ON THE ROAD, FOR THE RECORD: Charlotte Adigéry
Weaving the various parts of their heritage and life-experiences in Belgium, the Ghent based musician Charlotte Adigéry and her collaborator and producer Bolis Pupul have been creating unique alternative synth-driven music with their latest EP ‘Zandoli’. Their process of creating music is playful and experimental, and it translates into their music. With undeniable wit and a whimsical ambiance, paired with eye-catching and stylish visuals; Adigéry is creating a genre that can’t really be defined. After touring the world most of 2019, the duo has an album in the works that is to be expected this coming year.
Milk spoke with the Belgium based artists on their favorite tour moments, their pre-performance routines, planning tour visuals and their personal connection to making music.
What’s the biggest misconception about being on tour?
Charlotte Adigéry: The fact that you think you’ll have time to visit the cities you’re playing in.
I feel like my soul is always one city behind as well. I never land completely.
How does it feel to be in New York — does it live up to your expectations?
CA: I’m trying to write it down in my diary, it’s a lot to take in! I still can’t really grasp this feeling or describe it.
Growing up with American culture, a lot of our cultural references are American… and so to be here, it feels really strange to me. But then, on the other hand, it’s surprising how similar things are to Europe. Maybe it’s just New York: I always hear that New York is completely different than the rest of the US. It’s a strange but amazing experience. I have the feeling I’m only going to be able to really grasp it when I get back to Belgium.
When did you start to make music? Did you study it in school?
CA: My mom sings as well, growing up there was always music in our house. I think it was around 13 when I had my first experience on stage and I got hooked. The feeling was incredible! And then when I was 17 or 18, I wanted to explore the life of a musician and founded a group with some friends of mine and that felt really rewarding. After that I said “Yes!” to every opportunity, everybody who had a project, and anyone that needed vocals; I went and did it. It was a great learning experience. I studied different things until I was 22, but I never really felt like I was passionate enough about it, and then I decided to really give music a try; to try to do it properly. I started studying music which really helped me to express myself and to get tools to express what I had in my head and to make it into a song. Bolis and I met a couple of years later and started making music together.
Bolis Pupul: I’ve been part of a lot of different projects and bounced around before I met Charlotte. I think the moment we started working together it went very fast; we didn’t plan to be super ambitious and make big plans. We just had a good connection in the studio and the music came together quite fast. Two months later our first EP was already available in stores on vinyl.
We started working on the second EP (Zandoli) as soon as the first one was finished, which came out last year. The response to Zandoli was amazing and ever since we’ve been playing live the whole time. We’ve been all around Europe but also to China, Russia, Australia, and Japan last year. Now we’re in America! It’s really been a crazy year!
What’s your creative process like? How else do you get into the mindset to make music?
BP: We don’t really have a formula that we’re using. Sometimes it’s just plugging in analog synth and being into the sound or melody. We just record that and work with it.
Charlotte then comes up with an idea for vocals or harmonies, and we’re like “Okay, that’s cool. But wait, let’s put a drum machine underneath it!” Then before you know it, you’re making a song.
Those are the best times: when you’re not thinking or filtering too much. It’s not like I’m the producer and she’s the singer; we’re doing everything together. I enjoy being on the sideline and watching her program and then maybe I just say, “Great idea, what if we add this or that to it?.”
You put out a meditation tape last year in October. What inspired you to make this, what was the process like in terms of deciding what you wanted to share?
CA: I am super intrigued to explore all kinds of meditation; to me, spirituality without being too floaty, is just a way of being extremely yourself. Being “in the now” is something that’s really important to me, and something I want to grasp, learn and explore.
Since we released the EP and we didn’t really have a single in mind or any that was ready enough, we decided, “Okay, let’s be playful. Let’s try something else!” And then I came up with the idea of making a meditation tape. That was something that I wanted to do for a long time.
We talked about it with Stephen and David (from Soulwax/2manydj’s) and Bolis, and they said, “Everything you do is always super truthful, honest, genuine. Make sure the meditation is as genuine, as the stories you tell and as intimate as you care.”
And that’s when I decided to write my own stream of consciousness down. I would be able to clear my mind of all these haunting things in my head. I really believe that being honest helps as an artist. When you have a voice, I think a lot of people can relate.
BP: It’s like you are in Charlotte’s head doing the meditation thing and I think that’s really interesting. I like to fantasize about, for example, Prince. I would have loved to be like 40 minutes into it like a stream of consciousness of things he went through.
Your family is from Martinique and Guadalupe. You were brought up French and raised in Belgium. Do you think these aspects of your identity influenced your music along the way?
CA: At first, I always felt like I had to hide my blackness. I have a flashback now of me as a little kid watching myself in the mirror and comparing myself to all the other kids in the classroom; looking at my nose and thinking it was broader than anybody else’s. I remember myself saying, “At least my chin looks white!” ‘
Adigéry didn’t sound white or Belgian either. So as a child I really didn’t like my name. I always stood out in every way. My mom made sure that the house was always very Caribbean: the music, just having fun, the humor, and making music and singing. It was really important for me to know where I came from. When I decided to study music, I realized that there are a lot more artists to look up to and that we’re going to help me a lot as well.
Making music with Boris, we consciously choose to mix Belgian heritage with the heritage from our parents (he is Belgian and Chinese); that really helps me to mend those two and really feel proud of who I am. It is a beautiful, beautiful thing to have two heritages and to combine them.
Who are some of your favorite artists? Any dream collaborations?
CA: I’ve been thinking a lot about David Byrne. I met him backstage;I was starstruck and I just said, “I’m a huge fan!”
How do you spend your time outside of the studio?
CA: Just being with my husband and hanging on the couch, and looking at my plants, I don’t know it’s just a feeling of warmth.
I read that you have performed 90 shows in 2019. Do you have a pre-show routine? What is something you want your audience to take away after a show?
CA: I just watch Youtube or just Netflix. It’s strange because you would think it’s good to center yourself. I like to be left to just be my own bubble for a while.
BP: I can’t do too much actually. I also find it hard to watch other bands before you have to play because you’re not really paying attention. I’ve tried to prepare myself in my head and just try to not do too much, just be chill. But, you need to have a little moment before you step on stage.
What has been your favorite destination on tour and why?
CA: Actually one of the things we find super important is food. That’s like the main goal – where we can find good food. For me, New York has been such a treat.
BP: The response from London crowds and that was special. We felt accepted or that people really loved what we’re doing. It feels like a second musical home.
What advice would you give to people going on tour for the first time?
CA: Don’t spend too much time on your phone. It’ll be over before you know it, it’s all so hard to grasp so try to soak it in as much as possible.
BP: Sleep as much as possible and party wisely, Lemmy, Mick Jagger, and Iggy Pop are mutants. Don’t try to imitate them.
Stay tuned to Milk for more on the road.