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Interview: Polo & Pan

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Influenced by 40s Italian quartets, epic biblical cinematography and the famously archetypal Disney stories, Polo & Pan are melding pot of modern electronics and classic artistry.

Polo & Pan by Juliette Abitbol

Electronic DJ duo Polo (Paul) & Pan (Alexandre, formerly known as DJ Peter Pan) dabble in the dusty dark corners of the imagination. Pulling on childhood Disney stories of heroes, bad guys and archetypal female “damsel in distress” roles, Paul and Peter mix and mutate personal influences in progressive compositions peppered with 80s synths and Kraftwerk-esque vocoders.

Their first EP Rivolta was released in 2012 and took inspiration from the early 40s in Italy, quickly followed by Dorothy, an English-sung track which played on themes from The Wizard of Oz. However, since the release of their 2016 EP Canopy, the duo have stumbled upon serious success.

Their year-long tour of the States, UK, Istanbul, Beirut, Mexico (to name but a few) is slowly coming to a close in December, so we thought we’d catch up with Paul during his brief day of respite.

Among all else, Polo & Pan are colourful and eccentric characters. Growing up on Disney stories, classic “retro” music (which they endeavour to collect and source ideas from) and beautiful films has clearly influenced their own personalities, as well as the personality of their sound.

“We’re diggers of old music...A lot of our obscure references were taken from the 40s and 50s, there’s lots of old music that we really treasured together.”

And dig they did. Alex, together with friends and musicians from across generations and time zones, started an online radio catalogue called Radiooooo.com that classifies music by decennial, and then by country. What you’re faced with is one huge world map, littered with songs from across continents, countries, decades and genre.

“The first song we made as Polo & Pan was ‘Rivolta’ which used a sample of a band called Quartetto Cetra - an Italian band from the 40s. We like retro music, music from Disney...Peplum movies...exotica from the 50s. I guess Disney was one of our first references and we both really love that, so started remixing and doing edits of Disney tracks.”

For a French DJ duo, Disney seemed an odd choice as a point of reference, but Paul explained it’s the joy of childhood stories that has translated into their music today.

“Our music is linked to childhood. There’s a lot of naive and childish energy in a lot of our tracks, I would say.

“I think there’s a lot of archetypal stories in Disney; the stories of the hero and those feminine archetypes too. I’d say these are the big stories that we were fed in our generation, and that we built our morals on. We’re really fascinated with these stories that have been so relevant in the past 50 years or so.”

Those delicate motifs of naivete, surprise and childlike fascination are truly present in Polo & Pan’s sound and accompanying visuals. Soft synthesisers, obscure, twinkling samples and rematched sounds collaborate with one another to provide an other-wordly backdrop to heavily warped vocals. The latest album Caravelle, released in May 2017, exploits these surreal sonics to take the listener on a journey; we ourselves are sat next to Paul and Alex, traversing the Amazon forest and the Congo river, and trekking through Tajikistan.

“The destinations we go to in the songs with our Caravelle are imaginary postcards of countries that we haven’t yet been to.

And I think that’s why their sound - no matter how complex and multifaceted - is so easily relatable. Tantalisingly unconventional electronics shoot us to far-flung places, French lyricism drenches us in cool sex appeal, while retro samples drop us straight back into a pool of nostalgia. Pulling on a listener’s yearning for their past and future selves is something not many artists can do.

“We try to make our music a-sexual, appealing to people who are 7 to 77 years old.”

If there’s one thing we can learn from Polo & Pan it that it's important to dream, no matter how old you are.

Listen to the latest album Caravelle, available now.

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