Saigon Blue Rain are an ethereal darkwave band with dark pop and synthwave undertones from Paris, France. They will be performing in the upcoming PhxGoth Virtual Festival this Spring! We are excited to have them in the lineup. Our writer, Zander, was able to ask Ophelia and Franck about everything from the origins of their band name to their latest cover of the Alice In Chains song ‘Nutshell’.
How has the pandemic contributed to the band’s creative process?
Franck: Here in France a strict lockdown was established in mid-March 2020. Every grocery shop, restaurant, bar was closed and our jobs on hiatus. We had therefore all the time to focus on the band. New stuff was quickly emerging and the desire that the material must be released quickly, to keep the dynamic of this period of suspended time. The five tracks that have become the EP “Songs For The Boys” were then recorded, mixed, mastered and released within a month.
2019’s Pink Obsession marked a different style in your sound, toning down the ethereal style a bit and drawing from pop. The album description on Bandcamp also intimates about a character through the album, who has borderline personality disorder. Can you walk us through the decisions and process that went into Pink Obsession?
Franck: Indeed, 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 genres that we like, 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.
Ophelia: Lyrically, the album chronicles a bipolar’s particular slice of life, which is the depression phase following the maniac one. BPD, in spite of its catchy and danceable rhythm 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.
Whenever I recommend your band to other people, I get a lot of questions about the band name. Does “Saigon” represent something personal to you as people? Is the city a muse for you when writing new songs?
Ophelia: Saigon was meant as an allusion to Asia. I was around 17 when I read the Marguerite Duras book “L’amant” for the first time, the atmosphere that emerged from it had aroused my curiosity : the exotic sensuality, the omnipresence of the water, element also frequently present in our songs and the name of Saigon. Still, our music is often steeped in Asian influences, both in the melodies and through our literary or cinematographic sources of inspirations. But you should know that at the very beginning of the project, our band started as Stupid Bitch Reject that sounded catchy and punk. Our musical influences are varied and before starting to compose the tracks of our first EP, we didn’t really know what musical direction to take, the first tracks we’ve even composed were more nervous but a few tracks later, we finally found our style and it became like an evidence that we had to change the name of the band, Saigon Blue Rain imposed itself on us like an intuition because you can notice that the three letters SBR are still there since the beginning, they are like a magical combination that brought us luck from the beginning. We wanted to keep them for superstitious reasons.
You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that bands like The Cure, The Chameleons, Cocteau Twins, and Crime and the City Solution influenced your sound. Do you draw any inspiration from the many newer bands releasing post-punk and darkwave music?
Ophelia: Actually, we do like and listen to many newer bands from the scene like Drab Majesty, Actors or Eagulls to name just a few ones but we cannot say that they influence us, we just like what they do because they do it good. I would say that most of the recent bands we draw inspiration from, don’t really belong to post-punk or darkwave scene if we have to classify artists, this is the case for example of Bat for lashes, Interpol, Fever Ray or Still Corners, they certainly inspire us much more than current hardliner post-punk artists.
In 2016 you toured with The Beauty of Gemina. What was that experience like, and what did you learn from it?
Franck: It was a marvelous experience. We’ve learned a lot seeing each day how Michael, Andy, Ariel and Mac were very demanding of themselves, being careful to every detail in the musical performance and so that they improved at every gig.
Your video for “Live at Hespebay 2020” has more than 10,000 views on YouTube. Has that felt fulfilling in any way?
Ophelia: We feel extremely grateful of the audience’s feedback, particularly because we have invested a lot in this live project, we’ve taken great care choosing the good place, the best team to work with and as we all know that the lack of gigs and other cultural events is difficult for many of us, we wanted to make this shooting as real as possible, with the same energy that we have on stage, the same spontaneity and honesty.
You described your newest EP Songs for the Boys as “a nocturnal collection of broken women confessions.” Are these autobiographical songs based on recent personal experiences?
Ophelia: Indeed, it’s been awhile since I felt compelled to address that subject, telling my own stories 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 my sisters 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.
You just posted a cover of the Alice In Chains song ‘Nutshell‘, which is a beautiful and haunting departure from the original. What inspired you to do that particular song?
Ophelia : Once upon a time, 19 years ago more exactly, Franck and I met in high school, while we were both broken by school system. I told myself “Hey, this guy looks pretty cool with his Alice In Chains t-shirt!!” Almost 2 decades after and a few albums, here is our tribute à la Saigon Blue Rain to a band that accompanied the darkest days of our teenage years. We chose to release it on 25th January 2021, which was the 27th anniversary of “Jar Of Flies”.