Dans Le Noir: A conversation with Juniore
Standing outside the Rialto Theatre in Brighton I get chatting with Anna Jean, the mind behind Juniore, as she finishes a cigarette. The band have just finished playing to a sold out and attentive crowd, who Juniore won over with their Parisian charm. It’s not easy to box Juniore into one genre, which makes them so intriguing. There’s elements of 1960’s psychedelia and surf rock, but with the tenderness of Francoise Hardy. Their record Ouh là là is a testament to this. Start to finish the L.P. is charming yet somewhat unsettling, with an almost Hammer House of Horror sound. It’s a real honest attempt at bringing Anna’s influence to a contemporary audience. Inside we take a seat, drinks on the table, and get chatting.
BL: Your sound is really unique - there’s elements of sixties psych, surf rock, pop - how did this come around?
Anna: I think it’s because it’s a mix of everything we love the most. There’s a French expression where if you’re making a painting you’re copying from someone else, but it won’t be exact. Initially that’s what I wanted to do, but then Sammy who records us said it’d be awful to re-do the French sixties because I could never make it as good. He said it’d be more interesting if we tried to inject other things into our music, try to make it more modern.
BL: Your video for Les héros de Barbès is wonderful, you look immaculate in the suites.
Anna: Thank you so much!
BL: How important for you is the correlation between imagery and the visual aspects, and the music?
Anna: It’s very important. It’s hard when you don’t have tons of money to make videos, take photos and have outfits. But we think it’s really important to be able to create an entire universe, you know?
BL: So it’s more immersive for the people watching.
Anna: Yeah, absolutely.
BL: Anna, your father is J. M. G. Le Clézio, the writer. Have you always been surrounded by creativity with him being an author?
Anna: I’m sure having a father that writes makes it easier to feel like you can create stuff, but my father has always been, and is still to this day, very private. He would never talk about what he was writing. Even when he talks to me about my music, it’s very private. Everybody is really private in my family, which is strange.
BL: Does it feel alienating at times?
Anna: In a way, but I think because I was brought up in that way it’s become normal. I feel that I’ve become the same way, I don’t really talk to my sisters about what I do. Even my friends, I don’t really talk about it that much. It’s strange.
BL: Have you read your father’s work?
Anna: I haven’t actually, because his books are too familiar. I’ve tried reading them, and my two sisters feel the same way. Whenever we try to read what he writes it’s just so familiar that we get emotional about it and can’t do it.
BL: Back to Juniore, you self released your first record, Ouh là là?
Anna: We didn’t quite self release it. We have our own label, Le Phonographe, but we have a license with Sony France. We met a guy in Lyon about a year and a half ago, Graeme, and he really liked our music and wanted to release our music in the UK.
BL: I think I met him when we were together in Bristol.
Anna: Yeah, he was there. He’s a really nice guy. He’s a nurse, he wasn’t in the music business at all, he just really loves music. He used to put out cassettes. We realised he was really serious about it and he released our first record in the UK and thanks to him we’ve had an amazing response.
BL: So you did set up Le Phonographe yourself?
Anna: In France, yeah.
BL: Why did you start your own label?
Anna: I think it was just easier than waiting for someone else to pay attention to you. It’s such a strange time in music because it’s so easy to make music nowadays. You don’t really need anyone. Perhaps you do if you want to be a huge pop star, but we aren’t that ambitious and we just want to put music out in the world. You can do it by yourself.
BL: And how is Paris as a young creative?
Anna: There’s a lot of stuff happening in Paris. France is a wonderful country because the government helps musicians and artists. There’s this thing where if you do five concerts in a month you get to have a salary for ten months. So, within a year if you played five concerts a month you’d get a salary that’s approximately £1400. It really helps you out.
BL: You can see that when you tour France when you’re in a UK band. In my experience you get treated and paid better.
Anna: Yeah, it’s a great thing, but I think it can make you a bit lazy at times because you have that comfort from it. I feel like the urgency that musicians probably have more of when living in a place like England probably makes it a bit more dramatic so when you’re making music here you really want to make it, you’re more likely to lose more money than what you’re earning.
BL: Oh, absolutely, it’s not so easy here to make that money. You’ll be playing shows where you get paid less than how much the petrol cost to get there.
Anna: Yeah, where as in France you get people becoming a bit lazy after a while because it’s so comfortable. There’s a good and bad side to it.
BL: Anna, it seems as though you’ve always been working around friends. Do you think that close relationship within your songwriting has a positive effect on your music?
Anna: I think that it has a positive and negative effect. I think it’s really hard to spend time with people that you don’t genuinely love because you spend so much time together. It can’t be like working in a shop where you can’t chose the people you’re working with. But because it becomes so close you feel like a family, and that can lead to complications or tension.
BL: And I’ve got to ask, where does the ghost-like mask come from on stage?
Anna: It’s a pretty funny story actually. Sammy, who records our music, has been in the band because he’s so invested in the music and he’s been in the band since the very beginning, but he wasn’t always playing with us live at the start. He’d sometimes play with us because he loves playing onstage, so after a while we thought maybe he should be a ghost member. If you get amputated in English you use the phrase ‘phantom limb’, but in French you say ‘ghost member’. We thought it’d be a funny, sort of stupid joke.
BL: I think it fits your music. You’ve got this sort of Hammer House of Horror element to you, especially with the scream at the start of Mon Autre. It fits to your dark side…
Anna: Well it’s just sort of stuck!
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