Sunshade are an Indiepop duo from France, consisting of two guys with the most exotic sounding surnames: Mathieu Rivalan and J.C Valleran. Their blend is an extremely subtle take on the sort of dream pop mix or hybrid that seems to be popular in this day and age. Mathieu popped up on my FB feeds and curious as I am, I snooped around on their page, quite digging their band and since they recently released a new album, I decided to pay some attention to these multi-talents in the form of an article. Hence this short review plus interview with J.C. and Mathieu in which they introduce Sunshade and chat about the new album and their influences.
The new Album ”Souvenir” is self-released and available digitally from December 27th 2016 and on vinyl and CD at the start of March 2017. Check Bandcamp for physical order soon : https://sunshade.bandcamp.com/releases
“Disorder” was the first track I heard and was an instant hit. It still is my favourite song of the album: guitar ripples a la “Everybody’s Talkin”, a more introverted Day Wave sprinkled with some Fleetwood Mac, exquisite harmonies, and a charming French accent, all thrown in, to paint this dreamy, sophisticated picture. No disorder in its composition at all.
“Lines that we follow” has a groovy cadence, going throughout the song with mantric lyrics that enforce this pulse: “there is some evidence in lines that we follow”. The song-lines spiral like ice-skating figures that always land on their feet and repeat their fluid movement . The atmosphere of the song strongly reminded me of that of the Blue Nile. (see below)
This same effortless flow we also meet in “Tangerine” which is quite the unusual composition: waking up, once again, with some laid-back jangles a la Fred Neil, then speeding up to a sunny afro-pop afternoon with rhythms not unlike those that made the Bombay Bicycle Club signature sound, then swooping into an evening of unexpected esoteric jazzy tones… to finally culminate a long Beatle-esque night accompanied by the whispers of flute and vintage keys.
Another highlight from the album, I think, is a song that started out being called “water in your mouth” but ended up being the title song “Souvenir”. The bass and keyboards provide the structure to the song like the rails to a track over which dreamy elements come rolling by like images and memories of days long gone, transient, like our lives.
Interview with Sunshade’s Mathieu Rivalan and J.C. Valleran:
Hi, please introduce us to Sunshade?
Mathieu Rivalan: Sunshade is an indie pop band from Paris. I met JC. Valleran in 2014 and I think we started composing right away. He was playing bass in some projects from the noisy indie scene, and I was kind of composing alone, more folk music. JC wanted to start producing stuff on his own at the time, with very personal perspectives, and the instrumentals he had happened to be close to what I was listening to (and also wishing to write myself maybe). It took us something like a year to write the first songs that later became our first album “Music by The Pool“, out in 2014. Soon we found a balance between his work as an instrumentalist and a producer and my writing and singing. It’s the way we’re functioning now.
We’re working with Emmanuelle Valleran also, who’s been making the artwork of pretty much everything, including the latest LP’s cover. She’s preparing a video clip now for our single ‘Souvenir’. It’s a sort of dream-like visual reference, it’s superb. Fits what we wanna do.
You have an album out soon, can you tell us a bit about that?
J.C Valleran: The name is “Souvenir.” It’s a 7-track LP we’ve been composing and recording this year of 2016 after a bunch of concerts in Paris. We shared the responsibilities more clearly on this one. I made almost all the instrumentals and the production, Mathieu did the writing and the singing. I guess it made us potentially more critical with each other’s parts, more accurate also. We made the choice of a shorter opus this time, it was meant to be a 2-side vinyl. It made us pickier in the selection of musical matter we had – and we had a lot. In the end the result is great.
Mathieu: The lyrics are purposely quite vague sometimes, it’s written as a short journey in someone’s mind travelling through ordinary life situations. It’s a lot about experiencing the loss of beings and things too. I’m trying to describe the ordinary and the daily experience, to reach a large variety of feelings. ‘Tangerine’ is a description of couple breakfast in the morning, with both of them observing the light falling across the room. ‘Disorder’ refers to someone smoking at the door of a house. ‘Lines That We Follow’ is about the feeling of going back home after a night outside. It’s about memories (‘souvenirs’ in French) it’s a collection of memories of physical and mental experiences, sometimes vague, sometimes accurate.
The new album sounds different (less electronic) from the first one. Was that change done consciously?
Mathieu: Funny you say that, I was actually thinking that ‘Souvenir’ was sort of more electronic, if by electronic you mean the using of keyboards and synths. The truth is that it’s also more folk.
JC: The production still includes drumboxes and vintage keys, but it’s true we made it more organic, warmer maybe. We’ve been recording with a drummer on a few tracks. We used flutes and strings also. I also think that the treatment of Mathieu’s voice may have been more elaborate, with more proximity, fewer effects. It makes it more real.
Your music reminds me a lot of the current music scene in Oakland/ Bay Area. Is there a scene in France?
Mathieu: In 2017 Paris, there’s a French-singing bands preference I must say. On the other hand there’s the electro scene which is mostly instrumental. We’re none of that. We’re writing songs that tell stories, in English because we love this language. We’re not necessarily looking for instant effectiveness, we’re just narrating until it touches something. My singing and writing can be quite naïve in this aspect. We both love Syd Matters for that, a band which is quite an exception in the French musical environment. We feel extremely close to them musically, much more than we are to the indie pop scene here, which is losing ground it seems.
JC: There once was Air or Phoenix, who have been important here in France, but I prefer to refer to Tahiti 80. They opened the way to extreme-pop composition in our country. They got ears prepared for what we’re doing now.
Mathieu: In Oakland, The Dodos or Thee oh Sees suggest a mix between synthetic disco pop and folk. We’re doing the same it’s true, on a song like ‘Fall in B’ for example. But my fauvorite American scene is the folk scene from Oregon, with influences from Canada. Laura Veirs, The Decemberists for instance, it seems quite far from Bay Area. Is Bay Area post-surf?
I also detect a bit of an 80’s Sophistipop influence in some of your tunes. It reminds me of the Blue Nile in places. Are you inspired by some 80s’ pop artists? Or do you get inspirations elsewhere?
JC: The idea I have of composing is a lot about recreating memories of sounds from early days and childhood. When we’re in a writing process, I don’t really listen to music, it’s more about having an impression of a former musical past being reborn, to try to transform musical memories and turn them into something actual for us, not necessarily on purpose, by the way. That’s why I’m sometimes triggering the reminiscence of bands from the 80s like The Talking Heads, The Cure, XTC, Japan, or classic songwriters such as Paul Simon and Paul McCartney. But again, I don’t listen to them while composing. I don’t believe in writing under influence.
Mathieu: I love the Blue Nile. The second album “Hats” was playing a lot when I was a kid, so was the first Genesis without Peter Gabriel or Sade. It’s true that it’s quite a classic background we may have for instrumentals, classic because it’s oldies now, but also classic in 2017, with a lot of indie bands using the 80s references for disco purposes. These are aesthetics, it’s inevitable when you try to stick to a moment of urban creation. I completely recognise myself in what was said about recreating the past, the idea that we’d actually imitate what we heard at a younger age. In the singing, I found myself influenced by the bands I was listening to when I was 15. Adore by the Smashing Pumpkins for example, with its very dramatic and almost glam singing, even the very first Placebo albums. Adore is also an album about experiencing someone’s death (Corgan’s mom I think), and there’s also a song where he describes the autumn leaves falling the day of her funerals. I realized it after I wrote the lyrics of ‘Fall in B’. I didn’t before.
6) Any plans for shows so far?
Mathieu: Yeah, we gonna start playing now. We’re thinking of a new structure that would be more respectful for the production and the vocals. Our former concerts were more rock because of the band structure, we were not really okay with that. We found out on the way we were looking for something more personal, closer to people. It’s gonna be Paris again, in the first place. There’s a lot of places we’ll love to play in there.