your live show compared to how you work in the studio/make the music? It seems to me that it’s potentially quite similar, or am I wrong?
F: It depends... sometimes the structure is different, so we will remove some elements of a track for the live show which gives us more room to improvise. Sometimes I compose first, alone, and then we arrange tracks together. Overall it's quite a relaxed approach though; we don't always feel the need to do real studio sessions even if it's better. Songs can become really different once we decide to finish them. We are working on a beat tape project at the moment which will be less arranged and rawer. I like this because it helps us keep the ideas fresh and we avoid losing the energy you sometimes find by creating in this way.
S: Relaxed is definitely the word, a lot of improvisation is key to our process. We always discuss once a track is finished if it could fit in the live set as we want the live version of our tracks to be different and more dynamic.
How would you define the state of the music scene in France at the moment? How different is it to other places you visit.
S: France is really strange for music. I really feel that it has amazing musicians, producers and DJs, especially in the electronic music scene, but unfortunately there are not that many clubs or place to play at. And even less if you cross genres as part of your show or sets. So the audience always appears to be small. France has a culture of what’s called “Bal Populaire” which is hard to translate but is best explained as something entirely different to the club culture in England for example [ed note: Bal Populaire generally refers to public dances with small live bands which would normally happen in small French cities and be as much about the music as the socialising, drinking, dancing]. UK and Austria for example are much more open to people mixing genres together, going between electronic and organic music, between beats and house even. It's hard to answer in a few words to be honest, because there are also great promoters in France who manage to put on great line ups in Paris and elsewhere. Maybe the problem is that there aren't that many of them!
What else have you got in the works, both as Souleance and on your own? Shows, releases etc. …
F: I'm working on a new EP for a label from Slovenia called rx:tx which will feature eight new productions and a remix from Kelpe. It will be a limited edition CD with special design and artwork. And yes I do CDs in 2012, that’s how I roll! And as I said earlier, we’re also working on the Souleance beat tape which will be released through First Word records as a free download once it’s finished.
S: Souleance shows. We have been confirmed for the Dour Festival this summer and we are very excited about it, as are we about playing at the Soundwave Festival in Croatia too. I am working on a “What The Funk” compilation of edits and remixes made by artists that have played our parties in Paris. What The Funk is a party I have run with Freeworker in Paris since 2003.
Lastly what is la belle vie?
S: Ahh! That's a hard one (laughs) I know it may sound a bit cheesy but being close to the ones you care about and love and being a part of their lives is la belle vie for me. Traveling, meeting and discovering new people and cultures, eating crazy and delicious food, having a good sleep, making music, jokes, coming up with stupid dances, having a laugh, drinking a good cocktail, all these things. Doing this interview but also performing our music live all over the place is also la belle vie.
How can readers enjoy la belle vie for themselves? Any tips?
F: Sunshine, BBQ, Pimms, friends around, drugs too if you need them and a lot of fun!
S: I would just add boobs to this short list!
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