Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Yelle: It’s Addictive

Written by Ryan Willard
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“It never starts the same way,” says Julie Budet, lead singer of the French electro-pop band Yelle. Budet explains how she creates music with her band members GrandMarnier (Jean-François Perrier) and Teper (Tanguy Destable): “It could be a melody, a sentence, a beat—no rules.”
Photos By Dustin Cohen
Makeup and Hair by Jen Lombardo
“It never starts the same way,” says Julie Budet, lead singer of the French electro-pop band Yelle. Budet explains how she creates music with her band members GrandMarnier (Jean-François Perrier) and Teper (Tanguy Destable): “It could be a melody, a sentence, a beat—no rules.”

If you look at Yelle and feel confused, then you’ve got it. Yelle, she, they, are unpredictable. They mean it when they say no rules. Yelle is Julie Budet, but also the music of GrandMarnier and Tepr. If you ask Budet to distinguish herself from the name Yelle, you won’t get a clear answer, “I am still Julie Budet, the image people have of you is something very independent from who you are and what you live and feel. I am having fun expressing myself.”

Away from the stage, in peace and quiet, Budet seems eerily composed. She doesn’t appear to be standing still, and it’s almost unsettling. She looks like a tiger waiting to strike. Her body is built for movement as though she’s about to break into choreographed dance any second (which wouldn’t seem the least bit strange). Her eyes are warm and full of life, and when you see a photograph of her, it’s impossible to ignore the potential energy for grace, movement, and explosive force.

The unusual trio formed in the early 2000s when they met at a party of a common friend, and since then, they’ve been non-stop in making high-energy pop music, wowing crowds with drums, gongs and elaborate choreography during their live shows. “The crowd just feels the energy, like we do with American music. Energy and love. Sounds cheesy but it’s true!”

And you cannot help wanting to get up and dance while listening to any song on her albums Pop Up or Safari Disco Club. But there’s one thing to remember while listening to Yelle’s infectious, energetic sound (because, oddly enough, it can be very easy to forget): Yelle sings exclusively in French. Budet’s lyrics and euphoric sound have crossed borders and infiltrated English-speaking countries, something many European sensations have yet to figure out. Budet, whose father was a singer, draws her inspiration from French pop of the '80s, like Chagrin d’Amour or Étienne Daho. She says of them: “Very creative, very free, a kind of experimental pop—new and catchy.”

With complete creative control over music videos at their own label—Recreation Center—I ask Yelle about her recent video, “Comme un Enfant.” She tells me that, “GrandMarnier had the idea of illustrating a mouth. The mouth gives you lots of pleasures and fears when you are a kid—candies and the dentist. So the scene is basically a singing and dancing performance in a stylized mouth. We wanted it to be dreamy and we are happy because it’s really weird!”

Whether dancing inside a stylized mouth, or running around an urban jungle in “Safari Disco Club,” Yelle physically sets up scenes, movie props, and draws elaborate attention to costumes—all actions that would normally take place off-camera. At times, Yelle breaks down the physicality of a song, stopping the music video in a dramatic pause. Budet says, “We just like to play with that aspect of the show. People are curious and they love to see ‘behind the scenes,’ and so do I. It’s cool to do it in a funny and creative way, and to break some rules.”

Yelle’s curious sense of style fuels these extraordinary music videos. The extreme pop-fashion, the movement and bold lines paired with an elaborate display of muted colors in her most recent video “Comme un Enfant,” give this band an added layer of creative genius. “I love logos, strong and minimal things—and very graphic. I love fashion because it’s really close to music. Fashion designers like Jean Paul Lespagnard who we worked with on “Comme un Enfant,” feel things a bit like we do, chic and fun!”

For the past year and a half, Yelle has been on a world tour, and Julie Budet is tired. “Touring is a real marathon. It’s very intense with very rich experiences—meeting lots of great people, places, and cultures. It’s really amazing and also very frustrating because you basically stay in a city for twenty hours. It’s hard to pick up a favorite place, there are so many. I do love Buenos Aires—the crowd is especially amazing there.”

I ask Yelle what’s next, and whether she’s ever thought about making music that’s more stripped down and bare. Naturally, she’s open to everything, “I like careers like Beck’s—free to change style. I’d love to do some country songs some day.” And with her eclectic fan base willing to follow her anywhere, and complete creative control with her own record label, she is in a unique position to do anything she wants. As Budet says, “Feeling alive is very addictive.”

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