Earlier this month I was lucky enough to catch up with Alice Fox of London-based electro-pop duo Avec Sans, hot on the heels of the release and UK tour of their debut album, Heartbreak Hi.
Having splashed on to the London music scene back in 2013, Alice and Jack St James are resonating with audiences across the globe with an ice-cool sound and captivating performance style.
In our interview, we talk about how Avec Sans (and a debut album) came to be, finding inspiration for the next track and how their distinctive musical and aesthetic styles caught the eyes of some of the biggest names in fashion. So, tune in here and read on…
RE: Hi Avec Sans, I’ve been very excited about an album since I saw you perform first in 2014.
AF: Awesome! Thank you ☺
RE: Can you tell us a bit about the cover track ‘Heartbreak Hi’, and what it means?
AF: Heartbreak Hi is part word play on an Aussie teen drama Heartbreak High, which I used to watch as a teenager and part an ode to heartbreak. Without the series I’d never have known was it was to be a dag, without the heartbreak the album probably wouldn’t exist.
RE: As well as Bon Iver’s ‘Perth’, you recently covered one of my favourite songs, ‘Running Up That Hill’ by Kate Bush. Is there another track you’re itching to cover?
AF: We’ve done a couple of covers now, we also covered TV on the Radio’s Will Do and an electronic pop version of Bon Iver’s Perth actually made it to the album, although even fans of his often don’t spot it as it’s so different from the original. It’s not just about covering something you love; I think it’s also about knowing that your style is different enough so that it’s going to be in your own voice. We’ll doubtlessly do some more covers; we’re just waiting for the right track to hit us.
RE: What have been the highlights of recording your first album?
AF: This sounds bad, but finishing it! It’s been a long time coming and we’d both admit it’s felt like really hard work in the final stages, staying up all night and day and having a tight deadline. To finally have it finished and entirely under our own steam feels like a real achievement.
RE: Where did your interest in music first stem from?
Personally, my interest came from how rare it was in my home. My parents are really un-moved by music so I became massively into it and started sneaking into live shows from the age of 14 and 15.
RE: Who are your main musical influences?
AF: Acts like LCD Soundsystem, Purity Ring, Active Child and Hot Chip, although I don’t think we really sound much like any of them.
RE: How did Avec Sans come to be, both in terms of the band forming and the style of music?
AF: I think we can probably hinge it on a mutual love of The Postal Service, that one perfect album made by people who never had an intention of that being their main project.
RE: How do you find inspiration to write? (e.g. is there a particular place you go to be inspired)
AF: We like to write and record at home, we’ve been into some big studios and the pressure of being there tends to not be conducive to being creative. We’re the most creative in our pajamas in our house share, recording around the sounds of the London bus brakes screeching.
RE: Speaking of places, where are your favourite London haunts?
AF: I like Drink Shop Do, it’s a cute little café and they have all sorts of awesome classes, like Dance Like Beyoncé lessons, sculpt Lionel Richie out of clay, that kind of essential stuff and they have walls of glitter in the bathroom. Collectively we love a Dirty Burger or a stop by The Breakfast Club when it’s a little quieter. The Pleasance theatre is brilliant for seeing new comedy acts or massive acts trying out their new material to a tiny audience, we’re really into comedy.
RE: Avec Sans has a very distinctive visual look (which we love) – are there any particular design influences?
AF: Thank you! I grew up reading the NME every week and was always struck by how I was drawn to actually looking up and listening to the acts who took a good live photo, who looked like they were moving and performing. With that in mind we’ve structured everything around the idea of putting on a show, something that looks great as well as sounds great. Jack tilts his launchpads towards the audience so they can see what he’s doing and can be a part of it and we both try and treat performance like we’re in a punk band. We have one guy who comes along a lot and he’s always comparing us to Slayer; as an electronic pop act, we treat that as a massive and unexpected compliment. Hi Paul!
RE: And you’ve been involved with the fashion world too – can you tell us a bit about that?
AF: Dolce and Gabbana made us their band of the year before we’d really written more than two tracks, after that we got involved in some really sweet fashion connections. We designed a shoe before we’d ever played a live show, DJ’d and played for brands internationally and we’ve even been featured on New York Fashion Week catwalk shows. The Internet can open up the world to a new act in really bonkers ways.
Heartbreak Hi is available to buy here