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November 14, 2022
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“I feel absolutely and totally free”: an interview with Léonie Pernet

This year opened a place of catharsis and enchantment, a circus of consolation. Title of Léonie Pernet’s new album, “Cirque de consolation”, this itinerant space exists within each new concert. Coming again this fall to Switzerland, at the Docks in Lausanne, this show will be the occasion of sharing the experience that is Léonie Pernet’s musical universe.

Lucky for us, we had the chance to exchange for half an hour together, where the conversation ranged from Spotify’s algorithm to the problem of associating queerness with nightlife. Here is a glimpse of the discussion, and if this doesn’t convince you to attend this November, well you’ll be “Missing Love”.

Chloé Bruère-Dawson - How are you feeling this new season, how is the return of the “Cirque de Consolation” tour?

Léonie Pernet - It's going very well, I'm lucky to have a great team of musicians that keeps rotating. We’re almost exclusively two on stage but there are three of them on tour. It's always different, always adventurous. I'm happy that it's still alive, that we're still playing all these songs. I also have many other projects going on at the same time. The concerts are only a quarter of what I do. It's challenging but it's great.

CBD - You've been on tour with the “Cirque de Consolation” for almost a year now. How has it been received by the public?

LP - I felt that people had an easier time getting into it than on the previous tour. I loved the previous tour but this tour has more partitions. It's still pretty deep, with some melancholic moments, but it's more of a party. There's more of an outlet. I also take more pleasure in it. I have rarely enjoyed shows as much as I have since “Cirque de Consolation” was released. I feel absolutely and totally free. On stage, there is something that has changed. I have more fun, I’m more at ease in my body, in my corporality, in the space. There is also the fact that I’m singing in French this time. With a French audience, the connection is completely different.

CBD - You’re saying there is more of a connection. I saw that you had described the album in one of your interviews as an exchange offer. What kind of exchange did you mean by that?

LP - First, it’s an exchange offer in the idea of the place, the “Cirque de Consolation”. The idea was that the concerts would be a time of meeting with the public. This idea of a collective consolation. There are also little messages that are scattered throughout the album. There are some autobiographical elements, even if they are rather metaphorical. There are some recurring themes, like the subject of racism, among many other things. I think people who follow me and read my lyrics know where I'm coming from and see my utopia. The concerts sometimes manage to look like one and when that happens, it's crazy.

CBD - There is a song that particularly moves me in the album, "Les chants du Maldoror". There is this sentence that particularly touched me in the lyrics, “Feminine despite my efforts”.

LP - I've seen in concerts that it's a phrase that front-row queers always shout. It came out by itself, and I saw that it resonated.  It's a song that talks about the relationship I have with gender, that in-between space where you don't tip over into transidentity or comfort. A kind of strange dance between the female gender that is yours and queer identity. You carry that in time too. You don't live it the same way at 20 as at 30. It’s always changing, that's what's so amazing. It's maybe one of the first times I explored that in a song.

CBD - With the way it comes back, it's kind of cathartic, I think. It's a feeling so vague that putting simple words on it feels good. I also really liked the work you did for the video of “Hard Billy”, with the documentary filmmaker Jean-Gabriel Périot. He works a lot on history and violence and since he's a documentary filmmaker, I thought it was an interesting choice for the video. What was your approach to choosing to work with him?

LP - Well, I love Jean-Gabriel's work. I had already screened one of his works called “The Devil” in Paris in 2019. It’s a short film of black and white archives on the Black Panthers. He works on archives a lot. For “Hard Billy” I knew that I wanted to look into Africa, in particular the mask, but also to look for a truth that went beyond the framework of my subject. Jean-Gabriel has something very powerful. He is originally an editor, and a sick editor at that. He is very musical and rhythmic. He edits his films to music with precise choices, it's always very sharp. It was quite an obvious choice. Honestly, I think that what he has done is incredible. He completely understood where I wanted to go. He grasped the song and the idea in a second. I'm so happy with what he did.

CBD - You started being a DJ at queer parties. There is the recent notion of queertopia, especially in the electronic music scene, which develops this notion of space of freedom and security, of sharing around communal experiences. Do you feel it?

LP - Yes, of course, it exists, but not only at night. I have little affection for clubbing, I don't care anymore. It doesn't exist more at night than during the day. I have a group of friends with whom we have known each other for a long time, and we share many moments together. This concept of queertopia, I imagine that what we are experiencing can resemble it. But everything resembling a sense of humanity, solidarity, of benevolence. There may be a queertopia without a doubt, but there is the same thing in other communities, you just have to add the -topia next to it.

CBD - It's true that we always associate queerness and nightlife and it's quite limiting, dangerous even.

LP - Totally, it's a lifestyle but there is so much more than that. Every time someone talks to me about queerness, they bring it back to nightlife. I don't go out at night anymore and yet I didn't become straight, so I don't get it! The world is a big place. There are so many ways to be together, not just between 11pm and 5am.

Many thanks to Léonie Pernet for her time and insights, and if 11pm to 5am is indeed not the only time to be together, it will certainly be a good one on November 26 at the Docks in Lausanne, where Léonie Pernet will be accompanied by French artist Lonny and Iranian DJ Nesa Azadikhah!

Interview & article by Chloé Bruère-Dawson


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