Interview • Roosevelt
Last time we met you hadn’t released your first record yet so I wanted to know what happened in those 2 years.
Quite a lot! We went on tour everywhere. We had played before but this time everything was bigger, we played the US a lot. I also built a studio in Cologne in the meantime.
It took you quite a while to make your first record but I read that you wrote and produced Young Romance within 6 months. Did you intentionally pick up the pace or was it simply easier to record that second album?
It was just something I realized when I started in my new studio, it all came pretty quickly together. For the first record, some songs were finished and I did some more songs and I was touring a lot, that’s why it took so much time. Those six months when I was in the studio I kinda had my time to do it because we didn’t play too many shows in that period. It was the first time where I could sit down and do an album in itself, completely from scratch. First, I was a bit frightened by that but just by having that blank sheet I had a lot of freedom.
What kind of freedom?
Freedom in the sense that you just can do an album from the first to the last second without material already existing and without having to pull out something as a teaser. Just an album in its entirety.
In 2016 you told me you liked the singing to be part of the song and not on top of the instrumental. Was it the same thing for Young Romance?
I think in some songs it’s still the same and for others it’s not, especially with Under the Sun which is more of a pop-structured song. In general, I think that’s still the concept for me. I just grab a mic and sing something, maybe without lyrics and maybe I write lyrics afterwards. It’s a really different approach than in a traditional band where you write an instrumental and then you write the lyrics or maybe the other way around but it’s very separated.
I also wanna talk about your lyrics because there’s a sort of dichotomy between the upbeat rhythm of your songs and the content of the lyrics. Love isn’t an easy thing but I have the feeling you believe in second chances cause you keep repeating “try again”, “forgive” or “take me back”.
I guess it’s because I like to write about nostalgic themes. I’ve never really liked a happy or euphoric dance song mixed with happy lyrics. My favourite songs were always the ones that were like a bit bittersweet. I think the best disco songs are also the ones you feel like you should dance to this but then there’s this melancholy. That’s why I covered Teardrops because I think this song is just perfect for that, the lyrics are just so sad, so dramatic. I just always prefer not to go fully in one direction but it’s not a recipe, it just comes naturally. When I feel a song goes in a too euphoric direction, I want to counter it with some lyrics but it’s also the other way around. I use melody for that as well, when there’s a drumbeat which is really up-tempo and grooving. Moving on is a good example, I like to mix that up with kinda haunting melodies a little bit.
There’s a featuring on this record with someone you’ve named a massive influence, Washed Out. What’s the story behind Forgive?
It’s really simple, I just gave him an email at some point and I said “I’m a massive fan, I’ve been listening to your music all the time and there’s this song I have and I don’t know what to sing on it, would you mind listening to the demo?” I didn’t really expect an answer at all because we didn’t know each other and it wasn’t even like someone connected us. He was really into the song and he said he knew my stuff, which I didn’t know! It was crazy fast after that, the song was almost finished in a week.
Do you think you will be able to perform it live with him?
Actually, I thought we could do it for the biggest shows in America but I wouldn’t perform it by myself, it’s quite a different kind of voice colour.
It’s the second time you’ve worked with Chris Coady since he also mixed your first record. Don’t change a winning team?
Pretty much! I really like what he brought to the songs, he usually works more with indie rock artists. I have a lot of synthesizer but I work quite digital and sometimes it can sound like one-dimensional, quite flat in a way. Maybe because he mixes like as if he would mix a band, he really lifts my songs up.
You’re still part of the Greco-Roman team, did they give you any tips for that second record?
They didn’t really give me tips but they told me to do whatever I want and pushed me to do my thing. For Lucia, I was in Joe’s studio [Joe Goddard] and recorded some synths for that.
He has many synthesisers!
Yeah, it’s like a synth museum! In that sense, he helped me to work on the record. Pretty much the only tip they gave me was “just do your thing”. That was simple but quite important as well.
What about your labelmates? Do you get along with them?
I met TEED a year ago because I toured with him. We DJed in Barcelona together. I never really met much of the other guys.
You’ll go on a European tour this fall and you’ll perform in Paris at Badaboum in early November. What can we expect from the live shows?
It went to another level I think. We are now 4 people on stage, we’ve got a bigger production, lots of lights. It just got really energetic in a way. Before, we just tried to play the songs in some way but from playing many festivals, we just really got into making the songs in the most energetic version possible. I think it still feels like we’re the best cover band of Roosevelt (laughing), we’re still working it out everyday but we got better and better over the last two years.
Are your live members from Cologne too?
One is from Cologne, one is from Berlin and one is from Munich. All from Germany but it’s a bit split out.
You’re still living in Cologne. Weren’t you tempted to move out somewhere else?
I’m so much on the road so when I come home I don’t want to feel like I’m missed out. Cologne is kinda always the same and I love that! The feeling of home is important. If I wouldn’t have anything to do for a year, I would love to go to Tokyo.
We talked about Joe Goddard and the fact that he has a synth museum but you’re a bit of a collector. What is your most precious item and why?
I just bought a Prophet 6 which is a synthesizer. It’s not vintage or old, it’s quite a new synth and it’s really expensive. That’s my baby! (laughing) I also have this drum kit from the 60’s. I bought it for like 300€ and the people who sold it weren’t realizing how expensive it should have been. I put a lot of work in making it sound look again. I’ve bought a lot of random stuff on Ebay for that album like an old glockenspiel and also cheap and trashy synthesizers. You can get really interesting sounds out of them, it doesn’t always have to be very expensive synthesizers. I like those little Casio keyboards, I think Phoenix even played on a Yamaha keyboard that they got for 50 bucks or something.
It’s funny you mentioned Phoenix because I wanted to talk about your Radio playlist on Spotify. There’s Breakbot, Phoenix or even Paradis. Do you often listen to French music?
Yes, Daft Punk is the other obvious choice but even like Cassius or Etienne de Crécy. They had a very big influence on me. I was also into Ed Banger for a while, even if I don’t listen to stuff like Justice, they were really important for me because they represented a bridge from rock music to electronic music. I remember the first time I heard Justice I was like “Wow! Are these guitars?” When I was 16/17 I was a rock kid, playing guitars in a band. Bands like Justice really helped me get in synthesizers. French music was always good in the crossover kind of area.
I’ve got a last question. You’ve always liked remixing songs. Is there any song you would never dare remixing and why?
There are lots of songs I wouldn’t remix. I’m actually quite picky about it, it’s just always about the lyrics for me. The thing I do when I remix a song is that I imagine being in the studio with the singer of the song and I take out almost all the instruments and I start producing the track. I don’t want to do like clap edit as a remix, it’s always more interesting to bring in my sound to the vocals. When I have a suggestion for a remix, I always listen to the vocals and the song structure and see what I can do with it. The instrumental doesn’t even have to be great! You wanted to know which song I wouldn’t remix… it’s a hard one! I guess something like Tame Impala, Let It Happen, I really love that song. Even if I would be like an honour to remix it, I wouldn’t know frankly what to do! This song stands for itself.