France-based folk duo Racoon Racoon are often compared to The Paper Kites, Fenne Lily or Imaginary Future, their honeyed harmonies are like two beautiful souls dancing between an acoustic guitar and fluttering violins.
The ten-year couple began to compose together when living in Belgium, in 2016 and soon released a first EP “Our Love’s Funeral” in February 2017 on the German label Majestic Casual Records. Early 2018, they released their second EP “Dawn Chorus”, written in the heart of the Italian Alps.
See our exclusive interview with them below:
Léa : Leonard has been playing and making music since he was a teenager, though he was more into teenage rock when he first began… But he was always influenced by The Beatles obviously, and artists like Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Townes Van Zandt… He’d always wished to create something in that register. So when we moved to Belgium in 2016 to work in a recording studio and brought with us nothing but an acoustic guitar, that was our chance to start creating this project.
Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when putting music together?
Léa : Our songwriting process varies from one song to another… The first EP was mainly written by Leo, because they were songs he wrote a long time ago, except for Our Love’s Funeral and Young Wolves. The second EP was written more equitably, and the third was mainly written by myself.
For us both, writing is something very personal, we almost never write together, side by side. The only song that was written this way is “A Wave of Goodbyes”.
We always need to be a bit far from each other, trying things on our own, looking for a spark, and when we have it, we are then ready to share with each other.
When we do, there’s always a fight “Nah I don’t like this, this yes, this no…”, and we eventually come to an agreement. That’s how we know a song is born 🙂
What are or were some of the challenges for you in producing or performing while keeping true to your vision of your music.
Leonard : The most complicated part for us had always been the acoustic folk guitar sound.
I’m still not happy with what we got so far, it was either too roomy, boomy, or the signal to noise ratio was shit.
So I’m still pursuing the quest of a nice and balanced fingerstyle sound, I’m confident we’re gonna get there one day !
Who are three musicians you think the world needs to hear right now?
Bedouine, whose soft voice and production is really soothing in these dark hours we’re all going through, Theo Lawrence who’s only 22 and sounds like some folk band from the 70s, really impressive work ! And then Andrew Bird and specifically his track Pulaski at night which we listen to on repeat because this track is just perfection. Voilà.
Studio work and music creation or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer?
Léa : Studio work is always more comfortable and secure than live performance… You have time, a thousand chances to do it right, there’s no risk, no pressure.
Live performance is the exact opposite, one time, one chance to do it the best you can.
We’ve rarely played live with Racoon Racoon, but every time we have, the reaction from the audience was really worth the risk. There are (almost) no emotions when you record in studio, it is “work”, whereas playing live doesn’t feel to be “work”, and that’s were the true passion unleashes !
Any “strange tales” or things that may have happened during a show that seemed too weird to be true?
Léa : As we just said, we haven’t had a lot of opportunities to play live yet (one was supposed to be next week on a Festival but obviously it’s been canceled…), but we are playing a lot of shows with the solo project of Léo called Camel Power Club, and I think we can both agree on our weirdest moment to also be one of the greatest : in Tecate Pal Norte in Monterrey, Mexico. It’s one of the largest festivals in America, it has 5 or 7 stages I don’t exactly remember, but something really out of this world, enormous.
We were booked on an Electro-DJ scene. Because we are playing live, and actually singing, we couldn’t plug the stage monitors that were placed behind us and could have caused larsen in the mics. The results was that we had zero feedback, so we played the whole show hearing more of the concert that was taking place in the biggest stage 500m behind us (I believe it was the 1975), than our own sound. And the worst thing is that you don’t know if your singing is in tune, and the only moment when you finally hear your voice you realize it is absolutely wrong haha… (Since then we’re using in-ears !) But the audience didn’t seem to care and was absolutely on fire, that’s why I think it was the best concert we played in the worst conditions ever !
Do you find that social media and keeping up with your fans has become overwhelming? Or do you rely heavily on others to take care of that for the band? Which platform would you say that you enjoy engaging with the most?
Léa : Social Media has indeed become a huge part of a band’s activity and communication… Especially Instagram. It can feel overwhelming at times, I think I’ve spent 2 or 3 months without posting almost anything since December, which felt great. It actually really depends on your mood and if you have things/news you wanna share. I think we shouldn’t force ourselves to post anything if we don’t feel like it, unfortunately, because of algorithms and all, you always have to be active if you don’t want to end up in the limbo… And that’s quite irritating.
Today if you take care of everything yourself, like we do, you almost spend more time creating materials for socials than actually creating music, so it’s a bit of nonsense to be honest… But one gotta play the game I guess !
What is the most memorable response you have had to your music?
Léa : One day, someone reached out from China, saying our songs were buzzing in a streaming platform we never heard of called NetEase, which is a kind of Spotify mixed with Twitter or Facebook… Meaning every listener can put a comment on a song, share it etc. So we looked into it and realized that our song Our Love’s Funeral had indeed several thousands of comments from people sharing their stories, either it was about break up, love, friendship, they were just sharing their lives, with nothing but kindness to each other. That was something incredible to discover ! I think it’s a marvelous feeling to realize your song actually doesn’t belong to you anymore because it has become something else, that has a special meaning in someone else’s life.
Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you in the near future?
Songs, songs, songs and songs ! And live sessions 🙂 We have a few singles we’re gonna release in the coming months, with an EP planned end of 2020. We also shot a couple Live Sessions with a super talented filmmaker called Danny Feng who lives in Berlin. We’re really looking forward to have these out ! The first will come out around mid April, for Deep Brown Eyes.
Famous last words?
“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” Mark Twain