No Smoking: So what do each of you do in the band?
Gabriel: He teaches me guitar! (laughs) I bought a guitar, he taught me the basics, and I managed to teach myself the guitar alone. I played piano before, got some lessons – I listened to a lot of jazz, I wanted to be Chick Corea or someone like that. So yeah, I play guitar, but it wasn’t a big deal for me… it was more like a big deal for you.
Fabien: Yeah actually I would say that the first instruments for each of us would be the guitar for me and piano for him, but in the process of recording it switched… if I write a song for piano, he’ll write on it and reinterpret it, and I’ll work on the guitar lines he comes up with. It’s kinda weird because without even thinking about it we try to put ourselves out of the safe zone.
Gabriel: I love to twist the idea of things, I love mixing – strange echoes, stereo, stuff like that. I consider sounds as texture, as noise… so this guy, he does all the work of playing music, I’m more like, “This melody will go perfectly… here.” I love to be overwhelmed by sounds.
No Smoking: Tell us a little about your songwriting process.
Fabien: We have this weird dynamic where basically I come up with something, this basic idea of a song or a melody, and he tries to bash it and something comes from the chaos.
Gabriel: Competition – I love to bite…
Fabien: We just have a fundamentally different vision of music in the sense that I’m going to look for the most simple thing, always. So when I write music, I’m happy about a song if I manage to make it only three chords. Cut, cut, cut. He has this thing with destroying the sound, he complexifies things… but it’s good, because it’s not more complex, it’s just richer.
Gabriel: That’s my job.
Fabien: You have a job now?!
No Smoking: So, how would you describe your music? I read the label “folk trap” on your bandcamp…
Fabien: Someone asks us what kind of music we do, we say folk music, then we add something — trap music, hip-hop music, electronic music, something like that. We had [online] comments, people said that the latest EP was kind of like R&B music…
No Smoking: Yeah, I thought R&B was a good one. It’s hard to describe, for sure. We were talking earlier about the kind of music you guys like…
Fabien: It’s actually weird, we actually listen to a lot of different kinds of music [between the two of us], but it’s not the same. I listen to a lot of hip-hop like Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q… I was actually at a Schoolboy Q concert last night (laughs). Gabriel’s listening to these very edgy kinds of songs, and I’m more into the melodic type of music.
Gabriel: Well, I do listen to a lot of Death Grips. Maybe the best time of my day is when I… go into the Grips!! Like, all of the bands that I love have this particular creativity… having fun on a conceptual level. Like Liars, you know Liars? I love these guys, they’re amazing. Or Laurel Halo. You know, they have this, this ability to change sounds… for me, it’s really positive thinking—it’s so… brave. They have a statement.
(The conversation is sidetracked, and we bring things back to the topic of “brave” music.)
Fabien: We say that we make folk music, and when you’re recording a folk song you’re supposed to have a continuous guitar track for the song, but now we’re working on loops… I think it’s a weird dynamic, but a fun and interesting one at the same time.
No Smoking: Yeah, Tame Impala records with Ableton!
Fabien: It’s kind of crazy because we have all these ideas of songs to write on guitar, but we have like fifty possible sounds to have on guitar… I think we recorded all the tracks [on ATX] with the same guitar, but it never sounded the same on any of the tracks.
No Smoking: Do you guys use extensive pedals or anything?
Fabien: We used to play with pedals a lot with our [old live outfit], but [for recording on ATX] we are actually very humble about recording with Logic… and I always have this thinking where I’m going to be able to do whatever I want on the computer, so I’m not recording my guitar with an amp or anything, just straight into the computer. It’s really cool to see how a guitar can sound not like a guitar. It’s actually funny, on the thing you wrote, you talked about the guitar in Zombie Blues, but it’s actually a ukulele.
You can listen to My Friend Is on Soundcloud and Bandcamp.