The Animen, Swiss rock n’ roll band from Carouge, are back with their new album Are We There Yet? which came out on 27th November 2015. They came to Lausanne to present their second album at Le Romandie on December 10th 2015 and on this occasion I had the pleasure to meet and have a chat with singer Théo Wyser and guitarist Julien (Jool) Marty. They told me about the making of Are We There Yet?, their career so far, playing abroad and a lot more! At the end of the interview they were so kind to give me a cool vinyl copy of “At War”, the first single of the new album!
A big “merci” to Théo and Julien for being so friendly and thanks a lot to David Schindler from the label Two Gentlemen for organizing the interview! 🙂
The Liberation: I work as a freelance journalist for The Liberation Indie-Nation which is an indie-rock website based in Geneva.
- Julien: Was it you who wrote several reviews about us? Of the other album which came out?
The Liberation: I wrote the preview for the concert at Le Romandie and then I wrote the review of your first album Hi !, yeah !
- Julien: I thought so! Thank you! It’s nice!
The Liberation: Thank you, I love your music!
- Julien: Thank you!
The Liberation: The first time I saw you it was when you played as the support band for Miles Kane at Les Docks in November 2013 and it was love straight away, so then I kept on following you!
- Julien: Thank you!
The Liberation: So now I’m gonna ask you some questions… How did you experience the release of you first album Hi! (2013) and its following welcoming by the audience?
- Julien: It was a huge surprise for us, we fixed some objectives but they were largely exceeded. Of course we did that in order to be able to tour and do more concert but it’s true that it largely exceeded our basic objectives. It allowed us to go out of Switzerland when we initially thought we’d need more time.
- Théo: Then it’s true that it’s not been an immediate success; it was really on a long lapse of time.
The Liberation : Ok, on a long lapse of time.
- Théo: It means that we started in the French part of Switzerland and then we had the chance to export ourselves in the German part, which happened pretty quickly and then we were able to go out of Switzerland. It’s really a constant work.
- Julien: We went out a the following year. We went abroad a year after.
The Liberation : OK
- Julien: 2013 in Switzerland, 2014 in Germany and then Netherlands.
- Théo: It’s true that we had straight away good feedbacks. Then this is it we didn’t expect anything so it’s always a pleasure.
The Liberation: So it was easy for you to go out (of Switzerland) because you dind’t xpect it?
- Théo: In fact it wasn’t easy in a way because it’s a lot of work every time and there’s always work. Then we had the chance to be a bit of a surprise effect. When we played we did good concerts and then it’s also a work that we do locally. Every time, in each venue we try to play well and that’s what is important! It’s true that we had the chance to play great festivals but it’s only the beginning, there’s more to do!
The Liberation: Sure ! Your second album Are we there yet ? just came out, you recorded it in Nashville, Tennessee and it’s a sort of going back to the roots of your music. Why this choice and what did this give you?
- Julien: For us it wasn’t Nashville, Tennessee our favourite choice. We went there because we wanted to work with a producer called Andrija Tokic. (I think you will easily find his name)
The Liberation: Yes.
- Julien: And he’s based there so we went to his studio to record, other than that it’s true that we didn’t have a destination.
The Liberation: Ok
- Julien: It wasn’t our main aim to necessarily go to the other side of the world to record this album. The first was recorded in Geneva and we didn’t want to go back home every time. But plunge into the album in the States wasn’t an objective on itself.
- Théo: As Jool says, we didn’t try to go to a place but we looked for a person, which is this producer (Andrija Tokic) who works the sounds in a very simple way, and because it’s virtuous how he orchestrates these things. For us it was very important to keep the live part, and we knew he worked this way, where when you make a mistake everybody starts again and you don’t have to pass through PCs, overdub where you do your parts afterwards. For us it was important to keep this energy which comes from the band, really all together.
- Julien: You ask us what going there gave us. I think we had that beforehand already but it allowed us to consolidate the symbiosis that we have inside our band. Recording an album in this way, nearly 100% live, well 80% live it’s true that it boosted us!
The Liberation: Ok. So it’s not the place in itself that inspired your music but…
- Julien: By necessity yes, in the end some tracks yes, I think so. But then the great majority of texts was written before, many songs even before than going there. Then we went out there, we saw other musicians so it’s possible that in an unconscious way there are things which you can find on the album, I think that is possible.
- Théo: It’s something unconscious, not really wanted.
The Liberation: Ok, yes. After the success of Hi! did you feel any pressure in producing the new album?
- Théo: Usually it’s always Jool who answers this question so I’m gonna do it for once. (laughs) We didn’t have any particular pressure for the second album because we just want to do well. We had the songs and we wanted to do a second album, and mainly a good second album. Then the pressure is there, it’s to do a good album. It could have been our fourth album and I think we would have had the same pressure for the fourth or third that we had for our first cause we just try to do well.
The Liberation: Of course!
- Théo: So there’s wasn’t any calculation, there weren’t more things or a strategy. The important thing was to make music that we liked and do what we want to do really.
The Liberation: Yes, that’s important!
- Théo: We have this freedom so we can do what we want, we can do as we wish.
The Liberation: Because your label Two Gentlemen is independent.
- Théo: Yes. And then it’s a label which likes what we do and that’s almost a win. We have complete authority with the label, for now they’re happy with what we do so we have complete authority.
The Liberation: Yeah, that’s great!
- Théo: Yeah, really!
The Liberation: How does your composition process work? Do you usually come up with the lyrics first or the music?
- Théo: It depends, it’s a bit in between the two. But generally it’s always acoustic guitar and voice to start to create a kind of framework, just a tiny framework and then it’s the things we do in the room, the things start to come together and then we resume when we’re ready to make a song. We build, we carve inside it’s really a handcraft. We have a rough idea at the beginning and then we carve it.
The Liberation: With a second album there are a bit more songs for the setlist…
- Théo: Are we gonna play for 6 hours tonight, is that the question? (laughs)
The Liberation: (laughs) I mean is it easier for you to choose the songs you want to play or not?
- Julien: No, it’s harder, it’s a nightmare. We have to separate ourselves from songs that we liked playing but that are perhaps not anymore essential in the setlist.
The Liberation: Yes
- Julien: Cause yeah we’ve made a new album but not all the tracks go with those of the first album so we need to create something homogeneous and not a best of of what we are able to do. So it’s even more complicated than before. It’s true that, well, we’ve started accumulating material, and then it’s for the best.
The Liberation: Yeah.
- Théo: Then, there you go, a set is also a set and it allows us to start to have many different sets. For now we’re not at all grown tired of playing, so we’ll see.
- Julien: We’ll talk about it in a year, I think the set will have changed, we rework some tracks, we will have gotten rid of some and added others, it really depends. Now we’re still in the test period, it is our second gig since the album release, so it’s really the very beginning.
The Liberation: Did the other gig go well?
- Julien: The launching of the album, yes it went well!
The Liberation: Was it the one at Couleur 3?
- Julien: The launching of the album? No, we launched it at La Gravière.
The Liberation: Oh yeah , yes in Geneva!
- Julien: Yes, it went really well! There was a nice atmosphere, it was cool!
The Liberation: Cool!
- Julien: We launched the album well!
- Théo: (laughs) and the liver!
- Julien: And the liver! (laughs)
The Liberation: Are We There Yet? is a title that reflects where you are with your music or does it mean something else?
- Théo: So, not only in reality, it’s a question but the idea is not to get there. It’s what kids say when they’re in a car: “Are we there yet, are we there yet, are we there yet, are we there yet?”. And what’s interesting about that it’s that there’s a state of urgency and mainly that if they ask this question is that they don’t know where they go, which is our case as well, we certainly have objectives, ambitions but we go towards them, we rush, and then we’ll see what happens but we have no idea of what expects us. So it’s more in this light that the album has to be thought rather than a statement like “are we there?”, it’s on a continuity of movement, of urgency and impatience.
The Liberation: Yes, it wouldn’t be as beautiful if we already knew everything.
- Théo: Exactly, we know we still have a lot of things to do, we have a lot of things to live and we look forward to!
The Liberation: Do you already have any future projects for the band?
- Théo: Well now we’re going to defend the album, which will take us already a long time I think. (laughs)
- Julien: (laughs)
- Théo: And then there we go, first Switzerland and then we take off for the international routes.
The Liberation: Yes.
- Théo: So we’ve this already, then we fiddle always a bit to keep on writing.
The Liberation: Cool! Given that you’ve already done concerts abroad, do you think the audience is different if compared to Switzerland?
- Théo: Even within Switzerland the audience is different.
- Julien: It’s completely different, there are cultural differences.
- Théo: Even from one evening to the other.
- Julien: Yes, even from one evening to the other it changes.
- Théo: Play a Thursday night rather than a Friday, it depends on the people’s spirit!
- Julien: I don’t think we’re objective enough. There are too many different parameters.
- Théo: Then there are people clearly more into the party mood because of their mentality. Every time in Germany playing was crazy and super good!
The Liberation: Really?
- Théo: We’ve had that in Switzerland as well.
- Julien: Yeah, but then after that in Germany at midnight it was like at 4pm.
- Théo: It really depends. Every time it’s different.
- Julien: Yeah.
- Théo: We’ve not grown tired of this yet, so for us each time is a new thing.
The Liberation: Yes I get it.
- Julien: I hope we won’t grow tired cause…
- Théo: Yeah. Since we don’t make electronic music which is already pre-programmed, for us concerts are different it’s enough that it’s the 3rd or 4th of the tour, we’re tired, then it’s not always the same things influencing it, it’s enough that a song is played differently, the atmosphere is different, and then what’s between us is completely different. For this reason a concert is each time unique in a certain way, and so is the audience.
The Liberation: Yes, of course. Also for the spectator, even if he sees a band many times it’s always a unique experience.
- Théo: Yeah!
The Liberation: Ok, I’m done!
- Théo: Really?
The Liberation : Yes!
- Théo: Ok
The Liberation: Thank you very much!
- Théo: Thank you!
- Julien: It was a pleasure!