Léo LeBlanc, Charles-Antoine Olivier (CAO) and Xavier Touikan, all from Zen Bamboo, are making a strong comeback after the group disbanded in 2020. Rather than feeling sorry for themselves, the three musicians got creative and got to work, leaving their past behind. They are now Blesse, and offer an abrasive pop-rock with hyperpop accents. Doesn’t the saying go new name, new start, new experiences, and new opportunities? PAN M 360 was able to chat with the three musicians about this transition and their first normal album, which will be released on March 24.
PAN M 360: To start, can you tell us about normal ? What are you addressing in this first album?
XAVIER: When we started, it was not long after the end of the other band, so the album encompasses a bit of that state of mind. It was quite an emotional moment for us, so we expressed those emotions. The album is a mix of that and anything else you can experience. As we are the three to write the songs, the subjects are a bit heterogeneous.
CAO: As Xav approached it, it was still a touching moment, because in our old group, we had a role as musicians for 7-8 years. Léo was a guitarist, I was a drummer, Xav was on bass, and we didn’t really deviate from that. Then when the band disbanded and we continued as three, the person who wrote the songs was gone. If we wanted to continue making music, we had to write. It was a touching moment to speak. We began to value our point of view on the world, on our emotions, on our life. It was like an artistic emancipation. It was prolific, because we saw life in a different way. It led us to transfer those emotions into the music and into our production technique, which evolved into a melting pot.
LEO: It was new stuff, songwriting, we had never done that before. We lived this experience in three, this novelty. Also, musically, there are a lot of things that we would have liked to try before, but that we hadn’t allowed ourselves. We seized this new beginning to try all the stuff we found exciting. It’s really like a breath of fresh air, we felt on a new wave, a new drive .
CAO: We listened to a lot of music too. We shared all our favorite albums of the last fifty years, and we searched for everything we loved the most in music. Then, we tried to constitute our language with that.
PAN M 360: How did the creation of the album go?
XAVIER : Often someone would come up with a little base of ideas, like lyrics and a few chords. Afterwards, we would get together and we would try to make the song directly. We spent hours and hours making really extensive demos that looked a lot like the final version. Then, there are lots of new things that were added. For almost all the songs, it ended up deviating from the original song. We can say that it’s an album that we discovered while making it.
CAO: The emotions that we experienced while making the demos, the arrangement and the production helped us to write the song. We then took an acoustic instrument and we could really solidify it. We already had oil in the engine to write them well. There was already a connection to how the song was going to sound, that helped us. We often went back and forth: we write a little, we arrange, then the arrangement gives us a new idea for the writing, and the writing gives us a new idea for the arrangement, until that form a coherent whole.
PAN M 360: Who does what in the process? How do you put your ideas together?
XAVIER: We all have our strengths and our weaknesses. We often work in what are called “shifts.” When someone has an idea, he goes to the computer and tries things out. We put a timer, and then we change shifts.
CAO: We work a lot from a computer and a MIDI keyboard. Basically, it’s a bit like carrying the studio with us. We are constantly in a methodology that recalls recording and the studio more than rehearsals. We don’t really play music together when we make an album; we work more by doing the arrangements on the computer, so we are more directors. We don’t limit ourselves to our instruments either; it can be me doing the drums once, then the other one it will be Xav or Léo.
Xav: Of course, when we recorded the album in the studio with Valentin Ignat, we played our basic roles quite a bit. CAO played almost all the drums, I pretty much played all the bass and Léo pretty much did all the guitars. But at the time of creation, everyone does what they want.
PAN M 360: So you each create on your own at the start?
CAD: Yes. When all the ideas are there, but it doesn’t sound like we want it, we’ll work in the studio with a director, we’ll redo the ideas we had and maybe push them even further. It’s sure that if you bring together four creative heads, there are new ideas that come up.
PAN M 360: How has this creative process changed since you moved from Zen Bamboo to Blesse?
LEO : It’s a 180 degree. With Zen, we edited the songs while playing our instruments. When we made the first demos for Glu , we had never done any before. It allowed us to understand that you can make demos. (laughs) Afterwards, with wounds, it was really our composition tool.
PAN M 360: We have already been able to listen to a few excerpts from normal, including the song “creusuercreuser” How did this collaboration with Sophia Bel come about?
XAVIER: We just thought it would be cool! (laughs) The song sounded a bit punk-rock, and it went so well with its aesthetic. We really like what she does.
CAO: The song was written with in mind a question of two characters who have the main voice and who exchange.
XAVIER: Basically, it was me and Léo who sang it, and there was already the concept of question-answer and the harmonized chorus. It was after that that we thought we could do a collaboration.
LÉO: We thought that if there was someone else of mine who was to sing it, it would be Sophia Bel! (laughs) It was like a stroke of genius. There was no other option. If she wanted it, it had to be her. Finally, when we did, it was even sicker than we thought.
PAN M 360: The launch of normal will take place on March 30 at Casa del Popolo. What can we expect from this show? How do you transport the album on stage?
XAVIER: We’re going to play the whole album. It should still sound like the album, with small differences. This is the process right now; since we didn’t really play it before, we have to work on it even more to adapt it live. There’s a lot of work to find answers to certain things, to make it sound as good as possible. I think you don’t know what to expect when you see the show. It is an approach that we are exploring. What I find interesting is to see how we manage to play these songs. We are just three in the band, but we recorded as if we were 200! (laughs)
LÉO: When we started making the songs in the studio, we didn’t want to compromise on the album to play it live. We just wanted to make the music we wanted to make. After that, we knew we were going to have to work with it.
CAO: We had to deal with the fact that we are not enough heads to play what is on the album. That’s kind of the main challenge, and what’s going to make it unique.
PAN M 360: How was the transition from Zen Bamboo to Blesse?
XAVIER : It was both hard and easy. It’s a band that we had for six years, it was a bit like a first love, so for sure it’s hard to part with that. But, on the other hand, there was some toxic stuff in there, so it was easy to get out of that and make the music we wanted to make.
LEO: At the beginning, it was difficult to realize that we had worked really hard on something that, suddenly, no longer existed. But it also allowed us to have this discipline in injuries. I think we worked harder on what we’re doing now than what we were doing before with Zen Bamboo. This transition motivated us to work hard.
CAO : It was beautiful at the same time, because it was a speaking out that we hadn’t had access to before. It led us to be plural artists.
PAN M 360: Finally, what do you envision for the rest of Blesse?
XAVIER: We want to do shows as much as possible, and keep making music. We never stop. There’s a lot of stuff like that that’s pretty new to us, so we’re really excited to see how it develops further in the future. It’s a world of possibilities that we see with new eyes.
CAO : We want to develop our sound again and again, and then become better authors.
LEO : I think we’ve reached the learning part of this project. This is one of the most important parts. We are always learning, we are moving forward. It’s really a great feeling.
The launch of the normal album will take place at Casa del Popolo on March 29 and 30. Tickets are on sale here !