FOXTROTT: The Wavelength Interview

Purveyor of: Fierce and unrelenting electro-pop full of sensuously big beats, enticing you into that deep, dark corner of your mind while you bop your heads with your friends.
File next to: Björk, The Knife
Playing: Day Two of WL16, Friday February 12 at The Garrison. Get tickets!

Montreal musician Marie-Hélène Delorme just released her debut LP, A Taller Us, under the moniker FOXTROTT to widespread acclaim. Publications have described her release as “[a]t once accessible and deeply insular,” (The Times London) and “effective, simple, warm, and truly of its time” (Le Devoir). Signed to One Little Indian Records, A Taller Us sets the stage for all the greatness in Delorme’s future.

Your voice is given a lot of room to breathe on this record — it ranges from bellowing to soft, ferocious to caressing — but it never overwhelms the unique production in each song. How did you manage to find a balance between these two delicate elements so well?

Thank you. It was definitely in my intentions while making the record, and it also took some trial and error before getting close to that balance. The way I feel and write music, all the elements interact with each other at the same time, so neither the voice nor the production is an afterthought. The vocal line imposes itself very early in the process, so everything is built with this in mind, leaving space and knowing exactly in which pocket it will fall. It is a bit hard to explain as it is very intuitive, but I guess that is what can distinguish my sound or my process from just “singing on a bed track,” etc.

Your music video for “Shaky Hands” is a visual feast, and manages to do so with minimal colour and breathtaking scenery. Can you comment on the making of this video, and the creative thinking behind it?

I wanted “Shaky Hands” to be a follow-up to “Driven,” but push the envelope a bit more. “Shaky Hands” has a very gritty, heavy, mineral quality to it, and I wanted to capture this essence in a dance video. By working with the same creative team, we were able to keep a coherent aesthetic but angle it differently. The minerality combined with the verticality was what I was looking for. A Taller Us, as a record, has a lot of verticality in it, from the artwork to the title to the themes. A desire for elevation, evolution, working through fears, doubts and anxieties, diving deep inside oneself to be able to step out. I believe that by diving deep and shedding light on dark corners, one can develop, through the knowledge of self, compassion. It is when you can start to truly give. So we took this big theme from my record and turned it into dance in a quarry and symbolic movements.

While discussing the making of A Taller Us, you have said, “I reached states of joy while working that I didn’t think were possible.” However, in making such an emotionally charged album in which not all of the songs are necessarily happy, I would imagine that some feelings of pain, uncertainty, or sadness would be stirred up. Can you comment on the process you went through to include as much emotion in the album as you did?

I definitely went through a large range of emotions while writing this record. By spending a lot of time alone, in the city and in nature, my emotional life came to the surface, like a deep cleanse. Pain, uncertainty and sadness were definitely part of the group. I also had to overcome a good amount of self-doubt to be able to write and finish the songs, so what I meant when I talked about joy is that once I went past my fears and insecurities, the joy of creating appeared. Whether you write about sadness or heartbreak doesn’t really matter at that point, because the joy of transmuting these emotions into something like music, that’s very joyful. Those emotions can totally coexist, in my opinion.

On The Line of Best Fit, you describe yourself as a “self-taught singer, songwriter, producer and beat-maker.” Do you think that teaching yourself has led you to approach and view music in ways that may be different from musicians taught and perhaps bound by “the rules?”

I guess it keeps the intuition intact. The scariest part about music school or art school for me is intellectualizing or putting in context too much. It can really kill the instinct. I know there are great teachers and mentors out there though. By learning the craft myself (production and voice), I could keep myself stimulated and also have complete freedom in the choice of sounds or arrangement, etc. I don’t really listen to other music while I write, I’m not interested in trends or rules. I’m interested in uniqueness, or just soul. That’s what I’m looking for when I listen to other people’s music, and that’s what I am trying to capture myself. I’m not saying it’s easy though!

A Taller Us makes me want to both explode into a thousand pieces, and crawl into a warm bed with my partner. What have some of your favourite responses been to your music?

Thank you! Haha, that’s interesting! That is a great response actually, because even if the emotional content of the record can seem dense or troubled at times, I also aimed to make this record as warm as possible. So you are feeling exactly what my feeling was while making it. My favourite response? I cannot think of one in particular, but I will never get tired of hearing people talk about how it makes them feel, because that is exactly why we make music. It is so fascinating. Don’t come to me and ask me what style do I think it is, because I might leave and take a nap.

What do you have planned for 2016? Anything exciting that readers can wait for while we keep listening to your stellar release?

Touring, shows, a couple of other videos (!!), and I also have a few collaborations, remixes and production work up my sleeve at the moment.

Don’t miss FOXTROTT when she plays The Garrison Friday February 12 for Wavelength 16. Get your tickets or festival passes here.

— Interview by Emily Scherzinger