Let’s be honest: no one can expect a musician to be in tip-top shape on the day after their record launch. But when we speak to Éliane Préfontaine, one-third of Montréal electro-pop outfit Paupière, alongside Julia Daigle and Pierre-Luc Bégin, she sounds ready as can be – to joyfully embark on a day of promotion for their album À jamais privé de réponses (Forever Deprived of Answers), a first album that deserves to be celebrated.
“We’re always ready to party, but we’re a little wiser than before,” she readily admits. “We learned the hard way, during our first tour of France, that it’s rarely a good idea to party non-stop when you have to play every night. The day we arrived to play at the TransMusicales de Rennes, in Brittany, we were supposed to meet the people from our record label for the first time and let’s just say the combination of booze and jetlag didn’t yield optimal results. The evening ended in a memorable fight.”
Luckily for the band, the people at Entreprise, one of the most interesting French labels at the moment, didn’t turn their backs, and handed them the keys to Europe – where their heavily ‘80s-tinged electro-pop has found very receptive audiences. The Parisian label, whose roster also includes the likes of Moodoïd, Grand Blanc, Fishbach and Bagarre, shares an artistic direction very similar to that of their Montréal label, Lisbon Lux. “It’s amazing to be so well supported by people who believe in us, especially since we certainly didn’t expect to actually have a career as a band when we started,” says Préfontaine.
Their first album marks a clear evolution since the release of their first EP, Jeunes Instants (Youthful Moments), and they take their personal vision of slightly retro electro-pop to new heights. Totally unabashed, their music draws as much from the British synth-pop as it does from French “variété,” and they touch upon these genres without irony. “We try to avoid pigeonholing our musical style,” says Préfontaine, “but from the moment one of our songs was put in heavy rotation on Énergie – “Rex,” which was also a finalist at the Prix de la chanson SOCAN – we immediately started accepting that what we do is pop music. We’re still an underground band, and some of our songs have dark and minimalist lyrics, but we all want to create memorable hooks.”
When she talks about Paupière’s music, Préfontaine often cites other art forms, comparing their first album to a feature film, and contrasting individual songs with novels, each with their hero. The visual arts world, from which she comes, is also part of the equation, as is the world of theatre. “We mainly create on computers, and not during jam sessions, as a rock band would, so our challenge was transposing our songs to the stage in a compelling way,” she explains. “We increasingly devote more attention to our stage presence: we work with a stage director, and strive to breathe life to each of our songs in a way that draws the audience into our universe.”
And the universe into which Paupière invites us is a nocturnal, neon-lit one, where senses are king, and one listens with their eyes and sees with their ears. “Through my eyelids (“eyelid” is the English word for “paupière,”) I perceive the universe differently,” is a lyric from the first song, “D’une autre manière.” But has the band really changed the way it perceives the world and music? “Maybe to a certain extent, yes; let’s say we’ve gained some maturity,” agrees Préfontaine. “We’ve lived our ‘Youthful Moments’ on our first EP, and we feel we took things a little further on the album, but we’re humble enough to say that we remain ‘Forever Deprived of Answers.’”