A month before their first album’s release, we had the chance to met Greg Gonzales, leader of Cigarettes After Sex. A perfect moment to talk about Paris, François Hardy and staircases.
How do you feel about Paris? We felt like this city and your music were made to match.
Greg Gonzalez (vocals): That’s great to hear! I love Paris, it becomes one of my favorite cities, and the artists that came from Paris. I’ve said that a lot but Françoise Hardy is my favorite singer and Erik Satie is huge influence for Cigarettes. It’s a very romantic city too. I like just walking down the street. It’s so intoxicating.
Did you took time to visit the city?
Greg: Yes but this time we didn’t have much time and usually we don’t have enough time but I had the chance to spent a full week here, last August. That was great. I went to Montmartre, to Pigalle. I had a great time to experience the city as a visitor and not as an artist in tour.
It’s pretty unusual to quote Françoise Hardy as your main influence.
Greg: Yeah I know! I saw her on a list of the greatest songs of the 60’s and I immediately fell in love with her song. After that I listened other of her songs, like “Voilà” for example. And then I bought her record called “La Question” and I thought “OK, this is one of the most beautiful record I’ve ever listened to”. It really devastated me how beautiful it was. And from that moment, I was totally obsessed with her and for the Cigarettes record, I tried to do something as beautiful as “La Question” is.
When did you discovered Françoise?
Greg: It was in 2008. Before the first official release of Cigarettes. It deeply changed our sound after that discover.
Can you tell us how did you start Cigarettes After Sex?
Greg: For me, it started as a solo project because I had this collection of songs that, I thought, went really well together. It was like real electro pop, some of them sounded like Madonna or 80’s singles! So I first release a 6 songs EP. And no one cared about so I deleted it! And then I release a 4 songs EP but this time it was more influenced by Joy Division, The Smiths and Jesus And Mary Chain, but I got sick of it so I deleted it too. Then I release a record called “Romance 39”, that people actually liked it. But I did the same process, I published it and I deleted it. And finally, in 2012, we did the EP and, finally it was good enough to no be sick of it after. We found the real sound of the band with this EP. The firsts releases was like practice. And only with the EP we felt that this was the way that the band should sound. It took a long time!
Why did you took 5 years between the EP and the album?
Greg: What happens is the EP was the best thing that I ever record in my mind. So I recorded many other things but I wasn’t satisfied about it. So I went to New York and I decided to start from scratch. It was a difficult time because I wasn’t recording a lot of music at this time, I was trying to make connections with people in the city, I was trying to survive! (laughs) It took a few years to have this band together, in the end of 2014 actually. So we start recording in 2015. And I finally found that it was at the same level as the EP. And that changed everything. We put “Affection” online it went viral. So we recorded the full LP right away. The reasons it took us so long is this whole last year was us touring a lot the find the success and talking to labels and music business people. We didn’t felt it was the best time to put out the record. And finally the LP is gonna be out very soon so we did it! But yes, it was very long between the EP and the LP! (laughs)
Wasn’t that frustrating?
Greg: Yes, it was a bit frustrating to have this album ready and not to release it. But in the same time, we had very good times touring, watching the buzz around our band growing up, playing those sold out shows all around the world. But you’re right, it was really frustrating to have this record that we couldn’t release. Usually, when I finish a song, I put it out right away. So it did feel weird but it was for the best. Finally I could check how good was the LP for me over time.
It was risky too, with your past, there was a chance that you finally throw it in the trash after a few months because you didn’t like it anymore!
Greg: Yes! (laughs) We are lucky! But in the end I still love that record.
So you already have the second LP recorded?
Greg: Not quite, we have more songs that we did from that session for the first LP I didn’t want to make a really long record. We recorded about 20 songs for the LP but I wanted a 40 minutes record, like 9 or 10 songs only. So there is more songs from this session that I think are good that we probably release maybe like at the end of the year or early next year. And then we’re gonna record the second LP yes.
Isn’t that too hard to keep the state of mind that you had when you record the LP almost 2 years after?
Greg: It’s a good question. I feel lucky enough now that the feels and the memories of the songs are real things that happened to me. So I can literally step back into it if I want. This happens on stage every night. When we play a song like “Care” or “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You”, I just close my eyes and see where I was when I wrote the songs. I feel lucky for that. You’re not imagining something, you’re just going back in memories.
So you’re going back in staircase we read.
Greg: Yeah! (laughs) I was working in a movie theatre years ago, and there were this staircase that sounds great. So I was like “we’re gonna record a song here” and we did it. It was that simple. It was for “Each Time You Fall In Love”.
Your music is really connected with cinema. Do you think your music as a movie or it’s just a coincidence?
Greg: I like to remember my memories as the same way as I remember a movie. With a cinematic feeling. So I don’t write music as a movie but when I write a song like “Sunset” for example, I do imagine how the sky is in my mind, what the weather was like or something. It’s more from memory technically, but it is cinema as well.
Would you be interested in recording music for a movie?
Greg: I’d love to. I’m a huge fan of great soundtrack. A soundtrack like “In The Mood For Love” has a huge influence in my life, it’s just beautiful.
Next summer you’re going to play in big festivals, in front of huge crowds, even if your music is pretty intimate. Are you scared of that kind of configuration?
Greg: It’s strange because, even if our music is pretty quiet and gentle, when we do play live in front of a lot of people, they sometimes singing and dancing very loud so it turns things in something very intense. But for us it’s the same, we’re playing those songs like we always do and people are free to react the way they want. We’re not a band that gonna tells to people how to act in front of us. If people want to dance on our music, they should dance. If they want to make love, they should make love!
How do you explain the link between your music and our country?
Greg: Obviously, I love french music. But I can’t really explain it, I just hope they feel the honesty in my music. And I think there are bridges between our cultures because we don’t sound like basic American music. But I also love music from Japan, Canada or Africa so. Yes I just think they are able to feel the honesty in music. You may don’t have to speak english to like it.
To finish: our website is called “RockUrLife”, so what rocks your life? You can’t answer Françoise Hardy.
Greg: (laughs) Oh OK! I would say… Just the travel. The travel is exciting. Being able to be in different cities and talk with people from different cultures is like the most exhorting things I’ve ever done in my life. I just feel so thankful for that, I feel like being a different person in a way, it gives you a certain energy.