Why we write in French: a conversation with Polo & Pan

In 2017 French duo Polo & Pan released Caravelle, an album you would have been forgiven for missing from the other side of the world. Back home, the reception was different.

It was easily Paul and Alexandre’s most wonderful release yet, an album that put them on map amongst France’s coveted electronic music patronage. Since then they’ve been touring the record to much triumph, entrancing crowds with their sunny jams.

Now Caravelle has been given a second life, re-released as a deluxe edition to a wider audience than was ever possible before. To find out what that meant to Polo & Pan, we caught up for a quick chat.

Polo & Pan interview caravelle (Deluxe) Rebekka Deubner
Photo: Rebekka Deubner

We catch up with Paul and Alexandre from Polo & Pan to find out more about their album’s second lease, their individual tastes, and why they chose to write Caravelle in French.

HAPPY: Hey Paul, hey Alexandre, how are things? What are you up to at the moment?

POLO & PAN: Things are great. We’ve been touring for the past year since we released Caravelle, and probably will be for the next six months.

HAPPY: The first question I want to ask is about your language. You chose to write Caravelle in French rather than English, why was this?

POLO & PAN: We did use english for Dorothy, but when we started writing proper pop format songs (the first one was Plage Isolee) we decided to write in French. It’s a language we both share as a mother tongue and that we are comfortable writing in. We also have numerous ‘Chanson francaise’ references; Serge Gainsbourg, Alain Souchon, Christophe or Yves Simon to cite a few. It came naturally to us.

HAPPY: Who are some other artists who write in French we should check out?

POLO & PAN: Flavien Berger, Jacques, la Femme, Juliette Armanet, l’Imperatrice.

HAPPY: Are there any other languages that seem as ‘musical’ as French to you?

POLO & PAN: French has no tonic accent, it’s not an easy language to write very dynamic or groovy songs in. Brazilian is probably the most musical language, it has the sweet sounds and the grooviness to it. English is obviously an amazing language to write songs in too :)

HAPPY: Whether or not they write music in their language, French electronic music has such an amazing pedigree. Who were some of your favourite French artists growing up?

POLO & PAN: We grew up during the French touch generation. Daft Punk, Cassius or Air had a massive influence on us. We are also big fans of the french ’90s hip hop scene : Lunatic, Mafia 13, Oxmo Puccino, ATK, Fabe, etc… Also, thanks to our parents, we grew up listening to classical music, Debussy and Ravel are big influences for us – Pays Imaginaire is based on the harmony of Debussy’s Claire de Lune. We like listening to classical music together when we take breaks during long studio sessions. Last but not least, we are under the influence of the musical scores written by French composers such as Michel Legrand or Vladimir Coma.

HAPPY: Follow-up; do you find each band member’s taste varies much from the other?

POLO & PAN: Our tastes do vary quite a bit, but we also have a lot in common as aforementioned. We dig into our shared references a lot. Occasionally one member will share a personal reference or influence that will amaze the other one. Then we integrate it into our music one way or the other. We are both relentless music diggers. Alex co-founded the website radioooooo.com

HAPPY: Was it being in this fruitful, world-famous scene part of why you got into music in the first place?

POLO & PAN: Not really, being part of a scene can is a cool by-product of developing a musical project, but it’s not the goal. We aim really at sharing what we love the most, and our most happy in the studio creating tracks.

HAPPY: Caravelle has just been re-released in Australia. What’s it like seeing your year-old album given a second life?

POLO & PAN: The re-release is basically to try to get some visibility in countries we love but have never been to, such as Australia. We hope this will help the Caravelle sail to your shores soon !

HAPPY: Reissues, reworks and rereleases seem more popular than ever right now. Why do you think we’ve become so interested in this kind of release?

POLO & PAN: Reissues and reworks are a great way of updating forgotten musical treasures. In our case, the reissue is more of a good old marketing stunt, although it does have some exclusive material. It’s not easy to make a debut album exist worldwide. We know how blessed we are and are very grateful for this great adventure. It’s a great time to big up our labels Ekler’o’shock and Hamburger, and our distributor Caroline for their support and consistence.

HAPPY: I’d love to know a little bit about how the album was written originally. You released a few EPs before Caravelle – at what point did you know ‘we have to make an album’?

POLO & PAN: The decision came naturally after a few EPs to move to a long format. We discussed it with our labels and they thought the time was ripe too, and were ready to offer us some good support. When we decided to start working on the songs we started by writing a storyboard of all the songs. Within a month or two we had started working on all of the ideas and then spent a year relentlessly coming back to the songs one after the other and adding layers, kind of like a painter who lets the paint dry before coming back to a canvas. Working this way helped us make sure the songs would pass the test of time and also helped us have a more homogenous production throughout the record.

HAPPY: Were their any pieces of gear that were really important to Caravelle?

POLO & PAN: The way Ableton is thought out helped us create and save signature sounds. Although we are passionate about old records and real sounds, we are very much turned towards digital means of production. Maybe this will change in upcoming records.

HAPPY: I have to ask, is a visit to Australia on the cards?

POLO & PAN: Nothing confirmed yet, but we really hope to make it to the golden beaches of Australia within the next few months !

HAPPY: Thanks for the chat!

POLO & PAN: Thank you :)


Caravelle (Deluxe) is out now.