JEN, a Paris-based french duet, formed in 2018 by Alexandre Trautmann (guitar/vocals) and Pier-Paolo Gault (drums/vocals), two friends who desperately looked for bandmates that accept playing a music that is either terribly noisy either terribly sentimental, but couldn’t find anyone else to complete their perfect love triangle. Soaked in DIY ethics and lo-fi aesthetics, their debut EP “Vœu pieux” serves as a multi-faceted, distinct, carefully crafted album and a promising introduction to JEN’s craft. Today, we’re celebrating its recent release with the band’s special commentary, track by track rundown and a special list of best underrated alternative / undergroudn bands in France.
“We have decided to make the perfect songs to cry at night on the pillow” – says the band.
Asked about the concept behind their project, they explained: “Our name JEN comes from Confucius’ philosophy and offers a background to the general feeling we have when we play together: we try to be as much as we can humble and honest. That is to say, as it goes in Confucius’ “Jen”, to know your position between “Heaven and Earth”; not to think yourself taller, stronger than you are. For us, if everyone could realize that, the world would be far better in every way.”
“In French, “voeu pieux” means something like an unrealisable wish, but in which you keep believing: a sort of a vain but pious prayer.” – they continue. “It suited well with our first EP as we started from scratch in terms of production of music. Yet, we still wanted to get started despite this obstacle. So, we tried to reach the best music we could in terms of both creation and production. Then, thanks to a strong belief in DIY ethics and lo-fi aesthetics, we finally made it. The result is these four tracks we are proud of.”
“On the other hand, the ideals of JEN and other stuff we try to express in our music are rather “idealistics”, and we are aware of that. A lot of our lyrics are unrealizable dreams that only exist here, on the record. In our music, we mourn our ideals, yet we continue desperately to believe in them : “Voeu pieux” were definitely proper words to intitle our EP.”
Looking into 2021, they conclude: “We wait impatiently for the end of the lockdown to make our first shows. If we don’t find a drummer till then, we will find a way to work live as a duet!” – they conclude.”
Track by track commentary
Snow : It is quite classical in its structure. The purpose was to be melodic and accessible but using chords that induce a sort of melancholy. The song came naturally by thinking about the future or enjoying our smallness in front of nature with the ones you love. It simply refers to the moments where nothing happens. When you just have to close your eyes and enjoy the silence.
To Join the Sun : The longest song of the EP, based on the repetition and evolution of a riff that came out during a lonely night. It opens with an acoustic guitar and voice. The general mood is melancholic, nearly suicidal in fact : the speaker confesses his issues of communication, and his decision of leaving to reach the sun. The song then becomes instrumental, and gains in intensity with a powerful crescendo, yet the song has no real climax : at the end, the speaker comes back to tell his failure.
Eye Contact is the shoegaze track of the EP, because it’s noisy, vaporous, and it’s a love song ! It tells a story that everyone can relate to. Begin a guy at a party, surrounded by assholes, who suddenly makes eye contact with a girl ; with this contact he finally finds a true and authentic feeling. He falls in love at first sight, and tries with difficulty to tell her what he feels. At the end of the song, the love story gets more intense but also more dramatic. We wanted here to be a bit cynical. Because, even if we think that those feelings and ideals of love are nice, they are also unrealisable, it only exists in dreams, fantasies, music and art. When you think about it, all these shoegaze themes are in fact pretty scary.
Let It Blast – The song is divided in two parts, because it tells the story of someone who is very frustrated because he is keeping all his emotions inside. The first part is calm. Then, the song gets noisy : the man has lost control and gone mad and all his frustration is coming out at a glance.
Underrated French bands tips:
First, Cosmopaark. One of the greatest if not the best shoegaze band actually in France. Their debut EP Sunflower is great, with a huge sound and still their songs are rejoicing in a way that brings sunlight into dark grey clouds.
In a more metal vibe (cause we like many metal bands too): Brusque, a doom metal duet of Paris “worshipping despair as an act of catharsis”, according to their own words. And we swear : it works pretty good. They released their first EP What’s Hidden Devours in April 2020. Brusque is the french version of Neurosis.
Worhs: A duet, again!
Worhs is maybe the only queer black metal band on earth. They released the awesome “Plus dure sera la chute” in March 2020. https://worhs.bandcamp.com/album/plus-dure-sera-la-chute
Montagne: a stoner doom metal trio of Paris. They just released their first album and it is great!
[see IDIOTEQ feature HERE]
Dark Days: A post hardcore/emo band which just released a great second album. The production is cool and possesses this balance between bitterness and hope.
And of course, Pier-Paolo also plays drums in two other bands rather gazy: Do Lung (psych noise) and Sugar Pills (indie queer). It was hard not to mention them here!
As well as Sublunar Express, the band of our buddy living in Montréal, a psych rock trio, very important for us. After releasing their debut album in 2019, they released Rook, a homemade double single in august 2020.