InstituteReel Feelings is a new series from Abbey Road, exploring mental health and wellbeing whilst in lockdown, and asking our artist friends, how are they feeling, really? So far we’ve heard from Australian-born, London-based singer-songwriter Cloves, Kate Cudbertson, Manager for FKJ and The Sundrop Garden, English singer/songwriter, musician, producer, and label owner Jane Weaver and Fontaines D.C.'s Tom Coll.
This week, we hear from The Penelopes. The French indie-pop / electronic duo returned at the start of the year with two new singles from their forthcoming album; their own rendition of Suicide’s Dream Baby Dream featuring actress Asia Argento and an original single titled Meet Me By The Gates with Isabelle Adjani. Both singles were mastered by Miles Showell at Abbey Road. However since lockdown, their releases and gigs have been postponed and the pair have spent lockdown recording in their East London apartment.
We caught up with the duo to see how they’ve adjusted to life in lockdown, their inspiration hotspots and three things they would advise to anyone who is struggling right now.
Reel Feelings: The PenelopesHow have you been feeling, really?
Uummm… it is such a weird situation. We have been forced to slow down and in a way, to be honest, it was a kind of relief for a few weeks. You know for us the lockdown was not so difficult to endure, but we are very sad for the people who live in close confinement and we are very sensitive about that question, cos we both grew up in very rough council estates. The lockdown has increased the inequality. Certain professions have been more exposed to this virus and it is very sad & unfair when you think about it. That is why we would like to thank a billion all the essential workers & health care. Myself, I was student in medicine before being in the band and the hospital was already overwhelmed when I was student. I can imagine how tough it is for 2 / 3 months in the hospitals.
How are you adjusting, how did your life change, and how have you changed?
During the lockdown we have postponed the release of two singles. One in March and another one that should have been released during Cannes Film Festival. The summer gigs are cancelled, but we have tried to stay positive and more important to stay creative.
The fact that we are less snowed under with emails and also, the fact that there is obviously no temptation to party or to go to the pub lead to the fact that you have more headspace to create, to read… Some days, we were literally making music for a 16-hour day which was great.
Technically, we have done more pre-production from home. Basically, the cat is around, checking everything we are doing now. We borrowed or rented some gear at the beginning of the lockdown and we have managed to finish a soundtrack for a long feature film during the lockdown. We have three to four new songs ready and by the way, we can't wait to have them finalised by Miles Showell, the wizard at Abbey Road, haha :)
Where is your ‘inspiration hotspot’ i.e. where do you have the space to think and be creative? What inspires you creatively now (is it different to your usual sources of inspiration)?
We have a home studio in the 2nd floor of our little house in East London and we have the feeling of living in a hut for two months, cos we are spending so much time in this room! With the lockdown, it was good to be able to work at night - like when you start music and you have no label or PR to wake you up in the morning. It is good to record at night when everything is even more quiet. In term of inspiration, it is pretty much the same thing... it comes mainly from books or articles we read. People think we are very influenced by the cinema, but it is actually not the case. We have listened again to our good old Bowie and Leonard Cohen records and some guilty pleasures like Barry White haha.
Strangely, we have written a few uptempo songs during the lockdown. Maybe, it is just a reaction to this slowing down thing, just a way to wake up ourselves. I dunno. The songs are quite melancholic though.
What do you wish you had known before lockdown?
I know now that when people only buy what they need, i.e. their essential food, the economy collapses, which is pure nonsense when you think about it. Actually, I like to pretend I am naive cos I already knew that. It is just the confirmation that something is wrong with the system.
What three things would you advise to anyone who is struggling right now?
It is a big question. I have a few friends who are now stressed about getting back to the "normal" life and to all the social interactions. It is a bit the same in our case. It would be great if people who struggle with that could just realise that it takes strength to be nice. It is not normal to get tensed or hysterical in daily life, at your office etc…
We also hope that people who are struggling a lot financially with this crisis won't succumb to the temptation to retreat into themselves. There is already a rise of a nationalism movement and it is frightening. It sounds very cliched, but we hope this period will remind people that it is good to just enjoy simple pleasures.