Track By Tracks: Sapiens - 10 Songs 10 Singers (2019)

1. Surreal Estates (feat Julien Pras - Mars Red Sky):

Nico: This song is a bit special, because it’s the first one we wrote and the first one for which we received the vocal tracks, from Julien Pras. He’s been great about this project from the start. Julien is such a talented and adorable guy. This song is written with a completely strange guitar tuning. One day when I was touring with LDDSM I found a beat up guitar at the place we were staying. I took it to play a little and the tuning was all over the place, but I thought it sounded great so I wrote down the tuning string by string and tried it out when I came home And out came the riffs for this song. From then everything went almost effortlessly. The second guitar, the drums, bass, everything worked on the first try. And the beautiful violin solo by Anne Darrieu is just perfect for the song. I love this song, it’s my favorite on the album. I’m very proud of it. This song alone was worth embarking on this journey.

2. Palm Prints (feat Mathieu Dottel - Bukowski):

Nico: Another alternative guitar tunning song. This song hovers somewhere between Alice in Chains and Ry Cooder. I Initially wrote this song for Lo from Loading data, but unfortunately, he was unable to pursue it to the end. He had already sent us a demo, a really beautiful one, that let us imagine something big. Fortunately, Bukowski's singer Math Dottel, who is a mutual friend, immediately agreed to take over the song and finished the job beautifully. And in only a few days, everything was done. The lyrics, the melodies, and the tracking. What's great here, is that his approach was completely different from Lo's the song turned out just as unique. His voice is beautiful and his interpretation, gorgeous. I took a lot of pleasure in adding some vocal harmonies on his tracks. For this powerful single, we have a video in the works.

3. Dead Ringers (feat Julien Cassarino - Psykup):

Nico: I put a lot of pressure on myself for this song because I've been listening to Julien singing in Psykup for over 15 years. The album "le temps de la reflection" was one of my flagship albums of the 2000s. I must have listened to it a hundred times. I have a deep respect for Julien, I consider him to be a bit like the French Mike Patton. His vocal abilities are huge and he has his own recognizable style. We tested many things on this song, some worked, others not so much. That song took a lot of work but the result exceeded our expectations. In addition, it’s a special song for me because my father plays the accordion on it! He hadn’t touched one for ages and agreed to get back to it just for us. I am very proud.

4. Pure Love Ashes (feat Steve Perreux - Robot Orchestra):

Nico: Of all the Sapiens singers, Steve is my oldest friend. We met 17 years ago. We date back to the time when I was still living in La Rochelle and we attended the same rehearsal studios and the same concert bars. He's a guy I appreciate for his honesty. If he likes your job he'll tell you, if he doesn’t, he'll tell you as well! But at least, you know means what he says. When I imagined Sapiens I immediately wanted a place for him on the album because I love his approach to music. It's always very creative but always with that touch of punk spirit, he carries around. For this song, I wanted to find a balance between his influences, close to post-rock and punk, and at new territories, places he'd never been to with Robot Orchestra. So we wrote this very energetic title with this 12-piece percussion section and these brass arrangements. A hybrid between post-rock, flamenco and mariachi music. It may seem strange at first sight but I assure you that it works perfectly! The drums were recorded by kids from a local music school (one of them being Tibal's nine year old nephew) and with both the drummers who played on the rest of the album, Greg Hiltenbrand and Cédric Grob. The whole brass section was played by one man, our friend Alex Brand.

5. Red Wine Lullaby (feat Cédric Toufouti - Hangman’s Chair):

Nico: I remember sending him another piece of music I had tucked away first, but we both soon realized it would not fit his universe. So I delved back into the Hangman's Chair discography, and I told myself that I had to write something really melancholy, because that's what his voice evokes in me. For this song, my musical reference was "Exit Music for a film" from Radiohead. I wanted a piece that plays with the minor and major colors of the chords, in a way that makes us not really know wether this song is sad or bright. Cedric wrote sublime melodies and lyrics in perfect harmony with the music. Concerning the arrangements, we gave it an almost trip hop color with this super heavy drum and bass section, this very soft, very organic Fender Rhodes, and the distant dobro lines bring a light touch of Americana. I love the intensity of this song and its brutal end.

6. Still Down (feat Poun - Black Bomb A):

Nico: Another song composed with this weird guitar tuning found on tour. It was Cédric from Hangman's Chair who referred Poun to us as they are friends. He said "I'm sure he'll be up for acoustics, he loves it". And he was right. I had met Poun in the past because when we shared a stage at a festival. I was so happy to meet him that I even asked him to take a selfie with me! I have been listening to BBA for as long as Psykup. The album Human Bomb is one of the biggest Hard Core albums of all time to me. This one also, if I've listened to it once, I've listened to it a thousand times! I have always been very impressed by Poun's vocal performance, especially on stage. I was convinced that he would be an excellent singer for the project. So we sent him a song, and he was all in instantly. About arrangements, he wanted a kind of choir and we thought it would be cool to have a female voice on the album so we asked the idea to our friend Melody AKA Ballerine and she did it beautifully. We added a few strings like Phil Spector's "wall of sound" and that was it. Poun first sent us a basic home made version, which we worked on together through skype, then he got back to the studio to record the definite tracks. And that was a slam dunk. What a finale for the song!

7. C’est gênant (feat Mat Peq - Babylon Pression):

Nico: Ah Mat Peq! My Mat Peq! I love this guy. He’s just insane and so talented. He's one of the best frontmen I've ever seen on stage. With his band Babylon Pression, he becomes another person when they perform. It's more than singing, it's almost like theater. I knew I wanted to have Mat on the album, but the challenge was to write a song that suited him well. Not a ballad, not a folk song, just a cool thing on which he could write lyrics he alone knows how. So I thought about writing a dirty blues. The first version he sent us was miles away from his work in Babylon Pression, more of a spoken word Serge Gainsbourg vibe. It worked pretty well, but I didn’t recognize his proverbial insanity, and it bothered me a bit. So I asked him to forget it was acoustic guitars, and to go all Babylon Pression. He started over and yelled like all hell broke loose and the result was epic! Then we asked another singer we love, Zeynep from the band Hermetic Delight to make all the vocal arrangements. We started as a sick twisted gospel kinda thing, but the woman has 1000 voices. It’s amazing! She can sing anything. We had a lot of fun recording her, it was like a machine that you could ask anything to and it worked perfectly every time! "Hey, could you sing like that just to see please?" "yes I believe" and she rocked our world there and then! Add a bit of Dirty Deep's harmonica and Pat Wetterer's saloon piano, and you got yourself a piece of deranged blues.

8. Wake Up Call (feat Daniel Scherding - Los Disidentes Del Sucio Motel):

Nico: This song is very special for me. First of all because my LDDSM brother, Dany is singing it. Dany is a big fan of acoustic music, he'd long dreamed for us to write a song like this together. I wrote the base of this song during an LDDSM recording session on a table corner with Romain. Then I reworked it back home, and from a little 2 min riff, it turned out into an epic 7-minute piece. Apart from the bass, all the LDDSM members have played on this track, and it's the most LDDSM sounding one. Vocally, it's a perfect fusion of our voices and the subject of the lyrics is very important for us. It’s about our environment. We both have children and we fear for their future. The message of this song is "yes the situation is serious, but there's still hope". This song was not an easy one. Dany is a fucking great singer with a huge range. He is able to reach notes with crazy intensity and that is where I wanted him to go, to his very limits. I think we succeeded, though the journey from the original demo to the finished song was a long one. During the recording of this song, I was contacted by Johan Gardre, the violinist who sometimes plays with Robot Orchestra. He found the concept of the album awesome and wanted to participate. I told him it was perfect because I had songs where I wanted string arrangements. Our reference was “The Rain Song” from Led Zep. When we received his tracks, we were under the spell. He had understood everything! I'm so proud of this piece.

9. Cognitive Dissonance (feat Forest Pooky):

Nico: This is the only song of the album written by Tibal and I wrote a second guitar. Tibal always says that he doesn’t know how to compose but it's totally wrong! He is an excellent composer, the problem is that he refuses to believe it. One day he played me the riffs of this song during a recording session and I told him "wow, who's this stuff?" and he said "oh it's some old shit I wrote ten years ago". I loved it and I said, "OK let's keep this base, we'll just make it into a real song, trust me". We reviewed the structure, I wrote a second harmonized guitar part and the song was already divinely good! I'm not a great picking guitarist like Tibal, so I had to adapt my playing and in the end, the mix of techniques works perfectly! And about Forest... this guy has such a incredible voice, that he can sing you a nursery rhyme, or make you believe in God. He has a utterly improbable way to harmonize himself vocally. His harmonies are anything but conventional, and probably not “theoretically correct”, but they work like magic. He sent us 31 vocal tracks for this song. 31. We kept every single one of them. Johan added some old school "Americana" violins, a Foo Fighters interlude, and a big rock drums finale and that was that. This is a song that I would never have been able to write but I’m very proud because it challenged me.

10. Le feu qui danse (feat Renaud Wangermez - Lofofora):

Nico: This song is the one for which I put the most pressure on myself, and the one for which we struggled the most. In France, Reuno and Lofofora are considered the bosses of heavy. They have been around for 30 years and they never changed the formula. Powerful lyric, in French on Metal Fusion instrumentals, somewhere between Punk, Hard Core and Hip Hop. I have been listening to Lofo since Junior High ! To me Reuno is a godfather, a reference. I didn’t want to disappoint him because I have immense respect for him. Despite his success and longevity, he remained the same guy, always nice and cheerful, without ever losing his outspokenness. We’ve had doubts pretty much every step of the way with this song. Reuno is a very thorough and demanding musician, we didn’t want to disappoint him, and we are both perfectionists, and not necessarily in a good way, so we were always second guessing ourselves. We probably made like 5 versions of the verses, but in the end, at Reuno’s demand, we came back to the bones of the song. Two distinct parts. The first one is a blend of folk with a bit of a trip-hop groove, the second part being more of a big fat orchestral rock piece. From the beginning, I had this idea of a « Bittersweet Symphony » by the Verve string arrangements, which we wrote with Tibal. Reuno wrote utterly gorgeous lyrics. I feel honored to have lyrics like that on my music. He's a great man, he knows music and he knows how to make a good song! He’s the boss!

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