Music is really about spectacle at the end of the day, and France’s Fishbach brings spectacle in spades. Moving from punk to an iPad as a young musician, Fishbach brought an intense live energy to her synth borne music. As the years have gone on she’s managed to meld the worlds of art-rock, 80’s and even video games into one of the most unique acts in the world. We had a chat with Fishbach ahead of her March 10 show @ L’Astral in Montreal to talk about her evolution as a writer, working with Alzheimer’s patients and how Grand Theft Auto influenced her music.
Northern Transmissions: Visuals and theatrics in your live shows have always seemed just as important as your music, do you feel this comes mostly in the moment or do you like to choreograph things as best as possible?
Flora Fishbach: I don’t choreograph anything because it should be really natural. When I was on stage with my first band, I was so shy and scared. So now I prefer to look in the eyes of the crowd and let my body talk. There’s some gestures I’ve kept from the start to communicate since many audiences don’t know my language. It’s not choreographed though so I can be free, I’m static sometimes, jumping other times, it depends on the people.
NT: Bowie, Kate Bush and Talking Heads come to mind in your shows and music too, who else shaped you as an artist musically and on stage?
FF: These artists are super important to me. But actually when I was 18 I saw Patti Smith for the first time. It was a revelation to see her, there was this human with a really big power in her voice and this aura. It was such a moment for me but I haven’t seen her since, I can’t wait to see her again. Another artist was Daniel Balavoine, because I really appreciate guys with high voices and girls with low voices. He’s dead now but he was really big in the 80’s. He was really engaged with politics in his music and I am absolutely in love with him.
NT: How did using an iPad to write music affect your compositions at the beginning and how has your writing process evolved over the years?
FF: We say playing music, so for me whether you’re writing or playing music it has to play-ful. The iPad lets me do that because I can write the ideas from my head really quick. It’s so important because you’ll have these ideas in your head and you’ll lose it when you need all that time to record it. I’ll use the iPad to get those first bolts of the song. At the beginning I had only eight tracks on a song, and for me it’s really nice to have those constraints.
NT: How did your time in a metal group influence your performance and what made you decide to leave that for something with more synths?
FF: Actually it should be clarified that it wasn’t actually a metal band. Where I’m from there are only metal bands, but my first band was actually a synth-punk band with two people so were really a UFO. I played synths at the beginning, and it was rock n roll with two chords and me singing in Franglish. I developed some of my stage presence at this time. We had a larger studio to work in at this time but after the band I was alone to write, in my room. So writing my music on the iPad was more romantic and calm because it was only me.
NT: What did you want to do differently on Un Autre Que Moi EP that you hadn’t done on à ta merci?
FF: We don’t expect to travel too much with my music because I’m singing in French. So really we just put some tracks from à ta merci on it to make it a smaller version of the record that we could travel with. Now I’m at shows in Canada, Germany and Japan and we’ve seen enough interest to know we can give them the whole album.
NT: You’ve worked with Antoine Gaillet and Xavier Thiry in the studio repeatedly, so how did you start collaborating and what do they bring to your music?
FF: When I was talking with my label about who I wanted to work with there were a lot of producers. I met Antoine first, he’s a big producer and engineer in France but I didn’t give a fuck about that. I liked that he was a nice person and a feminist producer. It’s important as a woman to pick a good producer because sometimes they’ll say “Girl, I’m going to tell you how this works.” Antoine was nice but didn’t have the artistic ideas to make my songs their best. So I’d met Xavier because he makes music for video games, I love video games so we speak the same language. I got exactly what I hoped from him with arrangements or finding other sounds for the record. It was great to work with them because they were so complimentary and I will probably work with them again.
NT: Despite your 80’s inspired sound, how did Grand Theft Auto open your eyes to that music?
FF: Absolutely! When I was beginning, I had just discovered Grand Theft Auto and thought “Wow, this soundtrack is amazing.” I discovered the Buggles, and a lot of this 80’s music through the game. The soundtrack’s are really incredible for those games. Video games are really important and I do think they’re the future.
NT: What inspired you to run singing workshops with Alzheimer’s patients a few years ago and what was that experience like?
FF: My mother has been working with Alzheimer’s patients since I was born, and when I was young I would go with her to retirement homes. I was never scared to be around old people because my mom would very plainly explain things from an early age “Madame Bourdoi is dead now and you have you have to accept it.” When I started playing, managers suggested playing in schools. These same people were suggesting singing in a retirement home and I was familiar with it so I went. After playing though, I realized they don’t want to hear me sing, they want to sing. I began a new project letting them sing, or doing an expression exercise. It was the most interesting experience I had. I had to stop though because Fishbach was taking all my time and I couldn’t refuse my opportunities there. If I ever stop playing though I think I will go back to that.
Words by Owen Maxwell