The French (and for a while also a bit Czech) duo will soon introduce themselves to the Prague audience alongside Twin Tribes. We talked to Ophelia and Franck about the past, the present, moving, but also about bipolar disorder and violence against women...
Sanctuary.cz: Hi Saigon Blue Rain! You’ll soon present yourselves to the Prague audience together with Twin Tribes. Are you looking forward to this show?
Ophelia: Of course! Twin Tribes is one of the current bands is the scene we like a lot, moreover, we've seen several underground artists performing at Klub 007 during the past 20 years, this venue is kinda cult to us.
Sanctuary.cz: How did you overcome the long break without live performing? Did you miss it a lot?
Ophelia: Actually, we've choose to take advantage of this forced break composing new music and shooting videos like most artists. This is how our last EP "Songs For The Boys" was born last year, we've made everything in 4 months from the first note we composed until its release. We're particularly happy about the audience's feedback towards it so it has been necessarily frustrating not to have really been able to defend it on stage but we are ready to take revenge on this crisis!
Sanctuary.cz: Could you think back for a moment? At first, your name was Stupid Bitch Reject and just before releasing your first EP, you renamed as Saigon Blue Rain. Why did you originally choose the aggressive name? Did you plan on creating more violent music?
Ophelia: The name Stupid Bitch Reject sounded very well with our first (unreleased) tracks. Franck and I (Ophelia) have been really into different kind of metal and punk for years, these first compositions were still infused with it but as our influences are multiples, songs became more and more smoother without looking for sticking to a genre in particular, we just let ourselves go with the flow and Saigon Blue Rain naturally came to life.
Sanctuary.cz: On the debut album cover, there are letters SBR that stayed preserved for both names. Are you superstitious? Will you keep SBR even if you change your name again? :)
Ophelia: We definitely are! These letters are a magical combination to us and we will never change it even if another name had to come over :D.
Saigon Blue Rain - The Unknown
Sanctuary.cz: Your debut has sort of a naturally dreamy feel to it and refers to bands such as Cocteau Twins or All About Eve. Has your approach to music changed since the beginning or do you still return to the roots? Could you say that for you, those bands are a fundamental and natural source of inspiration?
Ophelia: Not at all, these comparisions are quite funny because we didn't listen to Cocteau Twins nore All About Eve before knowing that people compared us to these bands. Now we know them more, these are cool bands but we never meant to look like them honestly.
As far as I'm concerned, each time we compose something new, I'm trying my best to create something personal, let myself being guided by the emotions that music brings me, by the thematic I'd like to discuss, from there, our creations will take different shades : sometimes darker, sometimes brighter, electronic, shoegazy, ethereal or even more pop.
Sanctuary.cz: You released your second album “Noire Psyché” yourselves. The label Cold Insanity somehow shut down back then, or am I mistaken? Was it a big change to take care of everything yourselves?
Ophelia: Indeed, Cold Insanity shut down a few years ago yet. After that, deals that have been proposed to us by other labels were not fair enough, fortunately, we've been well adviced on this point so we choose self-production, except for Pink Obsession on which we decided to trust Dichronaut records. Taking on every role to elaborate something serious is difficult and exhausting, yes but no pain, no gain.
Sanctuary.cz: Third big album “Pink Obsession” was released by Dichronaut and one could say it was kinda different. The dreamy feel remained, but sometimes, it sounds almost synth-popish. What caused this change in some of the songs? What are your favourite artists in the dance genre?
Franck: When we started to compose "Pink Obsession" we had the willingness to part a bit from the dark atmosphere that constituted "Noire Psyché", our previous album. We wanted to incorporate some of other musical, maybe in a more obvious way than before.
"BPD" shows our taste for synthwave with a band like The Midnight. You can hear some Smiths sweet melancholy here and there on the guitar parts, some 90's shoegaze carelessness in "2:16". But having said that, the core of Saigon Blue Rain's sound and world is intact and vivid. The darkness of our universe is still there, present in every track and culminating in "Incubus Mine".
Sanctuary.cz: I noticed somewhere that lyrically, this album is focused on bipolar disorder. Did you have any specific reason for working with this topic and did you try to put these manic or depressive states into fitting musical parts?
Ophelia: Yes, indeed. My personal life led me to take interest in psychiatric troubles such as bipolar disorders. These are both fascinating and destructive illnesses that deserved to be put in music. Each song corresponds with a phase : BPD, in spite of its catchy and danceable rythm opens the album on a sense of regret, the character's state of grace and invincibility, still very palpable is leaving our narrator. As the tracks follow each other, different emotions and experiences are told and the character is losing herself in her memories like so many highlights during her euphoria:
"We Ask For Pain" is a crusade against lazyness and human stupidity while "Incantation" embodies the mystical figure of the character, meanwhile "Pink Obsession"," The Valley knows all my secrets" or "2:16" sound like unbridled sexuality and erotomaniac remains. Finally, the two last songs "Incubus Mine" and "Solstice" occur as wake-up calls, depression setting in, as ruthless as an unending winter, keeping this pink colour background as a sweet memory.
Sanctuary.cz: Lyrically, EP "Songs For the Boys" deals with the serious topic of violence towards women. You describe it yourselves as “a nocturnal collection of broken women confessions”. What are women trying to tell the boys through your words here? Why did you choose this topic? Is there any personal experience involved?
Ophelia: It's been awhile since I felt compelled to adress that subject, telling my own story or witnesses I had collected from women injured physically or mentally by men. Look past the Metoo movement, this is a subject I really care about because we (women) have been all involved in varying degrees by masculine violence. I wanted to give the floor to women who’ve been too shameful to yell and permit myself not feeling shameful to be who I am anymore.
Moreover, I feel satisfied that women tongues more and more loosen up about that because it is high time to consider that male supremacy has no reason to be, that's the message I wanted to communicate to these so-called men that destroyed part of our lives, going on theirs without feeling guilty.
Saigon Blue Rain - Live at Hespebay 2020
Ophelia: After depression, there is always an awakening. I've needed this phase of evasion, dream and perhaps deny in a period of my life to protect myself but SBR exists since 2012 and made us grewing up in different ways. We agreed with Franck about the topic of Songs For The boys and it was clear that the anger would be the breeding ground of it as I felt now enough strong to destroy the culprits rather than self-destructing me.
Sanctuary.cz: You live in Prague at the moment, right? What was the reason for the change of residence? How do you like it here and are you planning on staying here for a longer time, or do you want to keep travelling and getting to know new countries?
Ophelia: Yes, we've been sick and tired about the repressive measures in France related to Covid. As we knew by relatives living in Czech Republic that measures were less drastic, we decided to give us a chance there. Plus, it's a country we love through its culture, mentality and atmosphere. It will certainly be a short break 'cause reality shall call us back to France but it's a real breath of oxygen.
Sanctuary.cz: For you personally, what is the biggest difference between living in Prague and Paris? What are the positive/negative aspects?
Ophelia: Prague and Paris are very different in many ways but have their respective charm. But I've to admit that Prague is more peaceful, it's even more obvious in this Covid period where people everywhere in France are infantilized and controlled at the doors of any cultural places or restaurants.
Saigon Blue Rain - Nutshell
Sanctuary.cz: Has this change somehow affected your band? What about the other members who performed live with you? In what line-up will you appear at the concert in Prague?
Ophelia: The fact that we're based in Prague is not a problem as the other members are big travelers too. Usually, we always find a way to gather for rehearsals and events but the sanitary situation complicate things this time. This is the reason why we'll be just the two of us on stage in Prague. Hopefully, we'll be able to get up on stage for future gigs with the whole team.
Sanctuary.cz: As Saigon Blue Rain, you also recorded covers “Goodbye Horses” by Q Lazarus and “Nutshell” by Alice in Chains. Why did you cover these songs in particular? Are you going to play one of them in Prague as well? We usually wrap up our Batsave parties with the former :)
Franck: We choose "Goodbye Horses" because it's a song that is cult in the goth scene and we thought it would be much fun to play it. At first it wasn't intended to be recorded, but just played live.
Concerning "Nutshell", we're big fans of Alice In Chains and we wanted to pay tribute to them. For this one we made a bigger work on the musical arrangements to make it the more personal we could.
Sanctuary.cz: Thank you for your answers and see you in the 007 club!