Yelle singer Julie Budet calls the production of the band's third album completely crazy, from changes in musical direction and recording studios to getting to work with producer Dr. Luke (Katy Perry, Robin Thicke, and Britney Spears). There was so much crazy that Yelle decided to title its third album "Complètement Fou." The French-language release is best appreciated with the Yelle Translator app, which toggles between French and English lyrics. I chatted with Julie Budet about the musically diverse album and the tour, working with Dr. Luke, being buried in blue popcorn, whether she'll ever write in English, and why she's traded peeping in people's windows for Instagram.
When you began work on this album, how did the musical direction come to you?
In the beginning of 2012, working in cold and rainy Brittany, we had an idea in our mind. We wanted to sound really cold and really minimal, and we actually had pictures in our mind of a party under water. But when you have something in your mind, it sometimes doesn't happen how you think it will. We had some songs we were working on, and Dr. Luke -- who discovered us from a remix we did for Katy Perry a couple years ago -- came to see us in concert in 2011. We didn't know who he was or what kind of music he was doing, but we had the chance to get in touch with him, so one day we chatted. He asked us to do music with him. We took demos with us to Los Angeles and started working with Luke and his team. The idea we had at the beginning -- it actually disappeared really quickly, because when you are working somewhere, it's really important for your inspiration. So when we arrived in Los Angeles, it was sunny and warm -- totally different. So our mood totally changed and we were really into happy music and wanting to have fun. It's a crazy story where everything changed after this connection with Luke. It's a real quest, and you find answers when you're traveling, looking for something. It really helped us to travel and spend some time in LA and work in a different way than we did on the two first records. We just realized that we really like to do the happy and dancey music, even if we are talking about deeper and sad things.
Each song seems to have a different musical style, from R&B to house to hip-hop.
I'm listening to lots of different things. For example, I've been obsessed with Nicki Minaj. I really liked her for a long time, but I wasn't really aware of all the things she could do. I think she's talented in so many different ways. She can sing and deliver strong emotions through her music. At the same time, I was listening to Sting's "best of" with my family and was like, wow, it's so crazy to see how his music is so complicated and inspired by different styles of music. You could hear some really strong rock drum solos sometimes, and sometimes it's really more world music. In my everyday life, I'm really inspired by pop, house, and rap. I grew up listening to Snoop Dogg and at the same time Spice Girls, Blur, and Michael Jackson -- but also jazz and French music, because my parents were listening to them. So it's really important to us not to stay in the pop case, but to be inspired by different styles of music and have little details in our songs. I think it's a good reflection of what I like in music.
Speaking of Sting, what you said earlier about recording the album in the US made me think of Sting's "Englishman in New York" track. When you're in the US, do you feel like a foreigner or at home? I'm a very French person, so I do feel like a stranger when I'm in the US. Everything is different for me, and not just the food and the landscape. It's more deep. It's another way of thinking, but sometimes after spending time in a city, I really feel comfortable or like I could really be part of this country, because I can feel something really simple, which sometimes is not as simple in my country. There's a chance for everybody. If you want something, you have the chance to try. If you work, you can really do something in the US. But I still feel that I'm a stranger, because I have it deeply in me that I'm a French girl.
I love your new album cover. It looks like you're submerged in blue popcorn.
I was really submerged in blue popcorn. It was fresh painted, so the smell was hard and tough. I think 'cause of toxic stuff in the paint, I was a little bit high. It was an experience, but it was really cool to do it.
I'm sure it represents water, but why popcorn?
[Yelle co-founder and key composer] GrandMarnier had the idea of the popcorn. He was thinking of an idea that can represent the US and France, like maybe an object, and the popcorn appeared. Maybe for us, in France, the popcorn is something very American. In France, corn is something we can see in every countryside. So he had this idea, and we liked the idea that it could be fun to emerge from a lake of popcorn. We wanted something strong with the colors, and you can't really find blue popcorn.
We realized we wanted to have my face, because on the first record, I was far from the photographer; on the second album, I was hidden by a hat; here I'm still hiding behind lots of popcorn. You can see my face a little bit more, but you can't see anything else. It's probably a good image to think about the meaning of the songs. I think on this new record, it's probably more me, my emotions, my most personal album, but I'm still really shy and still don't want to show this part of me. So it's a good image of this new record -- come closer, but for the moment I won't show you my real feelings.
What does the title "Complètement Fou" mean to you?
It's the story of this album. We were looking for a title. We had that song, and Luke is saying those two words, and this is the story of the album. It's a crazy meeting, a crazy human adventure. We are just a little French band, and we are working with one of the biggest US producers. I don't know why or how it happens, but I'm really happy about it, proud of it, and it's just the result of this crazy adventure.
Check out the official "Complètement Fou" video:
How are Americans who don't speak French supposed to appreciate all the personal emotions that you write about on this album?
I just want to make people happy with my music and provoke some reaction and emotion. I want to make them laugh, cry, and dance, of course. But if they are curious, they will try to understand -- try to translate the lyrics. If they just want to have fun on the melodies, that's OK for me, because there's still the rhythm and the melody, and I'm sure people can have fun or like the song without the deep meaning.
Considering your sizable US fan base, will you ever release an English-language album?
Not for the moment. I think I really like to express myself in French. It's really important to me, because it's so important to find the good words and the good rhymes and to have the good combination. And my English is not really good, especially when it comes to writing a song in English. But it's OK, 'cause we still can tour the US and still have a crowd here. It's also our thing. We're the French band, singing in French, and traveling the world. I like it like that.
Which apps do you like?
I'm spending a lot of time on Instagram, because I'm really curious about people's lives. I like to do that all the time. When I'm walking on the streets at night, I like to see inside the houses. That's crazy, huh? I like it so much. Instagram is another way of doing it. I'm using a lot of news apps, but the one I use every day is Liberation, based on a newspaper here in France. I'm not into astrology, but I have an app called Astrology Zone. I'll check it three or four times a week, and sometimes after the day to see if it was right about my day. Most of the time I have some good feedback. I'm playing a little bit on my iPhone, and actually I have two games that I really like. The first is Safari Party, and I downloaded it on the first record 'cause of the name. It's really simple and funny, and I like to play it on tour. I love Sudoku. Right now I'm in my house in Brittany and checking the tides every day to check the good moment to swim at the beach. So I'm looking at Tides Planner, which gives you the hour of the tides.
Watch a demo for the Yelle Translator app: