In this month's Selects, How To Dress Well's Tom Krell told us to interview the French musician o F F Love, whose masked music underpins his emo heart. You can watch an exclusive film shot during the 1234 festival in London earlier this autumn, and read the text of the interview underneath, with Tom Krell's unedited quote at the bottom.
For the shady Paris-born, London-based musician o F F Love, the end of a relationship inspired a rebirth. For the past year or so, he’s been known only by a pseudonym and a yin-yang balaclava, and has built a reputation from galleries to arenas on the back of Auto-Tuned R’n’B hymnals inspired by classic pop tearjerkers. On this year’s debut album, My Love for You... Probably Love, lyrics of heartbreak gold (“Do you wanna be my friend or would you rather hold my hand?”) play peek-a-boo amid hip hop beats under a millefeuille of sensual reverb. In fairness, it’s a better use of the post-break-up blues than hiding under a duvet with a Flake family-pack.
“I’m not trying to be smart,” o F F Love says in a rare unmasked encounter over coffee in London. “My lyrics are minimal, but very naive and direct. I listened to a lot of East 17 and Backstreet Boys when I was a teenager, so it’s not fetishism as much as inspiration.” It’s gotta be said though, o F F Love’s live performances, in which he sensually grinds like a feng shui Zorro in front of slo-mo Nick Carter projections, aren’t so much “post-orgasmic chill” as “soiled copy of Smash Hits”.
His dancefloor moves helped get o F F Love his recent US tour supporting How to Dress Well – “He’s the sexiest dancer – that’s the main reason I’ve asked him to open for me,” HTDW’s Tom Krell says – but it was the deceptively simple beauty of his songs that was the real appeal. “I met Tom when I was living in Berlin,” o F F Love smiles. “He said he really liked my video for ‘Let U Know’ with the clips of East 17 dancing, and we stayed in touch.” He’s also toured with Chairlift and CocoRosie, and describes the latter as “the closet musical model that I could have; they don’t care if what they do is too weird.”
Weird isn’t the half of it though. When o F F Love couldn’t make a performance at Montreal’s Galerie Vernissage show last month, a friend “faked it”, dressing like him and miming along to a prerecorded live set. So, would you completely outsource your image? “I’m thinking of new ways of presenting a show,” he says thoughtfully. “I could play ten shows at the same time – London, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, New York – and have someone in each town doing it.”
But what happens when you run out of heartbreak to write about? “Well, the last song I made was about having no emotions left.” Blimey. Isn’t that what people usually call being happy? “I don’t know,” he shrugs. “I’m sure I’ll meet someone and get my heart broken, and do it all again.”
Film by Ruta Balseviciute
How To Dress Well: "o F F Love is truly one of the most lovely people I know - so sweet, so immediately full of love. We met at a show of mine in Berlin last summer at the club, Berghain Kantine and I had just heard his song "close to u, i'm not" through a friend literally the day before HRP-4C vibes. o F F Love is a kind of paradox: a music so pure and so naive and so open and unadulterated could, of course, only be achieved through Auto-Tune, programmed drums, fucked up pianos, and face-obscuring masks.
Lately, I've been listening to a lot of Future's music on shuffle with o F F - and I'm attracted to both artist's music for the same reason. Consider Future's hit single "Turn on the Lights" or the deep cut "You Deserve It," the closing track on his record Pluto. On both songs Future sings over big beats, voice totally saturated with Auto-Tune; just like o F F. On "Turn on the Lights" Future tells us he's looking for a love who is honest, faithful, and, alas, who he cannot or has not yet found. Despite the fact that his producers are cranking every knob on the Auto-Tune, Future's voice still cracks, he still sounds desperate, his spirit too out of tune with itself to be set straight. And you can hear the same thing in o F F's mechanical voice: lack of love piercing through a mechanic shell meant to protect any voice from imperfection, meant to make any voice sound honey sweet."
Photos by Cameron Alexander
Reworked images by o F F Love
o F F Love is playing with Kindness at Heaven in London on November 7th. On November 12th he plays with Majical Cloudz at The Waiting Room in London.
Follow Owen Myers on Twitter here @owen_myers