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Flip Grater

Flip Grater

Interviewed by
Danielle Street
Wednesday 2nd April, 2014 12:47PM

Recording in a smoke-filled, whiskey-drenched Parisian studio sounds like something from the top of any singer-songwriters bucket list. For Flip Grater it almost happened by accident. The Christchurch-born musician had made a habit of living out of a suitcase, shifting from city to city, country to country, before eventually falling in love with the city of, well, love.

While in Paris, Flip managed to wrangle some time in Studio Pigalle, located in the infamous Quartier Pigalle, known for its sex shops and adult shows (think Moulin Rouge). There she recorded her fourth studio album, named Pigalle in homage, which is set for release on Friday and is supported by a five-date tour of New Zealand. We had a quick catch up with Flip about her time in France and overcoming language barriers in a foreign recording studio. Read the interview below and check out her show dates at the end...

So Flip, tell me about your neighbourhood in Paris, what’s it like?

I live in the 11th Arr. but have lived in 3 different areas of Paris in the last year. I love the 11th - it's where all the wine bars and vegetarian restaurants are. It's up and coming so there are always new spots opening. Plus it's close to Pere Lachaise and Canal St Martin.

What are the biggest differences between life in New Zealand and life in Paris?

New Zealand has fresh air, a good banking system and good expensive wine. France has history, fast internet and good cheap wine. In New Zealand it's suspicious if someone doesn't look you in the eye. In Paris it's suspicious if they do.

After all your travels around the globe what made you want to live there?

I initially moved there because my manager was there, but she left not long after I arrived. Now I live there for love. I was pretty tempted to move to Italy. I love the food, the wine, the hospitality and the language is a lot easier to pick up! Although I'd probably be five-stone heavier if I lived there.

What is the main influence Paris has had on your music?

Paris has such rich history. Everything is covered in it, filthy with it. Just breathing, your vocal chords get coated in the dust of dead artists.

How would you summarise your new album in one sentence?

Pigalle is a story by a 30-year-old told to herself, a moment of nostalgia and regret, observations of her mind and advice to her past and future self.

The songs included on Pigalle, were they all written while in France, or do they span across different periods?

I wrote a bunch of songs while housesitting in Wairarapa and the north of Italy. Then finished the album in my first apartment in Paris. I was pretty isolated and living just slightly outside of the city so it was a good chance to get a lot of writing done.

It’s real heart on the sleeve stuff... does that come naturally to you?

I guess I don't really have a strong sense of privacy! My songs have always been personal and honest, I can't seem to write in any other style.

Some of your new songs discuss behaviour like drug-taking... does that come from a place of experience or a place of storytelling?


How do you tackle writing material inspired by experiences or other people - is it hard balancing the story you want to tell versus other people’s feelings?

If I'm writing about someone else the language tends to be more vague. On this album the personal stories I'm sharing are from my teenage years and I'm not in touch with any of those people anymore. Some of them, I'd be surprised if they're still alive, let alone following my music.

Why did you decide to record in Studio Pigalle?

I had been listening to a French album by Babx and loving it. I originally asked him to produce my album but he was super busy and about to go on tour at the time so he introduced me to his friend Maxime Delpierre, who ended up producing the album. Max is a brilliant guitarist and did an amazing job - despite struggling with the stroppy English-speaking chick who had asked him to produce her album and then bossed everyone around! The studio was amazing to work in and the owner/engineer is a total character - with an incredible ear and beautiful vintage equipment. I was lucky enough to also work with Babx's band and he played on several tracks so in the end, it all worked out perfectly.

Tell me about the recording session... how did it compare to recording in New Zealand?

It was pretty different. I didn't have all the favours to call in and didn't know any of the musicians prior to them coming into the studio so we were getting to know each other while working together for the first time. Everyone smoked like trains and I kept people's whiskey glasses full. Plus there were some interesting language difficulties - the language used in the studio is often quite subtle and it's hard enough explaining the exact kick drum sound you want to another English speaker, let alone a French speaker! In the end, the musicians we worked with and the engineer totally understood the vibe of the album and music ended up being the shared language - as cheesy as that sounds. We were in the studio for two weeks and spent a year finishing and mixing.

What is your favourite song on the album?

'The Smell Of Strangers'. I love songs that are written just in a moment, all at once in a stream of writing. Plus I love the cadence of this song, and what Frederic did with the rolling percussion.

Finally, you are a known foodie, have you come across any standout dishes in Paris?

I've been lucky enough to be in Paris during a time of explosion of vegetarian restaurants in the city. And for me the novelty factor of being able to enjoy vegetarian version of French classics like beef bourguignon made with seitan, is pretty fun. But for me the best thing about Paris food will always be the markets with its' piles of fresh produce, the varieties of tomatoes and wild mushrooms, the lebanese food, the green lentils, the giant salad bowls... There's nothing like cooking a feast with freshly purchased and haggled-for vegetables of every colour imaginable.

Photo credit: Claire Price

Here's a video for first single 'The Quit' from Flip's new album...

Flip Grater Pigalle Tour

Thursday 3rd April, Mighty Mighty, Wellington
Friday 11th April, Queens, Dunedin
Saturday 12th April, Wunderbar, Christchurch
Thursday 24th April, Wine Cellar, Auckland
Friday 25th April, Hilltop Tavern, Banks Peninsula

Tickets available now from HERE at UTR and usual retailers.


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