Euronews Culture meets the Franco-Welsh pop powerhouse, who has released their new album 'Double Vision'.
It’s been a good year for music so far, and compiling an End of Year highlights list here at Euronews Culture will not be a tough ask.
Still, because it’s the year that keeps on musically giving, we’ve got one recommendation to brighten the remaining colder days of 2023: Shake Shake Go’s new album, ‘Double Vision’.
The band, composed of Poppy Jones, Kilian Saubusse and Virgile Rozand, hail from... Well, quite a few places. Both Saubusse and Rozand are French, while Jones is from Wales. They’ve been active for a little over 10 years now, and first gained quite the following with their 2016 single ‘England Skies’, off of their first album 'All In Time'. Their brand of dreamy folk pop made them a shoo-in for opening for James Blunt on tour, and promised much.
Their sound has evolved since then, and five years since their sophomore release 'Homesick', 'Double Vision' is hands down the Franco-Welsh trio’s strongest set of songs to date.
Both heartfelt and invigorating, the tracks off this third album confirm Shake Shake Go as the best kept secret of pan-European pop. Their perfectly calibrated hooks, powered by Jones’ showstopping vocals – which used to recall Dido and now often feel like a sunnier version of The xx’s Romy Madley Croft – are uniquely cathartic. And 'Double Vision' is the sound of a band who have found their stride.
Just try listening to new songs like the empowering ‘Red Woman’ or the swoon-worthy album standout ‘Love Outside The Lines’ without having them lodged in your head for the foreseeable.
We caught up with the band in Lyon, the home of their new record label, to chat with singer Poppy Jones about the album, the strength to be found in friendship and multicultural bandmates, as well as the merits of garlic for colds and post-Brexit touring.
Euronews Culture: When I mentioned that I was going to interview you, some of my colleagues reacted by saying, “That’s an interesting name”. It reminded some of a packet of crisps that you could shake... I thought it could also be a terrible parenting technique... What is behind the name Shake Shake Go?
Poppy Jones: When we started out, we went busking across the UK and we couldn't think of a name ourselves. We were really bad at that. So, we decided we'd go busking and we'd do a competition where people can suggest a name for us. And at the time, we had lots of little instruments. People would join in with us on the street, and it was a little kid called Alfie who picked up the shaker and start playing with us. And he said, “Oh, you should be called Shake Shake Go.” And that was the best of a very bad bunch of names. (Laughs)
Can you remember some of the other candidates?
Yeah! (Laughs) We had ‘Space Cabbage’, ‘Pagan Assault’... And a lot that can't be said...
Probably for the best... Your new album, ‘Double Vision’, is out now. What struck me when listening to the album was that the title neatly complements some of the song's themes, like the duality of emotions. Can you tell me a little bit more about the album’s themes?
The album is kind of a journey through almost like a breakup. So, you have the beginning of the journey where there's denial of the situation, and anger, and sadness. But then when you come at the other end, there's the joy and the self-discovery, and then the friendship at the end. You have the good and the bad, and hopefully it takes people on a bit of a journey.
It’s your third album but it’s the first album that you're doing with the independent label Brickhead, which is based in Lyon. Has that meant more freedom for you?
Yeah, definitely. We fully did everything by ourselves with our own label, which is very exciting. And it 100% means we can make all the decisions. Which is a nice thing - to know that if there's something we want to do, we can do it. There's no input from outsiders who maybe have reasons for the way they want to do things. Decisions they want to make musically or for money reasons. For us, it was a really great thing to be able to do it on our own.
You’ve released the singles ‘Red Woman’ and ‘Diamond Days’ from the album. The clip for the latter is excellent and very striking. It was directed by David Tomaszewski and features dancing trash, pink leotards...
We're really lucky to work with David. We've worked with him once before on an old video called ‘Come Back to Me’. And we've wanted to work with him again because he's a genius. Basically, we met with him in London, had a coffee, and we told him that we'd love to work with him again. We played him the song and we’d shown him the artwork, which we had by Léna Macka, who's an artist in Lyon and really cool. As soon as we showed it to him, you could just see his brain going “I see this... I see this...” And we were just sat there, watching a genius at work. Straightaway, he just had the idea, and it fits really well with the song, because 'Diamond Eyes’ is about friendship - the friendship with Kilian and Virgil in particular. We've known each other for a really long time and even now, after about ten years, we're still surprised by the things each other can do. There's lots of surprises, lots of discovery between the three of us. And so, the video represents that you may think you know everything about one person, but if you give them a chance, they can really surprise you.
Both your bandmates are French. You're from Wales. It’s already difficult enough to communicate in one language... How does that work, and can this mix of influences prove Brexit wrong?
(Laughs) It’s a strength. They both speak English, luckily very well, because to begin with, my French was absolutely non-existent. I didn't do French at school. I just about get by with English! We work really well together. We have different influences because we have different cultures, different ways of growing up, and we make it work. The mixture of cultures and ideas is always a strength.
What are your influences?
I've always loved singing, so my parents introduced me to the great singers, like Eva Cassidy and Aretha Franklin. I'd sit at home with my CD trying to like belt out the same songs. Not to the same standard as Aretha Franklin, , obviously. But I started like that. Then my dad, who's a milkman and very into his old school music, would sit in the van and he'd play me Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles... He’d say “I'm giving you a musical education right now!” And then my mum was very into musicals... So I guess I've had quite a diverse introduction to music! And it's changing, as there's a big difference in influences from the first album to now.
How could you describe that change?
The first album we kind of say is folk pop... Which wasn't a choice, as we didn't go into the first album saying, “Let's do a folk pop album.” I think it just happened naturally because at the time we were listening to The Lumineers, and I got really into Arcade Fire’s first album... So those were big influences. And now with ‘Double Vision’, I can't really put my finger specifically on a musical influence. Maybe if we did, I think Tame Impala are a reference we had sound-wise. But this album was really influenced by our lives, our emotions and what's going on in the band. The change, not just musically but lyrically, has become much more personal and intimate.
You recorded the album between France, the UK and Spain, right?
Yeah, we wrote the album between France and Spain and England, and we recorded it in Brittany.
Did you feel that they were differences in the way that you wrote the lyrics and the music, from country to country?
Yeah, it definitely influenced the writing. When we listen to the album, we can hear where we wrote certain songs. We had a lot to free from ourselves for this album, and we went back to England, to Brighton, where we started the band. That's where we started writing the songs that were really on our minds lately, and that we just had to get out. When we listen back, the deeper songs were written in the UK. And then once we got that off our chests, we needed some fresh air. We went to Barcelona. So obviously from cold Britain to sunny Spain, there's a difference. And that's where we wrote the songs that are more happy, like ‘Diamond Eyes’.
The song 'England Skies' from your first album ‘All In Time’ went viral in 2016. How is it when you're just starting out and suddenly one of your songs is a hit? Was it added pressure for you and writing the following albums?
For me anyway, I don't really feel like there was that much pressure. We were getting lots of messages, and we'd come and play in France for the first time. And I didn't think anybody knew any of the songs! We’d come out and they'd be singing ‘England Skies’ all the way through... I was like, “Wow, this is weird but cool.” But actually I was living in Wales or London at the time, so while this song was exploding a little bit in France, we weren't here for it. So we didn't really experience it. People were telling me that the song was doing well, which was cool, but in a way it's a bit sad that we missed a bit of it! But then I guess that meant we didn’t have that pressure weighing on us that much about the next songs needing to be as good as the last one. Which for me is better, because I don't think the pressure really helps.
Where are you based right now?
Right now, not really anywhere! We’re kind of moving around everywhere, trying to pick a place to call home at the moment, which is a hard decision.
We've heard about a lot of artists facing major difficulties with regards to touring post-Brexit. Has that made touring difficult?
Yeah, definitely. I mean, at one point we were thinking that we could base ourselves in the UK, but that became quite clear very quickly that that's not going to happen, because it's just so expensive to go back and forth. So, we're still trying to figure out exactly where we're going to base ourselves. But it has definitely impacted touring.
Do you have any pre-show routines when you're on tour?
I did have a phase before every gig of eating a clementine, because I think I ate one once and the show went well, so I thought “Okay, this is the secret! I'll eat clementine every time!” Then I got paranoid about getting a cold, so on the rider, I said that we needed to have garlic. Because I read that garlic is really good when you’ve got a cold... But when you do a gig and then go to the merch and just stink of garlic, it’s not great! I've kind of stopped doing that!
The topic du jour right now is the role of artificial intelligence in music. Some are bricking it, others are embracing the possibilities of AI... And recently, The Beatles’ final song has been announced – a song that was made possible partly due to AI. Where do you stand on this?
I'm not a fan. I think it's amazing what technology can do. But for me, the reason that makes art and music so special is because it's got a human touch. It’s a personal story, it's somebody's emotions. And no matter how incredible technology can be, I don't think you can get that from a AI.
You're about to go on tour next year...
Yeah, I'm really excited because it's been quite a while since we've been on tour and we've just announced the tour dates now. So we're going all over France. We're going to be playing the Transbordeur here in Lyon in March, which will be great because Lyon is always really cool to us. Then we're going to tour Spain for the first time, which we're really excited for because we've been wanting to go for years, and that's something we can do now that with our own label that we can do. Then the UK, Belgium... We’re going everywhere we can!
And lastly, what is on your playlist at the moment?
When I listen to somebody, I get really obsessed and I will just listen to them for like two years! I'm still going strong with Gregory Porter... I'm a big fan of Hozier's new album. Same for Laura Mvula... And I've just discovered Say She She. They’re three women from America. I think it's two Americans and one British woman. And they're kind of like Chic-esque, and they're my new obsession right now.
Shake Shake Go’s new album, ‘Double Vision’, is out now. Check out their upcoming live dates here.