Les Discrets – Silence Was Golden

Friday, 7th October 2016

Les Discrets mainman Fursy Teyssier is nothing if not honest. After two well-received albums of intelligent, swirling, post-metal/rock (2010’s Septembre Et Ses Dernières Pensées and 2012’s Ariettes Oubliées…), the man found himself short on inspiration, unable to write in the same vein. Rather than moving forward with phoned-in, sub-standard material, Teyssier openly admits to not being motivated to write. It was a quick foot on the brakes for a band who in pleasant company with Alcest, had emerged as one of the more viable acts on the French atmospheric metal front.

Now, after four years of tinkering, Teyssier is releasing the four-song Viree Nocturne as a way to get people settled into the band’s new direction. And yes, it is a change and a noticeable one at that, with the metallic elements virtually nil, replaced by an experimental angle that resembles art-rock staples Massive Attack and Radiohead. Simply put: either you’re along for the ride with Les Discrets, or you can get off, but Teyssier is onto other things…

Dead Rhetoric: You released two (excellent) albums in a short amount of time, but it’s been four years since you’ve released any new material. Was this break intentional?

Fursy Teyssier: No, the long break wasn’t intentional but after Ariettes Oubliées, I felt bored with composing the same stuff again and again. Sure, I tried for a while to compose songs in the same style, but I really did not enjoy what I played and it was really upsetting me. At some point, I found a weird riff very unusual for me, tried for fun to add a drum machine very Massive Attack-like and a synth bass. And something happened in me at this moment…I knew I got something. I understood later that what I needed were new goals, fresh air, new perspectives, new emotions. So for each song I composed afterwards, I fixed myself a rule: if I didn’t feel this excitement, this feeling of doing something new, I had to abandon it. And that’s what I did. After three years in the making, I decided to record the album. I had 22 songs and ended with nine. I needed to experience studio in a new way too, so I moved for four months in the countryside, in winter, installed my studio and recorded there by myself. One year later, I went into a studio to mix it with a new producer. I needed time in between to finish the vocals, and really make sure the album was the way I wanted. During the mix, I changed some songs again, etc. Now it’s done and I must admit that I’m super happy it’s over now. It’s been such a huge work, much more work that the previous albums. The album is called Prédateurs and will be out in January next year.

Dead Rhetoric: To that point, the band really started to take flight six years ago, which feels like yesterday. Do you hold that particular time with any degree of reverence?

Teyssier: It’s been six years, yes, and I feel it’s been ages. I keep on being busy and I work a lot. Be it for music, animated films, bands artworks or private life, I’m always doing several things meanwhile thinking to what will be next! So well, everything looks so far away now. The only thing I see is that I’ve gray hairs and 10 kilos more and that pisses me off ha-ha.

Dead Rhetoric: At this point in your life, where does the band rank in terms of priority?

Teyssier: I would have never imagined that, but that’s my top priority. I sacrifice almost everything for music and the only thing that really makes me excited and happy is when it’s related to music. I can be bored with animated films, I can be bored with band artwork, but I could keep doing music every day. I often consider quitting other activities and making a living out of it, but it’s almost impossible in these days.

Dead Rhetoric: Being that you’re an artist, does your regular work still influence the band, and the other way around?

Teyssier: Cinema inspires me a lot, but my regular work does not. The more I go, the more I have pictures in mind for my music. The more I see films and pictures when I play. This is why I worked with a British photographer called Chris Friel. When I was looking for random pictures of animals, I found his work and I really felt a stronger connection between my music and his pictures than with my own work ha-ha. I totally felt in love with it. So much strength, beauty, darkness. I feel so connected to his work that I proposed him a collaboration. The next Les Discrets album is 100% his artwork. I met him in London and he’s a marvelous being which really made the whole experience so nice!

Dead Rhetoric: Surely you know how the metal scene works – when you move away from it, people get upset. Are you worried as to how the new EP will be received?

Teyssier: Two years ago, I thought I’d lose all the fans and get only new ones. But now that I listen to my album with distance, I’m very confident. And people who listened to it told me the same. The very core of Les Discrets is definitely still there. The shape slightly changed but the melodies and emotions remain. So people who like the old Les Discrets will like the new one, I know it. And some people even told me it’s by far the best album. So, we will see in the future. I at least feel Les Discrets has it’s own wings now, free of the influences of post-rock, post-black something. It’s even darker than the older albums. Much much darker. Additionally to that, metalheads are very faithful to music, but they certainly are not idiots. They listen to music with their guts. They are passionate. And I love this. The metal scene is surprising. I love it. I’m so proud to be part of it, even if I don’t consider myself as a metalhead at all.

Dead Rhetoric: You’ve always employed a wide range of sounds + influences, so frankly, the direction on Viree Nocturne isn’t much of a surprise to these ears. Did you find it liberating to go in a new direction?

Teyssier: Yes, definitely. What you say is what I noticed recently. When you listen to Les Discrets, there is a lot of influences from very different worlds, and I didn’t get they were that much present in the previous works. But they are, definitely. When you compare “Après L’Ombre,” “Song For Mountains,” “La Nuit Muette” and “Ariettes Oubliées II,” it’s surprising he he! I recorded that third album thinking I was doing something SO different, but I wasn’t. Les Discrets just lost the distorted guitars and double drums, that’s all!

Dead Rhetoric: Because the material is less guitar driven and more open, it’s really allowed for your vocals to take shape. Do you feel like you’ve progressed much as a singer?

Teyssier: That is definitely the “thing” of this album. Vocals. Loud, very present, very arranged, very contrasted. I think I progressed a lot yes, by listening to a lot of different styles of music and by not giving a shit anymore to the “beauty” or perfectly tuned vocals. I don’t sing well, I don’t sing in tune and my vocals tremble when holding a note, yes. And that’s how I sing and that’s how I like to sing. But it’s honest and it’s me. And I want this. So technically yes I progressed, but moreover I reconsidered the whole concept of singing. And I feel free about this now. Old albums were corrected like crazy and I regret it so much. What gives emotion is the emotion that you give when you sing. Not the perfect note. People are obsessed in these days by perfection. Replaced drums, replaced guitars and bass to fit the tempo grid, auto tuned vocals, everything is perfect. But perfection is so annoying. Mistakes make art. Only mistakes. That’s why the music and production of the past decades is interesting. Not because of the warm sound of the vinyl’s, no, just because people played with guts and let mistakes in the recordings. And those mistakes make all the charm.

Dead Rhetoric: Now having done the EP, what will the direction of your next full-length be?

Teyssier: The EP is just an opening to the album Prédateurs that will be released in 2017. We decided to release the EP very early to let people get into the new style slowly. I needed time to make it and I want people to get slowly into it. As for the one after this one? If that was the question, no idea! I will look for that feeling of being excited to explore new areas, that’s all I know.

Dead Rhetoric: Finally, what’s on your agenda for the rest of 2016?

Teyssier: In 2016 nothing, except the filming of a music video for Les Discrets. In 2017, we plan to tour Europe and possibly the U.S. too. Bookers are welcome to get in touch with us.

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Photo credit: Andy Julia