Slanted & Enchanted: The Shoes
The Shoes is the production and songwriting team of childhood friends Guillaume Brière and Benjamin Lebeau.
Remember their 2011 hit “Time to Dance”? The one with the cinematic video where Jake Gyllenhaal plays a sociopath killer who goes clubbing?
Along with releasing two studio albums, Scandal (2009) and Crack My Bones (2011), the French duo has worked with fellow Gumlabel signee Woodkid on his album The Golden Age, as well as making prominent remixes for the likes of Shakira, Pharrell and Cerrone, among others.
Following the singles “Feed the Ghost,” “Give it Away” and “Drifted,” the Shoes are set to drop their newest album, Chemicals (out Oct. 2 in Europe and Oct. 10 in North America) which includes featured spots by Petite Noir, Sage, Esser and others.
We met up with Benjamin and Guillaume in Paris, where we played a round of Slanted & Enchanted, sharing quite a few laughs along the way.
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How do you explain your music to your grand parents ?
Guillaume: First of all my grandmother can’t say our name properly, she says “Thé Shoooooose” [thé is tea in French]. But in another hand, she’s so proud of me that she only says positive stuff like, “Oh that’s so good, my boy.”
Benjamin: I don’t think they really understand anything about it but it doesn’t matter, they’re happy for us.
What is the worst advice you ever been told since you’ve started ?
Guillaume: Dump your wife and try to get an actress.
Benjamin: Stop making music and stay with me.
And the best?
Benjamin: Make music, then dump me![laughs]
What would you have done if you didn’t make music?
Benjamin: Honestly, nothing. I have no idea. I would probably have found something I guess, but I don’t know what. This may be the only thing I’m good at!
Guillaume: Well, it’s mainly the only thing we know how to do, I would say. And we’ve been lucky enough to have always been surrounded by people that support us, help us and allow us to only make music, which is a such a fortune. We’ve started at 17, and we’ve only been doing this since, so we never really ask ourselves.
What is the first thing you’ve done this morning?
Guillaume: Put my alarm on snooze.
Benjamin: [Momentary pause to hold himself from saying something gross, as Guillaume laughs.] I walked my dog. I swear that’s true!
You have a song called “Feed the Ghost.” What would you offer a ghost to eat?
Benjamin: Cigarette butts, bogies, toenails… and everything you can find I guess.
The album has so many featured artists on it. I assume you don’t know how to sing? Have you thought about taking singing classes?
Together: Well, we didn’t wait for you, mademoiselle. We did it! We had that issue as many other electronic producers have: How do you do on stage when the “featurings” aren’t there with you? So we ended up choosing to reinterpret the songs our way.
Guillaume: We worked so much the past year – taking singing classes, buying new material – to be ready to sing on stage. But if we do a third album we probably won’t sing on it either. It’s only for the stage. It’s a way to live the life of our music. But of course some of them will occasionally jump on stage with us, depending on possibilities and opportunities.
Who couldn’t come to sing on your album?
Benjamin: Syd Barrett but that’s just because he’s dead.
Guillaume: I personally would love some more rap. But we realize that The Shoes is really branded “pop” with melodies and stuff and it probably wouldn’t work if we go hip-hop, but that’s great the way it is !
So I’ll probably do it on a solo project or something. But Benjamin would collaborate, that’s for sure. I would have loved to have American rappers. Of course, [humble tone] we’re not even close to dreaming about it, but Drake, Future, A$ap Rock… that would be sooooooo… I recently made a song with Woodkid and A$ap Ferg and it made me really want another experience like that.
What’s your favorite pair of shoes ?
Benjamin: A good old pair of high, red Dr. Martens. Classic.
Guillaume: Air Max 90, infrared. Pro G.
What is the most absurd thing you’ve ever done during a recording ?
Benjamin: Ha! For this record, we took a balloon, blew it up and then used that biiiiiiiiiiiipwooooiiiin sound you make when you keep the end within your fingers to let the air go slowly out. You see? Biiiiippppppwwwwooiiiiinnnnn. We recorded that sound as an instrument in our synths and we actually used that sound on the entire record! There’s some of it everywhere.
Name three dead artists you like.
Together: Syd Barrett, Brian Jones, Ol’ dirty Bastard.
And 3 dead artists you hate ?
Guillaume: Come one, we’re not the type of people that spit on graves !
What question annoys you the most during an interview ?
Benjamin: This one maybe? [laughs]
Guillaume: That one when the journalist have no more questions and they’re just like, “Is there anything you want to add?” Or worse, [taking a stupid voice] “Is there any question I didn’t ask but should have asked?”
Apart from your own, of course, what’s the best record you’ve heard lately?
Benjamin: Chassol. [French composer and jazz pianist Christophe Chassol.]
Guillaume: A$ap Rocky [AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP – 2015]. I didn’t really like it at first but finally found it genius after a few listening, which is rarely what happens to me.
What’s your favorite “Chemical”?
Benjamin: Ha! Do you remember that drink called Tang? It doesn’t exist anymore [Ed. It does, actually] but it was that orange powder you mix with water that doesn’t taste like orange at all but was totally addictive. [laughs] That’s my favorite chemical!
Guillaume: For me it’s baking soda. It just sounds cool.
What is the worst thing people have told you about the record?
Benjamin: Well, for now, nothing. So either we’ve only met hypocrites or phonies.
Guillaume: But more seriously, one our first album, some journalist said that our record “had a lack of sincerity” and that really hurt. I’d rather read, “this is a total shit record” than that. Even some years later, I’m pissed off at that one.
The crazy video for your song “Drifted” was made by the Dent de Cuir collective [meaning "Leather Tooth" in English]. How did you come to work with people with such an absurd name?
Benjamin: Our manager, who always arranges out some crazy shit, showed us a few things they’d made and when we met the guys, we just became friends after one afternoon. It all happened very naturally. In that very first afternoon we ended up brainstorming like crazy, and by the end of the day we’d found all the stuff we wanted to do together.
Guillaume: At first, the images of “Drifted” were only supposed to be on back screen of our shows. But the first times we played live those new songs with the video in the back, we saw people laughing so much that we decided to use it as a video. Like, let’s make the world laugh too. It also goes opposite to the melancholia and the violence of the track, which brings some kind of double reading of the track that I found extremely interesting.
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At the end of the interview, we asked The Shoes to play that stupid game where you take your name and turn it into an acronym out of it. Here’s what they made:
[Photos by Romain B. James]
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