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Au Palais

The Toronto-bred, London-based brother sister duo take on dark and mellow sounds in their new EP for The Sounds of Sweet Nothing

Hailing from Toronto, Canada and now living in London - Au Palais consists of brother and sister David and Elise Commathe. They are said to record their music at night, and by the sounds of it - it must be true. The tunes are seriously dark but mellowly dancy - a sound that seems to be a melancholic marriage between Canadian cool and rainy London gloom.

When I moved to London I really missed all the French signage that Canada has. I also studied a lot of 18th century French history and had this vision of Louis XIV and the ostentatiousness of the French court. And we wanted a name that was a bit pretentious

Signed to UK label The Sounds of Sweet Nothing, their four-track EP Tender Mercy is a classy conjunction of slow, heavy beats and synthetic, dark melodies with a subtle yet elegant production. Commathe's clear and calm vocals soar on top with beautiful lyrics in comforting contrast, adding sparkle to the dark soundscape. Sad but never sentimental, Au Palais is music for night owls, music for when you're walking home alone in the dark - or for when almost everyone has left the party and it is time to turn off the lights and kiss.

WHAT's...

...your secret talent?

Elise Commathe: It used to be singing, but that secret has come out now. I have an almost photographic memory. It really helped with history exams in university.
David Commathe: You probably wouldn't know this to talk to me, or see me on stage, or listen to the album or whatever, but I'm actually a certified paramedic. So I guess I can drive an ambulance - although, that's 'can' in the sense of 'technically, I am legally permitted to do it', not in the sense of 'it would be a good idea.'

...your worst vice?

Elise Commathe: I often sing a description of what I'm doing. (eg. "writing answers to these questions for dazeddddd...")
David Commathe: I wish this were darker, but I don't think I can even taste food anymore unless it's smothered in sriracha. I put it in some mushroom soup I made the other day, and I felt a bit dirty, like it was getting to be a serious problem.

…the story behind your name?

Elise Commathe: A combination of a few things. When I moved to London I really missed all the French signage that Canada has. I also studied a lot of 18th century French history and had this vision of Louis XIV and the ostentatiousness of the French court. And we wanted a name that was a bit pretentious.
David Commathe: Elise and I learned something during the naming process: if you're going to start a band, then you should probably get around to it now because there are only about 5 or 6 band names left. Seriously, unless you want to be called, like, 'the Ostrich Family', you should probably get on that sooner rather than later.

...your worst fashion secret?
Elise Commathe: I have a skirt in my closet that I bought at Jacob Jr when I was 10...and still wear...
David Commathe: I have a pair of $5 shoes I bought in Kensington Market in Toronto.

...your favourite website?

Elise Commathe: I'm really into a blog called Convoy. It covers my all my minimalist design needs.
David Commathe: Everyday, I follow a website called Metafilter, which calls itself a community blog, but is also a gathering place for a bunch of left-leaning intellectuals who collectively know everything about everything. I feel smarter for having it in my bookmarks.

...your favourite label?
Elise Commathe:
I'm not sure if this question is referring to fashion or music. So in terms of fashion, really in love with Christoper Kane right now. In terms of music, probably 4AD. Looking back through its roster so many of the artists on it have influenced us.
David Commathe: I used to live in Japan and really came to love the Japanese approach to fashion, or at least the more restrained men's wear part of it - labels like Comme des Garcons, or even Uniqlo. It's almost an extension of the whole Japanese aesthetic towards art - simple, clean and impossibly elegant.
Musically, like many people following dance music, I've been obsessed with the London label Night Slugs, who are putting out music that sounds like it's being beamed back from the 1980's vision of 2030 (does that make sense?) I've literally bought everything that came out on that label this year.

...at the top of your hit/shit list?

Elise Commathe: I think Jamie XX can do no wrong these days. Also really loving Azari & III, such style and grace - not to mention Toronto boys. Shit list? Haha I don't think we're ready to start shit talking anyone yet!
David Commathe: Yeah, I don't think we're in a position to be shit-talking people just yet, since everybody's been so positive about us. I guess the cab driver back from the airport was really rude to me today; I still tipped him, but seriously, fuck that guy.

...are you listening to now?

Elise Commathe: I was home in Toronto for the holidays and just brought back a bunch of my records to London. So I've been listening pretty non-stop to a Soul Jazz compilation called New York Noise.
David Commathe: We were just in New York this past week, and the whole time I was walking around the city listening to a guy called Kuedo; he makes these beautiful bass-music inspired pieces that sound like the Blade Runner soundtrack updated for 2012. Check out the album 'Severant'; I can't recommend it enough.
Also, being back in Toronto, I went and put all of my old high school albums on my computer, and it's nice to know that I was at least right about some things back then - Stereolab, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and the Jesus Lizard ARE all awesome (those indistinguishable sludge-grunge bands I also listened to: less so.)

How would you describe your work?
Elise Commathe:
Dark, calm, and voluptuous.
David Commathe: We stole that line from a mistranslation of a Baudelaire poem, and it's since become our motto.

What are you most excited about next?

Elise Commathe: We are working really hard at finishing up our full-length, so I think it will be really surreal when that comes out. Otherwise really looking forward to SXSW in March.
David Commathe: And our video, which should be coming out in the next few days. And some festivals we're playing in France. And, I don't know, all of it. It's all good right now.

Text by Astrid Madberg
Photo by Liam Cushing