Take 5 : Turfu

We have a quickfire chat with the French electro-dance luminaries

Futuristic French duo Turfu release a brand new single ‘Astrale Nouba’ featuring the vocals of award-winning Scottish folk artist Kate Young – out now  via Airfono.  The track is a traditional Bulgarian song that mixes techno pop with the vocal imagery of a cocktail- sipping sorceresses and is taken from their forthcoming debut album of the same name.  The track is the follow up to their debut EP in 2019. 

Turfu are Matthieu Souchet (LoG, XAMAN, Science Fiction) on drums and synth and Raphaël Decoster (Zlabya, Kate and Raphaël) on accordion.  With disconcerting simplicity, the pair present a daring mix of dancing accordion rhythms alongside the abstract repetitions of electro. Working with long techno crescendos, dissonant squeeze box sounds, and the birthing of confused emotions, these young musicians move between dance hall and club, in a hypnotic trance, which is simultaneously gritty and uplifting.  Souchet and Decoster’s common goal is to get people dancing and in the party mood!  We’re totally down with that and decided to find out more with a Take 5…

When did you realise that you wanted to be a music artist? What or who has inspired you?

Matthieu : I wanted to become a musician from the age of 5. There was a lot of music in my house, my dad listened to lots of blues and soul music, and he also played electric guitar. My parents made me listen to music through headphones when I was in my mother’s womb. It educated me in music very early on. I went to the music conservatory at the age of 6 and started learning the transverse flute for five years. I loved this instrument but still wanted to hit rhythms everywhere whenever I had the occasion. I started drumming when I was 10 and it never left me. I like the earthy side of this instrument, and ‘summoning the roots deep into the ground’.

Afterwards, I did a fairly classic course at the conservatory where I graduated in jazz and improvised music. I continued jazz at university. During these studies, I was greatly inspired by some of my teachers who still mean a lot to me and who make me the musician that I am today. I am also very inspired by the trance from the shamans. So, I have a musical relationship very close to it. I use repetitive music as a medium whatever the musical style. I like this because it makes me dance, it makes people dance and it’s easier for me to enter into communion with the public. Dance is one of my greatest inspirations and it’s something I have in common with Raphael. It’s the basis of our music and our meeting.

Raphael : I studied in Fine art school, but I’ve always played music since being a teenager, and my visual work has somehow always been connected to it. My little brother started to play the accordion and I kind of fell in love with this instrument. I suddenly dived into a folk music world that I didn’t know, just because of the instrument I picked. Quite quickly, I realised that I wanted to dedicate my work and my life to music but it took me a while to actually make a living from it.

I got inspired by a lot of traditional music from all around the world, that is something that really moves me. Watching accordion players such as Janick Martin, Martin Coudroy or Andy Cutting gave a lot of hints on how to play the instrument, meanwhile I got very interested by indie, pop and electronic music from a young age. I could say that my visual art background inspired me a lot in my music, which is often pictural, or related to some kind of abstract storytelling.

Due to my folk music background in the first place, I got really inspired by dance and how sound is tightly connected to it. I listen to a lot of dance music and making people dance is one of my first interests when I compose I guess.

Who, living or dead, would you dream of collaborating with?

Raphael : That would be a god damn huge list of people, but If I have to pick up just like 3, I would say Björk, because of her always unexpected sense of harmony, and this fascination for Iceland that I share so much . Her way to touch a mainstream audience, while doing the weirdest tricks musically speaking, but always accessible to anyone in terms of emotions.

Another artist that I particularly appreciate is Flavien Berger, a French singer and electronic pop composer. His music is so versatile and detailed. I feel like I could never catch who this person is exactly and that really fascinates me so collaborating with him would be a treasure.

To pick a dead one, unfortunately, would be Sophie that passed away a few days ago. I was so sad because she was, for me, and a lot of people, a very strong queer icon, in the mainstream world. Being able to communicate such a strong message about gender and love through music is something that really inspires me in the process of creation.

Matthieu : I will also pick 3 :

The first is David Bowie because this person is undoubtedly an artist who breaks the boundaries of musical genres and the human genre. I love his character, he awakens the great icon that is in each of us. He is a person who impresses me with his artistic choices and the thoroughness with which they choose his musicians for their records is just incredible.

At the moment I have a fixation on the drummer Brody Simpson -I follow him on Instagram. He is, for me, the representation of what a good drummer is. He does very thorough research on the sound of his instrument, his playing is metronomic, it grooves a lot, it’s minimalist and very subtle. He’s an incredible musician.

I would also love to collaborate with the electronic music artist Flore. I am in awe of her compositions, her sense of rhythm, her mastery of sound, and her involvement as an Ableton trainer. She is also an important model because she is one of the rare women producers represented in electronic culture in France. We are sorely lacking in women in the world of contemporary music and I am very happy that Flore can open this way to other women who want to do this job.

Tell us about your single ‘Astrale Nouba’- what is the song about?

Raphael : This track kind of symbolises the story of the band. First because it’s a mixture of electronic music and folk influenced material. Second because the idea was born after we met and jammed with Kate Young, at a festival in Northumberland, the same way Matthieu and I met and started Turfu. We called the album after this track, because it represents our artistic approach quite well.

Matthieu : The story of the actual song (Bulgarian trad song) is about a son asking her mother for permission to get married. It’s a really classical folky thematic, but we didn’t want to get too attached to the meaning of it. For us, this song is more about how we can create a new environment for traditional and electronic music to coexist in a funny, self-derision and creative way. We developed a brand new story and aesthetic around it, where Kate is a shamamic priestess transforming voguing dancers into Ilamas.

Tell us five things you love about the city/town you live in, and why……

Raphael :

  • 1 I’m living in Porto (Portugal) at the moment. I’ve been really inspired by this place for years, probably because you can find the weirdest characters. We are really on the side of Europe here – and gentrifcation, even if you can feel it already, has not yet destroyed the authenticity of the city.
  • 2 It’s a real human scale type of place. It’s big enough to feed your needs in terms of culture, fun, and social interaction, and at the same time you can basically walk to any place in less than 45 minutes. I almost never use public transport and I love to bike so it’s a perfect place for me.
  • 3 Speaking about biking, it takes me 30 minutes to get to the Atlantic ocean, so every time I feel like escaping I get there and I forget about everything else. This is very precious and saves money I would spend on a shrink.
  • 4 The Portugese culture, especially here in the north is something that really touches me. I could relate it to the North of France culture, where I come from. People are rough but lovely. Unpolite but true. Unfancy but beautiful. This is something I really appreciate.
  • 5 I love the street food culture here. It’s difficult to find a street without a small restaurant or a small bar. Sometimes it feels like someone just put tables and chairs in front of his house and here you go, this is a restaurant. It’s all very cheap and humble. Come here to try taste some fresh fish grilled in the street !

Matthieu :

  • 1 I recently moved to a micro village of 100 people in Picardy call Reilly. I lived in Paris before and I was suffocating in this city. Too many people, an important lack of nature and too much fast life. Now, I live 50 metres from the forest. It’s an environment that inspires me to compose chill and relax.
  • 2 I have time for myself and a lot of peace. I can meditate and do yoga without being polluted by the city environment.
  • 3 I cycle a lot. The hikes are just amazing and walking for hours without meeting people makes me feel good. The region is very hilly and allows me to maintain myself physically.
  • 4 The local products are very good for cooking and the fish comes from the sea 1 hour from my home it’s fresh and delicious.
  • 5 I keep proximity with Paris by train which is also pleasant to me to be able to continue working in this city when I need it.
What are you most looking forward to this year?

Raphael : Obviously this Covid pandemic to calm the hell down ! I ‘ve been dealing ok with it so far, because I have other projects in my life that keeps me going especially my visual art production. But even though I really miss to play in front of an audience, create a musical environment where people can go mad and party till the early morning.

We have an album ready to be released (officially out 19thof March) but it’s getting quite complicated to project ourselves in any kind of schedules as most gigs gets cancelled. At the moment we are putting more energy in our new music videos so I just hope this is gonna affect our audience will to party more when all this crazy times are gonna be over !

Matthieu : Play gigs !!! It’s one of the most complicated moments of my life to no longer have the opportunity to do concerts and go to concerts. I can’t wait to be able to rediscover the pleasure of mingling with people, throwing beers in the air, dancing like it was my last day on earth and until the end of the night. But above all to make people dance with our music and have the opportunity to perform our first album Astrale Nouba on stage.

You can find more information about Turfu at...