If you’re going to have an affair and risk your heart, then Paris is the place to do it. Famed for its grand romantic vistas and secluded hideaways, the French capital’s popularity with lovers is consummate. However, recently Paris was also the scene of another kind of a tryst – a sort of musical elopement.
Taking time away from their main work, over the last two years in a studio just off a picturesque Parisian courtyard Baxter Dury, Etienne de Crecy and Skinny Girl Diet’s Delilah Holliday’s have created a nine-track album of electronic euphoria, vivid emotions and compelling lyrical narratives. Meshing together these elements, their work has conjured-up an intense yet compelling snapshot of an ill-fated Paris liaison and the baggage that goes with it. It’s an affair to remix. It’s paranoia you can dance to. It’s B.E.D.
“It’s a bit controversial, this record,” grins Dury of the album’s emotional head-rushes and simpatico bleeps. “It ended-up being about an experience I had in Paris that I can’t talk about in detail because there are various parties involved, but it’s this lost bloke in Paris having an, er, experience. The album is a story about that set of events. I don’t think you could work out any of the specifics from the songs, but they certainly give you an emotional flavour if what occurred. I usually just write what I’m thinking or what’s happened to me and that’s what I’ve done here because there’s nowhere else I can really say it.”
Though de Crecy doesn’t have a cryptic tale to match, he too agrees there something deliciously illicit about B.E.D., both in its lyrical content and the raw electronics that underscores its confessional atmosphere.
“It’s the other side of our usual work,” he suggests of the project’s nature. “You know when rappers do mixtapes with a lot of new tracks, so it’s a mixtape rather than a proper album. That’s the feel here, it’s something extra…”
Appropriately, B.E.D. began life as a bit on the side after long-term fan de Crecy invited Dury to contribute vocals for Family, one of the stand out tracks from his 2015 album Super Discount 3. Having kept in touch after the “really easy” collaboration the pair agreed to swap music, and when the Londoner had a bit of spare time in 2016, he headed to Paris to spend a long weekend in the studio.
“To me Baxter’s music is very simple in a good way; there is no complication, no confusion,” explains de Crecy of why he wanted to work with Dury. “I feel the same about electronic music: it should immediate, clear and sharp. I listen to his music in the same way I listen to my favourite electronic music. So, to me a collaboration was obvious.”
With de Crecy coming from a very collaborative world, confirmed solo artist Dury admits he was a little wary at first about making a record jointly with someone else, though realised after his first trip to France that this match-up was going to work.
“We had to learn to understand each other initially. For me it’s quite difficult accepting someone else’s point of view musically,” explains the singer-songwriter. “So suddenly working with someone else I had to be more considerate, which was difficult. It’s the same concept as sharing a house with someone and one of you not putting the lid back on the toothpaste – you not only have to suddenly be aware of someone else, but you also have to consider what they’re telling you versus what they’re really thinking. Etienne is a very polite guy and he’s more democratic than I am. I’m a childish dictator when it comes to music, like: ‘What? But that’s just the way it is!’ whereas he’s much more open. He probably gets his own way a lot more, just in a cleverer way.”
Soon adjusting to this musical flat share, the pair quick agreed on a strong aesthetic that would defined their collaboration.
“We agreed we only wanted to keep the bones of each song, no embellishment,” explains de Crecy. “We really wanted to stay within that sound, really sharp and really straight. Every time we tried to go in another direction we quickly realised we were wrong, so we stayed in that aesthetic. We kept only the bones!”
With that in place the pair describe sessions for the project as being “smooth” and “easy”, which begs the question why did the album take so long to complete. Well it didn’t. In keeping with B.E.D.’s tryst-like nature, the record was actually assembled over just a few days spread over two years, snatched when they could nip away from their main projects. That obviously slowed things down, as did the hospitality of the French capital, with Dury explaining that both big lunches and his after work “antics” informed the record too.
“The process of recording was quick – but we had a lot of lunch,” says Dury. “Etienne likes to go to lunch at 12, comes back at three. There’s a culinary routine being French – it’s a stereotype but it’s true – that you will have lunch somewhere. You don’t ignore that. You don’t grab food. It’s important that is honoured, so everything else works around that, and that influenced this record. We’d do an hour of recording, have a massive lunch and then we’d do an hour and then I’d piffle off into Paris. We did that over a few weekends spread over a couple of years. It was really enjoyable – apart from my antics which got me into a lot of trouble. I can’t pretend there was anything hard about making this album. And as for the antics, well… they and lyrics are but one and the same thing really. The antics help the lyrics, and the lyrics help the antics. If I didn’t do the do the lyrics, I wouldn’t have the antics.”
Having made good progress – antics and all – it was strangely in the Sahara Desert that the pair discovered the missing element that truly completed B.E.D. While Dury was being snapped climbing a sand dune for the cover of his 2017 solo album Prince Of Tears, the photographer Tom Beard recommended a friend, Delilah Holliday from punk trio Skinny Girl Diet, to provide the female vocals the duo wanted for the project.
Despite not knowing the pair, and virtually meeting Dury for the first time at the gates for the Eurostar bound for Paris, Holliday admits she was immediately intrigued. “I’m an intuitive, adventurous person so it felt like it would be a great opportunity and it would be a really fun experience,” she says of why she immediately accepted the duo’s invitation to collaborate. “I knew of Baxter’s work. so I knew I was in good hands. When I got to Paris we started working on the more finished songs, then we started writing and coming-up with more parts for me to sing. Me and Baxter were going through similar experiences at the time which meant we could draw from them and write lyrics with some truth and emotion, and that’s how, in my opinion, good music is made.”
Whereas on some of his solo albums Dury has ‘directed’ how his backing singers’ approach a song, Dury says Holliday was a collaborator in her own right on this record – both in terms of the album’s creation but how she fleshed out the character behind her parts.
“There’s nothing anonymous about Delilah,” he explains. “She has a real presence to her voice which I find really immediate. It’s soaked in where she’s from and what her interests are. It’s really rich. She’s a really unique singer. Not a session singer in anyway.” For Holliday not only did the project allow her to explore a style distinct from her band, it also gave her a means to approach songs in a different way.
“The great thing about this album is it’s coming from two people’s perspectives which is a unique thing nobody does anymore,” she says. “I find it sometimes gets a bit mundane to hear a solo perspective all of the time. I do think the female vocal feels as much of a protagonist on the record as Baxter’s parts do. It’s equal.”
Though sparse – “I’m really proud of the aesthetic and the atmosphere across the album. I love the simplicity of our work. I love the harmony,” declares Etienne de Crecy – B.E.D. if boasts a series of expanding textures thanks to rich, enveloping atmosphere and crisp narratives contained within each of its eight songs.
Spinning out from the initial emotional highs and the sharp beats, the record crashes through cautious optimism, warming tenderness and candid vulnerabilities, before all the “antics” come to a crushing conclusion with the listener finally spat out and left doing an international ‘walk of shame’ on the Eurostar, all of which is heightened by the accompanying spectrum of moving and intuitive electronics.
“Etienne normally makes dance music that’s designed to arouse people at three in the morning, whereas I make pretty self-obsessed art music. His songs are about sound and stimulation, mine is about human detail,” says Dury of the unique, often conflicting factors that made this Parisian affair work, “but we both appreciate the thing the other can do that we can’t, so we found a common ground. We’ve taken the self-obsessed, confessions that I do and dropped them in a nightclub. In Paris.”
Baxter. Etienne. Delilah. Come to B.E.D.
The man in the white coat. Somewhere in London, autumn 2018