“The power of music is beyond life.”
– Viktor Solf
On behalf of the band and after consulting their label, we decided to release the interview with Her right now. This silent and contemplative time of the year also should serve to wallow in memories and to remember and honour all the people who are no longer with us.
We met Viktor Solf and Simon Carpentier in April this year, before their sold out show in Berlin. From strong and independent women to Peaky Blinders and really deep quotes and poems, the french soul-pop duo has a lot to say. We hope you enjoy reading this interview as much as we did enjoy talking to Viktor and Simon.
How do you feel playing your first Berlin headline show and it’s already sold out?
Simon: Actually we played at Kantine am Berhain before and that was almost sold out. We were at the same high school and we studied German together. One summer we came to Germany for a vacation and we decided it would be cool to come back and play here.
Viktor: I was actually born in Germany, in Düsseldorf. So for me it’s also an emotional thing to play here.
Simon: But yes, so far it’s really cool. Our german audience is the second biggest. Last January we toured with AnnenMayKantereit for 5 gigs and this summer we are going to play some festivals – c/o pop (Cologne), Puls Open Air in Bavaria and Dockville in Hamburg. Last year we were at Reeperbahn Festival, that was so cool, so we hope to come back next year, we love Hamburg. We just never have enough time at the places we play. But we’re staying for some days in Berlin now so that’ll be exciting.
What are your main influences in music?
Simon: The main influence I’d say is American Black music, and we also listen to a lot of Kendrick Lamar, James Blake, Alabama Shakes. But we also listen to a lot of older stuff, like Jazz and Rock Vinyls like Frank Zappa.
Viktor: We started to really get into music when we discovered Blues and Jazz. I started playing Saxophone and guitar when I was 7. Thanks to Jazz and Blues we were inspired to start writing our own music and compose.
Simon: Blues and Jazz are the roots of every song you can listen to these days.
What are bands you listened to when you were growing up?
Viktor: When I was in high school I was in love with The Strokes. I wanted to dress and sing like them, like Julian Casablancas. And then with Simon we had a big crush on Foals, especially the first album. We listened to it all the time.
Simon: A few years ago we were really into Whitest Boy Alive. They’re based in Berlin. That is a great band, especially live. When I was in high school I was really into Hip hop.
The first EP you brought out was about relationships, meeting someone, falling in love and longing for someone. What is the story behind your second EP?
Simon: That’s more complicated. I would say it’s a bit deeper. We talk about women, femininity, love, but in different ways. Maternal love of a mother, or brother- and sister-love. We talk about all the strong and great women that influence us, in the songs ‘Queens’ for example. ‘Jeanie J’ is about the relationship between us and another band of two persons.
You’re using poetry, like different poems in different languages for your intros, especially on your second EP. What was the thought behind that?
Viktor: It was really simple. We asked our mothers to speak about their sons – the best way they can. My mother chose to tell a poem about our childhood and the mother of our sound engineer she chose to leave a message on the phone.
Simon: My mother talked about love. We used a phrase from a french psychologist. ‚Loving is to give something you don’t have to someone who doesn’t want it.‘ It’s quite a complex and deep definition of love.
Why did you choose that specific very special poem from Peter Handke for the interlude?
Viktor: One of the main subjects is the childhood and the relationship between a child and it’s mother. So in this poem there is a child that asks it’s parents things it doesn’t understand about the world, but are really obvious when you are a grown up.
On the first intro you had women’s speeches. For example Emma Watson and Nina Haagen. How did you come up with that idea?
Simon: We wanted this as a first take, instead of sound. With that we wanted to explain to the listeners what we wanted to say with the album. Every woman is different and with the different speeches we wanted to make clear that you have to see every woman as a different individual.
Simon: I was really touched by Emma Watsons ‘He For She’ speech. It teaches us that all men can add something to this movement. The UN even contacted us, and we were invited as the french ‘He For She’ ambassadors for the women march in Paris, because it was the 8th of march and the international day of women. We got the chance to go to a conference room, with a lot of other artists, in Paris and to talk about this subject.
Viktor: It encourages us to talk even more about that matter and also accept our femininity as men. So talk about the cliché that men are not allowed to cry or to express feelings. If you work on that you will also help to minimise the clichés about women.
Do you have any other idols?
Simon: Yes our mothers maybe. And there are so many women. With the song Queens we talk about idols actually. We wanted to put the light on strong woman in Black music history. Nina Simon or Aretha Franklin for example. Every woman that makes a difference. Even Angela Merkel. (laughs)
If you could pick another decade of music fashion or lifestyle. Would you go back in time, see what the future holds for you or see what the future holds for you?
Viktor: Because we also wear suits on stage, maybe we would go back in time. To see James Brown or The Temptations on stage. They were so fancy, so classy.
Simon: Maybe in a 20, 30 years people will look back at us and say ‚wow that was so cool‘.
Viktor: I was talking with a friend about the 90s. All the fashion back then with the baggy jeans, that was horrible. Jean Paul whu, I mean at that time you thought that was cool. So it’s really hard to tell now.
Simon: I would really love to go back to the 60s. The entire period seemed quite free and so many things were possible. That was a different time, less crisis, more possibilities.
Viktor: But I think now everything is similar. With the social media. Maybe in a few years we’ll talk about this time, that everything was possible.
Simon: Yes also music wise.
You are always very well dressed on stage with the fancy suits. Clean white shirts and gelled back hair. What influences you in the way you dress?
Simon: Black music again.
Viktor: Yes but also the English fashion of the 60`s, or even earlier. The Rolling Stones and The Beatles.
Simon: The Motown artist all had to be neatly dressed, and their hair shaved. James Brown, if he had a scratch or anything he got a fine. I mean you are a professional, you spend so much effort into your music, so it should also be the same amount of effort into your look. You are in front of people and you send a message.
Viktor: We are huge fans of ‘Peaky Blinders’, the British TV show. It’s about a gang in Birmingham between the first and second World War. They dress so well. They wear straight collars, they were separate from the shirt, I think that’s very fancy. Also the music on the TV show is amazing.
Simon: It’s Nick Cave, Arctic Monkeys, and so on. It’s really cool.
Viktor: Tom Hardy is in it!
Do you have any indispensable piece of clothing?
Viktor: What we really like are sneakers, even to our suits. I think we present a kind of street culture. It would look a lot more different if we would wear fancy leather shoes to our suits.
Simon: And it’s easier to dance! (laughs)
Viktor: …life. I’m definitely not the first person to say that. It’s maybe the best way to explain life, also the simpler way. Also for a guy that is a musician. We express ourselves.
Simon: Music is emotion!
Viktor: Yeah and as I said I’m not the first person to tell that. The first guy who said that was Sokrates or Platon, I’m not sure, but he said of course music, it sounds, it just get’s through you…
Simon: …a language. You could say talking through music. It’s music that makes us human.
Viktor: It’s a very good way to describe our humanity. When you hear a Mozart song, it’s incredible.
Simon: It goes beyond nationality and skin colour.
Viktor: The final song of Mozart ‘Requiem’, you can really tell that Mozart is dying, but that he wants this very song as a masterpiece. You can hear his weakness. The power of music is beyond life.
In memory of Simon Carpentier, who sadly passed away in August 2017, after fighting cancer for years. It was Simon’s wish that Viktor should continue their musical journey and so Viktor will do. From the bottom of our hearts, we wish Viktor and the band all the best. From their upcoming debut album to their unique sound and their passion for music, we’re sure that we’ll gonna hear a lot more of Her in the future and that they will share their love with us.
xx smoke and echoes