Is it cool to be French nowadays?
Maybe. Certainly if your name is Flora Fishbach, an arresting young singer songwriter from the small Ardennes town of Charleville-Mezieres. Her chic, spry brand of synth-pop is set to galvanise the Lexington, London later this month – just don’t call her glamorous.
“I don’t want to play the beautiful girl. I like artists who are confusing. The mind is more important.”
Mais oui. Indeed, as befits an artist frequently conflated in the critical imagination with gallic literary giants Rimbaud and Baudelaire, Fishbach’s lyrical themes are anything but pretty, dwelling as they do on pain, loss and – especially – death.
“Death is interesting to me,” she tells Clash. “You know that show Six Feet Under? That is my family. I have an uncle who runs a funeral director. Many of my family work for him. My mother cares for old people. When we are having lunch, we talk always about death.”
If you’re picking up downcast vibes from that, put on a couple of tracks from recent release ‘A Ta Merci’. The album is upbeat; lively to the point of frenzy in places, but always tempered by confident glossy production and vocals shot through with carnal self-assuredness. She makes it all herself on the computer, by the way, every note. And yes, it’s in French. Which you either think is cool, or you don’t.
“I am not against singing in another language,” she explains “One of my songs is in Arabic. I’m really open minded. But, speaking as a member of the audience, if I see a German artist, I want them to sing in german. When I see guys from Africa I want to discover their language, their culture.”
So there. Fishbach’s live show changes radically from tour to tour, but at the Lexington it will be just her, going solo. “I will be alone on stage. I like to be alone. I am figuratively naked on stage – there is no decor, no backdrop, no musicians, only me and my songs.”
Well, and a guitar – her signature monochrome Vox Phantom, which she plays somewhat as a nod to Ian Curtis, but mostly “…because it was cheap. Really, really cheap.”
During a previous tour Fishbach performed with full band and string section at Paris’s tragic Bataclan venue. “I chose the Bataclan,” she says. “My tour manager proposed different venues in Paris. But after the attacks happened, I think, there emerged two different kinds of musician – those who want to make it a cemetery – people who don’t want to play – and people who want to play more, and play louder. We need to take pride in our culture.”
One week before that show, Fishbach released a track called Mortel, which means ‘deadly’. The lyrics, roughly translated: ‘Never seen anything as deadly as these random shots / I will come tomorrow news to the glow of the lighthouse.'
“I wrote the song before, but people took it for them. You can read between the lines. All I know is, afterwards, the crowd told me ‘We’re scared. We're scared, but thank you'”.
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Words: Andy Hill
Fishbach plays the Lexington on Monday (June 25th) - tickets.
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