Some refer to her as Erika Jane, others know her to run the cyber dreamland of COUCOU CHLOE – both one and the same. The Nice-born London-based artist crafts a hybrid between techno, trap and hyper-pop that seeps in main character energy, pulsing through after-hour sweatboxes, high-intensity workouts and sometimes even Rihanna’s Fenty runways. There are no limits to COUCOU CHLOE.
A move to London made for a shift in Chloe’s creative stimulus, once dreaming outside the more contrived and mundane realities of art school. It is during this period where the forces of herself, Sega Bodega and Shygirl came to form the mastermind of Nuxxe, a club collective and label that spotlights the forward-thinking. 2021’s EP ‘ONE’ is an eclectic four-track whirlwind, crashing through the opening rush-hour of ‘WIZZ to the crystal fragility of ‘BLINK,’ unafraid to hop between the high and downtempos, unhindered bass and stark piano chords. It is within these contrasts that Chloe finds her identity, aligning with the boldness of aesthetics and visuals – which can equally picture the it-girl as a bride in a wedding dress or a mesh unitard that could fast-track entry into Berghain.
Ahead of her upcoming remix EP ‘1’, CLASH sat down with COUCOU CHLOE to uncover the force behind the art, her knack for sampling animals and what it means to re-imagine her own, original material.
Can you remember your first introduction to music?
I used to play a lot of video games when I was younger, and I feel like this is where I really started to hear music, and associate memories to it. I used to really love all the Crash Bandicoot, Pandemonium! and Jersey Devil. You know, all those really old video games. GTA, the music there was really, really important as well.
And you used to play instruments when you were younger, how did that come about?
I played piano when I was younger, not for a long time though. That was special for me to do but you know, I just stopped. I was like 13 or something. At one point I regretted it, I missed this expression, this space for myself. I didn’t manage to play piano again because the only teacher I wanted was not available. So I was like fuck it, I’m just gonna buy a little keyboard, maybe learn again or try to do new things.
Do you think that sparked a DIY approach, where you decided to be more independent in terms of how you approached music?
Oh, absolutely. When I played piano I didn’t do conservatory or theory, music lessons or whatever, I was playing by ear. So I had no technique. I like when things happen. I don’t like to learn things for a long time.
What do you think it was about London that made you want to push forwards with your own sound?
First of all, I wanted to quit art school because I realised that I just didn’t want to be there. I didn’t really feel like I was fitting in anywhere. I used to live in the south of France, I felt like I was in a cage there, I was under stimulated, I felt a bit trapped. My best friend at the time was living in London, and I also visited a friend, Sega Bodega, there. When all the smells are different, all those different parties, all those people, they all do different things. It is this dynamic that felt really, really inspiring. I felt alive. I was like, you know what, fuck it, I’m gonna move there and a month later, I was here.
From the early ‘Erika Jane’, to your last EP ‘One’. How would you say that your sound has evolved?
I think the sound has evolved as much as I’ve evolved personally. I just make music differently. I think I want to express different things. The way I approach music, the way I think..what really changed with Erika Jane is that I can understand what’s in my head. I don’t want to say that I’m more confident in what I’m expressing, this is not true, but somehow I see more clearly.
I need a few days sometimes to get to understand what’s in my head or what I want to express but I don’t overthink it. I think there is beauty in it, to me. When I start, I don’t know what it’s going to sound like, and I guess sometimes I make a track and I don’t always understand what I mean, but it really makes sense after.
How important do you feel it is to maintain a distance between yourself as Erica Jane and Coucou Chloe? Or do you feel like they are the same person?
I just feel like for me, this is me. I’m not playing a game, this is not a persona I’m building.
Tell us about the formation of your EP ‘One’? How did it come together?
This EP is a synthesis of different things, I felt really intensely during those times. I’m expressing confusion, anger, mockery, sometimes I express something more sensitive where I allow myself to talk about loss.
You sample quite a lot of animals in your music, what inspired you to experiment with this?
It’s funny because at one point I was like, damn, you should stop! I love sampling animals because there are so many different interesting sounds, I can stretch them, put effects on them or whatever. I don’t have a specific concept, it’s just a YouTube mp3, I type some random words and see how it sounds.
What animals do you most enjoy sampling?
So I used to work a bit with the wolf. I sampled a peacock, that was nice. Roosters are really hard to work with. Puppy crying, you can stretch it and make really nice things with it! I want to work with whales.
And what is the emotional backdrop of a track like ‘Blink’ on the EP?
I did the piano first and started to sing. The thing that went through my mind was “I will never, ever, ever, ever let you down.” Naturally, I started to say it over and over again, I was losing my breath. It’s like I’m making myself tired by saying it, I found the concept in it. In this track I want to talk about relationships, friends and family, this idea of forever. Sometimes you say ”I will never let you down,” and you repeat it. Are you trying to convince yourself? Are you trying to convince the other? I don’t know, you just say it over and over and lose your breath. Next thing you know, it’s over. You lost your breath, it’s okay.
And how was the process of reimagining your own original material for the upcoming remix EP?
It’s really interesting and it’s really special as well. When I make music, I couldn’t imagine expressing it a different way, otherwise it wouldn’t mean what I meant. But then I find it really interesting to have someone reworking it, it’s just like a different track, it’s a reinterpretation by someone else, what they could perceive, what it says to them. I feel like it’s also really complimentary to the story of the track in general, it’s like those two tracks become a story together.
If you could remix anyone’s track who would it be?
I would definitely want to try to make some baseline, I would love to make a baseline Chief Keef. I like M1llionz as well.
How did NUXXE – your club collective with Shygirl and Sega Bodega – come about?
It’s just where we came musically together. Giving a name to ourselves would allow us to be seen as an ensemble and booked together more because fuck, that’s fun, that’s what we wanna do.
Club culture is quite an important aspect of your sound. How do you craft your performance with club culture in mind?
It’s funny because I don’t go to clubs, it stresses me out. I don’t know much about club music but I made the most club music when there were no parties. It’s definitely more fun to play club music live but I need to remember that there’s things that I need to express and I shouldn’t put them to the side. I’m not an entertainer and I don’t want to make music to entertain.
What’s the meaning behind you wearing a wedding dress in the one artwork?
I just pictured myself as a bride and I was like shit, I want to see what that would look like. It’s really fucking funny, me in a dress, first of all, and as a bride…
And what are the next steps for Coucou Chloe, what themes or references are you looking to explore next?
I definitely feel more comfortable in making music and expressing way more assertively a lot of things. It’s going to be more intense, that’s for sure. I just want to create a world.
COUCOU CHLOE’s ‘1’ remix EP is out now.
Words: Ana Lamond