“Twilight, a timid, fawn, went glimmering by, and Night, the dark-blue hunter, followed fast.”
Bruxelles, and Belgium in general, is producing some fantastic pop music these days, much of which we have covered on SWIT. To the list please add FAON FAON, the wonderful duet between Fanny Van hammée on keyboards and Olympia Boule on the drums. They sing in unison, channel the heartbeat of dreams, work while you sleep, melt the ice in your soul, take you by the hand and lead you on a dance through the The Elysian fields. We caught up with Fanny and Olympia to try and make sense of it all.
Why did you decide to be in a band?
Olympia: We didn’t become a band immediately when we met. We were friends at first but we were both musicians with different bands. One day I organised a « carte blanche » and I invited Fanny to play a song in solo and I offered her to do a song together. So we did 2 songs! A few months later, I came back from Berlin, she was unemployed so we both had time and we decided to have fun making music together!
What was the first piece of music you loved, and why?
O: The first one? Wooo it’s really difficult to remember… I know that I really loved to listen to the band ELP with my parents and Pink Floyd. It was like eating something that you know really well, like… pancakes or hot chocolate! It was grandiose like an orchestra and at the same time it was really modern! Then I discovered women’s voices that I fell in love with: Sade, Whitney Houston, Fiona Apple, etc.
Fanny: Hard to say, maybe songs my father made up when I was a kid. He played piano and made song for everything, a song for sleeping, a song for waking up, a song for dinner time, etc. More seriously I loved “Le Carnaval des Animaux” by Camille Saint Saens.
What is your favourite song that you’ve written and why?
O: I guess, I haven’t written my favourite song yet! But some songs are special to me and remind me of good times and that still gives me a good kick. But Gravité (it’s not on the EP) and maybe Mariel (our first track) are very dear to me.
F: I think I like them equally (the way you like your children equally). I love them at the beginning, especially during the creative process, it’s like a passion. But the love changes, it becomes a trust relationship with time and sometimes it dies quietly like a summer romance (not like your children normally).
How do you know when a song you’ve working on is complete?
O: a song is never really finished! It’s still changing when we play it live! But i think when we have to go in the studio we have to decide at some point that it’s a good and final version. That’s why it’s really important for me to go in the studio, it gives me closure!
Do your songs change much when played in front of a live audience?
O: It depends which song and on our live setup. It’s different if we play an acoustic session or if it’s amplified! But yes, we try to constantly nourish our repertoire otherwise it would be annoying!
F: Yes, a lot, when we listen our first versions of some of our songs, the evolution is huge! Our voices were almost shy when we recorded at home just for us. I think we sing now with more confidence, now we know who we are singing to. It changes the way we place our voices and the way we tell the story. Also, we try to surprise the audience. We like to play with the audience, we make them sing along and dance.
What song by another artist do you wish you had written and why?
O: « Malaxe » from Bashung or « La nuit je mens » . Because it’s so synthetic and universal! The lyrics touch me very deeply and when I sing it, it almost becomes a personal journey.
F: « Coward » from Yael Naim, she plays so brilliantly with voices, it immerse me in a real emotional bath.
What artist(s) has been your biggest influence and in what way?
O: Black jazz men and women in general, Billie, Ella, Louis, Nina etc. because I listened to them when I was a child. They experienced oppression and even if I didn’t really understand what it was about, i recognized in their music, in their voice a kind of suffering, but which they had transcended and transformed into beauty. I feel close to those kind of artists for whom it’s a necessity to sing, to play, whatever our condition and what people think. I love also Sade for her sweetness.
F: I used to be in a choir so I discovered the joy of singing the music of Pergolesi, Britten, Purcell, Weil…Vocal harmonies are apples that keep the doctor away:) There are also a lot of French artists. The ones that my parents listened to, Dick Annegarn, Gainsbourg, Brel, France Gall, William Sheller, Maxime Le Forestier…When I was a teenager I listened more hip-hop music . Now I like to listen so many artists and discover some new bands, more recently the French vibe with La femme, Bagarre, Flavien Berger, Salut c’est cool, Jacques, Grand Blanc,… Even if we are really far from their proposition it gives me the desire to create. But it is not at all an exhaustive list! There are so many good things in music!
Name a song that makes you happy and why does it have that effect?
O: To make me happy I need to laugh, or sing, or dance, or eat or love! Happiness can be a journey (if music brings me somewhere far far from my reality, like a refuge) or just something that helps emotions emerge. So if I hear a song with one of these ingredients it’s perfect! These last days I was listening to Ali Farka Touré, Pergolesi and Stevie Wonder!
F: When I feel down I listen Staff Benda Billili, Elis Regina, Tom Jobim, Bonga, … Some artists who live or lived in a country with a lot of sun (at least more that In Belgium) and I feel the sun’s rays or sometimes it helps me to cry and move on.
What is the best new band that you’ve heard recently?
O: So many new amazing bands are born every day! It’s crazy! Here in Belgium we have really beautiful musicians like, Teme Tan, François and the Atlas Mountains, Rive, Wuman. I like their music. There is no best band for me, just the best moment to listen to it! In France, there is Bagarre or Feu! Chaterton; in the USA, the last Frank Ocean and Solange are masterpieces!
F: I discovered last week Vanishing Twin with their album « Choose your own adventure » and I fell in love of this strange world , very sensual, soft and mysterious. When I am writing now I am listening Princess Nokia and Young Paris.
What do you think of music streaming sites like Spotify and Deezer?
O: It’s really cool to have access to all the music that you love and to discover new bands all the times! But for me it’s not as enjoyable as a vinyl! Yeah I’m kind of old school!But I also think that these platforms are very important for emerging artists. Economically is not so easy to win money in that way but it’s possible.
F: It is like a jet ski, well used it’s cool.
What’s your idea of success?
O: Reaching success, according to me, will be when I can listen to one of my albums, and still love it, whether it be a few days, months or years after doing it! Success is also to have the opportunity to collaborate with people whose work I respect and admire, and to reach both public acclaim and esteem from the musical world. And of course, to be honest, when I will stop to have financial anxiety… just a little bit less!
F: When we will come to play in Dublin!
FAON FAON have also done a wonderful drawing for us, which we will be inducting into our gallery next week, check back then!
Photographs by Philippe Braquenier.