“Every photographer says it’s easy to take photos of us,” says Jehn (real name Camille) in her matter-of-fact French manner, with John adding that this is not such a good thing.
“There are downsides… [People] might think we’re more a good-looking-couple than good musicians. We don’t give a damn what people think,” he laughs, “the image can be powerful but the music speaks for itself.”
“I think I’m a very visual person anyway, the way I remember things, especially lyrics, is to have very strong images in my head,” says Jehn. “You feel it in every part of your body, not only mentally but physically.”
Putting the music to the fore once more, John goes on to say: “I get the feeling and imagination more from the sound of the music than from images.”
Secure in themselves, each other and their working and romantic relationship, they playfully mock this parody, re-enacting the famous ‘you’re an animal’ scene from Austin Powers, where Powers does his own ’60s style Blow Up photo-shoot.
Surprisingly, these French natives choose to live in London, as opposed to Paris, since John thinks Parisians are “rude” and would rather not live the lifestyle set by famous French icons like Serge Gainsbourg - who John “nerdy” about, he confesses - and seems to be searching for something more real and personal.
They don’t believe in striving for success and think on a day-to-day basis rather than the master plan; they believe in what’s good for the soul and this gives their music its essence - simplistic yet meaningful lyrics, a sound that goes from playfully provocative in tunes like ‘20L07’ to the sultry haunting lick of ‘Oh My Love’, to the darker Joy Division feel of new track, ‘Time for The Devil’.
Influenced heavily from a rural French upbringing and shared memories of past lives and friends, their move to Alexandra Palace in North London four years ago has made the two work harder for desired results, though constant change and reflection is now a key tool to songwriting.
“When you work from your imagination a lot of the time, memories are so important,” says John.
Jehn agrees. “A lot of our sound is memory...it’s about bringing the past to the present... Every time we move from one place to another there is the memory of the place you just left. When we came to London our memories of France came back to us. For our second album, we moved back to France to record it, and our life in London came back to us very strong. If you’re too settled, your imagination dies.”
Thinking about the next natural step, their attention is now is on a remote Spanish countryside to complete their next album. However, despite these seemingly external influences, perhaps it is less about location and more about each other.
You only need to see John and Jehn be with each other to know that so much of what makes their sound is their relationship. Their recording process is extremely intimate with only them and an engineer - John produces their work.
It is this intimacy which makes the music so alluring to listen to and the couple fascinating to be around and watch in music videos or live. They are like a classic cool French new-wave film that you not only want to watch, you want to be in.
Words by Lois New
Photography: Nicolas Bourbaki
Stylist: Rose Ford
Fashion Assistant: Camilla Felici
Make Up: Holly Silius using MAC and Bedhead
Clash Magazine Issue 50
This is an excerpt from an article that appears in the 50th issue of Clash Magazine. Pick it up in stores from May 7th.
You can read the full issue online HERE and subscribe to Clash Magazine HERE.
Big Chill Festival 2010
John & Jehn are performing at this year's Big Chill festival. Join Clash on the road to the Big Chill Festival with news, interviews and features. Visit ClashMusic's Big Chill hub for all the latest news on the festival HERE.
Buy tickets for the Big Chill Festival on ClashMusic.com