Sometimes you come across something new, fresh, and impressive. Especially when you learn that the band were some geeks in art class that formed their own little tribe and began to make music.
Hyphen Hypen are a French Euro pop three-piece band that have just conquered Europe and are now touring the states in August. I interviewed them a few months ago, and just got the tour dates, and wanted to share them out with you all. This band is really something special, I got to talk to Samantha “Santa”, Adam, and Lauren, three queer kids reaching their dreams and making some fantastic fun music, we talked about their music, and new album “C’est La Vie” (Such is Life). I look at these kids and I am so very proud of them.
Jeremy Hinks (Instinct): Thanks for your time, I guess we will be doing this in English but I do speak French, I used to live in the 16th in Paris.
Santa: Great so you can help us out if we lose the words we can ask you to translate.
JH: I hadn’t heard you guys till recently, cause you do cover such a wide span of great sound, I should have heard it from day one. I love your catalog, but didn’t get into it til recently but I fell in love rather quickly. Lining up the conversation was a problem with time zones.
Santa: Timezones are overrated.
JH: So, when I heard it I thought you guys were a more fun electronic version of London Grammar.
Lauren: Oh yeah! Nice.
JH: Then the write-up said you were like Fleetwood Mac, I went through the catalog to find that, then I went down the rabbit hole into your videos, and instead of Spotify, I started watching the stuff on YouTube. That took me in completely different directions, I figured out that you all met in art school, so does that play into your video concept?
Adam: Kind of.
Santa: Thank you for those kind words, we feel welcomed and understood. We like the London Grammar reference, we have a lot of references with our videos and images.
Adam: We’ve always been into all art forms, I think we learn them, and a lot of our experiences influence even more than our studies. Santa and I have been drawing since we were kids, and we are always searching for a way to create in some way. This is what united us in high school.
Santa: Also because we always imagine and talked about music through images colors, films, references, and different mediums, not just music. I think it’s what makes us unique in a way.
Adam: It’s pretty interesting today that when you make music, you can play a lot of different roles in the range of possibilities that art can provide.
Santa: And the will to craft a vivid image and new words somehow our own.
JH: So I think that you imagine all the videos yourselves, you don’t have someone come up with the idea and present it to you.
Lauren: We imagine what would be the best way to tell a story, it’s a long process depending on the song but we have a lot of fun doing it.
Santa: We try to push boundaries and create, and it’s a fun way to create using films and video.
Adam: It’s pretty fun to become the movie director for a day.
JH: I would be listening to the music, and have these visuals in my mind, thinking what is happening, I am very visual about the sounds. Then I watch a video and think “Where the hell did that come from? That was amazing”, but at the same time, I think “Wow I wouldn’t have come up with that”, but that is what makes it so great.
Lauren: I think it’s another dimension, where the fun is to add another layer of emotions.
JH: I interpret the sound and have my visuals, and then I see what you came up with, it’s great I love your storytelling. I have seen a lot of really crap videos, but everything I have seen you do was well done. So that “Call my Name” live video, even that one, I recognize some of that, I can see Sacre Couer behind you, what roof were you on?
Lauren: It was the roof of “Le Grand Rex” (a hotel in Paris)
JH: Cause I know that part of Paris really well, and the live one had a very good feel of Florence + The Machine to it, I was thinking man, these guys are pulling out great sound. That was one you could showcase, was that a pandemic project you did on the roof there?
Santa: It was imagined during the pandemic, but we filmed it, right before we posted it.
Adam: Yeah we just did that one a few months ago.
Santa: It’s a part of our last album “C’est La Vie”, I guess you understand what it means. The way we tried to capture the emotions on the roof, it was so cold,
Adam: It was SO COLD.
Santa: It was a personal meltdown that we tried to capture in this beautiful and intense live session.
JH: You just brought up my next question, makes my job so much easier. What was the emotional meltdown going into that song, and which one of you was writing the lyrics?
Santa: It was a meltdown because it was the pandemic during the writing process. So we were all in the middle of a global crisis, and a personal meltdown because a lot was going on with our lives at that time, and the world was really in a rough spot and we have those two dimensions, “Call my name is a song that travels different dimensions.
Lauren: Writing it was not that harsh, it made us breathe at that time.
JH: So the lyrics “There is nothing to say, there is nothing to lose, I’m gonna take you for a long ride home”, I love the line “The day’s coming to an end tonight” I felt like, “This is, whatever this shit is, we are calling it”.
Santa: I remember the chords on the piano, I had almost everything for the verses, but it was more about finding the chorus after. I wanted something epic and gentile at the same time, like finding beauty amid chaos…. Somehow.
Adam: We used some “Ear Candy” like an ocean, and we used some images for example we used some wave sounds because they add the feeling of an ocean and can feel like a giant storm.
Santa: We use the word “Ear candy” cause we always try to put some images through our music, we use different layers of sounds to create images.
JH: I was going to say that, yes you’re laying in where you think one sound is going to create a feeling, then you put something in there as a distraction as well, and say “No this isn’t exactly how I think this is going to feel, feel this too”. That was what I was getting out of your music, you decide how I’m gonna feel in your songs.
Santa: We love to surprise people, I have the feeling that we are trying to make people feel a wide range of emotions, the fact that you’re saying to listen to another song because the emotions are more complex than just a pop song. This is what our work is about to create something that is pop, and deep at the same time.
JH: I get that, you guys take me where you want to go, it’s very layered, I’ve gotten a lot out of each time I listen to a song, and the feelings are always different. Then there are the videos, and this whole thing is to just sit back and experience it. So you did “C’est La Vie” you recorded it in the 19th, I lived in the 16th, and up by Chateau Rouge.
Santa: Yeah, that’s not the best part of Paris.
JH: Oh no, up by Sacre Couer, terrible place to live, but it’s still so beautiful. So after you had produced your first album yourselves, it was a good project then you moved on to Glen Ballard who had worked with Alanis Morisette. You went from a DIY project, your early stuff was fantastic, then you picked up Glen Ballard, what did you learn from that, how was that for a change, he is quite a name.
Santa: He is the best because we started from our tiny project from high school, the whole DIY thing I understand the feeling because it was what we wanted at the time, but for this album it was to conquer the world and this is our first international album, and Glen Ballard was the best encounter we had.
Lauren: And for the first time in our lives we welcomed someone into our little clan, it was very new for us, it was a perfect match, he injected new energy into the project with so much humility, to the next level.
Santa: His kindness he was like a mentor.
Lauren: He changed the way we approach songwriting forever.
Santa: His energy infused our lives, and helped us to overcome all of our different dramas, the feeling that we can reach another audience and we were ready for it.
JH: High praise for the guy. (all were laughing), See I met Alanis on her 2nd record tour (Now is the time) my buddy’s band opened for her, and it was really bad. Then she met with Glen Ballard, and then they put out some amazing stuff. But you guys were great before that.
Santa: Yeah, let’s hope we have the same career.
JH: Before I even saw the video I thought London Grammar, Florence, and Hyphen-Hypen all on the same bill would be awesome.
Santa: Yeah that would be a dream.
JH: So what is it about the black stripes painted on your faces, I don’t see a note about that anywhere.
Adam: That was a funny teenage story.
Lauren: Yeah, in our town there was this contest going on we were about to play, in Niece, and Santa panicked and said “Guys, we look like everyone else here.” She took a marker and painted the stripes on our cheeks, ever since that day we kept it as a ritual which is the last thing we do before going on stage.
Santa: Also because when we wear it, somehow we are better versions of ourselves. It became a ritual.
JH: Well, it’s a uniform thing, I suppose it’s not like KISS when they do their thing.
Santa: The fun fact, is it was a marker but it was permanent. We wore it for an entire week in high school, and people were looking at us weirdly.
Adam: Yeah we couldn’t wash it off.
JH: So your song, “Too Young” was that filmed in Los Angeles, in the observatory there?
Santa: It was the feeling we wanted, but it was shot in Nice, in the observatory, but we wanted it to look like the one in Los Angeles.
JH: Well, the angles you got looked like it was in Los Angeles, so cool.
Santa: Well, it was cheaper to do it that way.
JH: What was the line, “You’re too young to die alone”, those are heavy lyrics for people as young as you are. “Everyone got scars, I feel safe with you”. It has a lot to unpack.
Lauren: OH yeah.
Santa: And not enough time.
JH: But then it ended up being the Euro Women’s football anthem last year, so congratulations. We had a football game here in America, I didn’t watch it.
Santa: We did watch, only the music though.
JH: I was going to shoot the Super Bowl Music Festival, but I got sidelined and went to see Adele, I wouldn’t have watched the game anyway. So, what was the mathematical calculation you were working on the board in that video?
Santa: That was the cheat card to make massive heat (laughing). We are so bad at math, we only count to four …
JH: Right, count us in, 2,3, 2, 3 4….. That was a well-done video but the whole song has a lot to unpack. Let’s jump into this you call yourselves the “Queer Euro Electro Pop” band, where are you all on the spectrum?
Santa: The spectrum is quite large, and as a queer band we want to give visibility to the community, as queer teenagers in France, we didn’t have the chance to look upon icons.
Lauren: It was hard to find and look up to LGBTQIA role models, I was a teenage lesbian, and I was kind of lost, and meeting two best friends helped me accept who I was and embrace it.
Santa: And we try each concert to embrace what we are, and show people that it is okay to be gay.
Adam: To create a safe space for everyone there.
Lauren: At every concert, this is my favorite part of the show.
Santa: Yeah we already started the tour in France and Europe, and we have this massive new show which is the best written, and during concerts, we play a song called “Be High With Me” which became a queer anthem in here.
Lauren: We are having our own gay pride festival, we ask the public to come to dance with us on the stage, flags are flying everywhere, and we want people to be who they are and feel safe with us.
Adam: It’s really beautiful to see.
Santa: It’s more than a choice it was a vow to stand up for who we are, and if our music can help somehow and somebody to accept who they are, it would be a success.
JH: So your video “Mamma Sorry”, the whole story of that girl, she was very masculine, and then she was there with Santa?
Santa: Yeah I played the other part.
JH: So there she was with her family having problems and the jerk guys, then called them out in the fight, and there you were, as the story goes “I accept you, I find you beautiful, I’m going to love you for who you are, I’m gonna put these silly glasses and this wig on you”. You were saying “I accept you as YOU”.
Santa: The whole concept is about tolerance and acceptance, feel free to be who you are, and don’t ever feel ashamed.
Adam: After this music video we got a lot of messages from our fans saying “You helped us a lot, it coming out”.
JH: Well, in the end when she was hugging her mom, I was crying.
Santa: OHHHH, It was a lot of emotion on the set, and after because we received tons of messages.
JH: You reached people, and the message was received by everyone. See that’s wonderful, did get flack from the general public in France, or the music industry not wanting to spotlight a queer band? In America, you gotta be labeled, America is strange, when a band comes out that generates a lot of how they are going to be accepted by the regular music industry and the queer community. What was it like in France?
Santa: It changed a lot when we wrote our first album.
Lauren: We weren’t out publicly.
Santa: We were growing up, but we weren’t really aware of who were at that time, we were young and lost, and the fact that we were together, and helped a lot. The band was already a safe place. The music industry changed a lot and more accepting. Being queer sort of became a marketing thing, and hopefully, it helps, because that was an angle to sell also, and fortunately, there are a lot of people to convince and reach out to.
Lauren: There is a lot of homophobia also in France.
JH: When are you coming to the States? (See the tour dates, they had to line them up after this interview)
Santa: We are planning a lot of gigs, coming in late summer.
JH: Well, you are playing the Zenith in Paris, and some other large venues, and in Lille, I am related to half the city of Lille by the way. I can see where you are going, I have been to a lot of these venues.
Santa: The tour in France is massive, so far it’s all sold out, but we can’t wait to come to the US, cause we already play in New York in the middle of Central Park last summer, and it gave us a great taste of what we can do over there.
JH: I’m looking forward to seeing you play live.
Santa: This is where we come from and this is where the fire is, all our energy is out there, and we put our hearts on stage and into our songs.
JH: Lemme jump into this, that song “I just need your love” at the beginning you had all those people talking in the captions, were they talking about the alien visitation going on, and where was it filmed, part of it looks like it was filmed in Norway, then the other part was filmed in the desert.
Santa: It can sound like an alternative version of Lady Gaga’s version of “Chromatica”, it looked like Norway, but it’s in Spain.
Adam: It’s an island off the shore of Morocco, it’s beautiful.
Santa: I get the alien thing because it’s a place where you can feel it between the moon and earth, it’s weird geography somehow, and it’s a great set to film music videos, and movies there.
Adam: It’s got a wide scape of different landscapes, you feel like you are out of earth when you are there.
JH: Were the aliens making everyone dance?
Santa: Yeah, that’s the whole story.
JH: That was beautiful.
Santa: When we write these songs, for people to relate to these emotions.
Lauren: We want people to feel when we play these, for people to connect and relate.
JH: So I ask this if every queer artist I speak to, what would you a bunch of queer geeks in high school who made art and did it awesome, what would you tell the young queer kid who is in the closet and afraid?
Santa: Don’t be ashamed, don’t apologize, don’t feel excluded because of a bunch of jerks. You are what you are and be proud, we are standing right behind you.
Lauren: You’re not alone. You are beautiful.
Adam: No matter what, we are always going to be this little light helping you to see in the dark.
JH: Wonderful everyone, thank you so much for your time I hope to see you on the road.
The full audio of this conversation with plenty more banter can be heard here:
And learn more about the band and its members on their socials: