In our „Band of the Week“-interview last year, Pays P. mentioned that new things were to come – in particular, a first official release was to be recorded in Brooklyn, New York. We’ll come back to it momentarily, but that was not the only thing that was about to happen for the trio from Paris: After sharing the stage with Big Thief’s Buck Meek at one of his solo concerts last summer, Laura Boullic (lyrics), Lucas Valero (guitar) and Pablo Valero (drums) were invited by their New York colleagues to join the mediterranean leg of their European tour as support band earlier this spring. While this tour, like so many others, was eventually brought up short by the corona pandemic, Pays P. were still able to play their part of it as scheduled. Audience and critics alike greeted them with great warmth, according to the reviews, undeterred by the change of pace and genre between the Parisians‘ surging structures of heavy, sometimes slightly sludge-tinted, interwoven sounds and words, and the New Yorkers‘ dark indie-folk-post-everything extraordinaire. Of course, whoever likes one of the two is bound not to care much about genre limits anyway. And the best match in an evening’s bill is maybe not made by genre at all, but by a shared attitude, a radical love for music, and for the world with its beauty and ugliness alike, sounded out by extreme musical measures, with immense skill and determination. (Further proof: For the rest of the tour, Big Thief were supported by British metalcore innovators Ithaca; this, too, and maybe surprisingly, worked perfectly.)
From this tour, a four track recording of Pays P.’s gig at L’Épicerie Moderne, Lyon, is to be found on Soundcloud. It gives a good impression of the band‘s live qualities and, with three new songs, of the direction their debut album might be taking.
For Pays P. had indeed gone to Brooklyn last autumn for recording sessions, following an invitation by Sohrab Habibion and Michael Jaworski (of New York post-punk band Savak). While the record is currently being mixed by said gentlemen, and the process, as so many other things, is being slowed down and made uncertain by the effects of the pandemic, there’s no release date yet. The real concern of course being that everyone involved (and everyone not involved, for that matter) emerges from the crisis unharmed, it’s good to have things to look forward to, and this coming album really is one of them.
Until then, there are still the „old“ songs to listen to. To have a token to leave behind while touring with Big Thief, Pays P. re-released their self-produced and self-titled 2018 recording on French/Spanish independent label Gravity Music – on cassette, and of course also digitally. This recording, even if never a conceptualized album but a collection of songs the band was playing live at the time, is as absorbing and relevant now as it was before; maybe even more so. The interweaving patterns of guitar and drums, sometimes intricate, sometimes towering and massive, build a world of their own, an immense sounding board for the intense vocals, half spoken, half sung, completely there: If there is one turn of phrase that comes to (my) mind when listening to this band, it’s „right here, right now“. The songs are as complex as they are corporeal (if you ever wondered what Non-electronic Body Music might sound like, try this). All the turns and rhythm changes are simply necessary and on point.
While the emotions are raw, and certainly not always come across as what one might call „positive“, to me there’s still something profoundly peaceful about walking in this radical Here and Now. The notion is in the band name as well, of course: Pays P. (formerly also written P.I.P.) stands for Pays Paix, „country of peace“. Peace is sorely needed, anyway and always and also right now, in the stunted remains of an everyday life we’re living, watching for the most part helplessly as other lifes are ending, are damaged or ruined. And somewhere amidst the French lyrics an English sentence drops down two years and into a forced, all the more heavily felt solitude: „If you’re alone, maybe it’s just as well.“
I think I’ll have to learn French just for the sake of understanding the rest of the lyrics. Then again, as Big Thief wrote to their parting tour mates in an FB-post: „Your spirit and lucidity translate beyond language“. True.