Interview by Timotej Letonja

French duo “The Blaze” is back with the album Jungle

Guillaume and Jonathan Alric, cousins in life, have been living a success story since 2016 and are touring the world for the greatest happiness of our ears but also our eyes. The iconic French duo became indeed known for their music, but also for the images of their two magnetic music videos, “Virile” and “Territory.”  Five years after the success of their cult album “Dancehall,” they release “Jungle,” a second album that brings their futuristic soul to the heart of the dancefloor. 

Can you describe “The Blaze” in a few adjectives? 

The Blaze is human and poetic! 

Why did you choose “The Blaze”? Besides the meaning of fire, it is also a French word which means “the name”, isn’t it? 

Yeah. Since we were simply looking for a name, there is not really a good answer behind this choice. We thought about “The Blaze” because it means “the name” indeed! A simple name, but at the end, it’s a cool one!

You released “Virile”, your first hit, followed by “Territory” and an EP. Then in 2018 came “Dancehall” album, which immediately turned into a massive hit that took you on tour in North America and Europe.  How did you experience your first tour? 

The experience was very exciting because everything happened very quickly. We’ve been directly loop into a big tour and we went everywhere. It was a lot of pressure, of course, but the experience was so cool and crazy that we only remember the best of it. But it is like any other experience, like having a baby for example: you don’t know what to expect, you know that it’s going to be complicated, but you are not focusing on the stressful part. We lived and experienced the moment, but even now, every concert, every tour is like the first one.   

Did you ever imagine such success when you see each other during family reunions before 2016? Because you are cousins, right?

No, indeed (laughs). It was impossible to imagine that we would be so successful. We remember making jokes about it in the studio or even dreaming of being interviewed. But we couldn’t imagine that it would happen for real.

Do you have any special memories of a concert in a particular place in the world? One of our favorite one is the “Cercle set”, which took place in France, in Chamonix. Is this one of your highlights as well or is there something else to remember?

The “Cercle Set” is indeed a great memory. I think we both remember one of our first concerts. It was in Barcelona, for the first Primavera Festival we did. We played at 3 am, the crowd was huge and from the stage we could see how happy people were. The music we played that night was so right for the moment, for the end of the festival, that felt like a communion. It was intense and beautiful.

You have a deep interest in cinema, you are musicians but also producers. Each of your works is a masterpiece in terms of music and visuals, and they tell an emotional, human-focused story, with strong characters. What comes first in your creative process, the images or the music? 

To be honest, it depends. In general, we would say it’s the music. First, because the music is like the script: we hear the music, and it tells us something. It gives us a vibe and raises questions: Is it something melancholic? Is it something romantic? Then, images come to our mind from pictures we’ve seen, movies we’ve watched, other music or experience we’ve had. Finally, we have scenes that come into our minds, and we try to put them together so they fit together and tell a story that we need to work on. But sometimes, images come first!

What are your cinematic influences? 

Our cinematic influences come a lot from our music videos and especially from the ones made by Romain Gavras. He is a French director who worked with us on the realization of our music films. It’s the sort of video that only Gavras could make, something new and disruptive, made from another planet because he likes to think big. His audacious video for M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls” is one of the best examples to represent his talent and boldness. 
But of course, we draw our inspiration from cinema too, from directors who make emotional films that talk about humanity, like the Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu or the British director Andrea Arnold.

Your music and your films are a tribute to the human being, to friendship and to love, but they also raise many questions about society and our relationship to intimacy. In the film “Viril”, we discover an intimate relationship between two young men, a story that touches the fragile border between friendship and love, “QUEENS” features members of the Roma community… Do you consider your work as a commitment to minorities?

I don’t think it’s a commitment, but minorities are inspirational, and we don’t see them enough in music videos, they are under-represented.  And above all, we think there is some poetry to talk about these people. It’s easier to create some contrast to talk about them, and we love to use and deconstruct cliché. And people, like you said, the ones you see in our music video are suffering from big cliché. And it’s easier to start from these preconceived notions and to destroy them with emotion for going deeper in the intimate story of these people.

“Territory” is a “homecoming story”, about a young man who returns to his family in Algeria. In the film, you also question the emotional vulnerability of men. Why was it important for you to question virility and masculinity? 

We challenge notions of virality and masculinity. We like to put people in situations where they are not expected to be. Because of societal norms, men are not allowed to cry, especially those in the territory: they are supposed to stay strong and not show their emotions. Making them cry is very poetic and powerful. And to be honest, it’s mostly a quest for a poetic image rather than a questioning of masculinity. Human poetry is our main goal.

Your latest song, “Dreamer”, is part of your next album entitled “Jungle”, and it is illustrated by a film made by you, shot in Dakar. A few months ago, you launched the documentary based on this film, where we can meet the actors and their interpretation of the music and the film. This documentary is also a dive into your previous work, in which you talk about these shots and your relationship with the actors on the set. Is this something you would like to do more of in the future, to talk face to face with the camera and share your experience as producers? 

Honestly, we’re not very comfortable showing our face or explaining our work. It’s better for us to offer our audience what we do than to try to explain it, and if they feel things and if it raises questions, then we’ve succeeded. However, the documentary was our idea and was not requested, but anyway we are not sure to do it again (laughs).

Tell us a little more about the upcoming album “Jungle”, what does it hold for us?

I think we are very excited to play live because through all these years of touring, we have learned a different way of producing music with live sets, so we made “Jungle” with the live set in mind.
Also, we work more with analog devices, like a synthesizer. We tried many different ways and did a lot of musical research. A lot of musicians are afraid of their second album, but this one made us happy, and we tried to experiment rather than asking us many questions. We tried new things, and this album is much more different than the first one.

Are there any dates and places that we can keep in mind to see your performance in the coming months? 

We will try to do our best at Coachella this year, in April, it’s a big moment for us. But in the coming months we are playing in Paris, and it’s always a little bit stressful for us because it’s our hometown so we always have a lot of expectations. But before Paris we will play in London on March 28th, in Berlin on March 31th, and then in Mexico the first of April. We will be in the Netherlands for the “Down the Rabbit home” festival on June 30th of July 1st. We can’t wait to celebrate the release of our new album! 

As you know, Numero is dedicated to music, art … but also Fashion! Do you have any fashion inspirations? 

Tricky question (laughs). We are not very fashionable, and we are used to wear the same type of clothes every day. It might be a pity but for us, styling ourselves will be a distraction from our main goal in life: to make music. We may be the least fashionable artists in the world, but choosing not to follow trends is a fashion statement, right?

‘Jungle’ will be out on 10th March.