Cléa Vincent Provides a Tropical Soundtrack for the Summer with Latest EP

Photo credits: Michelle Blades

Cléa Vincent is best known in her native France for crafting pop songs with an electro touch.  However, with Tropi-Cléa 2, Vincent has continued to develop her explorations of global sounds to enrich her typically French pop, stepping out onto a dancefloor where reggae, salsa, cumbia, bossa nova, and jazz mingle and bring life to the EP’s six radiant, fresh-sounding songs.  The follow-up to Vincent’s first Tropi-Cléa EP arrives just in time to enjoy the warmer weather (while practicing physical distancing of course).  CJLO caught up with the musician about her new release, sequels, and the magic of Carole King.

What did you want to achieve with Tropi-Cléa 2 that you weren’t able to do on the first EP?  Did you have a vision for the sequel different from that of the first EP, or did they originate from a similar creative space?

The studio recording of the first EP was so much fun that I wanted to repeat the experience.  I was encouraged by my musicians, who liked the liberty that came with this tropical parenthesis that acted a little bit like a playful recreation to our regular work on my previous albums.  All my musicians come from a jazz background and they really like to record live and play a part in the arrangements as well.  Compared to the complex and intellectualized creative process on my albums, these two EPS are like a breath of fresh air creatively.  I’m usually aiming for a modern sound and looking for originality while creating my albums, but with the EPs, I just meet up with the musicians and I play them the songs only accompanied by the piano, and then we start to jam like a bunch of kids playing at the kindergarten. 

Many different lyrical subjects are covered in the songs of Tropi-Cléa 2, such as romantic encounters (“Sans dec”), the right to idleness in a fast-paced world (“N’allez pas travailler”), and relationships between men and women (“Poupée canapé”).  Is there a process to decide if one of your songs or its lyrics will be kept for your more electro-pop albums and which will be used for your Tropi-Cléa series?

I usually choose what songs will be put into the Tropi-Cléa basket or the album basket not by the theme or lyrics of the songs, but because of its musicality.  For example, the repetition of the lyrics “poupée canapé, poupée canapé” [sofa doll] reminded me a lot of Cuban choirs – they came to me spontaneously while writing it.  So, I knew at that moment that it wouldn’t fit 100% as a pop song on my album, with drum machine and synths.  I laughed a bit of myself and told myself “You’re maybe going too far into the Latin references, but it’s okay, that’s what Tropi-Cléa exists for!”  It’s almost like a side project.

The last time I interviewed you, you already knew at the time that you wanted to do a second Tropi-Cléa EP in the future.  Do you already know if you want to make a third installment of the series?

I’m worried a Tropi-Cléa 3 may be a bit much, like Terminator 3 was, hahaha!  But, if the songs are there, why not?  For the moment though, I don’t have any new material ready for another EP like this.

“Du sang sur les congas” is a perfect song to lift the spirit and dance our troubles away, even at home while practicing social distancing!  Have your fans shared stories of listening to your music to help them get through the tough times we are currently experiencing?

Thank you, that’s so nice!  Yes, I received very funny videos of children dancing while listening to Tropi-Cléa 2 during the lockdown.  Children love it because the theme has strong imagery and it’s easy to understand.  When you talk about dolls or not going to work, it strikes them directly!  Haha!  The videos are often filmed around 5-6 pm, when the children are quite excited and have a lot of energy to spare, and their parents want them to let off some steam!

As an artist who thrives from being the stage, how do you find new ways to connect with audiences?  In addition, what do you think are some of the music-related practices that should be kept even after things get back to normal, and do you hope the music industry will change as a result?

Because of everything going down and the quarantine, most of the promo surrounding the release of Tropi-Cléa 2 was made of a bunch of homemade livestream performances for the media who requested it.  It was very interesting to learn to do this.  Not at all easy, but the more I made those videos, the less time it took doing it.  I think it was a nice learning experience and something I can now add another arrow to my quiver.  I had some help with the person living with me who is also a sound engineer, and my drummer was sending me some drum loops as well!

What would be interesting when we can start to play live in front of an audience again is to go back to smaller venues, where the public feel that they are experiencing a special moment and a more direct contact with the artist and their music – less cold and industrial than a stadium show.  Even if it was Prince! 

On a lighter note, what are your favorite sequels, from either the world of music or other art forms?

I really like the band Catastrophe, who are working currently on a second album.  They mix pop music with poetry, dance and theater.  This very rich and strong artistic proposal gets all my admiration!

Lastly, I saw in an interview that you hope in 10 years "to be even closer to Carole King." What is it about the career arc of the famous songwriter that you aspire to?

Carole King stayed true to herself; she’s very human and wears her heart on her sleeve.  She continued to play piano and sing, while being natural, wearing simple clothes, nothing fancy, and looking always fresh with a smile on her face.  She is an excellent musician and she was able to stay connected to the music.

Tropi-Cléa 2 is out now (Midnight Special Records).

Alex Viger-Collins is the host of Ashes to Ashes, your weekly dose of modern pop, every Tuesday at 8:00 PM EST.