Yelle, Saturday, Nov. 3, 8 p.m., $18–$20, Local 506, Chapel Hill, www.local506.com
Julie Budet, of the French pop trio Yelle, describes the way she sees the world as “like a cartoon.” And that’s not surprising, given that Yelle’s synthy, always-fun songs take place in their own universe: a daydreamy, slightly off-kilter place filled with glitter; bright, colorful lights; and lots of dancing. For example, the video for the single “OMG!!!” features a depressed hamster who’s just waiting for the sun to come out.
Yelle first caught ears stateside in the late aughts with 2007’s “Je Veux Te Voir,” a superb dis track that’s equally goofy and scathing. But even as the group has smoothed out its rougher edges over the years, its music is still plenty of fun to dance to, thanks in large part to Budet’s lively presence as a frontwoman.
From her home in Bretagne, in the northwestern part of France, Budet talked to us about the importance of sunshine, whether she’s a grownup, and how music helps her hang on to her sanity in 2018.
INDY: I really love how “OMG!!!” captures what it’s like to feel better after being down or depressed for a bit. Can you tell me a little about it?
JULIE BUDET: We wrote the song at a certain time, in a certain mood, and for “OMG!!!” it was the end of the winter, and we were waiting for the sun so much! So we probably wrote it at the moment when we needed the song so much that we had to express it in a song.
Did writing that song give you the same feeling of the sun coming out?
When there is no sun, I can deal with it. I really like fall, and I really like winter. It’s not a problem for me, but when the sun hits you in the summer—we are like flowers, you know, we are like grass. We really need this vitamin to be alive! When it’s dark all the time, it can be really depressing. I can make a comparison between the song and the stage because being in the lights, in front of people, it’s also something that I miss sometimes when we are no longer touring.
You tour all around the world—what’s it like having fans who don’t speak French and might not understand your lyrics? Does that change anything about the way you write or the way you perform?
Not really, actually. If I know that people don’t understand the lyrics of a song onstage, I really try to be the most expressive I can. I think we also write in a certain way, like probably a little bit naive. And also simple. Even if I play with words, I’m choosing uncomplicated vocabulary. We never focus on how people will understand. We just do things, and then we see what happens.
Even when you translate your lyrics, they aren’t very literal. It’s funny to think about going online to translate your songs and then ending up with something like, “Your jacuzzi is my volcano,” in “OMG!!!” Because that’s still very metaphorical, and it’s an unexpected and fun thing to say.
It’s really about metaphors, as you said. Like “Jacuzzi,” in “OMG!!!” Something is happening in your body. It’s burning; it’s moving inside you. And you picture it—you see the jacuzzi bubbling—and you can totally imagine it. It’s the same thing in your body when you’re with someone that you like.
How do these metaphors reflect the way you think about and perceive the world?
I feel like it is really hard for me to grow up. I mean, I know that I am an adult. But I really feel that I’m still a little girl. I think I still see the world as a child. So when I’m driving, if I see bumps on the road, I can totally imagine I’m on the hippopotamus’s back or something like that. I always have some images and pictures, like if I was living a cartoon.
You do a really good job of sharing that childlike sensibility through your videos and your costumes. Not everybody sees the world that way. Why is important to you to let people experience your way of seeing things?
When we are on stage, we really want to communicate and have a good moment with people, and to make them feel better, even if they have their problems in their lives. It’s a moment, and it’s a moment together. And the simple way for us to share it, it’s to sing songs and to dance and to have this communion with them. We are always playing.
You know, I’m thirty-five years old. And I’m thinking about having kids, I’m thinking about my future, and I’m really scared and I’m really depressed sometimes because I’m like, “What’s the point of having kids in this world? What’s the point of trying my best to preserve the environment if it’s going to be worse in fifteen years?” It scares me. But I think music really helps me to live and to be happy in this world. And I really think music is important in everybody’s life, because it probably helps to have this possibility of being away from your daily life and your problems and everything, but also to have, sometimes, another way of seeing—of seeing life in a more positive way.