Nouvelle Vague are a French band that transform New Wave songs into a bossa nova genre. Accompanied by a mixture of female vocalists, the two-man band comprising of Olivier Libaux and Marc Collin have just released four original compositions in their fifth album, ‘I Could Be Happy’. GIGsoup gets to hangout with Olivier Libaux a couple of hours before their performance in Kentish Town.
For the first time you’ve got some original compositions in your new album. Why are you now making original music?
Because it’s been a long, long conversation between Marc and I. The story of, for example, The Rolling Stones and other 60s pop bands, started as cover bands, and then they wrote their own songs. For us, it was different as the purpose of Nouvelle Vague was to make just covers, whilst before we had many solo albums.
I remember we were talking about Bande à Part, which was right after the first album, we didn’t even think about putting in some original songs, and then we pushed the process of being a cover band. We spent ages pushing this.
It was only last year that we thought that maybe we could start to think about putting in some originals next to the covers.
The songs we’re covering are classics, so the songs we put in have to sound similar. The original songs really work with the album; they don’t conflict with the covers. We could’ve done it earlier, but since 2010 we have been so busy touring. So we made it the theme of 2016.
You made it happen! So you had 6 years of no albums. What were you doing?
I can’t tell all as this will be explained in a documentary we’re making. As soon as you’ll be able to watch the documentary, the last six years will be pretty clear. We wanted to do something clever, with plenty of love.
We became successful very quickly; we were based in Paris. That’s the story of this humble band touring around the world for years performing in front of large crowds. We made sure we did it properly, and we were respectful of the bands we covered.
I also worked on the Queens of the Stone Age album, which I’m really proud of, and I know that the band is a big fan. I wouldn’t have been able to do this album with Marc. Our ideas were different, are minds were in different places at the time.
As soon as we got back together, it is exactly like before. The great thing with Marc and I is that we work very naturally, as soon as we’re together, we can record something within in just two hours. We’re just two guys, it’s not a particularly professional thing.
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What’s your background in music? You clearly know so much.
When I was five years old I listened to records right in front of the speakers, and for me, I saw images from the sounds. I was in to it, then I learnt to play guitar when I was six. I have ten years technical education in music; in the end I couldn’t stand playing Spanish classical music anymore, as my heart was into pop music and rock and roll. I went to my teacher, I said I can’t do anymore Spanish classical music- I don’t practice when I get home! Let’s stop cheating. But it’s good; I learned to play guitar in a technical way. Then I played in bands, I was 15 when I played in my first band.
When we started Nouvelle Vague we were professional musicians, with some success.
I also own a record company, Music for Music Lovers, which I created so I could release my own music. I released my own cover of Queens of The Stone Age, the album is called ‘Uncovered Queens of The Stone Age’.
How did you and Marc meet?
We met at a friend’s in the late 90s, a friend who worked at Universal. He was very clever and thought we’d get along. We had pizza and wine, and we ended up talking about music for hours.
What’s next for Nouvelle Vague, are you going in the direction of making your own music?
We don’t know, we don’t figure out the future too much. Maybe the next 6 months, but we’d like to make an original album. People love our style and music. It would be a nice challenge to make our own album. But it’s early days; we’ve just released ‘I Could Be Happy’. Our future is really wide open. We could do more originals or more covers. It’s far better to have no idea or visibility in your legacy.
At one very small point we lost out spark, our third album was not so successful, we got bad reviews. Marc and I were super disappointed, as we were so excited making this album. But that was at the beginning, so it was not a tragedy.
The pleasure of making music is very important for us. You just have that feeling when it’s super special.
Finally, the bands you’ve covered, have they responded to you?
Yes, in many ways. Very rarely directly, which is normal. They are original and always come first. Even the best covers in the world come after, but we know that most of the bands we’ve covered love the covers.
I remember the first time we played at a festival in Stockholm in 2004; Mick Jones from the Clash was there to perform. So the Swedish TV interviewed Mick, and the journalist asked him he’d heard his songs being covered by our band, and he said, “Yes, I’d never imagine it could be covered in that way”.
They are all very important bands. There’s a difference between imitating. We put the songs into a completely different genre. These musicians are music lovers. We are so respectful for these people; we’d be very upset if we offended any band. It’s respectful and it’s an experiment of music.