Samba de la Muerte: Dancing with Styles

Article published on March 28, 2016
Article published on March 28, 2016

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Samba de la Muerte has always liked to dance along the rim of the volcano. From his stage name to the creation of a colourful new album, Adrien Leprêtre (the man behind the project, also a member of the band Concrete Knives) is in constant motion bringing his musical lines to life. An interview to set our toes tapping.

cafébabel: When your first EP came out, you said you wanted to get away from artistic norms. Is that also the case with the new album, Colors?

Adrien Leprêtre: Even more so. It's no holds barred. I listen to a lot of music, and I try to make a lot of it too. That means that in my work, I mix a lot of different colours together. On Colors I wanted to express myself that way.

cafébabel: Where does this eclecticism come from?

Adrien Leprêtre: I'm very inspired by African music. I also have a real penchant for jazz, and I grew up as part of a generation that diluted a lot of pop and rock into electro. I love working with rich, varied material, and I'm always ready to add a little poison to the sound. For some people, that can make it seem like a rough draft. But I don't kid myself: diversity is in the DNA of Samba de la Muerte.

cafébabel: First albums always take some effort to put together. What was the idea behind Colors?

Adrien Leprêtre: To start with, I work in my bedroom. I made myself a home studio there with my three keyboards, my drum machine, and my percussion instruments. I compose mainly by instinct. But the idea for Colors came from a song from my last EP, Fire, where I say that we have to take all our experiences and throw them into the bubbling bonfire that decides what happens next. What's exciting is not really knowing what I'm going to do next time.

Samba de la Muerte, "Fire"

cafébabel: Samba de la Muerte has been classified under every different genre so far. Does the labelling bother you?

Adrien Leprêtre: I don't like it. I don't like classifications. There's a line from a song by Sniper [the French rap group] that I think describes it: "We are filed under guilty every time." I apply that to music a lot. I'm often disappointed when I discover a group classified as "pop/ rock," for example. On the other hand, one label that I do like is "unclassifiable." There's a great example here in France, the group Lo'jo from Angers. Every time they gave a concert, they were described as unclassifiable. That struck me. And when I saw them live for the first time, I understood. They were three very young women from Algeria flanked by two older French guys, and each one was singing in the others' language. In other words, completely unclassifiable. It's like being caught up in this incredible whirlwind when you hear them play.

cafébabel: Are you hoping to create the same effect with Samba de la Muerte?

Adrien Leprêtre: Absolutely. In the band, we try to grab people and bring them to different places. It's a challenge. That's what I like to do with my own music too: take risks. Some people say it's incoherent, others find it rich. But what can I say, Colors is my first album. Now I need to assert myself.

cafébabel: What kind of musical universe did you grow up in?

Adrien Leprêtre: My parents went to concerts a lot, and they took me everywhere. In the town where I grew up, there was basically one venue with a very eclectic line-up. You could see Mathieu Chedid, Rokia Traoré or Balkan Beat Box. Unconsciously, I probably soaked up that diversity. When I was still in the womb, my mother played the same song for me every day. I don't remember the name of it anymore, but it was something weird. She put the headphones on her stomach to relax me. It explains a lot about my musical journey and my interest in diversity.

cafébabel: I hear you were a dub artist when you were a kid?

Adrien Leprêtre: I had a dub band with my little brother. When I was 15, I used sheets to turn our cellar into a studio. We called it Dub Cellar. It's actually thanks to that band that I met the members of Concrete Knives. I put an ad for my dub band in a music magazine and the bass player answered it. We played together for a while, then he wanted me to meet the others. He introduced me as the electro guy, even though all I was doing was messing around with an audio program. Back then, everyone was listening to LCD SoundSystem, and the guys were convinced that I could bring something new to the group by playing keyboards. But the only keyboard I was using was my computer keyboard. So you see, I've come a long way.

cafébabel: Concrete Knives is doing well. Why did you decide to start a solo career?

Adrien Leprêtre: Coming back from one of our tours, we all needed a break. At that time, I was already trying out some new stuff. I was starting to record bits of songs alone with my acoustic guitar. I even started a lo-fi group: Steve Bonaparte and the Catholics. But Samba de la Muerte really began when I wrote a song called Skyline that my friends really liked. They convinced me to start something new.

cafébabel: And that gave you the break you needed?

Adrien Leprêtre: Concrete Knives toured France and Europe so much that whenever I made it home I needed to rest. But I also wanted to tell my own stories. There's a certain melancholy that comes with being on the road constantly, far from home. For my first EP, I wrote a song called "For My Friends" because I never saw my mates anymore. They were mad at me for never being around because of touring. I needed to talk about that, and only Samba could do it.

Samba De La Muerte, "Colors"

cafébabel: Caen, the town where you live, is home to a very active music scene and a lot of famous musicians. Can you explain why?

Adrien Leprêtre: It's dying out at this point, actually. I don't want to criticize the new groups, but the level just isn't what it used to be. I was lucky to be part of a generation that, for unknown reasons, really changed things up. Everyone was playing in several different bands. Concrete Knives had two main springboards in Caen: the Cargo and the Phénix. And at the same time Orelsan was drawing attention to Caen with his breakthrough hit Saint-Valentin. Then you had Superpoze, Fakear, and Gablé, the group that inspired my stage name...

cafébabel: So it's just a coincidence?

Adrien Leprêtre: It's hard to say. We always met up in a venue that had just opened, the Cargö. And there was clearly synergy. Personally, I moved to Caen when I was 20. I came from Nantes. I had quit school to play with Concrete Knives, but I knew it was a risk. I had a Civic Service job with a pretty influential local radio station, Radio Phénix, and I was living with the band's bass player. We found a way to organize concerts in apartments and other unusual places around town. It drew in a ton of people. We even brought bands from other countries to play in our apartment. So there was a lot of real synergy that lasted about 5 years. I was just there at the right time.


Listen: "Colors" by Samba de la Muerte (YOTANKA / PIAS/2016)

Watch: In concert at the Point Ephémère, Paris, the 13th of April 2016