[MUSIC: Interview] Eiffel 65
In 1999, the Australian pop charts were locked in a titanic and fearsome struggle between two opposing European musical forces. As Eiffel 65′s ‘Blue’ and Lou Bega’s ‘Mambo No. 5′ buzzed about commercial radio it was obvious, even to those of us isolated in rural towns, that neither side was willing to give an inch.
The incumbents were a trio of electronic-leaning Italians, often misleadingly labelled as Frenchmen due to their Parisian-flavoured name. Bega was the brassy young German challenger, with unlimited horns and girls at his side, but unfortunately also prone to incessantly gloating about his many international paramours. Bega and his dancing girls triumphed, and whilst Eurodisco may have been defeated that day it had also given hope to one little boy. The chorus of “dabba dee dabba deee dabba da” rang out through K-Mart for what was likely to be the final time, and I experienced a flash of personal insight: it was okay to like purely electronic music. The classical training of my upbringing could be damned – I was going to get a synthesiser. More importantly, my far cooler cousin could shove grunge music, because this weird electro stuff had infinite possibilities, and guitars were dead.
With the benefit of some intervening years, it’s easy to see that guitars, pianos, lutes, and all other organic instruments are essential aspects of the modern machinations of music, and are thriving. But equally healthy is the kind of synth-heavy electronic music given a modern revival by the Italians on their 1999 debut Europop. Serving as something of a trailblazer, the album (which contained both ‘Blue’ and ‘Move Your Body’) popularised pitch-correction and Eurodisco internationally. Unsurprisingly it was successful in Britain and throughout the European club charts, but its most significant achievement came in conquering the USA’s Billboard 200 chart, and forcing their genre into American consciousness. In later years a range of artists, both from the States and further afield, would come to embrace the band’s techniques and technology through experimental art, and of course in more commercial ventures – take Lil’ Wayne and Kanye West, for instance.
Moving from Eiffel 65 to Weezy might seem like a stretch for some, but vocalist and bassist Jeffrey Jey (Gianfranco Randone) thinks they share more than just a preference for digitally-altered vocals. “I think it’s really about passion,” he says down the line from his home of Turin. “I don’t think he [Weezy] is an aggressive artist, but I think he knows what he’s doing and he’s passionate, just like us. So it’s about more than just vocal effects: none of that is going to be any good if you don’t know what you’re handling. You have to stay smart.”
Since making a comeback in 2010, the three members have all been working individually and collaboratively on songs for their fourth studio album. All three have enthusiastically engaged with modern promotional tools like social networking, with Jey explaining that the band enjoy being more active participants in their future direction. “Communication has changed so much, which sounds so obvious, but there are really big changes that affect electronic musicians. If you think about Swedish House Mafia… I mean, they live and grew from the internet. I think a lot of their success is due to these ways you can reach fans and people you’ve never touched before. All of that [social networking] builds up, and people see the personality elements coming from the artist. At the same time we can be using Twitter to discuss professionalism and regular life. It’s all pretty exciting.”
Jey argues that social networking expands the possibilities for fans to access the band, as well – especially for a group like Eiffel 65, whose members live in different cities. “It can be hard for us to find the time to tour – that’s why it is so exciting to be coming to Australia to play some shows,” Jey says. “We used to just play shows, but now there’s so much more involved with the business. When we first started making music again, the first thing we noticed was that … we were spending all our time communicating with fans and updating people on the band. We figured out that nowadays you have to be your own manager, because there is no office any more. You have reach out to your fans to become part of the conversation, because really you are just communicating with a friend.”
What about the downside to modern technology? Does Jey worry about things descending into the dystopian future portrayed in the film clip to ‘Blue’, in which a multi-headed televisual machine controls the transmission of information? He laughs at this. “I can’t speak for the others, but I’m a very social person so I’ve loved all the little things like Instagram. [But] I do worry that we might be losing the feeling of what is important about being human. Online secrets do not exist, and things get lost, which is not good for people who are creating music. Most of it is wonderful, though; there are things that can be done with your own hands and at home that are just amazing – we are inspired by it every day. That’s why Instagram is so great!”
Where: Glasshouse, UTS
When: Friday September 21