Recognised, renowned and respected for being the man behind the sumptuous ode that is ‘La Ritournelle‘, but probably best known in the UK as that quirky, hairy guy that represented France in the Eurovision a couple of years ago, Sébastien Tellier is one of the more extravagant, confusing and wildly interesting subjects that a music journalist is going to have the chance to write about. Hailed in his home country of France as something of a national hero, the Parisian singer/songwriter has spent most of his ten year career inciting conversation due to his controversial musical antics, his curious attitude and his musical quest to explore philosophy and life
A figure of humour, musical prowess and stature to the residents of his homeland and a man of cult status to those in the UK, Sébastien Tellier returns in June, bringing with him a new approach, a new philosophy and ideas which reach much further and much wider than those typically found on an album. My God is Blue is Tellier’s fourth studio album, a blue jewel in his crown and an eccentric, playful yet musically masterful effort. We caught up with Sébastien during some down time in Paris to find out more about his latest creation and the community he’s built around it.
“I love playing in the UK, even though the dressing rooms are often filthy,” Tellier states dryly of his feelings towards his upcoming tour which sees him come to the UK in July. “But I love those ten minutes that follow a successful show, it’s a great, highly addictive sensation.” A sensation that he’ll be well used to by now, as, if nothing else, Sébastien Tellier is a true performer. Whereas many musicians are content with quietly writing, recording and releasing an album, for Tellier, the process is an involving, all encompassing experience which links life and philosophy to sounds and rhythm.
Yet as wild and spontaneous a character as he may seem, there’s a distinct method to the creation of Tellier’s work. Each of his albums plays host to a theme, and that theme is addressed directly by the title of each record. Having already looked to Politics (2004), the Universe (2006) and Sexuality (2008) as inspirational touchstones, it was perhaps only a matter of time before the concepts of religion and spirituality fell into Sébastien’s creative path.
“My God Is Blue is about spiritual awakening, and it’s the mechanism of faith that interests me the most. To believe in something that might not necessarily exist – that’s a beautiful thing,” he states before listing ”power, future, awakening” as elements which are contained on the album.
That all sounds straight forward enough, as a concept. But for those who have experienced the complexity of Tellier’s music and character in the past, it’s clear that a phrase as soft and simple as this is a mere hint at something far more grand and convoluted, as is confirmed when Tellier goes on to describe the first moments of the album’s creation.
“I recorded the album in Paris, but the reality of this world was revealed to me during a shamanic trance in Los Angeles” he explains, bluntly. “There were no words or sounds, blue pixels morphed into bricks of blue nuances. And it was after this trance that I started to construct my inexpressible truth.”
Et voilà! With this utterance, Sébastien Tellier has arrived, more colourful, ambitious and lovably bizarre than ever before. With My God is Blue, Tellier has not only created an album celebrating spirituality and belief, but a whole community surrounding the music, a community that unites Tellier’s fans in a space of freedom of expression and musical harmony. A place where his “followers” are invited to share ideas and explore their creative passions and desires. And most importantly, a place where no one thinks that all of these ideas are completely mental.
Once the inspiration had been found and the theme set, Tellier returned to Paris to his home studio where the songs were constructed and the concept given the space to flourish. But in order to realise this project, a very sympathetic producer was going to be needed, something which Tellier fortunately found in Mr. Flash, a Parisian DJ and producer signed to the prestigious electronic label Ed Banger.
“He knew how to understand my ambitions,” explains Tellier of the partnership, “and where to make space when the planes became too vast. I wanted to make a futurist album with new sensations, and Flash was perfect to help me do that.”
In a recent interview, Mr. Flash proved that he was not only sympathetic to the ambitions of Tellier and his muse, but also that he himself was on a similar musical plane and therefore beyond doubt the best man for the job, stating: “if i had to say a few words about My God Is Blue, I’d say that we tried to infuse melancholy, rock, madness, tears, rainbows, magic, hope, majestic, poetry, mystery, lights….and at the end…true love.”
And the result? Irresistible pop twinges, sublime synth hooks, rich and imaginative lyrics and an album listening experience akin to no other. Although the theme and content selected for this album may sound weighty, the music retains a lightness and a playfulness which renders each track digestible, attractive and sincere. That’s not to say that he hasn’t raised a few eyebrows however. The video for latest single ‘Cochon Ville’ depicts, well, many a naked girl dancing in a club, to put it mildly.
“This song tells us to embrace our vices – not to kill them, but to tame them,” explains Tellier of the track, before going on to advise that “we should cherish the sources of our pleasure.”
“Nowadays, we’re living in a commual ocean which is pouring into a black hole of nonsense,” Tellier goes on to explain, as he introduces the online community that he’s constructed around his latest album. “The Alliance Bleue, with and by its followers, proposes to use this ‘virtual communal energy’ to appease the curiosity, the suffering and the frustrations of mankind.”
Upon announcing the release of My God Is Blue, Tellier invited fans to join this online community – a place to share ideas, to celebrate music, to explore beliefs and a place for Tellier to impart wisdom to his ‘devotees’, such as “Message Bleu #11 : Tout est vrai dans la tête du fou / All is true in the mind of the madman.” It’s a space for Tellier to further explore his ideas and interests and to share them with his fans, something which he’s looking forward to doing when he heads off on tour next month, ”Now my concerts are the time for me to meet my followers and to transmit the messages of Dieu Bleu .”
Eccentric, intelligent and completely original, 2012 has been crying out for someone like Sébastien Tellier to return to lighten the mood, to lead us to the dance floor, and to propose a fresh, eclectic and slightly twisted view of modern life. And one thing’s for sure – the world is certainly a much brighter (and bluer) place because of him.
My God is Blue is released through Record Makers on 4 June.