- - - - - -

Needle Sharp Interview

Interview with Needle Sharp
May 18, 2013 in Paris

Introduction: Needle Sharp is a new Paris metal band that combines crunchy riffs, strong melodies, and funky rhythms with aggressive and passionate female vocals. They also put on a killer live show. I discovered them early in my year here, and have now seen them four times (and hope to see them once more before I leave). They have not yet released an album, but for now you can listen to them on ReverbNation or see fan videos on YouTube. Standout tracks include “Pieces Don’t Fit,” “Nonsense,” and “Keep the Faith in Love.” Also fun is “Ode to Beer,” especially when the band gets the audience chanting “hey hey hey” during the chorus.

Needle Sharp

I was lucky to have the chance to sit down with the whole band for an interview: Laellou (vocals), Romain (lead guitar), Matt (rhythm guitar), Guillaume (bass), and Stef (drums), along with David Costa (their sound engineer). On Facebook, they list their names as Laëllou, Rö, Mätt, Güs, and sTëf. How metal! The band bravely agreed to do the interview in English, and Romain volunteered to take the lead since he speaks English daily at work (at Sony).

In this interview, you can learn what it’s like to start out as a young band, and also how distracting it is to have a wild woman on stage with you…

John:  Thank you very much for agreeing to an interview with Sonic Cathedral.  For our readers who may not know you, would you like to start by introducing yourself just a little bit?

Romain:  Yeah, of course.  Thank you John.   Actually were are five in the band.  We have the lead singer, Laellou, also the bass player, Guillaume, then Mattieu , the rhythm guitar, and Stefan at the drums.  The band itself was formed in July of 2011.  We are doing alternative metal; yeah, I think it’s the right description for what we do. We have a lot of influences, from Deftones to Sonata Arctica, Iron Maiden, System of a Down.  For the moment, everything is fine.  We recorded a demo, an EP, that is not on sale for the moment, but we are going to record something else which will be better, and during the first year we did approximately ten dates or so.  We are starting to be experienced now.

John:  Cool.  So you actually were in the studio recently, right?

Romain:  Yeah.

John:  So what was the result of that?

Romain:  The result  is that we recorded three tracks, and now we are waiting for the mix. 

David:   That’s my part.

Romain:  And yeah it seems to be good.  We have a sound engineer, David –

David:   I just got the tracks from recording, and I’m listening to it nearly every day so I can think of what I will be doing with the mix, and I’ve almost decided what it’s going to be, so I think in a few weeks it will be over, at least three or four weeks from now to have a final result.

Romain:  David is our sound engineer, and he has followed us for maybe one year now.  He knows the band very well, and the sound that we are looking for, so I think it was the best thing to give him the tracks that we recorded so that he can do his own mix, and we know the result will be good.

Needle Sharp

John:  Are these new songs?

Romain:  No, actually these are old songs.  There is one new track that we never recorded. 

John:  Is that a song that you’ve played live?

Romain:  Yeah, the track is called “Open the Door.”

John:  Ok, yeah, I know that one.  So what’s the plan then after you have the mix ready.  What’s your plan as far as a release or something like that?

David:   I think touring is the short term plan, a lot of dates, smaller and big shows, maybe not only in France, maybe outside the borders.  And afterwards I’m sure in about four or five months maximum, I’ll put them the box for a new recording. 

Romain:  Yeah.

David:   They just need to breathe a little bit before I take care of them (laughter).  While we’re recording I’m a bit harsh with the musicians, you know.  I love them, but I treat them harshly.    

John:  Hah, you seem very nice.

David:   I only seem (laughter).  Have you read my t-shirt?

John:  Yes, that means your hand in my mouth?

David:   My hand in your face (laughter).

John:  In my face, ok.  Is this a threat to the band, is that how I should interpret it? 

David:   Yeah, yeah, it’s the way I talk to the band.  Sing more, hit louder, retune the guitar, no again, even it’s right already, it’s just for the pleasure (laughter). 

John:   I think I’ve seen Matt wear the same shirt, right?

Matt:  Yes.

John:  So when you both wear the same shirt is that a standoff?

David:   Yeah, or maybe we’re sleeping together (laughter).

Matt:  Sometimes we’re fighting together.

John:  So I know you can listen to your music now on ReverbNation.  Do you have any plans when it will be on iTunes or somewhere like that?

Romain:  Yeah, we’re thinking about that, yep, it would be a good idea, but I think we will wait for the new tracks to be recorded with David.

David:   Maybe opening a new BandCamp page for people to listen to it and download or buy it if they want. 

John:  Ok, I know that, those are good.

David:   Those are really good, I think, the best place for us.

John:  So let me ask a question to Laellou.  Who would say has influenced your vocal styles?  Do you have any particular vocal influences?

Laellou:  It’s strange but it’s not really female singers.  It’s singers like in System of a Down or in Deftones too.  So we have the same influences in fact.

John:  So both your vocals and his guitar have similar influences, is that what you’re saying?

Needle Sharp

Laellou:  Yeah.

Romain:  Yep.

John:  I’ve noticed that you have several different interesting vocal techniques on stage.  Can you say anything about what you’re doing?

Laellou:  I use a clear voice and distorted.

David:   She screams a lot.  She’s a bit scary for us.  But we like her that way.

John:  She has a lot of energy. 

Romain:  Yeah, a lot of energy.  One of the new things we are going to record very soon, the tracks have more aggressive voices, I would say, more growls.  Needle Sharp is going to be a little bit more metal than before.

John:  Yes, I’ve noticed in some of your latest songs that you’ve added the growl.

Laellou:  Yeah.

Romain:  Yeah, we added a few growls in “Open the Door.”

John:  Right, I like that.

Laellou:  And in “Pretty Princess” too, just a little.

Romain:  Yep, just a little.  I think it’s a good way to improve our metal style.

John:  That’s cool.  So is there a story for the band name, “Needle Sharp”?

Romain:  I was sure that you were going to ask this (laughter).  Ummm –

David:   Go on then, say it out loud.

Romain:  I don’t know.  It comes from a conversation about needles, about the fact that our old bass player was a very expressive man (laughter), and one day he told us about needles, about drugs and everything about this.  But we didn’t want to be recognized like a drug band.  So we decided to put a little word just after the needle, so we put the word sharp –

Laellou:  Because it’s also an expression, so that’s why we chose it. 

Romain:  Yeah, it’s an expression also. 

Laellou:  It represents our style really well too, so that’s why we chose Needle Sharp.

John:  I guess the expression means that it’s very, very sharp.  Is that the idea?

Laellou:  Yeah.

Romain:  Yeah, the idea is to think about something sharp – our riffs, guitar, our whole style, you know, something very sleazy, if I can say that. 

John:  I would also say it’s very punchy.

Romain:  Yeah, yeah, punchy, of course.

John:  And pretty groovy, really, compared to a lot of metal.

Romain:  Yep, yep. 

John:  Is that what you meant how it relates to the music?

Needle Sharp

Laellou:  Yeah.

John:  I’ve noticed a bunch of French bands sing in English the way you do.  Why do you do that?

Laellou:  Honestly, I would like to be able to compose in French, but it’s really, really difficult.  So for the moment I prefer in English, but I try to compose in French actually, perhaps later. 

Romain:  Yeah, we need to say also that in France you know the metal style is not very representative.  It’s very difficult in France to be in a metal band and to be known in other countries.  And we think that doing vocals in English is a way to export our tracks to different countries.  We think that it’s easier also.  There are not a lot of French bands that sing in French, except hardcore bands, because this is something that is a lot of work, and you can’t you really understand –

Laellou:  What they say.

Romain:  What the singers say.  But it’s something that works.  You take a band like Gojira, their lyrics are in English, and this is the typical kind of band for which we are very proud to be French.  If they were singing in French, it would not work like they do now. 

John:  Is that because English sounds harsher and fits metal more than French, which to my ear sounds more fluid?

Laellou: Yeah.

Romain:  Yeah, yeah, I think it’s the main reason. 

David:   And in French when you go harsh, it’s not musical at all.  It’s like a cultural thing, when we use language as a weapon, or in an aggressive manner, it’s very horrific, not meant to be musical.  I don’t know, English allows us to have aggressive voices and aggressive rhythms, but it’s still musical.

Romain:  Yeah, sure, English is definitely more musical than French (laughs). 

John:  I guess you hear more English songs yourselves?

Romain:  Yeah, of course. 

Laellou:  But there are some exceptions. 

Romain:  Yeah, there are some exceptions.  We have very good French metal bands here.  I don’t know if you know Mass Hysteria? 

John:  I haven’t heard them yet, no.

Romain:  And others.  We have plenty of metal bands. 

David:   Bands which scream in French. 

Romain:  Yeah, which scream in French, they are very cool, but not so many.

John:  I saw the French band Kells a couple of weeks ago, and they scream some and sing some, mostly in French.

Romain:  Yeah, yeah.

John:  Laellou, do you write the lyrics then?

Laellou:  Yeah.

John:  How does that process work in terms of the music and the lyrics, how do they match up?

Romain:  Usually it begins by a guitar riff, a chorus, the main riff.  Then we play it, everyone plays it, and when we find a good structure, and the thing that we want to tell in the song, later we write the lyrics.

Needle Sharp

John:  So do you write lyrics that express the feelings that you have with the music?

Laellou:  Yeah, exactly. 

Romain:  So usually it begins by me.

Laellou:  With Matt.

Romain:  And then with Matt, yeah.  With the drums, and Guillaume comes with the bass.  

David:   We sit down, we listen.

Laellou:  Yeah, that’s true.

Romain:  Yeah, usually he sits down and listens carefully and then he plays a very good bass riff.

David:   I’ve noticed that when the music comes to Guillaume stage, it stops for a few days, then it comes out a different way.  He has a very good way to listen to guitarists and to propose his views to them, and with his part on the bass, the music begins to be.

Romain:  Yeah, it’s the case for everyone, we try to listen to each other, we try to compose something that it is melodic, and not just a hard riff, you know.

David:  Yeah, we try to find something melodic.

John:  I see that in the result.  It’s heavy, but melodic, and it even sort of has a funky rhythm, I think, that makes you want to dance.

David:   Yeah.

John:  I notice you dance a lot on stage, Laellou.

Laellou:  Yeah.

John:  You seem to really like that.

Laellou:  I like that, it’s great (laughs).

John:  This is a hard question, but if you can put it into words, what does the music make you feel that you are expressing on stage?

Laellou:  Yeah, it is a hard question (laughs).  I think it is something like freedom.  I try to be like in my home, and I’m free.  I think it’s like that.

David:   She’s like insane. 

Romain:  It’s very hard for us, you know, when we have a woman like Laellou who is dancing on stage, it’s very hard to concentrate.

John:  It’s a distraction for the rest of the band?  (laughs)

Romain:  Yeah, of course.  (Others chime in yes.)

David:   That’s always the reason for the broken strings, the forgotten cables, it’s because Laellou was jumping everywhere, they always say that.  (Laellou laughs)

John:  Another thing I thought was interesting was the way you funded the first concert that I attended, at Divan du Monde, with Plemi (in September 2012).  I thought that was pretty cool where you got the audience to agree to pay in advance and if enough people agreed then the concert was funded and went forward.  Do you think this is the future of metal in France or Europe?

Romain:  Yeah, I think it’s a good way for French metal bands.  Like I said before, in France it’s very difficult to play metal in the big concert halls, so sharing a show with other metal bands is a good way to show to people what we can do in France.  And yeah, the show at the Divan du Monde was a very good one, but when you look at what we did in the Divan du Monde and look at what we do now, we have improved ourselves.

Needle Sharp

John:  Yes.

Romain:  I think that if we do it again now –

Laellou:  It will be better.

Romain:  It will be awesome.

John:  Yes, I’ve definitely noticed your growth as artists. 

Romain:  But it was a great show.

John:  It was.

Romain:  With great bands. 

John:  Laellou, do you actually work on the organization side?  I’ve noticed that you seem to be involved in organizing concerts.

Laellou:  Yeah.

John:  Can you describe what you do there?

Laellou:  I try to help some bands to create some dates like at Divan du Monde with several bands, and it helps to have a great stage, and good access to nice places in Paris, mostly.  And I organize it all, in fact (laughs).

Romain:  For the moment, Laellou is our manager.  But things are going to change because we’ve found someone to take care of us.

David:   And also Laellou, for once.

Romain:  Yeah, I think now she can rest herself a little bit.

Laellou:  Yeah, but I can continue to have the other bands, to make some dates.

Romain:  Yeah, it’s a lot of work.

Laellou:   Yeah.

Romain:  Now we will have a dedicated person to take care of this, our own manager, yeah, that’s good.

John:  Well, congratulations.

Romain:  Thank you.

John:  Can you say what your goal is?  Do you have a goal as a band?  Where do you see yourselves ending up?

David:   Having fun.

Romain:  Yeah, having fun, of course. 

Laellou:  Yeah.

Romain:  It’s the first thing. 

David:   And meeting people everywhere we play.

Romain:  Yeah, doing a video clip, doing an album, a full album, making a lot of tours.

Laellou:  Yeah, and continuing to share our music with the public, and have some public, because it’s great to have it.

Romain:  Yeah, it’s just the beginning now.  We have now been playing for one, maybe one year and a half.  And it’s just the very beginning.  I think we can do a lot of good things in the future.

Needle Sharp

John:  I think so too.  Do you think we’ll see you someday in the U.S.?

David:   We hope so.

Laellou:  Yeah.

Romain:  Yeah, it would be great.

John:  I hope so too. 

Romain:  Or even record something in the U.S., would be great. 

David:   If you want to invite us… (laughter)

John:  Yes, yes.

Romain:  We have a good example in France, we have the band Dagoba.  Dagoba is a French metal band in the south of France, and they recorded in Los Angeles, and now they signed with a label in the U.S.  It’s a good example of success.

John:  Cool.  Let me ask you one more question that might be of interest to Sonic Cathedral readers.  Just focusing on being a woman in metal, how is that?  Does it help you, does it just distract your band, you know, is it easier, harder, or does it matter now?

Laellou:   I don’t know if it’s easier or harder.  We are not in a really big place in metal in France.  But it helps, I think, for the public, honestly (laughs).  There are more and more girls in metal, so it becomes easier, actually. 

John:  So you feel acceptance in the French public?

Laellou:  Yeah.

John:  Good.  Is there anything else that you would like to say to our readers, a lot of them are in the U.S., but I think people all over the world reading in English?

Romain:  Yeah, I think we can say that we want to have U.S. people to listen to our music, it would be great.  Just sharing our music –

David:   And some beers.

Laellou:  And some beers, you’re right (laughter).

Romain:  And making people happy when they hear our music.

John:  Well, thank you so much for the interview, and I’m really looking forward to the show tonight.

Romain:  Thank you John.

Laellou:  Thank you.

David:   Thank you.

Needle Sharp

Conclusion:  Needle Sharp has quickly become one of my favorite bands, perhaps my favorite French band.  The show that I saw after this interview lived up to my expectations and more.  They have gotten better each time I’ve seen them.  I especially like how Laellou has accented her normal clean (but aggressive) vocals with occasional growls and also some male choruses from the rest of the band.  And I understand why the band says her dancing is a distraction for them; it’s mesmerizing.  I also like how much energy and passion the whole band puts into their shows.

Musically, I love how Needle Sharp combines crunch, melody, and rhythm.  The band cites Deftones as a benchmark, but I am most reminded of Judas Priest and their crowd-pleasing anthems.  Think “Breaking the Law” or “Heading Out to the Highway.”  I also think that fans of Halestorm would find much to like in Needle Sharp.  Highly recommended!