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Interview: Papooz


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Armand Penicaut and Ulysse Cottin are most well known as the Parisian pair Papooz. Bringing bossa nova, electrofunk and 70s love ballads to the French indie scene, picture the twosome as a product of a steamy hook up between John Coltrane, The Beach Boys and Françoise Hardy.

Image Credit: Klara Kristen

Connoisseurs of the big band sound with a penchant for sufficiently strange music videos, Papooz are a pair of creatives that met in, probably, the most typically “creative type” way. “We met through friends and started hanging out, smoking weed, talking about girls and stuff, walking on acid through Montmartre, writing songs for kicks and partying a lot.” The pair pen to me. A further trip through the Moroccan desert gave them inspiration for the name Papooz and an old laptop and some Soundcloud demos later, the dream came alive.

Penicaut and Cottin were part of the fortunate generation that grew up surrounded by “the big rock and roll comeback” in 2004. The piercing guitar-led sonics and husky vocals of The Strokes, The Hives, White Stripes and Arctic Monkeys penetrated their own creativity; weaving their way into their debut self-titled EP in 2015 in subtle nods. “We had an urge to be a part of it,” the pair write. You could try to argue that the Papooz are just another group of musicians seduced by the romanticism of the music industry; the girls, the parties, the drugs.

But then there’s another side to Papooz – one that floats delicately through the Brazilian summer air, tousling the taste buds and tickling the soles of the feet. “Jao Gilberto, Pierre Barouh, Caetano Veloso…I think Jorge Ben Jor is the artist we listened to the most together when we first met.” Infiltrating their contemporary French sound is the vintage twang of boss nova; born of the bittersweet, the twistedly sexy, its fluidity swims into Papooz’s records with the calm of a small river but the fierceness of a carnival crowd.

Papooz - Theatrical State of Mind

The pair are also cuttingly humourous (that dry, self-deprecating humour that Brits master at birth) and honest in their abandonment of performing a certain way or adhering to a specific set of rules. Both have a history of writing a political zine back at University in Paris which was, for them, “more about being part of an adventure than changing the world”. That said, why pursue music instead of something a little more world-altering? “Laziness I guess. Or maybe lack of caring. Or boredom. Music is more virtuous than politics. It’s also gentler and sweeter. Even hardcore techno is sweeter than politics. Heavy metal don’t lie. Politic does.”

That sense of experiencing the world instead of trying to influence it is, rather ironically, what makes Papooz’s sound so influential. Their latest record Night Sketches, released earlier this month, conjures images of the mustard 70s, of reckless abandon and unpredictability – a time when you could throw all caution to the wind and not be too bothered if you woke up at 1pm the next day still drunk.

While it isn’t a concept album, Night Sketches is “trying to tell the story of man versus the night and the city…It’s an ode to nightlife, its joys, its sorrows and what makes us alive,” and they succeed. Anglicised in their lyricism, the pair drag you willingly through the twinkling streets of Paris, into the dive bars with cheap wine and big band clubs playing nothing but The Ronettes.

Image Credit: Press

A testament to the eclectic influences on their sound, Papooz never felt pressured to produce records in French like some of their Parisian counterparts. “All languages are sweet with music…English is more convenient and close to us,” they write, sounding more like their poetic influencers in generations gone by than modern day producers.

Papooz have shown, since their early inception, the able to take antecedents of music from Italy, Brazil, Belgium, the UK and France, and distil them into androgynous yet exotic pop music with surreal visuals and a waft of dry humour. Now more than ever, after the release of their full-length album that stitches together experiences of the nightcrawler, they’re a gold level standard act reminding us of all the completely adulterated joy music and life can bring us.

They’re the self-disclosed mix of “Be My Baby by The Ronettes, Oba, la vem ela by Jorge Ben Jor and Amarsi Un Po by Lucio Battisti” melting the vintage into the contemporary without breaking a sweat.

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