The video for Petite Meller’s debut single, "Backpack" is a gleeful, orgiastic compilation of classic and subverted French references. A reimagining of Meller’s own memories of the Riviera, the piece was filmed in and around the village Garabit, the summer residence of French masters Matisse and Picasso.
Native Parisian Meller initially caught our attention with another video for her song ‘NYC Time’, from the same directorial team of A.T.Mann and Napoleon Habeica, the Mexican photographer critical to the creation of American Apparel’s visual aesthetic. A student of philosophy, a model and a singer of “nuovo jazzy-pop”, Meller creates art to arouse and delight, which she again proves in this Riviera deluge of pop.
Petite Meller: I really love these creative collaborations that happen almost coincidentally through meeting online. I actually met Napoleon Habeica, an amazing photographer who owns the magazine Baby, Baby, Baby, through Facebook. I love his quirky attitude. When we met up in New York, he looked like a mix between Robert Smith and a naughty Musketeer. There I introduced him to my favourite director, who I have always worked with, A.T.Mann. After that video came out I got offers to collaborate with a brilliant stylist from London, Nao Koyabu, the designers Vin and Omi, and Clemens Krueger, a cinematographer from Munich, so we all met up in south of France to shoot "Backpack".
DD: Are there any significant personal memories attached to the Riviera for you?
Petite Meller: Throughout my childhood my parents would take me on holiday to the St. Tropez/Cannes area. There were always funny old madames and gentlemen in their tacky bathing suits, doing ski-nautique before having charming conversations about the meaning of life whilst sitting on those postcard-perfect restaurant balconies with the red chairs.
In the "Backpack" video we were trying to capture these aesthetic recollections of my childhood, but through the lens of the 60s French New Wave cinema of Truffaut and Godard. We even shot at the same location as the movie L'Enfer, directed by George Henri Clouzot. It’s where Eiffel built this amazing, huge pink bridge that glows every night. There is something very Lynchian about that bridge, it seems to remind you of the danger hidden within the pure, natural environment you’re surrounded by.
There were always funny, old madames and gentlemen in their tacky bathing suits, doing ski-nautique before having charming conversations about the meaning of life
DD: There is a lovely, lighthearted feel to your videos, as well as an open embrace of the bizarre in the quotidian experience. Do you often feel confronted by the utter absurdity of existence?
Petite Meller: For me life is a series of absurd situations. Laughing and fantasizing is really the only thing I can do about it. I believe in the saying which says: "Je veux être la muse de ma muse".
DD: Which jazz and pop musicians were you inspired to make your music by?
Petite Meller: I grew up listening to the vinyls of Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington and Van McCoy, but the French chansons like Chantal Goya and Charles Aznavour were always playing in the background. My mum used to sing their songs like they were a life or death situation. Then my dad got me into Euro Club-Med pop music, like Leif Garrett, Ricchi e Poveri and Kool and the Gang.
In my videos I invite people to my own lil world of innocence and freeness of femininity. "Backpack" takes me to the point of discovering sexuality for the first time
DD: Do you mostly write your songs from melodies that come to you?
Petite Meller: I always write my songs during something: in a lecture, a taxi ride, whilst waiting in a doctor's line. Melodies just pop into my mind with words connected to them, and I record myself on my iPhone, for me. It's an ever-present inspiration, you just have to listen hard for it.
DD: Do you find it fun to provoke subconscious, libidinal urges through your creations?
Petite Meller: In my videos I invite people to my own lil world of innocence and freeness of femininity. "Backpack" takes me to the point of discovering sexuality for the first time, of praying and of playing risky games. It's inspired by David Hamilton’s aesthetics, but this time from a femme "Joan of Arc" point of view. It's kind of an invitation to read a secret diary, an end of summer memoire.