Helluvah is, for all intents and purposes, Camille Warmé. She was born in 1982 in Paris and pursued a degree in English and journalism prior to forming her first band, Fog, in 1999 in Nice. Returning to Paris, she recorded a first demo, “Lost in progress” at the end of 2005, followed by a first album – “Emotion pills” released in 2008. Her second album, “As we move silently” was released in 2011.
Her third album, the excellent “Long Distance Runners”, was released last year on Dead Bees Records. We caught up with her to find out about her music and influences.
What is your favourite piece of music that you remember from childhood or earliest musical memory (and why)?
It’s “With a little help from my friends” by the Beatles because my dad used to play Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in the car. I didn’t get the lyrics of course, so I would sing “Fromage frais” because it sounded like “From my friends”. I was around 5.
What is your favourite song/piece of music that you’ve written and why?
That’s a very hard question! I would say “Go back to sleep”* from my debut album because it’s both very simple and very efficient. I was asked to write a lullaby for a compilation so I wrote this song and I think I really did something good.
I like “Derrida Guerilla” a lot too because it’s kind of different from what I used to write and it’s very focused on the guitar theme, which is something I wasn’t doing much earlier, when my songs were more based on the chords and on the tune in general.
*link to daily motion, video does not play on some mobile devices
How do you know when something you’re working on is complete?
It’s a bit like a puzzle. You have the feeling that everything is in its right place.
Has the way you approached writing changed much since you began?
At the very beginning I just knew a couple of chords. I was very naive and I thought that to be a good musician you had to know lots and lots of chords and play as many as you could in the same song so it would not be boring. Now I know it has nothing do to with that! You have to write a good tune and work on the whole atmosphere of the song. No one cares if you use 3 or 10 chords.
You trained as a journalist – was this good preparation for becoming a songwriter?
I guess it was because it means you write a lot and you try to use the appropriate words or even to use puns. You have to play with words and if you don’t want to have cheap lyrics, it’s important to know how to write.
You are touring at the moment; do you find your songs evolving when you take them out to a live audience?
Before touring we rehearse and rearrange some songs because we’re just two and it would be impossible to play the songs the same way than they are played on the record. Which is a very interesting work actually. I don’t like to go to a concert and listen to the record being played onstage. I want to see something else.
When we’re live, we kind of adapt to the audience in the way we perform the song. For instance, if I feel that the audience is very dynamic, I will play my guitar parts with more distortion than usually, to sound more “rock”, and play louder. If the audience is very calm, I will move less, play a bit less hard. Otherwise, the difference between the way the public reacts and the way you perform is too weird.
What, outside of the musical world, influences your art?
I read quite a lot, mostly Northern-American or English literature. I’m a huge fan of Douglas Coupland, Jonathan Franzen, Jonathan Coe or Donna Tartt for instance. The atmosphere they create, the plot they write of even the characters may influence me about telling other stories in my songs.
I also watch quite a lot of tv shows, and you can find a lot of punchlines that are quite inspiring. I like House of cards, The Wire, Mad Men or This is England.
What song by another artist do you wish you had written and why?
There are so many of them! I would name a couple of them : “Mad World” by Tears for Fears, “Heartbeats” by The Knife, “Paint It Black” by The Rolling Stones, “Five Years” by David Bowie, “Idiotheque” by Radiohead, “Evil” by Interpol….
Name a song that makes you smile and why does it have that effect?
“I Follow Rivers” by Lykke Li because it makes me dance all the time.
What is the best new band/artist that you’ve heard recently?
I watched a live session of Savages on tv recently and I really liked it, I’m looking forward to seeing them live!
Do you collect anything?
Nope. I would like to collect guitars but I’m not rich enough and I don’t have enough room either.
What question would you like to be asked that you never are? (and what would be your answer?)
What would you like to be if not a musician?
And I would answer: College professor, Social Studies researcher, screenwriter, deputy, Lego games creator, police chief….. I’ll never have enough lives!