If you haven’t yet heard of Pi Ja Ma think dreamy Parisian alt-pop with a heavy helping of humour and sixties sparkle. Having racked up several million of streams from their debut EP, we caught up with Axel and Pauline to talk about their debut album Nice To Meet U, their gig at Rough Trade East and what motivates their records.
Welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about how Pi Ja Ma started?
Axel: We met each other on the internet in 2015 – I saw a video on YouTube where Pauline was singing a cover of the velvet underground ‘Femme Fatale’. I tried to contact her via email and then we met. I played her some songs and we talked a lot about our lives and laughed and drank a lot of teas. We immediately connected. Then everything happened very fast; we’ve recorded a few songs that we loved and sent them to a small label called Bleepmachine, we decided to work together for our first EP Radio Girl to see what happened… Reactions were great so we started to play live, then we signed a licence deal with a bigger label (Cinq 7 / Wagram Music) to release the album Nice To Meet U.
As a visual and DIY artist can you tell us about the interaction of your illustrations and art with the music that you have created – do they lean on each other or do you find one takes the lead in the creative process?
Pauline: Music and illustration make a beautiful couple – they are very different but are both an animal way to express yourself. I couldn’t choose between these two. Drawing was easier for me at first but then I began to sing, and it was also very natural doing that everyday. I like to think about the full project with music, drawings, videos etc…
You debut album Nice To Meet U came out last year to a great reception, with your music being described as “evolving fantasies and nostalgic daydreams, encouraging the listener to step back in time to the 1960s” – how would you describe the record?
Pauline: It was very easy making this record with Axel. Just after we met, we spent a lot of time talking and making jokes. We were inspired by the same artists like The Beach Boys and Mac Demarco. We had a lot of fun, I hope it will be the same for the second album!
This record talk about simple topics like shitty love stories and feeling weird in your own family. It contains a lot of positive vibes and people tell me that it makes them happy so I feel like we’ve succeeded in what we set out to do!
We loved your tracks ‘Vertigo’ and ‘I Hate U’, which we’ve played on the radio show, and love the videos -can you tell us a bit more about the videos and how they link together?
Pauline: Every time we finish a song, I have images in my head. I try to explain my story to a director and then we make the video together. I like to add drawings and animations to videos because it’s a part of me I can directly put in the reality of the images.
The story begins, I’m in the skin of a sad man who’s trying to let it go and act crazy in the street. He meets his double, a guy who represents a rock’n roll version of him. At the end of the video he’s back in his normal life, drinking whisky and watching TV, and then the second video begins and I’m in the skin of a vintage pop star who’s gonna go crazy in her way too. Both songs are talking about the same topic, which is difficult break ups and moments when you feel crazy and just want to “tout foutre en l’air”.
Can you tell us a bit more about the evolution of your music from your Radio Girl EP to Nice To Meet U?
Axel: Well it was the same process for the EP and the album. I was recording songs at home, then I would send them to Pauline, and if she’d like it (which happened most of the time luckily) we started to talk about it and what we would like to talk about. At the beginning, I was writing the lyrics alone translating our discussion into lyrics, but more and more we started to write together. Production-wise we kept the same process that worked on the first EP, which is making most of the things at home, to keep our own sound. Apart from drums, and strings, everything was homemade. That’s what we like, to keep it simple.
Your music covers a variety of topics including gender, youth, isolation and failed love with a gentle intensity mixed together with humour – does that reflect your general outlook on life and response to cultural experiences and societal pressures?
Yes. That’s a pretty good sum up of our philosophy. It’s great feeling that people can understand that, just listening to our music.
You’re currently on tour and have just played both Rough Trade East and the Southbank Centre (two iconic London venues) – how were they?
Axel: Rough trade east was great! People were so kind with us, and the gig was fun. That place is amazing, it’s inspiring. I would love to work in that shop, I’m sure I would get many ideas from all the great music they play most of the time.
Pauline: I’m always very well surprised by the warm welcome English people give us everytime we come to England, it’s a great feeling when people can understand each one of your words, even the jokes between the songs. Even walking down the streets in London feels amazing, because of the open-minded way of life there. I mean, what people wear, the way they are smiling much more than French people, and how they organise more cultural activities in the heart of the city.
You’ve previously played London including The Moth Club in East London how have you found the reception this time?
Moth club was one of our first gigs, and we were quite shy back then, now we improvise much more and feel more confident and it makes the show greater!
What’s the rest of 2019 got in store for Pi Ja Ma?
As we’re touring, we’re thinking a lot about our second record. We get constantly inspired by what we see, who we meet, and what we’re listening to. We already have a few songs and can’t wait to do more.
Finally, as we’re a new music focused site, are there any other new/upcoming bands or artists you’d suggest we check out?
We love Halo Maud who’s a friend of ours, and who helped write a few lyrics on the album. Her music is great and she’s signed to a British label (Heavenly Records). You should check her out. Also, you should check Musique Chienne, Pauline’s latest crush is Creatures, who we saw at Old Blue Last just after our gig at Rough Trade East.
Nice To Meet U is out now.