So, you’re a French musician who sings in English. It’s hard to get attention in your home country, where the music industry is still focused on chansons, or traditional French singer-songwriter material, and the radio is required to play a certain quota of French-language songs. How do you break your band? For the Parisian trio We Were Evergreen, the solution was to decamp to London. Now, they’re crossing the Atlantic and coming back to New York, ready to charm CMJ with their bright, nostalgic vision of indie pop. I talked to Michael Liot about his live show, the French music environment and the art of the summer fling.
What are you looking forward to at CMJ?
Looking forward to seeing other bands, hoping to travel around the city and make some new fans, hopefully. Get to meet some New Yorkers, showcase our music.
I’ll be there at the Bureau Export/France Rocks showcase.
Yeah, that should be nice. Bureau Export have done a lot for us, helped us get to SXSW, which was really great.
At their showcases, do you feel like there’s any pressure to represent French culture?
Not particularly pressure. It’s quite exciting. I’m guessing we’re not the typical French band because I’m guessing a lot of people would expect French bands to sing in French and we sing in English, so there’s a thing there. We’re trying to build bridges between the different countries by singing in English because it makes it easier for people from America to get into it because they already know the language.
What can we expect from a We Were Evergreen show?
I think you can expect three people, with a lot of instruments, singing, with some organic instruments—ukulele, xylophone—with some electronic bits. We’ve got synths. What we like to do is build stuff as we play, percussion and loops and samples, and try to have fun with different kinds of sounds and blend organic elements with electronic stuff. It’s really a matter of blending stuff, even genres. We started out being quite folk, and then we evolved into something [else]. Because we’re three people with different influences, everyone pitched in and gave their own influence on the project. Now it’s become something of a mix of different influences. You should expect energy and hopefully nice harmonies.
It’s usually quite fun. We’ve got a lot of instruments onstage. We’re not like all in your face; we try to have more calm moments as much as party moments, if you want to call it that. It’s kind of going from one side of the spectrum to the other.
Because you sing in English and it’s more difficult for you to get attention at home, do you feel like you get a better reaction in English-speaking countries?
The reaction is different. I think the reality of how people receive French bands singing in English in France is that there’s an audience for that; there’s a lot of people who mostly listen to bands that sing in English. It’s just that they make it harder for you to be recognized or go forward. France makes it harder for you to get that kind of stuff. There’s a sort of gap between what the public in general likes and what you expect to have from French music. There’s not that here in London, obviously. It doesn’t make it easier, because you have to compete with bands from London, and it’s not necessarily a plus to be French, but perhaps it makes us more interesting. On both territories, you have both good aspects and bad aspects. Here, I like the fact that people understand the lyrics and pay attention to them. It forces us to pay more attention to how we write and build things, whereas France has a lighter view on the lyrics because obviously French people don’t pay attention to lyrics in English.
Would you ever consider writing in French?
Yeah, I consider it more and more. I think we write mostly in English because we grew up listening to mostly English singing. I think I had a lack of interest in what the music production was in France in the late ’90s and 2000s, which is maybe changing now. I think it’s a generation thing. With the internet, you discover a lot of bands that they don’t play on the radio. Bands from America, bands from everywhere. The opening of the airwaves outside of the radio led to a liberation from the system that we have in France, where we mostly listen to French productions and we don’t get to hear what’s outside. For some reason I felt closer to what was happening in England and other countries. So that’s why we write in English; that’s what we felt closer to. Perhaps We Were Evergreen is going to sing in French, perhaps it’s too early, but at least personally or individually, we’re tied to the French language anyways.
What’s something good going on in Paris right now that you’d like to recommend?
There’s a good band called Isaac Delusion. They’re supporting us in Paris. I think what’s good about French production is that Paris is very much about electro right now, this sort of retro ’80s electro, inspired by Stevie Wonder or Michael Jackson kind of beats. Nostalgic electro chill-out stuff. That trend is very Parisian right now.
There was a song on your first EP called “Summer Flings.” Do you have any tips for people whose attempts at summer flings went badly?
It depends on how badly. If you wound up pregnant, I can’t help you. A fling is a fling—it’s in the name. Focus on the positive parts. It’s an adventure. It’s meant to be like that.
We Were Evergreen plays the France Rocks showcase on Tuesday, October 16, at the Union Square Ballroom and the Mpress showcase on Wednesday, October 17, at the Rockwood Music Hall as part of CMJ 2012.