'French is more poetic. English is more direct. Having the chance to work with both gives me more possibilities.'
Vicky Greer
15:45 13th May 2021

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It’s no longer unusual for bands to have albums that they haven’t had a chance to tour yet. With only a few limited opportunities to perform since last March, there’s already a lot of pressure for bands to put on the best show of their life this summer. But to hit the festivals for the first time as a band? That’s something Marie Davidson knows about.

Marie Davidson & L'Œil Nu’s set at All Points East this August represents a lot of firsts for the band. Chatting to Gigwise over Zoom from Montreal, Canada, band leader Marie tells us just how excited she is to play the festival at Victoria Park for the first time. “It’s my first time playing this festival and I’m not going to be playing alone, I’ll be playing with my band…it’s a lot of new things and it’s very exciting for us”.

It sounds like enough pressure for any artist, but then you factor in Davidson’s recent musical reinvention too... Prior to her first album with L'Œil Nu, she was releasing music as a solo artist, focusing primarily on dance music and electronica. Now, we hear a different sound which blends rock, pop and jazz with hints of her previous adventures in electronica. “It’s changing everything, it makes it much more exciting,” she says. “Now we have this hybrid version of our band. We decided to go as much electronic as real instruments. We’re having guitars and synthesisers on stage but we’re keeping electronic drums and music generated by computers and samples”. Now sharing the stage with three other people, she’s pulling out all the stops to make sure that they show off exactly who they are as artists.

What other musicians might see as a mammoth task of planning every intricate detail of a setlist, Davidson describes as “the fun part”, explaining in elaborate detail how she manages to create intimacy in a festival environment. “For me it’s a case of sound, playfulness, you have to use your intuition to try to think about what would be a good pacing? Which songs should go into the other? Where do we want the music to break down and where do we want the music to come back louder, stronger, more energetic?” But beyond all of the technical details, it all boils down to one thing: a new band who just want to get out on the road. “We’re really excited to just go on stage and play this live, showcase what we have in mind, what kind of live gig we are. For sure it’s going to be fun”, she says with confidence.

However, she won’t give away too much about what we can expect from their live shows, opting instead to hold on to the air of mystery to introducing themselves to the world. “We’ve prepared a special set with little candies here and there. I’m not going to tell you because it’s not the time. I’d rather just let people discover by themselves”.

The break in live music is the longest that Davidson has gone between live shows. Throughout Canada’s consistently strict lockdown restrictions, she has sought out routine in her life, starting with a half-hour daily practice of qigong. An ancient offshoot of martial arts practices, she describes it as “a soft, slow sport and the principle of it is to have a good energy flow and to have a good energy circulate in your body”. Practicing it every day, qigong has become a moment of prevention and repair to combat the anxiety and stress that we’ve all been experiencing this year.

But the year wasn’t completely absent from performance. In March, Marie Davidson & L'Œil Nu filmed a concert at Montréal’s Studio Notre-Dame with filmmaker Denis Côté, which was met with rave reviews. “For us it was a real mindfuck”, Davidson admits. “We worked so hard on this project and then by the time our record was out nothing was possible. We couldn’t even celebrate, really…it became everything to us, that filmed show because it was the only thing we were allowed to do”. In the end, despite the pressure, they were happy with what they had done: “It was a bit intimidating, but the result was amazing and we’re very proud of that…We’ll see how it goes with an actual crowd, probably much more fun”.

The show saw them unveil themselves as a live act, albeit in a different way to most musicians starting a new project. But the half-French, half-English blend of genres became almost supernatural in its grandeur and established Marie Davidson and L'Œil Nu as performers to watch.

French is Davidson’s first language, the one she grew up speaking in Montréal and she later picked up English as a teenager. She still speaks with a strong French accent, taking pride in both her native tongue and the global tool of being able to write music in English.

“Popular culture is very influenced by English language. For me it’s normal, it’s not a statement or anything it’s just that I have the chance to speak two languages and one is definitely stronger than the other which is French”. Similar to contemporary bilingual artists like Christine and the Queens, each language represents something different in her songwriting process, she explains "Some emotions and concepts really translate better in French. But there are other statements or vibes or energies that really translate better in English”. Detailing exactly how she uses these tools, she adds “French is more poetic and reflective or evasive sometimes. There’s a lot of images. English is more direct and having the chance to work with both gives me more possibilities. Why say no to that?”

It's a weird time to start performing with a new project. Especially when you consider the pressure-cooker festival season of lost time and anticipation that we’ve got ahead of us this summer. But Marie Davidson & L'Œil Nu coming together for the first time is a must see at All Points East this year.

Marie Davidson & L'Œil Nu play All Points East on Saturday 28 August. Bag a ticket here. 

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Photo: Press