SBTS Interview

GEOFFROY – ALTERED STATES & EXPLORATION | The SBTS Interview

May 9, 2017

Geoffroy | Photo: Marc-Étienne Mongrain

Geoffroy is an explorer. His music is a kaleidoscopic blend of cultural influences, world music samples and smooth, electronic pulses within a tripped-out haze. Coastline, his newly-released, first full-length album, was inspired by the music and experiences of his travel adventures. His latest music video for “Sleeping On My Own” depicts Geoffroy experiencing a temazcal ceremony in Mexico as a shaman leads him through a spiritual journey. Simultaneously exploring his consciousness and a spectrum of musical styles, Geoffroy has crafted a record that reflects his love of exploration and speaks to his unique artistry.

Coastline captures the essence of Geoffroy’s wanderlust spirit. Documenting the struggle to end his relationship, the album explores the tumultuous dichotomy of wanting both stability and complete independence. Weaving intimate lyrics into vast, emotionally heavy soundscapes, Montréaler Geoffroy is one of the most exciting electronic artists in the Canadian indie music scene. “I’m a big African music fan, Senegalese music fan,” says Geoffroy. “That’s my long-term dream – to do the kind of Paul Simon Graceland record but in my kind of taste.”

Geoffroy sat down with Stories Behind The Songs before his show at Canadian Music Week and talked about the creativity of altered states of consciousness, the inspiration behind the songs on Coastline, and performing the album in front of his ex.

  You’ve said that your experiences traveling reveal themselves in your music. Do certain tracks on Coastline sound like certain places for you?

Geoffroy:  Yeah, I kept having this image of the Pacific Northwest when I was composing and listening to the first drafts of the album. Like, forest-y, Oregon, B.C.-ish images just came back and came back. I wrote the song “Coastline” out of that feeling and then I was like, “Fuck, the album should be that.” But when you travel, you live a lot and you meet a lot of people and you take in a lot and I think it just unconsciously comes out when you’re writing at home and it’s quiet and memories and feelings and moments that you had kind of build the story also.

In your song “Trouble Child” there are these beautiful intro vocals. What were they inspired by?

 

G:  Yeah, punjab. We were in a Jai Paul kinda vibe. We had a Jai Paul kind of reference and the Drive soundtrack – the Kavinsky soundtrack – with the heavy, driving bass. I was like, “We need to mix those two and have like, a bhangra drum” and we looked for samples. I just like the feel of bringing some world music into this slowly, slowly because that’s my favourite of all time – world music. Especially with percussions – they just do it better.

When you were writing the album, did you intentionally create soundscapes that capture some of your experiences in different places?

 

G:  I can’t… I’ve never done that. I’ll listen to the song and then I’ll sing a top line of the melody and some words will fumble out of my mouth. Maybe one word will make sense and I’ll build around that and unconsciously what I’ll have written down will be something that makes sense with what I’m feeling and then I’ll build on that. So I’ll go with the melody first of how the lyrics are going to sound and then I’ll put words to the sounds and then go on rather than saying, “I want to write about my time there.” That’s hard. I’m not there yet. I hope I can do that later instead of like, vomiting some words.

  Well, I think it’s interesting that the music comes to you first.

 

G:  Well… because, how it sounds is the most important to me but it’s also very important that it makes sense and that the lyrics are not too easy in a way. But the pleasure that the sound of the voice gives you is more important to me than what the story behind it is at first.

  So do you consider your lyrics really personal?

 

G:  Yeah! Yeah. [Coastline] is a lot about my past relationship. My ex-girlfriend knew [that] and she cut it off completely. She was like, “I’ll hear it when it comes out.” But, no matter what, I’d feel flattered to be the subject of the work and it’s not all bad. It shows the tension and the mind-fuck of the stress that it causes and that’s for a good reason.

  Has she heard it? How did she respond?

 

G:  Yeah. She cried the whole launch. She first listened to it live at the launch show with the whole family. I’m good friends with the whole family and she was like, bawling her eyes out with this big smile because of the pride of seeing it all come out.

How does it feel now that the record has been released?

 

G:  Now I can jam and think of new songs but quietly, without pressure. Because there is a lot of pressure when you say you’re making an album. There’s a record label asking for dates and it’s stressful unconsciously. I realized afterwards.

Geoffroy | Marc-Étienne Mongrain

  You experienced a temazcal for the “Sleeping On My Own” video. Did that experience affect your self-awareness or your artistry?

 

G:  Well, for a temazcal, they put you in a big cave and they heat up medicinal plants and they rub honey all over your body. It’s like a steam bath and you stay there for 30 minutes until you like, can’t take it anymore. When you get out, the shaman rubs mud all over your body and gives you a crazy-hard massage and there’s hot water and cold water so after, you’re really super mellow and you’re reborn. That’s what they say. Your body is purified and you purify your mind with a shrooms tea. The whole process drains your energy completely but the next morning you feel great. Every time I do shrooms I answer the questions that have been running around in my mind for months.

 

  Can you talk about your song “Pusherman”? What did that song come from?

 

G:  So I usually start with whatever comes out in the studio and what came out was “Pusherman / Call my one and only friend” which is just about getting so lost and deep in the drugs and you’re losing your girl and you end up alone with the drugs and that’s it. The first verse is about feeling trapped and feeling like you need to get out and you’re not good with the commitment and decision that you made. The second verse is about the panic of “Oh shit, I’ve lost this. I’ve gone too far, I need to go back home. Will you take me back when I come back?” I felt it captured very well what is always in my brain – that constant battle.

  I noticed that lyrical theme in “Raised By Wolves” which I immediately took as a self-declaration or a personal anthem for you. The verses are full of strength and independence but then the chorus is this aching repetition of “I neeeeeeed your love.”

G:  Yeah, it’s about being transparent and about what I think I am. Again, that battle between feeling confident that I can be strong and independent and then going back after and being like, “Naaaaahh.”

  A lot of the lyrics on the album revolve around that idea.

 

G:  Yeah, it’s pretty much in all of the fucking songs. (laughs) This record was written during a breakup. Soaked In Gold was written when I met the girl that I was with so it’s upbeat and sexual and then Coastline is more about the introspection and the thought process behind wondering, “Do I really want to be in a relationship? What do I really want?”

  Regarding your first EP, Soaked In Gold, you’ve said that it was just the tip of the iceberg. What did you mean by that?

 

G:  Well I did Soaked In Gold with Max [Max-Antoine Poulin Gendron] – who’s the producer who worked with me on that – as a test, like a first draft, and it felt like a first draft for me. We released it just to release it because we’d done it. I was like, “Ah, I’ll see what happens.” Nothing was planned, nothing was carefully polished or anything so it was very raw and it was my first experience with a release and everything. I just meant that I have a lot more in me that I can prove and that I can write, compose, produce… It’s just the first album out of many, I think. And not just electronic. I’m a big African music fan, Senegalese music fan, so that’s my long-term dream – to do the kind of Paul Simon Graceland record but in my kind of taste.

  When did your relationship with music begin?

 

G:  Michael Jackson in the car with my parents. I was obsessed with “Beat It”. It started there and then I was obsessed with music. I started piano lessons, dropped the lessons, got a guitar, got drums, came back to piano and then got a band when I was in my teenage years. The guys I’m playing with tonight were the guys in my band. We were like, emo punk-rock. Like Blink-182. After that I had enough of screaming and distortion and went back to acoustic guitar – like a Jack Johnson kind of thing – and then discovered like… everything, from 16 onward.

  You play keys now – what took you away from the piano when you were younger?

 

G:  When I started listening to hip-hop I was like, “Piano is useless” (laughs). I stopped at 11 when I got into Dr. Dre and didn’t realize that piano was the base of everything.

  You first started performing live when you were 20-years-old, living in Greece and doing three-hour sets of covers. When did you start writing your own music?

G:  Yeah, that was when I was in Ios – it’s a crazy party island. Um, even then I had started writing. The songs were crap but you know, it takes a while to find what you want to write about, to find a style, not be too cheesy or direct but not be too abstract either. I don’t know if you ever find your style, also. It’s a matter of if it works for you. If you understand what you want to say then fuck it because lyrics… you overthink them. You overthink, you overthink, you overthink, so at some point you just need to cut it and say, “I’m happy with this. It makes sense for me. I understand what I want to say so… fuck the world.” (laughs)

Geoffroy | Marc-Étienne Mongrain

Geoffroy has been featured in the SBTS Playlist Series. Listen to Geoffroy on WANDERLUST.

Follow Geoffroy:

Instagram: @_geoffroy

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