French band Juniore have released one of my favourite albums of 2017—Ouh Là Là! Their music a homage to French 60’s pop – Yé-yé – goes beyond its inspirations, elevated with a modernisation. The New Year will see Juniore head to Australia for the first time to play the summer festival, So Frenchy So Chic – a party, a picnic, a celebration of life and culture, the “Frenchy” way. I recently caught up with vocalist-guitarist Anna Jean to chat about all things Juniore!
I know that you studied visual art but, how did you come to making music?
ANNA JEAN: People never ask me that! I met Samy [Osta], I think that’s how I started playing music. I had started playing music before but I wasn’t writing songs. My grandmother was a pianist so I learned piano with her, which was wonderful. She was a very bad teacher, but it was one of the most wonderful times I’ve had playing music in my life. Later in high school I met Samy was records our music, when I moved to Paris I didn’t have a piano he lent me his guitar. He said, “You don’t have a piano but you should learn to play guitar.” So I started playing guitar on his guitar and because I was too lazy to learn how to play any songs, I started writing my own.
What inspired you to create your band Juniore? You’ve mentioned previously you just wanted to have fun.
AJ: Definitely. I had a band before with Samy, we had a folk band. I really like songs and songwriting in general. I like people’s songs and knowing the way they wrote them. I feel that it’s a really nice format. It’s almost like an object, the song in itself. Samy and I played really sad songs at the time and it was awful to play in front of people, to play really sad songs. We would come out and be really sad [laughs]. I started to think that it would be really nice to have a fun band, a band where we could inject everything we love about the world, mix it up; even if it doesn’t make any sense it doesn’t matter we just have to find a way to make sense—that’s how Juniore was born. It was out of a desire to make something that would ultimately create fun.
I love how Juniore has the ‘ghost’ that performs live with you on stage, that’s pretty fun!
AJ: [Laughs] Yes! That’s Samy. He wasn’t always available to play with us so we thought it would be a nice way for him to be a part of the band without having to marry us, to be completely in the band. We thought well you’ll be the ghost that just comes and goes, sometimes you won’ be there and sometimes you’ll be around. We made a costume for him, the first time we did it was ridiculous [laughs]. We made it out of a sheet, initially we wanted to make it like a child-ghost with holes cut out for the eyes, but he couldn’t play with it like that, he couldn’t see what he was doing. It was pretty funny. I really like having him around, it’s more fun when he is around.
When you write your songs you write them by yourself in your room and you’ve previously mentioned that writing for you is kind of a meditation.
AJ: Yeah that’s true, that’s exactly how it feels. I think I have a strange kind of shyness in the sense that I feel really stupid when I’m writing a song so I have to make sure that no one hears me; it’s ridiculous! I feel that way even when I’m in a house by myself. I think that’s maybe why I’ve ended up singing so low because I have this weird shyness. I have to be in a place where I feel that no one can hear me sounding silly otherwise I just can’t do it. It’s definitely a state of mediation because it’s a strange thing to create something knowing that other people might hear it and at the same time try not to think about what other people might think when they hear it. It’s a strange process.
Your singing style that you just mention is one of my favourite things about Juniore, it’s almost like you’re talking rather than fully singing, I feel like you’re having a conversation in a way.
JA: [Laughs] Thank you, it’s so nice to speak with you, that’s exactly what it is like. It wasn’t the intention but once it was there I felt that maybe it was nice because it kind of is a conversation. I feel like that’s a very nice compliment.
I read somewhere that growing up you felt intimidated by writing because your father is a writer; have you stopped feeling intimidated now? Do you feel more comfortable?
AJ: A little bit, but not entirely. Teenage feelings tend to stick. I feel a little more confident, having the band and having the girls with me and Samy, it gives it a lot more purpose, it’s not just me it’s everybody with me. When I’m writing songs now I think I’m much more aware of them than I was initially so I feel less intimidated by whatever complex I might have. I feel less insecure, having a team makes me more confident.
What has been inspiring you creatively lately?
AJ: I think we’re very happy with the whole childlike horror theme with the concerts that we’ve been doing. We’ve had dark costumes. Subconsciously I think I’ve been writing more songs that will make sense with our costumes. We have a few new songs that are a little more Halloween-ish.
That’s exciting, I can’t wait to hear them!
AJ: [Laughs] Thank you.
When do you feel at your most creative?
AJ: I’m most creative when I’m serene. Also, I think I have to be in a phase where… for instance, I know I’ve written a lot of songs during Christmas time because everybody is on holiday during Christmas. It’s not specifically serene because Christmas brings out a lot of old memories and you don’t know if you’re happy or you’re sad, it’s another year that’s going by and not completely serene but, there is a tranquil atmosphere that I really like; whenever people are on holiday, I usually tend to be more creative. Otherwise, people call you… my mother calls me because she doesn’t think I have a real job [laughs], she’ll be like, “Oh come and have lunch with me.” I’ll tell her I can’t because I’m working, but because she doesn’t believe me I end up going to her house and having lunch. I love her and I love spending time with her but because that happens it kind of interrupts whatever you’re doing. I like it when people go on holidays, it’s nice.
You do all the art work for Juniore, it’s really striking; can you tell me a little bit about the idea behind it?
AJ: I really wanted for the visuals to be part of the whole atmosphere, I feel like they’re really important. I feel like you listen to an album differently depending on the visuals. I think probably because I watched a lot of films growing up, a lot of the songs I write are kind of like short films, they tell a story in a sense. I haven’t had the time to make as much as I’ve wanted to. I like to draw a lot, it’s also a form of meditation. I feel like I’ve been very privileged to have the freedom to do both. To make drawings and videos and not have anyone tell me what to do, it’s great to have that. We don’t have a lot of money to make them but on the other hand we have all of the freedom, it’s much more important to have all of the freedom and to be able to create whatever comes to mind.
Lately, we’ve been trying to make new videos and sometimes it’s hard to make things work without money, which has discouraged me a little. It would be nice to have just a little bit so we could hire people to help us. At the same time though I think in 20 or 30 years I’ll be really happy to have made everything by ourselves—I’ll be really proud of that.
It’s a very punk rock, D.I.Y. way of doing things! It makes you more resourceful.
AJ: I like that! I love the idea. I have another job, I’m a translator, so sometimes I don’t have the time to do as much as I would want to though.
What was the last album that you bought?
AJ: I have to check, let me check my phone. I have a lot of old vinyl, tapes and CD’s but I don’t buy a lot of new things. [Checks phone]. Now I remember… it’s [Histoire de] Melody Nelson by Serge Gainsbourg. It’s an old ‘70s album.
Juniore play SO FRENCHY SO CHIC – January 12, Adelaide; January 14, Melbourne; & January 20, Sydney. For more details & tickets go HERE.
Find Juniore’s music HERE.
Passez une très bonne journée !
*Photos: courtesy of @heyjuniore & SFSC.