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John and Jehn Are Still Loved Up

Dazed Digital get an exclusive peek at the French duo’s new video for single “Oh My Love” directed by Antoine Carlier.

This French, London-based duo/couple have been causing bouts of jealousy because they are beautiful, make beautiful music together and are very much in love. With their self professed mix of  “pop music, obscure experimental music and proper traditional rock and roll” John & Jehn made waves with their self titled first album and are now back with an even more smug-coupled and self-assured sound, demonstrated by single “Oh My Love.” Dazed Digital speaks to John & Jehn about being confused French Londoners and their foray into silent movie soundtracking.

DazedDigital: What makes music French and what makes music British?
Jehn: John, don’t be too hard on the English speaking countries…
John: Hmm, well, French music is very serious – first-degree seriousness! – no sense of humour most of the time, while British music is full of it, as we say in France second, third-degree… lots of layers of meaning.
Jehn: A bit like American music…
John: Yes, although Americans can be real funny too. They are capable of laughing at themselves. But it is hard to find a funny French act, except one: Serge Gainsbourg was pop, funny, sexy and everything at the same time.
Jehn: Yes, but in that case he was “clownesque”.
John: I have to say I do like the very serious singers like Jacques Brel, who can be SO depressing, BUT…
Jehn: It is difficult to answer that because we ourselves feel like a breed between the two countries.

DD: Do you think that style is related to the meaning those artists are trying to convey through their songs, where French artists may want to be more political, for example?
John: Yes, I think French people are very proud and patriotic, and a bit pretentious… in a good way – I do not think it is bad because we are a bit pretentious ourselves (laughs). It’s just that we want to be straightforward and have a say if we don’t agree with the system or that horrible president we’ve got now, Sarkozy. French do it even if they don’t earn the money and have to do it in the streets.

DD: Do you see yourselves as an exception to that rule, where you put things forward as a sort of mockery?
John: Yes, that’s right. We live in England now and we’ve learnt different ways of expressing things.

DD: So that sense of laughing at yourselves and the world through your music and videos, is that something you had in mind from the beginning or did it evolve or develop along the way?
Jehn: I think one needs to laugh at themselves often so as not to go crazy, especially in this business! But also, as music partners and as a couple, we need to do it to keep it fresh and exciting.
John: But it is something we didn’t think about from the beginning. We just showed to the world all we could do and people reacted to certain things rather than others and we reacted back and through that we created the style or ‘image’ we have now.
Jehn: We get misinterpreted in the media.
John: Yes, like we are part of the gothic scene… but we do not like that type of music at all and we do not have anything to do with it.

DD: If you had to describe your music in a visual form, would you choose a painting, a sculpture, a film?
Jehn: It’s funny you say that because we always think of music as a visual form. We have images in our minds and we try to express them through music.
John: I would say a movie is the best platform for us.
Jehn: Yeah, although it depends on the songs.

DD: A 1920’s movie perhaps?
Jehn: Yes, we are working on creating the soundtrack for a 1929 silent movie at the moment, a German film, “Diary of a Lost Girl”, with Louise Brooks for a French Festival and there are loads of close-ups, all in black and white, and it is truly expressionist.
John: It is somewhat “burlesque”, with loads of long shots to faces.
Jehn: And we will be playing the music while the film is on, live.
John: 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Jehn: We were a bit worried because we were not the ones picking the film, but it turned out to be an amazing one that fits with our music; somewhat erotic and sexy.

DD: If you had never met and none of this John & Jehn project had happened, where would you be right now?
Jehn: Oh My God! This is hard – well, I guess in Paris, desperately trying to play in films, which is what I was aiming at then.
John: Wow, I mean, I always wanted to do music because I was so bad at school. At some point I tried to be a tattooist but it didn’t work (not that good at drawing – laughs) and um…I have not that many skills… yeah, music is all I can do!

Single ‘Oh My Love’ out now. John & Jehn will be playing Rough Trade East 21st April at 7pm.  

Teaser of video for 'Oh My Love'

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