For Andrea (Caramé) and Remi (Merime), music is a currency for emotions, one that’s accepted in any country and never gets devalued. While touring Europe in a van, they stopped in Copenhagen for some concerts and chatted with me about music on the move.
S At the Low-Fi concert you said it was love at first listen between the two of you. So how did you meet?
M When I first saw him, I caught his look and said “Wow, man, you have beautiful eyes!” – and that was it.
[all three laugh]
M We met in Melbourne. He was there for an operation, because he had only one lung. It so happened that I actually had three, I was born like that. So I thought: why not give him one? And that’s how we became forever connected.
C Problem is, the lung you gave me was pretty fucked up.
M [oozing more Frenchness by the second] Well, it was the one I had smoked all my life with. You know, you’re asking too much of me. You could at least say thanks, you never thanked me.
C So yeah, in all seriousness, the way it went was that a guy we both knew ran this open mic gig in Melbourne, while I was couchsurfing with a Russian guy. We were introduced, and one minute later we were picking a song from his song book. I think it was Hit The Road Jack. After we played it, we just looked at each other and it felt good; you know how it is sometimes, between musicians, when you find someone who speaks your same language.
M To me, what was really fascinating about him was that he used to always carry this bag, with everything he owned, and a boombox. He doesn’t have many things, but the ones he does own, he chooses carefully and gets very attached to.
You can see why a French guy singing in English in Australia wasn’t a big hit.
S Why music?
C Music is something I haven’t been able to escape from my whole life. My dad is a musician, but he preferred not to teach me anything, and told me to get my own guitar and learn. I started to play and sing around 19 and I ended up playing on the streets pretty soon after. It’s always been a way for me to boost my confidence, but also to support myself – because when you’re a poor travel-addicted musician, you need to make money somehow.
M I, myself, started playing music out of desperation, because I realised I wasn’t good at anything else. It was a long process – it still is. The first time I paid attention to the power of music was on summer camp, around a bonfire, and the camp leader was playing the guitar and singing and everybody joined in. It was electrifying, and I thought God, that’s amazing, I wanna do that. The second aha moment was when I was in highschool and people started playing in bands and getting girls, so I wanted in. I started making bonfires next to my parents house so I could invite people and play all night long, and NOT get girls – I probably didn’t get this part right, because I would keep playing while my friends got the girls.
S Well, I guess that’s just a different kind of love story.
M It was. Fast forward to when I was 30, I decided to leave my life and travel, and took my guitar along. I got to New Orleans and met this guy who was playing music on the street and inspired me so much that I decided to give it a try. Wasn’t very successful at first, but at least I managed to get over the fear of just being there on the street. Then I went to Australia, initially with the plan of traveling through the country, but eventually my girlfriend at the time found a job in Melbourne so we stayed there. I, myself, couldn’t find a job, I was clumsy and didn’t know what I could be good at, so I just went on the street and started to play. I played what I used to play in France, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, but you can see why a French guy singing in English in Australia wasn’t a big hit. That’s when I started to play some French reggae, and people responded very well. So I kept playing in French.
S But then how did you get into writing music?
M I always had this melancholia that I felt I needed to express through music. I always liked the minor chords. It took me a long time to play my own stuff though, because it didn’t come that easy and I was a bit shy about it. So I ended up playing in Melbourne songs I had written 5-6 years before, brushing them up, learning some new writing techniques, rhythmic structures, rhyming, all that. I also did some work on letting go of all my preconceptions and let my soul express what it wanted to express.
S Do you set up to write music or it just comes to you?
C There are moments or people that inspire me and make me think of a melody. I have these rhymes in my head that linger there for a while until they find their own melody. All the traveling I did so far has filled me with stories and feelings of all kinds, good and bad, and I felt like putting that into music. So my album is basically a travel diary, simple as that.
M It’s complicated. There were a few times in my life when a song just came to me, straight away, all together. It’s something there [points at some undefined location in the air], floating around, something that you can sometimes channel, when the ego surrenders. But generally I’m very demanding of the way I put words together, so it takes a while, several steps, 5 lines here, 5 there; then, when the right time comes, I put them together like a puzzle and the song emerges.
I have these rhymes in my head that linger there for a while until they find their own melody.
S Why home concerts?
C You’re put in a small room with people very close to you, they’re staring at you, so you feel all this pressure, it’s pretty intense. At the end you’re exhausted, you feel like you’ve poured all of yourself out and people want more and more! I’d done quite a few home concert before Low-Fi, but it took a while to get it right. I kind of had to push myself to interact with people at a home concert, because it’s not that easy when you have a bunch of strangers staring at you from 2 feet away. You don’t know how they’ll react.
S I can say for myself, from the other end of this intimate interaction, that that pressure you feel translates to the listener into immediacy, into something pure and authentic. What I like is when I see you messing up a chord or getting up in the middle of a song to drink some water. I’m guessing that’s where the pressure comes for you, knowing that we see all that, but ultimately it’s the best thing we get. Now, what comes easier for you to write music about?
C My travel journal. I get why it’s hard for them to relate, cause they weren’t there, experiencing what I was experiencing. So my trick is to put those stories into songs, which are kind of 3 minute summaries of my travel experience that people can actually relate to, in a language everybody can understand and feel – music.
S Who’s the person who listens to your new music for the first time?
C People on the street. Their reaction is the most important for me.
M I don’t have a Yoko, sadly. So yeah, the public is the first who hears my music too.
S Where is your home?
C Where my family is. It’s not actually a physical place, but the connection and the warmth that I keep in my heart. With us being travelers and not home that much, it’s still so important to know that we have a place to go back to if we need, to our roots.
M For me, Melbourne was home. I really felt like that was the place I was looking for my whole life. But I had to leave, and now I have no home. So one of the reasons why I decided to travel through Europe with Andrea is to find a home.
Music is love and love is music.
S Let’s say that for now, your van, Jazzy, is your de facto home. Do you have a favourite spot in there where you like to hang out?
C Yeah, in the front seats, when we drive for hours next to each other.
M I do vocal exercises and he’s sitting next to me, accompanying me sometimes. Then we listen to a lot of music. We needed a powerful one because when you drive fast the engine is sooo noisy so we have to keep the volume up.
S Why does music matter?
M Music talks directly to the soul and enables pure emotion . In our society, negative emotions, like anger and sadness, are hardly acknowledged and accepted; joy and happiness are more easily promoted. But in music you connect as easily and as positively to a sad song as a joyful one. Bands like Nirvana, let’s say, built an entire musical career on expressing rage. To feel is to be alive, and there’s nothing negative about that.
C If I had to summarise it into a very short sentence, I would quote something Donny Hathaway said: Music is love and love is music. That’s what I believe in.