Meeting with the group Catastrophe, in concert at the Fête de l’Humanité

They are six, one is a novelist, another poet, a third videographer, each a musician and all embarked on the Catastrophe adventure. A group that regenerates French pop art, with burlesque and baroque accents by mixing disciplines: elaborate choreography, polished videos, intriguing texts. In 2018, they sign a remarkable first album, The night is still young, with the label with its strong sound identity Tricatel, directed by musician Bertrand Burgalat.

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Two years later they did it again with gong!, concept album in the form of a musical that borrows from the harmonies of Michel Legrand and the syncopated rhythms of urban music. Pierre Jouan and Blandine Rinkel, the thinking heads of the group, confided.

Catastrophe has often been described as collective. Does it suit you?

Blandine Rinkel We don’t use the word collective too much, because we don’t really have a horizontal operation. What is true is that we each try to have different specialties, Pierre in composition, me more in writing and narrative design, Arthur (Navellou) in stage and performance, Carol (Teillard d’Eyry) in the images… In this, we complete each other to design a project that is not only musical.

Pierre Jouan We found that it was good for one person, in one area at a time, to have the last word. This does not prevent us from taking into account all ideas.

discover the titanic assembly of this ephemeral city.

This collective dimension appears above all on stage…

Blandine Rinkel Our strength, on stage, is that everyone gets involved in the production of the concert. A single person is more identifiable and the storytelling simpler. It’s cheaper too. For once, I find it quite festive and fresh to highlight several people. It is quite rare in France nowadays. And we like to bring back the idea that music is made by many.

You mentioned the multidisciplinarity of Catastrophe. How would you define it?

Pierre Jouan We don’t consider ourselves, above all, as musicians. We try to stay open to other forms of art to feed our work, even if music remains our main medium. We look for kinds of creative nourishment in the history of art, dance, cinema, literature. What I find interesting in pop is the articulation of many things, styling, music, the language of images. If you want to achieve something, you have to know how to touch on all these areas.

What makes you a good band, then, but not just music?

Pierre Jouan Yes, that’s it. We don’t spend most of our time making music. Ideas interest us more than the music itself. Having an idea is more important than having chords or a melody. For example, the idea for our second record was to make a musical. We had the intuition that it was interesting, promising and strong to make a modern musical comedy informed by current tragedy. The music came later.

Blandine Rinkel We’re looking for a color that doesn’t yet exist. It sometimes involves choreography, sometimes creating a piece linked to images. This is what makes the artistic approach of the project.

Your aerial lyrics and melodies seem to want to ward off “catastrophe”. Do we need lightness to evoke reality, or even to be serious?

Blandine Rinkel We are not ideologues, we don’t “need” anything. Our relationship to existence is both tragic and joyful. There is perhaps a misunderstanding with despair, as with hope for that matter. Despair does not prevent joy. The world is full of tragedy and we know that catastrophes will multiply. We can look at it in a lucid way, but that does not prevent at any time from stealing joy, from going to a concert, from living a hyperfort moment. Just because this moment is about to end doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

You have just completed a residency in Seine-Saint-Denis called 9+3. What did you get out of it?

Pierre Jouan Nine podcasts and three tracks (9+3)! We needed to explore territories. The idea was to go in search of the sacred, in the broad sense, in this department. It allowed us to meet very different people: a stonemason from the basilica of Saint-Denis, a traveling midwife, krump and flamenco dancers, people in nursing homes, people of all ages and from any profession. Théo Herrerias (duo Terrenoire – Ed), who produced the three tracks, was incredibly lively and inspired. After finishing the interviews in the nursing home, we were completely altered, disturbed, but it gave something very strong.

During confinement, you launched a workshop on the Internet called the Syndicate where you invited musicians (Arthur Teboul, from Feu! Chatterton, Albin de la Simone, DJ Fuzati, etc.). What was his goal?

Blandine Rinkel During this period, we experienced the feeling of being handcuffed. Music does not hold without encounters. Our bodies had ceased to exist in this very virtual dimension. The idea was to come together to defend something in which we believe and to go to the end of common questions with other musicians.

You mentioned the need to “rediscover an amateur pleasure in doing things”. What do you mean ?

Blandine Rinkel When you become professional, you can adopt a certain systematism, speak with elements of language and lose the taste for doing things. Attention and acuity to the world are reactivated when we find an amateur gaze. We also realized the general thirst for a return to the organic, musically and scenically. There is a need to return to something danced, animal.

To find all the programming of the Fête de l’Humanité 2022: concerts, debates, exhibitions… and all the useful information, it’s here!


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