words Aimee-Lee Abraham
3rd November 2015
Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch never intended to become a composer. Growing up in a non-musical family in sleepy Bordeaux, she tells me over tea that it happened purely ‘by accident’. Her mother blasted Bach every Sunday, but plucking strings and pressing keys were pastimes, never viable career options.
One afternoon, a ten year old Emilie discovered that she could put her own treasures together rather than just recreating other people’s music, and an unexpected infatuation planted seed in her stomach. Before she knew it she was spending pocket money on soundcards and cheap microphones, making her own mark in an industry that continues to be overwhelmingly dominated by middle-aged men.
"I surprised myself," she laughs. "It wasn’t a conscious choice. I just realised that I could create things, and was so excited about where it could lead. It happened naturally." Bored hands crafted melodies from scratch, and Emilie soon improvised her way out of France altogether.
In person, Emilie is so softly spoken that I spend the majority of the interview jiggling my knees beneath the bar, fretting about the recording when her dulcet tones keep getting drowned out by the hungry men securing business at the next table.
She’s almost swan-like in stature, but on record she’s an absolute tour-de-force; crafting complex pieces that have led to a record deal from 130701, the experimental arm of Fat Cat and the label who discovered Sigur Ros. Her work is difficult to describe. Combining electro with piano and string quartets, Like Water Through Sand is an instrumental artwork which defies classification: it is simply gorgeous to immerse oneself in.
Until now, solo-work has remained untrodden ground for Emilie. Crafting scores for budding filmmakers she met at university, personal favours for friends soon grew into a substantial, critically-acclaimed career as a soundtrack composer.
Emilie has a strong reputation in film, and I wonder how the process of going it alone differed from her usual collaborations. "It’s funny, I never dreamed I’d be a recording artist," she explains. "I was always a collaborator, and I enjoyed seeing my music as a part of something bigger, being inspired by a larger picture and making it fit. You become immersed in the director’s world, and it’s a dialogue, but it’s still kind of sad, because you rarely spend time on-set like other members of the team. You craft something together, but rarely meet, so it’s still lonely."
The album, on the other hand, has been a lesson in self-belief. "It’s a monologue - I had the complete freedom to say what I needed to say," she beams.
Having spent her masters acquiring a vast array of eccentric avant-garde influences to balance alongside a childhood love for cheesy French pop, she tells me she has since grown away from the need to innovate and shock. "I realised that my love for the process was enough, and that I didn't need some grand, innovative motive," she explains. In her pursual of simplicity and beauty instead, I get the impression she has grown tremendously as an artist, even though we have just met. Even to untrained ears, the recording processes used seem dizzyingly advanced, combining many genres and methods, but the output is soft and dreamy. It’s music to fall in love with on leafy walks home.
Here we premiere Emilie's new track Tulsi. Like Water Through Sand is out on FatCat records on 13th November 2015.