Aliocha, a young virtuoso on the folk-pop scene
We already know Niels of the Schneider family, one of Xavier Dolan’s fetish actors. Now it’s time for his brother Aliocha to shine as he launches his very promising first EP “Sorry Eyes”. A portrait. Photos: Jules Faure for Numero.com
A familiar figure in Quebec for his regular TV appearances since the age of 11, Aliocha started his career as an actor. He played Monica Bellucci’s son in the drama Ville-Marie directed by Guy Édoin last year. And yet he doesn’t seem to think this was conscious choice. “The machine started in the acting direction by force of circumstance. Everything was accelerated because I had an agent who got me a role, then another, until I realised it was turning into a career.” His approach to music is completely different. “Acting is something I adore, but with music I inject something more personal because I am less directed and defined than with film. And I’m not at the mercy of the roles I get offered, which gives me a real freedom.”
- With a drama teacher father who’d danced at the Opera de Paris and older brothers already embarked on careers as actors, Aliocha was immersed in that culture from a very young age. “Growing up in a creative family aroused an awareness of the arts, and made the sharing of culture very easy because as soon as one of us discovered something we’d share it with the others.” Combining the lessons of his father, a true theatre lover, and singing lessons, he deepened his artistic culture and perfected it until leaving school for good aged 17 to devote himself to acting and song writing.
I don’t compose songs with the goal of recreating the past, that’s not what interests me. What I want is to do music that sounds like me, like a sort of assimilation of all my influences and all the things that I like.
The fruit of this quest for identity, his first EP Sorry Eyes, instantly evokes inspiration linked to the 1960s and 70s. With Bob Dylan as an emblematic figure, the Franco-Quebecois readily talks about other great artists who have shaped his musical culture: “There’s John Lennon, Simon & Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell… And then for my more 90s references, I tend to cite Elliott Smith and Radiohead among others. I have a pantheon of albums including Plastic Ono Band by John Lennon, Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan, XO by Elliott Smith, OK Computer by Radiohead.”
The stripped back guitar and voice approach of folk artists straight out of the hippie years has proved most inspiring for the musician, who never the less refuses to fall into an overly intent tribute. “I don’t think I’m too nostalgic insofar as the 60s references are part of the collective consciousness, a consciousness in which I’m rooting myself. I don’t compose songs with the goal of recreating the past, that’s not what interests me. What I want is to do music that sounds like me, like a sort of assimilation of all my influences and all the things that I like.”
If the part time singer-song writer Aliocha has become the new signature of the Canadian label Audiogram, it’s also thanks to a few important encounters that have marked his path. Just after leaving high school he met Jean Leloup: “Jean is a crazy poet-singer-song writer, he’s a total legend in Quebec and has been my idol for years. He took me under his wing from the moment I went to see him with ten tracks in the bag, tracks that weren’t pretentious but I just didn’t know what to do with them. He suggested I record a demo in his studio saying there was something to be done with them, that we had to try and go beyond. It was that experience that convinced me to stop looking at composition as something one-off and to really devote myself to it.”
As well as this benevolent figure he also garnered support from Samy Osta, who most notably collaborated with La Femme and Feu! Chatterton with whom he spent two months recording in Gothenburg. “Samy has very similar leanings to my own and he didn’t try to impose his own sound on my compositions as other producers might. Some people could be totally indifferent to the creative process and turn up with arrangements all ready to be slapped on the track. But with him it really was a joint effort from start to finish, he was so attentive he even gave me the impression that I’d done all the arrangements myself.”
In English it strikes me as easier to sing the first things that come into my head without worrying about any kind of meaning, and staying focused on the sonority of the words.
- Totally denying any routine to his song writing, Aliocha prefers leaving this procedure to the pure chance of his inspirations. “Most of the time I sing a set of chords that I like enough to not loose instantly, and then I improvise over them without thinking too much. In English it strikes me as easier to sing the first things that come into my head without worrying about any kind of meaning, and staying focused on the sonority of the words. And then often when we record I realise these sentences that came out so randomly really do translate something occupying me and couldn’t have come to me in any other way apart from with this intimate guitar-voice process.” A refusal of any constraints is the perfect representation of this multi-talented free electron whose looking at a bright future.
Sorry Eyes released on 7th october (LE LABEL/PIAS). In concert on 13th october at MAMA Festival (Paris).
By Marion Ottaviani