Raymonde Howard (August 2011)

– Is that true that your name comes from Rowland S. Howard ? What made you start a solo project ? How did it become a duo ?

– The solo project started when I bought this analog 4-track recorder. It became a means of composing riffs, bringing rough ideas to my previous band rehearsals.
Some tunes didn’t fit to the band’s expectations but I kept a record of them on the 4-track recorder.
At one point, I had enough material to make a record and cover a set’s length. So a friend of mine who promotes shows asked me if I wanted to support a band. That’s how I started doing shows.

I liked the idea of having no creativity barriers on my own. Also, considering this solo project was an outlet, I gave more of my inner self and felt Raymonde Howard became the real me!

I was looking for a band name and had this Shotgun Wedding sleeve by Lydia Lunch and Rowland S Howard on the table. « Rowland »/ “Rolande” is a French female old-fashioned first name. Duplicity in a band name is what I wanted. The French side/ the English part. A part of me/ the stranger. This schizophrenic combination gave birth to Raymonde Howard.
I had a positive response from the audience.
I kept on doing shows in my area, in France, England, Italy and even in the Balkan mountains with only one guitar and my loop pedal.

The drums came in 2009 when Raymonde Howard became a duet in 2009. Fabrice and I have always played in bands together. He was very supportive of Raymonde Howard and asked me if I needed real drums.

– Amongst your influences you quote Prince. I don’t really get this one listening to your music. Can you explain it to us ?

– When I was a child, my sister and I shared the same bedroom . She was a very big fan of Prince. I spent hours listening to « Purple Rain » and « Sign o’ the times ». They are two great albums. I like his music and the androgynous persona he used to convey. He’s been questioning genders through his outfits and haircuts and also through his choice of female and male musicians he’s been playing with.

– What kind of music do you listen to nowadays ? Your favorite bands ?

– Right now I’m listening to UT and « Third » by Portishead.
My favourites? The Sonic Youth, Depeche Mode, PJ Harvey when she played “To bring you my love”, anything by Kill Rock Stars basically!

– You have toured both in The Balkans and in Canada. How did it go ? What do you recall from both of these experiences ?

– Touring in your country or elsewhere is always a powerful human experience. Sometimes you feel more like a tourist, sometimes you feel as one with of the people in the gig or in the streets you walk in.
Canada was great. We were on tour with fellow friends, the band Chat-Ours. Promoters took a great care of us, the venues were great too.
Touring the Balkans was great too because we drove nearly 3000 km and had time to visit new places. But I sometimes felt like a stranger due to the recent history countries has faced.

– You are known for being an activist with Angry Ballerina. How do you combine the label with the concert booking in Saint-Etienne and a day job ?

– The secret is how to use your week-ends and holidays !
The concert booking is hopefully not only me. It is done by a bunch of people who all work full-time. The energy comes from the enthusiasm to meet and promote the bands we like.
Depending on periods of the year when there are less Raymonde Howard gigs, it gives more time for the Angry Ballerina label and concert-bookings.

– Angry Ballerina has co-released 2 splits : 1 with Steak Au Zoo (Lafidki / Roland Volapük) in 2008 and another one with [walnut + locust] (Raymonde Howard / Montreal Nintendo Orkestar / Chat Ours) in 2010. How did these happen ? How do you select the bands on Angry Ballerina ?

– Mainly bands we like with a sincere and unique approach.

– Songs on your two albums are rather short and so are the albums themselves. Is there a reason for that ?

– Straight to the point. Too much embellishment or ornamentation is not necessary.

– What is your favorite song by Raymonde Howard ? Why ? When you play live you don’t really play songs from the first album anymore. How do you explain that ?

– I don’t have any all-time favourite songs. I just prefer some songs depending on the mood I am in because of the meaning and of the experience of the song.

– What was your best experience in concert ? Your worst ?

– The best was in the art gallery le Lieu Commun in Toulouse with the band ANGIL and Michel Cloup. I was performing solo and there had been a power cut. I was singing the last part of the chorus of « Who’s got the girls ? » which goes « Oh oh oh ». When the electricity broke, I kept on singing acappella and the audience went on the same! It was magic!
The worst? One in Paris in a pub. The owner had booked two shows the same night and only realized it when the two different promoters he dealt with came by with all the equipment to set up.
It ended up with the owner being very angry but still allowing the shows to make a bit of money selling cheap beers. The two promoters decided to cancel their support bands. That was still a never-ending night of weird gigs!

– How did you get in touch with We Are Unique ? Any plans for a new album ? For a re-release of your first album ? How did being on a “professional” label (as opposed to a DIY one) helped you as an artist ?

– Mickael from Angil was already on We are Unique label. As I was recording, Mickael stopped by Ives’ recording studio and listened to the Raymonde’s songs. He made it listen to the WAU team. Later on, I got an email from the boss telling me he wanted to release a Raymonde Howard album.
We’re still working on new songs right now. Probably recording this winter.
Mind you, We are Unique is still DIY and run by DIY people. They have a network of semi-professionals/ professional people for sure, but the people involved in the label do it for « the love of music », after work.
They helped me a lot promoting the album « For all The Bruises… »by distributing it, by sending Cds to a network of people I didn’t have.
I was very lucky to get reviews on largely-spread national newspapers, to be invited to national radio shows too.
Fab and I owe WAU a lot.

– What’s going on with La Seconda Volta ? What can you tell us about Do You Believe In The Curse Of The Golden Vampire ? What about Rock’n’Roll High School ?

– La Seconda Volta is still going on. We’ve been existing since 2004. We don’t play much live. Next gig is in September to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Radio Dio, the local independent radio. We’ve got new songs to record for late winter and are still looking for a label!

Do You Believe In The Curse Of The Golden Vampire is .cut + Raymonde lazy side project. It’s dark and repetitive. Albérick from .cut lives in Canada and I live in France. But whenever we meet, we arrange a rehearsal. We record nearly everything and after that, Albérick cuts, copies, adds sounds and we’ve got one track. We participated to a Minimal Compact tribute.

Rock’n’Roll High School is a cover band I recently joined on drums. It started to perform a Ramones contest band. There are 2 vocals, one double bass, one guitar and drums. The clue to co-exist is our coach! Everybody’s new on his/ her instrument and it feels so good to play something which looks unfamiliar to us. This is the teenage frenzy you thought would never come back.

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