Wanna dance? No, not later. Right now. Put on Yelle. The electro pop band and its namesake lead singer will get your blood flowing and your lips moving even if you can't sing along to the French lyrics. Most can't. That's why it's about the performance and the beat. It's feel good music. To listen to it is to be free and to be provocative. To listen to it is to listen to the band's meaning: You Enjoy Life. There's so little French music on the airwaves so I knew this band had to be special to break onto the American pop scene. I had to know more about them.
Jesse Regis: I guess my most important question is: What do French girls think about American guys with beards?
Yelle: I love it! I love it.
JR: Your band is an acronym for You Enjoy Life, having a good time and whatnot. What would be your ideal performance? Would there be bubbles and smoke? What's it like?
Y: It's just about energy and exchange. It's really important for me to have a connection with the crowd and something strong with them. It can be in a little venue. It's not the number of people, its the performance. I remember the last time we came to Washington, D.C we had a blast in this venue so I'm expecting a lot from tonight. I have a good memory of the last time we were here. It's just about connection with people.
JR: You speak in French so what's it like to look out into an American crowd and watching them try to sing in French. It must be kind of funny. They must be like, “Ah ah ha aha ahhh.”
Y: It's really weird. Since the beginning we had this question in mind. Why? Why do people like us? Why do they like our music when they can't understand our lyrics? Every night we can see the people dancing and having fun. They enjoy the moment. I think they like the energy of our music and the happiness. It's not a problem not knowing the French language. When people are curious they can find the translation on the Internet to understand the meaning of the lyrics. If they don't want, or they don't care, they can just have fun dancing to the song. It's different with different people. I like to see people trying to sing in French every night. It's really funny. Yeah, it's not a real problem.
JR: You must put a lot into the performance aspect knowing that not everyone knows the words. What's your go to dance move on stage?
Y: [Laughs] It's just me. I didn't think about that. I didn't learn how to dance, I just dance.
JR: Let the beat carry you.
Y: Exactly! Sometimes I can be tired or sick or whatever but I always try to find the good energy to dance and to share this moment with people. Even if they can't understand the lyrics I try to express myself with my body to give them some keys about the lyrics. It's not so hard to understand the meaning of the lyrics and the sense of the song.
J: Americans are not very good dancers. We do a lot of dry humping and a lot of just moving around any way that we can. Are there any dance moves that you don't allow at your shows?
Y: No! I like everything. In different countries it's funny to see people are dancing in different ways. Swedish people are dancing like crazy. They are doing some crazy movement with the bodies all the time. It's really cool to watch. Maybe here Americans are a little more shy. They are jumping a lot, putting their hands in the air, that's cool.
JR: What are your thoughts on the fist pump? Is that allowed?
Y: [Hesitantly] Yeah!
JR: You blew up on the Internet. What were you doing in your life at that moment when you put your songs online and all of a suddenly you blow up into this huge artist? What was your life then?
Y: I was working in a theater company. I wasn't an actress but I was working on the production staff. My life was really cool actually, I really liked it. But, I wanted something more. When I sung the first time on stage it was in a little club in Paris. I was just singing. It was just 6 or 7 months after we put the song on MySpace. I realized how important it was for me to sing and to be on stage and to share something with the crowd. I realized on this day that, ok, I want to be a singer. It was really hard for me to express it because my father is a musician; he's a singer and is kind of famous in this area. I grew up with this background and all these people are telling me, “Oh, you're the daughter of...” I was a little bit shy when I was a teenager so I really needed time to realize that I really wanted to do this. Then, the first time I put my foot on stage I realized I wanted to be a singer.
JR: You had a great deal of creative liberty when you were just putting things on the Internet on your own. Has your sound changed since you've been putting out albums and working with record companies? Have they at all asked you to do things differently? Has your performance changed at all?
Y: No, no. Not at all. Since the beginning we are doing what we want to do. It's really important for us to keep this freedom. Even though we were on a label for our first album, they never told us what to do. For the second album we worked with a company here in the U.S. and after a few months of talk they asked us to hear the English version of the song, and we were like, ok but that's not the point. We don't want to do an English song, we want to keep the French. So, we decided to build our own label because we wanted to keep this freedom.
JR: Why don't we hear more French music?
Y: I don't know. I don't really know. When I was a teenager I was listening to a lot of English music on the radio and I couldn't understand a word but I really liked the melody and everything. Today it's easier for me because I can understand the lyrics but I remember that and I understand that it's complicated for people to listen in a different language and sometimes it can be a problem. Maybe it's the beginning of change and it will happen more and we are maybe an example because we are a French band touring a lot in the U.S. and in different countries and we are singing in French. Maybe one day we'll listen to a lot of French music. Even in France lots of them sing in English because they think they can break the English market and the American market easier if they are singing in English.
JR: I hope your influence rubs off on other bands and we see more of this fusion. I saw another interview you did where you said that they compartmentalize different types of music in France and there's not a lot of crossover.
Y: Yeah, in France people like to sort bands in different styles and it's very categorized like that. We are doing a mix of different things. So, even on the radio in France it is hard to get played because we are doing something different. The French music industry is a little bit weird.
9:30 Club, Washington D.C.
Originally aired April 2011 on WRGW Radio from The George Washington University.
Interview edited for length and clarity. All rights reserved.