Behind the Velvet Curtain: An Interview with Velour Modular
Velour Modular is about to release its first EP, the retro-futuristic Capsule. Andrew Darley takes a peek behind the velvet curtain to speak with its mastermind Annabelle Guilhem.
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Annabelle Guilhem is taking listeners on an trip on her first EP. A native of Cannes, the singer-songwriter spent the majority of her childhood in India, exposing herself to the native way of singing. After some time travelling around the country, she eventually grounded herself back in France as an adult with creative intent. After working in theatre for six years and featuring on other artists’ songs, she knew it was time to make a musical mark of her own. In 2011, she contacted London-based producer Hektagon whom she had previously worked with on a song for his record. When she put the idea of a collaborating on an EP together, they found themselves bonding over a mutual fascination with synth music and vintage science fiction film.
Going by the moniker of Velour Modular, Guilhem’s first record is the fusion of their common loves. Together, they have made full-bodied, glitchy and futuristic electronic music that is met with Guilhem’s poetic observations about existence, space and our “age of ignorance”. Capsule surges with an energy of two minds meeting together to execute a focused musical vision. Andrew Darley asked Guilhem about the meanings behind her songs, the high she gets from singing and her fascination with the unknown and beyond.
I guess we should start from the beginning of Velour Modular. How did you come to choose Hektagon to produce your first EP ?
I was working with several UK based producers at the time in 2011. I collaborated with Hektagon on a track for his album. I wanted to start my own personal project and asked him if he wanted to follow me on a full EP.
Did you both instantly know what you wanted the creative bond to be?
It was pretty natural. It just “happened” suddenly, we were working everyday on Capsule.
How did the name Velour Modular come about? I love it because it juxtaposes both the extravagant and synthetic.
Velour Modular is an identity on its own. I’d say that words with texture was the important point for me. ‘Velours’ means Velvet in French and ‘modular’ is a direct reference to electronic culture and the synthesizers we use in the music.
Capsule is about to come out. Can you tell me about what it’s about and how you see it?
Capsule is a trip. We tried to create a new atmosphere, another way to share our feelings through music. It was originally meant to be called The 4 Stable Points in reference to the Lagrangian Points. The music is about the fact that nothing is certain; the world is in perpetual mutation. The only thing we’re sure about is the basic steps of development like birth, youth, maturity and death. I felt like doing a track for each one of these stages. No matter what the scale was.
Is there a sense of compromise when creating music with another person?
Yeah of course there is. I mean, life is a compromise anyhow but that is exactly the interesting part about it. You learn about yourself through this process.
You spent a lot of your childhood in India and learnt their custom way of singing. Do you find that this experience influences how you sing today and how you approach writing melodies?
Oui. Definitely. I’m exploring a lot, making“mistakes” and odd harmonies all the time. I’m letting myself drift a lot on the music during the creation part. Singing can get you high sometimes and I’m always trying to find that state. My youth also influences my sense of story telling. Capsule, for example, refers to that mythological way of seeing the world.
Concepts of space, existence and forces outside of our control come through in both your lyrics and the music itself. Would you say this record is an observation of the world around you and the things that are bigger than the concept of humanity?
It’s true. Space, existence and forces outside of our control are basically the keys that obsessed me on Capsule. I tried to write about The Droste Effect between human beings and the rest of the “universe” or whatever that is. We have a whole lot of worlds within us. That’s what interests me.
Each song on Capsule is related to the field of numerology, with each one being a different state of existence. I find it interesting that you have incorporated quite abstract concepts and delivered them in a very accessible way. Do you want your own music to push the potential of what it can be? Or would you even see it as ambitious as that?
I don’t think about it really. “Pushing potential” seems totally absurd to me I’m afraid. They are subjects to explore and my own personal fascinations. I like to challenge myself and write about the unknown.
The closing song of the EP ‘Technology Worshippers’ has a lyric about being an “age of ignorance”. Does the song pose a question of how we interact with technology and allow it to shape our lives?
Yeah, totally. ‘Technology Worshippers’ is about the role and superior knowledge that could have been represented by God, which seems to be replaced by technology and the Internet these days.
Every time I listen to ‘Forward’, the arpeggiated synthesizer of the middle-8 makes me think of a scene in old Sci-Fi movie about intergalatic space travel. Were there any reference points between you both, in terms of books/film/documentaries that influenced how envisioned your sound?
Yeah we’ve watched all the Sci-Fi movies possible. It’s pretty interesting to see how artists saw ‘the future’ 40 years ago. And how we see ourselves dealing with society, nature and each other. There is always conflict. That is exactly what ‘Forward’ is all about ; the ulterior, and how it will always be a problem for us.
The video for ‘Forward’ is also quite layered, without direct narrative and leaves a lot to the imagination. Is there a challenge in figuring out the visuals to accompany the music?
No not at all. I’m very instinctive as are the people with whom I work with. We just let it happen. I always give a total confidence to the artists I decide to work with. I try to share a true moment with them, a story to tell behind the images. For the EP cover I went to Giorgia to make it with France Vannier, a designer at Maison Nue Agency in Paris. We didn’t know what to do until we saw that sulfur waterfall.
For the ‘Forward’ music video in Iceland, with Cristian Straub, I actually twisted my ankle during the shoot and we just took advantage of it. That’s how things become interesting and real. The priority is to be sincere, which can be raw.
Have you considered writing more personally or would that interest you?
You got me. It’s exactly the state I’m in. I’m changing my glasses. Instead of taking a sattelite point of view in Capsule, I’m now seeing through a macro lens. It’s all about intimacy in my head right now. Relationships. It’s time to talk about it.
How does it feel knowing that the record is done and open for people to hear it now?
I’m already somewhere else.
Capsule is out now on Guilhem. For more information of Velour Modular, visit their official Facebook page here.