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Savages' Jehnny Beth On Pop Noire
Luke Turner , May 1st, 2014 09:01

With Pop Noire set to take over The Shacklewell Arms next week, we asked its co-founder and Savages singer Jehnny Beth about the label's success, philosophy and what we can expect from them this year

There's no rest for Jehnny Beth of Savages. Recently returned from her band's seemingly endless touring schedule in support of their Silence Yourself long-player, she's immediately throwing herself back into work with her Pop Noire label, which co-released said LP in 2013, along with the brilliant French language debut LP of sauce-pop from Lescop.

Next week in London, Pop Noire take over The Shacklewell Arms for two nights of music from their label, friends and associates. Playing live on May 5 will be Savages guitarist Gemma Thompson performing a solo set, noisy Japanese group ZZZ and A Dead Forest Index, whom Jehnny Beth describes thus: "They play a sort of dark folk with a beautiful voice, androgynous and strange." Details and tickets for that night are here.

Then on May 6 at Birthdays Parisian group Sable Noir will open proceedings, followed by new signing Le Vasco, also from the French capital. Says Beth, "Their sound is extreme (which I like) a sort of forward-thinking electronic music which appeals to the mind as well as the desire to dance." Headlining will be Beth herself playing in partnership with Johnny Hostile, with Romy Madley-Croft of The xx DJing; find out more about that night here.

We talked to Beth over e-mail and asked for all the latest from Pop Noire, about the night and what exactly her collaboration with Johnny Hostile will consist of. Is this the rebirth of John & Jehn?

Now Savages have finished your relentless touring, is the plan to focus more on Pop Noire and other projects?

Jehnny Beth: Yes, since I'm back I've been concentrating on working for the label, did a few trips to Paris for interviews and worked in the office there to plan the new releases and signings. It's a lot of work but I haven't been able to do as much as I wanted while I was on tour this year... The dream is to find new offices and a studio in Paris. We're working on it. Of course, I'm also gonna spend the rest of the year writing and recording the new Savages album with the girls. So it looks like a busy 2014 already.

How has Pop Noire been going over the past couple of years? What have been the surprises, and the best and most difficult moments?

JB: The first few years are usually the most difficult and I'm glad we managed to survive. We have a good image among artists, they usually want to work with us because they like the way we think about music - even sometimes just because they like to hang out with us, which is a good reason too. The best moments are always when we organise club nights and everyone is partying together, like next week for example. 

Has the philosophy behind the label changed at all, through necessity or any other reason?

JB: Not really, except that at first it was quite self-centred and now it's more open. Pop Noire was originally created by three artists (myself, producer Johnny Hostile and graphic designer Antoine Carlier) who just wanted to release their own material. When manager Patrick Votan joined us (also manager of Tinariwen) we started to evolve from a production house to a real label.

We've just signed Le Vasco, young kids from South Paris. Their sound is extreme (which I like) – a sort of forward-thinking electronic music which appeals to the mind as well as the desire to dance. We are releasing the new EP by New Zealand duo A Dead Forest Index (pictured above) who supported Savages in Australia, UK and Europe (it's out June 2). They play a sort of dark folk with a beautiful voice, androgynous and strange. Perfect for fans of Nick Drake and Michael Gira. 

Tell us about why you've picked the artists you have for these two nights...

JB: The idea was to create a sort of mini festival curated by Savages and Pop Noire to celebrate the release of 'Fuckers' and the one year anniversary of Silence Yourself. We wanted to present artists we believe in and we think deserve more exposure.

The first night is more guitar-orientated with Gemma Thompson (Savages) performing her experimental solo project (Bashan) for the first time, A Dead Forest Index and Japanese trio ZZZ (who supported Savages in Osaka and were first introduced to us by Geoff Barrow at Sonic City festival in Belgium). The second night is more electro – we are presenting the new generation of French electronic music with Le Vasco and I'll be performing a set with Johnny Hostile. We also have French producer Zdar's studio assistant opening the night with his project Sable Noir, and Romy from The xx will DJ too... 

You and Johnny Hostile are playing together, do you see this as a completely separate project from John & Jehn, or is it an evolution? What's changed?

JB: We started this set while on tour with Savages. We played a few after-shows in Portugal, Rome, Copenhagen and Paris. The idea was to organise our own after-parties, play late when people are drunk and just want to dance. We did it for fun and it worked really well. The sound is different from the original J&J; it's very dance floor. John is on the machines and I sing (a DJ and an MC!). That's why we renamed it 'Johnny Hostile & Jehnny Beth'. Because it's a new set-up with a new sound and it includes both of us as individuals. We always wanted to do something together again but took our time to rearrange new material. We wanted a lighter set-up, something easy and fun. Best way to find out is to come next week!