interview with Neutral Lies

Jean François DEAN and Nicolas DELBARRE, today interviewed by Vox Empirea, form the electro/synthpop duo called Neutral Lies. I do both you the best welcome with the aim of to know more details about your project and the music you play.

Nick + Jeff- Hi Maxymox, thanks for your interest in our project.

Let's start from the beginning: as I learn, your friendship dates back to the early 80's and since that time to nowadays you have shared the same passion for the tech-sound realizing later in 2009 the Neutral Lies duo, after a series of individual experiences in other projects. What was the "spark" that made you decide to realize your music platform?

Nick - I think it was a common taste for the same musical influences, the same sensitiveness and maybe the spark you mentioned was that after a lot of experiences we decided to really bring a project to an end, we didn't want to have any regrets and we wanted to do it without any compromise.

Jeff - We were friends even before being music partners and the friendship wasn't created through music but was already there. Music partnership can't do without solid common human ties as the trust, and it requires being on the same wavelength.

Over the years, the electronic music style has evolved in numerous variants and ramifications: however, the main synthpop matrix, that one conceived in the 80's, it seems still inspire many bands offering them an inexhaustible databank of acoustics and intuitions. In your opinion, what possess those distant sonorities belonging to the times of Pacman to overcome uncorrupted the subsequent years of fashions and trends?

Nick - you might be surprised but we both hate the term "synthpop" in itself. Electronic music of the 80's is not strictly limited to what was called exactly synthpop at the time, it's all due to categorizing,and in general we also dislike musical tags you stick on bands and put them in a specific genre. I know it's easier for listeners to find their way but once again for the bands it is rather restrictive.

Jeff – Music is more intentions than genres but you can't escape the influence and you can't wipe out the musical universe in which you were born. But being copycats of famous bands is no interest for me as you can't reach the same level of quality and you often sounds like narcissistic clowns with a devotional behaviour.

The specific music genre that you create is defined by yourself as "a blend of Modern and Retro Electronics". Can you speak us better about its main characteristics and what you want to communicate by it?

Jeff – Music like painting or others forms of arts is more a way to convey emotions than a way to communicate. If we use the term "electronic" it's because it defines well the means we use to reach the end.

Nick - Refers to what I was saying earlier. I don't want our music to be seen as pale copy of some 80's bands, because we truly have a wide range of influences, retro and modern. I like listening to good old 80's tunes just like I enjoy discovering recent projects.

During the years, your ways were geographically divided between the Corsican city of Lumio and in the English Essex's county: despite the distance, how do you keep constantly active your project, the creating ideas, the artistic feeling and the technical composition of the songs? You've also decided to have the French city of Lille as your meeting-midpoint: is this a good solution or exist some obstacles that you would like to resolve?

Nick - Lille is where we met when we were kids, and despite the ups and downs,there's always been a tie between the two of us. Jeff made me discover his Corsican world and I did likewise as we often go to England. For example, we shot our second official video there. Neutral Lies is a multi cultural and European project.

Jeff – Yes we both have our little "bubble" where we like to stay. Modern medias makes it easier to communicate or even share music, even if you're miles away from each other.

Objectively, with what expectations have you realized in 2010 at the Studio Ka the eleven demo-tracks later so appreciated by the French label BOREDOMproduct? Ever in your opinion, tell us which were the specific reasons why you have been chosen just by this records-home rather than by other ones?

Nick - A friend who runs a local radio show pointed us in the direction of BOREDOMproduct and when he heard our demo, he immediately thought "you've got that specific sound that might enjoy", so we tried our luck and Member U-0176 reacted instantly and as he said later "I could see the potential in Neutral Lies, even if I knew there'd be work to do".

Jeff – We have had a kind of good vibes with BOREDOMproduct straight away even if I must acknowledge that the first mix of our track "Neutral Eyes" somehow destabilized us, but I think we were able to see through those intentions: making our music more efficient.

Before talking about the other releases you made, your discography mentions the participation to some compilations: "Elegy Sampler 65", "Electropop 4" and "Modern Synthpop Volume 2" all three dating back to 2010, in addition to "Electro For Japan" licensed in 2011: what benefits have you drawn by these different experiences? And then, would you recommend to a new emerging band to follow initially the same way on compilation you undertaken for spread its name into the music scene?

Nick - Compilations are always a good way to get a bit of recognition and it is always a good way to spread the music further. I remember buying Various artists compilations in the 80's and it was a good way to discover new bands. So if the project is serious, I would definitely recommend to new bands to give it a try: generally there's nothing to earn, but equally nothing to lose.

Jeff – That's right! I would like to underline the fact that before you put a track on a compilation, you should always make sure that the promoters are reliable because, without mentioning the names, we had a couple of "big mouths" who asked us to participate to their compilations and they just turned out to be flaky and the release was never published.

The four tracks in digital format of "Commuters", published in 2010 by BOREDOMproduct, proposed, especially in the original version of the song, a sound strongly focused on the robotic-mechanical procedures of Kraftwerk and other ones around the electro-avantgarde. One of the versions included in the same file-release was remixed by the Belgian project Signal Aout 42: do you think that the presence of this famous electronic-act has effectively contributed to approach the fans to your music?

Nick + Jeff - Kraftwerk...the name itself inspires respect...and is synonymous with pioneering electronic tunes, they're ONE of our major influences, can't deny it. Now Signal Aout 42 is a project we've loved ever since we heard their first album...why? Because they also managed to give a new interesting approach to electronic music at the end of the 80's, they had a sound of their own, a strange and fascinating blend of new wave, 80's electronics and new beat. We have always adored the deep and broad voice of Jacky. And we returned him the favour by writing the lyrics of two tracks from their new album "Inspiration".

Member U-0176, aka Thee Hyphen, component of the band Celluloide and label-boss of BOREDOMproduct, has remixed one of the versions of your single "(In Your)" published in 2010. As completion of the remixed-tracklist have also collaborated the projects Foretaste, Dekad and Darkmen: judging the prestigious team of artists recruited for this digital-release I'm sure that it must've returned you obligatorily many great satisfactions...isn't so?

Jeff – Well yeah, BOREDOMproduct is a label with a human size and a true family atmosphere. So, being remixed by or remixing, our fellow label partners is always a pleasure. And it's also interesting, because each band has a specific sound and they work differently.

Nick - We also enjoy being remixed by other artists that are not part of the label. Our new single Glitter Ball features remixes by Pankow, K-Bereit, Laa3 and ADN Ckrystall; the idea was to have four different remixes by four different electronic artists of different genres.

"A Deceptive Calm", published in 2010 by BOREDOMproduct too, was your debut-album: by what musical criteria and by which reference models have you designed its eleven tracks tracks?

Nick + Jeff - Looking back we'd say that "A Deceptive Calm" was a first attempt and we realize now that we had this slightly naïve minimal electronic touch. Maybe it was too restrictive for people to understand that we had more influences than 80's electronic band...we're not being critical cos we think it was a good album, but realistic, because maybe its foundations were too influenced by the past, as we revisited old tracks that were never used in our previous projects.

Let's talk now about the present time and about the newest album "Cryptex": do you consider this work as a starting point towards future technological horizons, or this release is for you a point of arrival, or better, the final adjustment of your music style?

Nick - I think it offers a broader view of our influences and also intentions. Some people, especially reviewers, don't like it when a band injects a blend of many different styles and I know it's easier for listeners to have this kind of linearity in an album, but we wanted to avoid that by all means. It'd be pretentious to say that it is a point of arrival in our music, "you're never there and there's always a long way". We know who we are, where we come from and we know we can always improve and go further, so I'd say that "Cryptex" is a good step into the future horizons and offers a blatant variety of musical styles from our fancy: electronic pop, minimal synth, cold wave, 80's new wave, EBM, techno, trance. If you listen carefully to "Cryptex", you should spot bits of all these genres.

Jeff – This second album was also a different way to work, because this time we started from scratch and everything to come will be a total renewal too, mainly influenced by the equipements and by sound conceived in that specific moment.

Talking in analytical terms, which are the differences or the affinities that characterize the album "Cryptex" compared to the previous one "A Deceptive Calm"? Jeff – The link between these two albums is that we made them with as much sincerity and pleasure.The difference lies in the technical aspect as we were already "warm" for a second release.

Nick - "Cryptex" definitely has a tougher and more accurate and powerful sound, more layers that lead you in different directions. Technically speaking it is more solid. As for similarities, I would say that something we wanted to keep from "A Deceptive Calm" was the quality of melodies and the importance of vocals. Now, for "Cryptex" we also worked hard on it and, as I said before in order, we gave the better of ourselves. For example, I took more risks in the vocal sections exploring new heights and solutions: this is the reason why, for example, I'm not ashamed to say that I took singing lessons and had a coach who's a lyric singer in order to prepare new vocalizations for the recording of this new album.

Emotions and cold technology: which of these two arguments have the highest prevalence into the lyrics written for your songs?

Nick - Cold emotions and technology sounds like a good combination to me...but we also have a lot of sarcastic or second degree lyrics that can be perceived differently by different people. Some listeners will find them extremely amusing, others simply won't find in them the same sense of humour.

France, England, or the rest of Europe: where you found the greater fan's interest regarding Neutral Lies?

Jeff + Nick: "Fans" is a big word, we have to be modest, once again we know we are not a major act in the music industry,especially when you're in the field of independent bands like us. The music business is getting tougher mainly due to illegal downloading, so if you talk in terms of sales in order to gauge your fanbase, music is no longer what it used to be and you have to rely more on genuine testimonies and concerts to see if you've got a loyal following. In our music area I would say that without any surprise most of the people who follow us are in Germany but also Scandinavia, Italy or Spain and sometimes we get messages from people in south America. I also know that our first album sold well in the States, which is not easy.

Do you consider the project Neutral Lies similar to other ones in the same music scene, or do you think that your is effectively something more than an ordinary electro-act? If your reply is "yes", which are the characteristics that set you apart?

Nick - It would be pedantic to assume we're an "extraordinary" act but mind you, I know some local bands who define themselves as such...but to be entirely honest I think we're one of the very few bands who dare to mix their influences in such a way, many projects stick to one main musical genre, we don't, we think it's a thousand times more interesting to play combining several styles. It's not me speaking here but we're glad cos many reviewers have talked about "Cryptex" as an album having a very peculiar sound of its own where you could find several atmospheres. We never wanted to sound like a band in particular even if, in this regard, describing the first album some reviewers got mistaken. What I mean is that we are not copycats, I can't see any interest in copying one group in particular, or, assuming that attitude, you must define yourself a tribute band.

Jeff – We found it really touching to be called a singular band in the field of electronic music by some listeners or reviewers and I hope it will go on like this because there are sounds we refrain from using because it has been overused and too stereotyped and we don't want to drown into the puddle of uninspired "synthie pop", a term that doesn't mean anything to me by the way.

Which are the next initiatives that your fans should expect in the future from Neutral Lies after the publication of the new album?

Nick + Jeff - Our second single "Glitter Ball" has just come out with remixes by Italian band Pankow, by K-Bereit, LAA3 and ADN' Ckrystall. Moreover, a very unexpected video clip has just come out for the single: you have been warned! Then I think we will have a bit of time, at last, to get back into gigging and looking for venues for exhibiting. We never played in Italy, so if someone wants us there, we'd be up for it. The next step will be to get back into studio, writing new tracks. And we'd like to thank the great leading actor of our new video: the one and only moustached hero Mandrake...

Jean François and Nicolas, thank you for being with us on Vox Empirea: greeting you, I ask you to donate to the readers a perdonal thought that can represent and make remember the true spirit inherent into Neutral Lies.

Nick – Many thanks for giving us the opportunity to express ourselves here and thanks to people in Italy who follow us. And I hope to share a bottle of Chianti with Italian fans at a gig in Italy!

Jeff – Since we had good feedbacks from Italy, we'd like to discover the electronic music scene there and I'd like to thank you very much for your time.

by Maxymox 2013