We’re big fans of the group Tahiti 80 here at SWIT so when the multi-talented Xavier Boyer agreed to do an interview with us we were delighted.Fresh from the release of their latest EP …And the Rest Is Just Crocodile Tears,we hear from Xavier about his songwriting process,musical influences and are also presented with an original art work by the man himself. A superb read guys.
How did you choose the name for your band?
Being French, we didn’t want to go for something too English. After a rehearsal, we were discussing band names, I took off my sweater and was wearing my dad’s vintage Tahiti 80 shirt, jokingly I said how about that name? Everyone agreed, it had the international touch we wanted. After that, we could focusing on the songs!
How does the dynamic work in the band? Do you always agree on musical direction?
I usually come up with a collection of songs written between tours… They often have some kind of narrative, so we use this a guideline. Médéric adjusts his songwriting to it, and proposes a few tracks. Then, Pedro, Médéric & me get together at our studio and rework the demos which have become more evolved over the years since we don’t live in the same cities anymore. When you’ve recorded over 6 albums, it’s cool to work within a frame. We argue, we agree, its always like that when you record an album.
Do you think French groups get enough exposure in the major British and American magazines? Does it matter to you?
It’s hard to catch up with American or UK bands. As an indie band putting out records on our own label we have to prioritize and make decisions: promotion can be really expensive. It’s hard to pay for it, especially in saturated markets, when you know you’re not gonna get much impact. It used to be easier to get exposure in the US but now, it’s almost like the UK. Bands tend to act locally rather than internationally these days. When you think about it, there are just about 5 big acts which make the headlines, when the rest have to fight for a small piece of news. Inevitably, it has an impact on the quality of the music we’re hearing: less money, less exposure lead to lesser artists and songs, I think.
Can you draw us a sketch or picture please for our new Gallery page?
What was the first piece of music you loved, and why?
I remember buying Lipps Inc ’s Funky Town when I must have been 5 or 6. I loved the hooks, the sound & the groove. It stayed with me, I always try to get a good balance between rhythm & melody in my songs.
What is your favourite song that you’ve written and why?
When in the process of writing a new song, I always see it as the best I’ve ever written…
How do you know when a song you’ve working on is complete?
When you stop worrying about the balance of the sounds, and you don’t care if one element stands out too much or not. When you start appreciating some of its imperfections, I guess that’s the moment when you feel the song has found its direction.
Do your songs change much when played on front of a live audience?
Yes, you have to adapt the production of a record to a live setting. Usually, it starts with a lot of gear and a lot of plans… By the 3rd show of the tour, we get back to the basics, make some choices and perform the songs as a band. When you have a full band playing, you don’t want to hear stuff like backing vocals coming out of a computer.
What song by another artist do you wish you had written and why?
Let’s take ‘Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder) by The Beach Boys I just love the songwriting, but I also love the performance, it always puts me in a special place, it’s both sad & uplifting. It’s a wonderful feeling. The whole Pet Sounds album is like that.
What artist(s) has been your biggest influence and in what way?
After the Beach Boys, I will go for another obvious reference, sorry! It’s got to be Paul McCartney, there’s a sense of freedom throughout his work, there’s « Ram On » , there’s « Waterfalls » or « Arrow Through Me », and obviously all the bigger tracks, it’s so diverse. When we grew up, he was the « bad » Beatle as opposed to John being the genius, he didn’t deserve all that hate. It made me love him even more. Over the years, the general perception of his work has changed though. Good PR work!
Name a song that makes you happy and why does it have that effect?
Let’s go random: Help Yourself (To All Of My Lovin’) by The Friends Of Distinction (though the vocal harmonies on the 2nd verse make my eyes wet). I don’t know, it’s the musicality, the songwriting and a sheer sense of innocence. It’s not cynical, I like that.
What is the best new band that you’ve heard recently?
Gotta say I’ve been impressed by Andy Shauf’s The Magician (though the tripled vocals à la Eliott Smith are too much sometimes), but I was impressed by the quality of the music. It’s an ambitious record, it’s rare nowadays.
What do you think of music streaming sites like Spotify and Deezer?
I’ve just been offered a subscription to deezer. It’s perfect for customers, or for lazy people who don’t want to look for a CD or a vinyl that they own in their collection. It’s a great tool …with flaws. For instance, I have to listen to Wildflower by The Avalanches on Spotify, cos it’s not available on Deezer… On the other hand, I get shivers down my spine thinking nobody OWNS music anymore. Plus, as a fan, it’s crazy that no-one’s found a way to include booklets on those platforms. It’s frustrating, I want to know who’s playing what, I love checking the layout too. Money wise, it’s also a bit terrifying…We all know the numbers, let’s see how it goes when everyone’s on it.
Can music change the world?
It certainly did.
Thanks Xavier – Tahiti 80’s excellent new EP can be purchased here
Playlist with Xavier’s tunes here