"There is this kind of musician in Brazil - their ultimate goal is to explain what happens when the sun goes to sleep".
Sleeve Notes is a new series where we pick an artist and get them to make a themed mix. This week: Sébastien Tellier, whose sixth album L’Aventura comes out in July, discusses his love of Brazil and its care-free culture.
You’ve described L’Aventura as a concept album and that you wanted to ‘re-write’ your childhood - why did you want to ‘re-write’ it?
I tried to imagine the perfect childhood in Brazil with a lot of music, dance and sun. I had a lot of problems in my childhood - it was a very average, regular one, but my own vision of that was very dark. I hated school, I hated authority, I hated sports like judo. My wish was to drive the car not just sit in it. I want to forget all of the darkness from the past and it's only now that I can think about the future.
Are there no bits from your childhood that you want to keep? Do you want to erase all of it?
Yes. The past is really heavy, actually. I really try to forget it. I try to forget my mistakes; by forgetting the past, you give a chance to the future, and for me it’s really important to live without the past because my brain is so unstable. The only good way for my brain to work is to think about the future.
But didn’t the past make you what you are today?
Yes but I’m not thinking ‘oh Sébastien Tellier you’re a great guy’, I think I have a long way to go before being perfect. That will never happen of course, but there is a way to try and reach perfection. I had very savage teenage years; I was a complete freak. It took me a very, very long time to become an adult. Maybe my past built me, but I’m not very proud of its construction.
In what way were you a freak?
For example on the weekend, the goal was to drink as many bottles of vodka as possible, and create a space in the middle of the forest and take LSD. There was too much drugs, I want to forget that. I have a song on L’Adventura called “Ricky L’Adolescent” (Ricky the Teenager), which is a story about me now and I meet me but when I was fifteen. I hate the person I meet and I never want to see him again.
Why did you want to base the re-written childhood in Brazil?
The Brazilian people love to play like children - they play guitar, they sing, they dance, they play football. Until they die, they love to play. For me it’s very important to live like that because in Europe, the goal is to pretend to be serious. But in Brazil if you want to win, the best way is to have fun. I like this way of thinking - that’s why I chose Brazil - all Brazilian people stay as children until they die.
So that’s something you want?
It’s only a dream. It’s an album from a French musician dreaming about Brazil. I don’t try to discover the social basement of Brazil or understand anything like that - I try to make naive art. I talk about my subject like a child. Okay I’m attracted by this country, I like it, the people are super nice and the nature is beautiful but that’s it. I don’t like to be realistic. Even in learning Brazilian music, my influence was French music trying to be Brazilian music, like the song “Paroles Paroles” by Dalida. I love seeing artists dreaming about something so far, far away.
Have you been to Brazil yourself?
The first time was on tour for Sexuality, and during that time I discovered great music, the best music I’ve ever heard. It was in the car between the airport and the hotel - the taxi driver played some shit on the radio and it was fantastic. For me, it was a mirror image of myself. Brazilian music is very complicated, the chords and harmony, but the goal of the complicated music is a simple emotion - like I’m crying or I’m dancing or I’m happy. And that’s exactly what I am myself in my mind and body. I feel something complicated because I’m a complicated artist, but I use all of that energy for entertainment. I just want to give pleasure to people. It was fantastic to recognise my own personality in Brazilian music.