L’impératrice on Tour | Ouai Out West
L’impératrice were gearing up for the first show of their first US tour. Despite our current geopolitical standing in the world, breaking it big in America is still the dream for many. Some do, many don’t, but the states remain as alluring as ever.
The band were already way ahead of the game as far as first gigs go. Throngs of Angelenos and expats alike surged up front of the sold out Regent as the lights went out. Funky and fresh with a touch of disco flare, the six-piece Paris-based band were smiling ear to ear from the moment they stepped on stage. The city was on its feet dancing, grooving and singing with every song, even if they didn’t understand a word of what was going on.
Flaunt sat down with the band that afternoon, to discuss their first tour in America.
“You know, we are just a small blip in somewhere as big as the United States,” acknowledged Charles, a music journalist turned keyboardist who founded L'Impératrice back in 2012. The band’s self-deprecating tone was endearing, despite being the darlings of every Parisian playlist and selling out gigs across Europe, Flore, the group’s singer, was quick to laugh it off and point out that they still fly economy.
The French sound has made waves in North America for decades now, with pivotal bands such as Air & Daft Punk having taken off stateside nearly thirty years ago. A number of DJs and acts from Justice to Phoenix became equally influential, to the point that, where their sound originated from didn’t cross the minds of most Americans. But all of these bands primarily sing in English or collaborate with English language artists.
When it comes to Francophone bands though, the response in America hasn’t been quite as forgiving. “There was a pretty big gap after Gainsbourg,” Charles joked. L'Impératrice’s new album, Matahari dropped this past April, and despite dabbling in a few English-language version tracks, their international fans have overwhelmingly embraced the originals. As Anglo countries have warmed to French speaking groups such as La Femme, Yelle or Bagarre, L'Impératrice is the latest making its way into American headphones.
Digging into some of the philosophical challenges that can shape musicians in France, Hagni, co-founder and keyboardist of the group, talked about the idea of Art & Entertainment. Unlike the U.S. where talent and spectacle are fundamentally intertwined in the music industry, these two concepts are really still held as separate in France. Hagni explaining that the latter, “is almost considered a dirty word.” With ‘le divertissement’ or ‘la distraction,’ far from the group’s ambitions.
Having honed their craft over the past seven years, the band has a deep dedication to developing their sound, rattling off tech specs of any vintage synth you could conjure up. But at the end of the day in space-age white matching jumpsuits, it comes down the warmth and connection with the crowd. A successful night means getting everyone up on their feet with them. “It’s the most amazing feeling in the world,” said Flore as the entire band shook their heads in agreement.
The French Touch might not be sweeping across the country yet like the British Invasion of the 60s, but with salvos from groups like L’Impératrice flying over the horizon, it might not be long.
Photographed by: Victor Hanotel
Special Thanks to Oliver Okun
Quotes edited down.