THE AIKIU

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Schermafbeelding 2018-10-02 om 16.55.07.
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THE AIKIU

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Some bands just have it. Others don’t. And the ones that do are exceedingly rare. So when you come across a band like The Aikiu, whose music sounds at once effortless yet strangely familiar and sends shivers down your spine, you need to get to know them. Pronounced “eye-cue”, The Aikiu are a new-wave outfit from Paris, one of the sharpest modern pop bands to emerge from the city recently. They’re fronted by Alex Aikiu, a movie- mad singer and songwriter whose magnetic charisma and off- beat outlook give their songs a compellingly starry-eyed quality. “I’m very inspired by cinema,” says Alex, a former law stu- dent who is half-French, half-Vietnamese, “and when writing a song I always script a moment with fiction or romanticize reality. I don’t like reality too much”. Broadly positioned between the velvet purr of late-70s Roxy Music and the balmy fizz of The Cure’s ‘Head on the Door’, Alex’s songs on The Aikiu’s debut album strongly evokes the innocence and wonder of youth. Fantasy is his speciality – outside music he was a consultant for french photographer Jean-Paul Goude – and he can pen an elegant melody, which perhaps explains how, on the likes of “Slow Motion”, “Fools” and “Pieces of Gold”, he deftly blends the outsider slant of Pulp with David Byrne’s pop-art flair. The Aikiu provide an instant fix, yet their songs linger with you long after the notes have faded. “I wanted to write simple pop music. I wasn’t trying to experi- ment or be complicated. I was in the mood to do something clas- sic for this album,” says Alex, who cites as inspiration the photos of Joseph Sterling, the collages of Carmen Calvo, and 70’s thrill- ers like Werner Herzog’s Nos- feratu the Vampyre. In fact,  Isabelle Adjani, Klaus Kinski’s co-star in Herzog’s film, sings backing vocals on “Let me Freak Out”, Alex’s homage to the iconic film. Credit for the album «Ghost Youth» should also go to Alex’s band mates in The Aikiu, chief among them his best friend  Julien Vichnievsky, with whom he wrote most of the album, later recording it in Julien’s studio in the Marais district of Paris. Then there’s Barnabé Nuytten on bass, Fiodor Dream Dog on drums and Christophe Rodomisto on guitars “We have good chemistry” says Alex. He also enlisted the production skills of Erick D Clark and Guillaume Brière, of the band The Shoes, who fleshed out the songs and gave the record its power. “He totally got what I wanted. He worked on the intensity and emphasis of each track.” Another person Alex bounced ideas off was electronic music whiz Cédric Pilooski, a member of Discodeine. “He really worked on textures and beat distortions and he made certain tracks darker, more ce- rebral,” says Alex. “

 

“We wanted to create a cinematic intensity with the song ar- rangements,” he continues, “sometimes it’s intimate and frag- ile, sometimes it’s very grand, kind of a wall of sound. There is a dramatic aspect to the album and that’s on purpose because I love drama. But there had to irony too. I don’t take myself too seriously. And there’s also a physical side—songs you can dance to.” One of the lighter songs on the album is a sci-fi jive called “Barbarella”, named after the space-age Jane Fonda flick. “I wanted to make a tribute to that type of woman, I love  female superheroes,” says Alex. “And I love films like Rumble Fish and Rebel Without a Cause, the way they show kids stand- ing up to authority. Innocence and youth are a big influence in my song writing. I think until your death you’re going to keep on learning».  Music has been an essential part of Alex’s life since he was a very young child. Growing up, he spent much of his youth trav- elling between France and Africa. It was at age ten, while performing a piano presentation for his family, that he first realized he felt comfortable on stage and wanted to do music. “When I was in Africa I began taking private piano and voice lessons. My father wanted me to play piano and he saw that I was enjoying making music and sing- ing, but he didn’t expect it would become a career or anything. He just wanted me to have fun...” In Africa, Alex consumed all the music he could, which wasn’t a lot : “I was only listening to clas- sical music because we had no  internet back then and virtually no music stores. I remember in Senegal there was one music store but my father didn’t give me money to buy records, so I was listening to music when I would see my family in France.” Alex discovered pop through his older sister’s collection of Kate Bush, Madonna and Prince records, influences which come through in the inherent catch- iness of the album, in particular on the new single «Win», which celebrates R&B and 80’s synth pop of Cyndi Lauper & invites the queer icon JD Samson (Le Tigre, Men) to duet. After finishing school, Alex moved to NY for a year. Many of his nights were spent going out, often hanging out with local musicians. These months spent in NY also remain a big influ- ence on the record, which manages to mix European cosmo pop highlights with a certain flavour of US R&B. From France to Africa & NY, it’s been quite a journey al- ready. Now that he’s where he wants to be, what happens next for The Aikiu? “I have no idea, to be honest,” says Alex, adding, “I just want to make music, work with the people I love, and ex- press what I’m feeling. I think it’s a gift. So I’m not really expecting anything.”

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