An interview with Charlotte Mermoud of THE STACHES and MARAUDEUR from Geneva, Switzerland, currently living in Leipzig, Germany, discussing her experiences with music and her solo project, PURPUR SPYTT
WHEN DID YOU START PLAYING MUSIC?
At the age of 12, I asked for an acoustic guitar for my birthday. My uncle gifted me one and I figured out as much as I could by myself to be able to play my favorite songs at that time (which I won’t reveal here… Obviously…). I wrote a few cheesy songs alone in my bedroom too, but it’s at the age of 16 that I really entered the game by joining an embryo of a band, who died a few months later, and came back to life with new members a few more months later. The Staches were born, and they are still alive today, 10 years later. The project of Purpur Spytt started way later. I wrote and recorded my first (real) song all by myself in March 2016.
HOW DID YOU DECIDE YOU WERE READY TO BRING YOUR MUSIC ROM HOME TO THE STAGE WITH PURPUR SPYTT?
I didn’t decide, I got forced ! Kidding, but sort of. My friend Lise, the singer/synth player of the Staches, who also has a solo project named Maraudeur, got asked to release a 7’’ by a little french label called Le Syndicat des Scorpions, this was summer 2016, and she told me about it and then she was like: « Hey, this guy also like your stuff, let’s do a split together! » At that time, I had 3 songs on my Soundcloud. I said « Ok! » and then the 7’’ turned into a 10’’ that would come out in December 2016. And then, Lise was like: « We should tour to promote the split! Can you be ready by January? We should do a Maraudeur + Purpur Spytt tour! » I also play in Maraudeur, so that was convenient. I was like: « Euh… s-s-sure… » I was completely panicked. How the fuck could I be able to perform my songs all by myself on a stage?! This is how I got forced to find a way to make it work by creating a system with 2 loop pedals, a small mixer, a synth and a bass. I practiced like crazy in December, and I did my very first show on December 22th, 2016.
HOW HAS YOUR SOUND CHANGED SINCE THE FIRST SONGS YOU CREATED?
Hum, it’s hard to say. I think it didn’t change too much, as I’m using the same gear since the beginning. Maybe my recordings got better or at least cleaner because I probably got better by just doing it more often.
WHAT DOES THE NAME PURPUR SPYTT MEAN? HOW DID YOU CHOOSE IT?
Haha! Yes! This is a funny one, here it is. « Purpur spytt » is Norwegian and it means « purple spit » in English. By the time I started the project, I had to avoid sugar and yeast because of minor heath problems. That means I had to exclude beer for a while, so I was drinking mostly red wine (yes, there’s sugar in it too, but I’ve been told red wine was the less worst alcohol I could drink if I really wanted to drink. And of course I really wanted to drink from time to time…). One night, I came back home shit faced by red wine, I brushed my teeth, spat in the sink, and I got nicely surprised to find my foamy toothpasty spit purple! I found this very poetic and this image was actually nicely summarizing where I was at that time: angry and frustrated, but if I had to describe my state of mind, yes I would have used crude words but I would have used a pen with colored ink to write it. I didn’t go for the direct translation in English because I just wanted the name to sound a bit weird and I picked Norwegian because I had 7 norwegian au pairs when I was a kid, so I heard a lot this mysterious language when my au pairs would be on the phone with their friends, which made these sonorities strangely familiar, even if the only thing I can say in Norwegian is « good night » (it’s « nata », pretty easy to remember).
WHAT EQUIPMENT DID YOU USE TO CREATE NITPICK?
I used a 4-track cassette recorder and my computer. One track doesn’t work though, so a 3-track cassette recorder more like it. I recorded the drums or drum machine and sometimes the bass on the cassette and the rest I would use the 3-track as an interface (to keep the sound of the pre-amp) to go to my computer.
HOW LONG DID YOU WORK ON NITPICK?
Hum, if I remember well, I recorded « Real / Not Real » one day beginning of January 2017 and then I recorded the 3 other songs in May 2017. It took me I’d say 1 day per song and then 2 days to mix the whole thing, and then one more day to re-listen and re-mix two weeks later with my friend Kyle Day who is a sound engineer to have fresh ears and professional advises.
WHAT IS THE MUSIC SCENE IN LEIPZIG LIKE? DO YOU PLAY MORE SHOWS LOCALLY OR IN SURROUNDING AREAS?
Leipzig is great! There are a lot of bands in town, a lot of shows happening, a lot of squats and not-so-legal little bars to play or party, but I don’t play too often with Purpur Spytt actually. I’d rather go on tours around Europe.
HOW DO YOUR LIVE SHOWS COMPARE TO YOUR RECORDINGS?
I think the live shows are not so different from the recordings, as I’m not a full band with 4 different and fluctuant energies for example, and as I’m using samples of drums or drum machine from the recordings that I loop on stage, maybe the live performance is even less dynamic than the recordings because it’s mostly loops and when I record I play from the beginning till the end as a normal song, I don’t record loops, I mean. The structures are sometimes a bit different to make it easier to perform live, but usually I like challenging myself with tricky loopings instead of making everything easy. That’s how I try to balance the lack of dynamism with interesting structures, and my own energy of course.
HAVE YOU PLAYED IN ANY BANDS? DO YOU FEEL MORE COMFORTABLE PLAYING IN A GROUP OR BY YOURSELF?
Yes I play in a few bands, as I mentioned it already, my main bands are The Staches and Maraudeur. On stage I definitely prefer playing with a band. It feels like we are a crew, and the pressure is not just on me, haha! When I play alone, of course I get nervous, not only because I’m alone on stage in front of a lot of people staring at me, but also because I play songs that I wrote all by myself and I sing very personal lyrics. It feels like I’m naked and everyone is judging my tits, you know! At the practice space, it’s a different story. With the Staches for example we write everything all together and sometimes it’s awesome (most of the time) and sometimes it’s frustrating, so to balance this frustration, I have Purpur Spytt where nobody is here to criticize my bass lines. Kidding of course, but yeah it’s a lot more freedom to be alone, but also a lot more doubts, cause nobody is there either to tell me that my bass line is cool. That’s why I always show my new recordings to my bandmates to have feedbacks.
WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT THING ABOUT BEING A ONE WOMAN BAND?
I think I partly answered this question in the last ones. It’s hard to pick just one thing actually. So yeah, as I said being alone is not easy psychologically, all the loop system is tricky, but this is my choice, I could have just sing and playing acoustic guitar and I would still be a one woman band. Anyways, of course sometimes I’m scared when I arrive somewhere to play and I don’t know anybody, I don’t know where I’m gonna sleep, if I’ll be safe and all that, but for now I’ve been very happy with all my experiences and I even think being one girl alone on stage shows some strength and repel the douchebags, if you see what I mean. We realized it with Maraudeur too, when we are 4 girls on stage, we can feel actually more respect towards us than when we are 2 girls and 2 boys like with the Staches for example.
WHY DO YOU CHOOSE TO SING IN ENGLISH RATHER THAN GERMAN?
Oh I’m realizing I actually didn’t even clarify this yet: I’m from Geneva, Switzerland, and I live in Leipzig, Germany, for a year now. So my mother tongue is French! But German or French, same answer, English has always been the language of music to me. Most of the music I listen and have listened so far is in English. And it actually helps me to write. I can be more honest and crude in another language than my mother tongue. It’s also a way to hide a bit, to not be Charlotte on stage, but Purpur Spytt. That’s also why I created a character around it. During the live show, I wear a purple polo and I speak in English, even in France! (Which usually make the Frenchies pretty confused, cause you can obviously tell that I have a French accent). Writing in English also gives me the opportunity to play with this language that is not mine. I love translating french expression in English for example. It creates weird images that inspire me to go further in this poetic world that develops by itself just by the fact that I’m wandering around with strange shoes that are not mine, that don’t fit me, but I still make it work and walk with it. Language is a tool for creation to me.
WHAT INFLUENCES YOUR LYRICS AND SONG WRITING?
Once again, I’m such a chatterbox I partly answered to this one already, haha! I’ll add to that my surroundings, my environment of course, also my bandmates and their different projects. For the lyrics, I like questioning myself on existential topics, but always with humor, more or less distinguishable, depending on the song.
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR EVERYDAY LIFE BESIDES MUSIC?
Not much, because music occupies most of my time! Because of my several bands, I tour a lot and I practice a lot. Sometimes I get a little graphic job here and there. I studied graphic design so I get to design album covers, posters, etc. for others and for my own bands, which is convenient. With the Staches we organize shows in Leipzig too, so that takes a bit of my time too. Except all that, I try to chill when I can, because chilling is important. I think that’s a good phrase to end ;) .