The Penelopes

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The Penelopes
Origin Paris, France
Genres Electronic, dance-punk, indie rock, nu gaze
Labels Pour Le Monde Records / Absolute / Universal
Associated acts Black Strobe, Vitalic, Asia Argento, Soko, agnès b.
Website www.thepenelopes.com
Members Axel Basquiat
Vincent T.

The Penelopes (or The pEneLOpe[s]) are an indie pop/electronic band from Paris, consists of Axel Basquiat and Vincent T. They have recently relocated to London. Though the band is a duo (Axel being the composer, singer and bass player while Vincent on production, engineering and keyboards), they have additional musicians on bass and drums for live performances. The Penelopes are also remixers, producers, and DJ.

History[edit]

Early years[edit]

The Penelopes’ danceable indie-pop style developed from a rare creative partnership and longstanding friendship. The duo had known each other since they were children in Northern Paris, discovering music throughout teenage years, listening to bands like Cocteau Twins, New Order and The Cure. In an interview with the Daily Star the band said, "we grew up in a very cosmopolitan but poor suburb. The area was like Manchester. It was rainy and industrial, which might explains why we love dark British music so much". In juxtaposition to this, they told Wonderland Magazine, "the funk, disco, and rap music we heard growing up outside our windows was what influenced our dance approach." This explains why the band often thanks the French Hip Hop band such as their neighbours, Suprême NTM in their albums.

Axel said to Artrocker, "we want to beautify our life. We are searching for a light. We’re not like those spoiled kids who pretend to be dirty to be cool. Our songs are about simple pleasures, about taking a trip, about the great escapes, about all kind of fantasies, about friendship and poverty, about searching for the light."

Vincent went on to study law and Axel studied medicine, one of the reasons being they could stay as students for a longer while to avoid working in offices or factories. The two eventually followed their passion and pursued careers in music. Axel and Vincent formed The Penelopes and started making music in the rock and electro scenes around Paris. The first deal was on DJ Hell's International DeeJay Gigolo Records.

Style and influence[edit]

The Penelopes' Logo by Parris Wakefield

The Penelopes’ style is a mix of indie and dream pop, combined with disco and electro tight groove, layered with lush and melodies. Their major influences are Cocteau Twins, The Cure, New Order, The Smiths, David Bowie, Joy Division, Devo, and Happy Mondays. The band often mentioned Ride, Slowdive or Prefab Sprout, which Axel considered it as "guilty pleasure". The press often references The Penelopes to Pixies, Daft Punk, M83, and Air.

Axel told Digital Spy about their sound, "It’s a really difficult question – the background of The Penelopes are very rock and very new wave – then we tried to incorporate disco and electronics. It’s disco rock music." And on lyrics, Axel explained, "we like to have twisted lyrics – the lyrics are more twisted than people think. They are more bizarre and we want people to dance to them".

1883 Magazine said about The Penelopes’ music, "with swirling layers of lush keyboard, punchy guitars and catchy hooks, their upbeat sound is just how you want to start and end your day". "Spacey and energetic, airy and atmospheric" was the review from This Is Fake DIY.

First album: The Arrogance of Simplicity[edit]

In 2007 the first album The Arrogance of Simplicity was released under Vitalic's label, Citizen Records. Rock Mag describes it as “a night club with feelings inside”. Les Inrockuptibles said “the duo gave their best in the delicate exercise of writing pop songs, with many influences (The Cure for bass lines, Cocteau Twins on “Demian”, New Order on “Paddy Will Have His Revenge”, even Techno on “Teenage Dust”)”.

The band explained in Wonderland Magazine, “we love post-punk music in general but we didn’t want to copy our idols. So we started to explore electronic music alongside rap and other contemporary club music. We made our first album in our bedroom. We were naive and we wanted to experiment with sounds”.

The single “Demian” was performed by the former singer of Ekova - Dierdre Dubois. The song refers to the Hermann Hesse’s book and was chosen for Perrier commercial.

A year later the album was re-released as a limited edition in Japan, under the title Choose: Arrogance, Simplicity or Both. It included a remixed version of "Demian" by Black Strobe and a cover of the Elli et Jacno track "Je t'aime tant", sung as a duet with the world-renowned French writer Chloé Delaume. The song was commissioned by French fashion designer agnès b. and formed a part of the "Les Jeunes Gens Modernes" exhibition. Agnes has become a long-term supporter of the band and they have gone on to perform at many fashion events and appear in a number of fashion shoots.

Though The Penelopes won the Best Discovery 2007 Qwartz Electronic Music Award, they felt more like a rock band using electronic tools.

Side project with DJ Morpheus: Priceless Concrete Echoes[edit]

The side project Priceless Concrete Echoes was released in 2009, with major contributions from DJ Morpheus and produced by Black Strobe, again on Citizen Records. A US version was also released (their debut US release), featuring an alternative track listing. The album was also licensed by Sony BMG in Hong Kong.

The video of single "Stuck in Lalaland" was featured on Pitchfork, and the same song was remixed by Nouvelle Vague, in which Axel sang in duo with Elli Medeiros. The second single "Licked by Love" was remixed by I Monster. The cover Beastie Boys’ "Sabotage" was licensed by Ministry of Sound.

Second album: Never Live Another Yesterday[edit]

The Penelopes relocated from Paris to London in 2012 and formed Pour Le Monde Records. They felt the music scene in UK was more open for their brand of electropop music. They explained to Wonderland Magazine, "In UK, we feel we are different from the other British bands, which is good. We have the same influences and approaches as others but we bring also a disco edge and a very continental electronic approach in our sound".

The album Never Live Another Yesterday has an electro, indie-pop infused sound. The first single was “Now Now Now”, followed by “Sally in the Galaxy”, and “Summer Life”. The album “Never Live Another Yesterday” was produced by Dan Grech-Marguerat, who also produced for acts such as Scissor Sisters, The Vaccines, Lana Del Rey, and Keane. Ollie Evans from Partizan (Tom Vek, Gossip, Foals, Klaxons) directed the first video “Now Now Now”. The video “Sally in the Galaxy” was directed by Saman Keshavarz, who also directed for !!!, Russ Chimes, and Placebo. The singles were remixed by Gigamesh, Viceroy, Miguel Campbell, and The C90s and "Summer Life" Gigamesh remix got on #2 on Hype Machine.

The album received great reviews from magazines and blogs such as Artrocker, The Guardian, Clash, Les Inrockuptibles, Harder Blogger Faster, and TopMan Generation. The songs were played across national and regional radio stations in UK, including supports from Chris Hawkins (BBC Radio 6 Music), John Kennedy (XFM), Huw Stephens (BBC Radio 1), and Dermot O’Leary (BBC Radio 2). They also appeared on Channel 4 (Sunday Brunch).

The Penelopes toured with The Human League on their 'XXXV Tour' in Belgium and UK at the end of 2012 (17 shows including the Royal Albert Hall). Digital Spy reviewed, “core pair Axel Basquiat and Vincent T have come to London and are chucking us their latest single “Now Now Now”. With just that right mixture of eager-to-please grooves and rock star diffidence, The Penelopes feel just one big chorus away from a serious breakthrough. They even managed to make us forget, briefly, that we’re about to see electropop godfathers (and mothers) The Human League”.

The band had also played at The Liverpool Sound City, The Great Escape, and NXNE in 2013.

Present[edit]

The Penelopes are currently in the studio working on new music, remixing for other artists and producing for film and television.

Cannes Film Festival 2014 saw The Penelopes music feature in two films, the first being La Contribution, which was directed by Chloé Delaume & produced by Canal+. The band created the entire soundtrack for this short film, while providing two songs for Asia Argento’s directorial feature Misunderstood, which features Charlotte Gainsbourg. Besides the usual red carpet spectacle, Axel Basquiat and Vincent T.’s time at Cannes included DJ sets at a boat party for ARTE and a pop-up for David Lynch's Club Silencio. They returned in 2015 and again in 2016 where they performed at a number of parties including the festival’s closing ceremony for La Semaine de la Critique.

Echoing the success of their 2013 remix of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”, The Penelopes most recent remix of The Cure's “Just Like Heaven” became an underground hit with support from the likes of Rob da Bank at BBC Radio 1, Kissy Sell Out, Eddy Temple Morris at XFM, Tensnake, Little Boots and Hot Chip.

During this period the band were asked to remix Pet Shop Boys single “Love Is a Bourgeois Construct”, which was produced by Stuart Price. This later led to other landmark remix projects including Lana Del Rey’s "Ultraviolence" and "Brooklyn Baby". In 2016 The Penelopes released a cover of Depeche Mode’s “Never Let Me Down Again” and were approached to remix the Starwalker (Jean-Benoît Dunckel of Air and Barði Jóhannsson) single, "Holidays"

The Penelopes also produced in 2016 the soundtrack to a new art exhibition for agnès b.: “Un Autre Monde Dans Notre Monde”

Sync and remixes[edit]

The Penelopes’ music is widely used in brands and commercials such as Perrier, Eastpak, Grey Goose, Fitbit and BPI Bank. "Now Now Now" was featured in Electronic Arts The Sims 3 and sung in Simlish. The song "Licked by Love" was used for trailer for movie Motorway.

The band is also loved by the fashion world and had supported from brands such as Prada, Ben Sherman, Cheap Monday, Topman, G-Star, and both agnès b. and Jean-Charles de Castelbajac for whom they have also performed at their fashion shows.

They have also produced a wide range of remixes for the likes of David Carretta, Zoot Woman, Puppetmastaz, The Chevin, Back Back Forward Punch, Tom Tom Club, Pet Shop Boys, The Ting Tings, Alt-J, Monarchy and most recently Say Lou Lou x Lindstrøm, Starwalker, Lana Del Rey and Citizens! . Their approach is often "mixing pop songs with a contemporary and edgy production".

The band can often be heard DJing around UK in places such as 1234 Shoreditch Festival, Proud Camden, KOKO, Queen of Hoxton, and Dalston Superstore and throughout Europe at the likes of Berghain and Razzmatazz.

Live performances[edit]

Even in their early years, The Penelopes band had already played in many major festivals such as Dour Festival, Sónar, Monegros, Santander, Garorock, Radio France Festival, MoMA PS1, and Transmusicales de Rennes. They had also supported Ladytron, Vitalic, and The Human League among others.

Other than France and UK, they have also played live across the world including Spain, Belgium, Sweden, Germany, Russia, USA, South America, Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Taiwan.

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

  • The Arrogance Of Simplicity (Citizen Records/Nocturne/P-Vine Records) (2007) - CD and digital download.
  • Choose: Arrogance, Simplicity or Both (Japan Limited re-release-P-Vine Records) (2008) - CD and digital download.
  • Priceless Concrete Echoes (Citizen Records/Module) (Side project) (2009) - CD and digital download.
  • Never Live Another Yesterday (Pour Le Monde/Absolute/Universal) (2012) - CD and digital download.

Remixes[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]