French Pop Duo Yelle Prepares to Storm Bardot

It’s not easy for American bands to break through to pop success. When the Backstreet Boys got started, they were strategically marketed in Europe first, then brought back to the States after they’d already built a fan base.

Imagine, then, the near-insurmountable odds stacked against a French-speaking electro-pop band. You’re sweating, right? And yet that’s exactly the kind of language barrier Yelle waved aside with just one MySpace (yes, MySpace) single. After two albums, Yelle even had pop king Dr. Luke, the guy behind every Katy Perry and Ke$ha song you’ve ever loved, asking to work with it.

Yelle, fronted by singer Julie Budet and creative partner GrandMarnier (Jean-François Perrier), now have three LPs and eight years of success behind them. A year and a half into touring, these two are hitting the carpet at Bardot to bring their legendary effervescence to a Miami dance floor. We caught up with Budet to talk changing lineups, Dr. Luke, and the band’s candy-colored future.

New Times: What’s the happening sound in France right now?
Julie Budet: Christine and the Queens. She’s a singer, and I think she’s the biggest artist in France right now. That’s cool because it’s a girl. She’s singing in French, and her live show is really cool. It’s a lot of dance, it’s a lot of energy, it’s really tight, she’s singing very well, and she’s starting to ring out of France, so many you will have the chance to catch her in the U.S. soon. She’s doing a pop electronic kind of music, and it could have stayed underground, but it started being well-known in France and on mainstream radio. Now, she’s huge.

You understand what that’s like, being a bit underground and then suddenly quite popular.
It’s weird. We always felt sort of in the middle of something. Since the beginning of Yelle, we had the chance to do lots of different things. Sometimes for people, we are mainstream. For other people, we are still underground. I like that place because I feel pretty free to do what I want. I can do a song with someone famous or with someone unknown but cool. I think at some point you reach something, and you must feel some pressure. I feel pretty free. We had the chance to work with Dr. Luke and his team on the last record. We never felt pressure. We never felt something was weird or something was happening. It was just normal, just sharing experiences and doing music.

What was it like working with Dr. Luke? He has a hard reputation, but clearly he’s talented.
We heard that he was really into our music. He discovered us through a remix we did for Katy Perry. He came to see us onstage in Los Angeles a few years ago. We heard, "Dr. Luke likes your music. He’d like to work with you," and we’re like, "OK, who is that guy?" We Googled his name, realized who he was, and we just started chatting. It was really simple and natural to talk with him and to exchange about music. We actually started working like that, through Skype, doing music. He invited us to spend more time with him and with other producers from his team in Los Angeles, so we spent one month in the city. It was also the first time we were working out of our studio. That was a little bit weird in a way but totally cool, because we realized we could be inspired being out of our comfort zone. That was a great experience to see how he works, how he is focused on the melody and he’s building things around it. We talked about the importance about the lyrics for us, the importance of the French words. It was something really great and something without stress or anxiety. It was like we knew each other for a long time, like spending time with a friend.

Are you applying some of those tricks and approaches that you picked up working with him to future projects?
We’ve been on tour for almost a year and a half, so we’re just starting to have some free time. GrandMarnier started working on a new production. I don’t know when we will have new material, but I think we are excited to start to work. We are super happy and super proud on what we did on Complètement Fou. Working with other people really inspired us to continue in this way and to do that for the future.

I love the “Ba$$in” video; it’s so much fun. The visual aesthetic is a big part of Yelle as a project. How much of a hand do you have in those concepts?
It’s really important for us to have a connection with the directors. On all the music videos we did, there was a common work, chatting and exchanging ideas, visuals, and pictures. We talk about what we want to express in the video. It’s an important process. GrandMarnier and I are really involved, but it’s important for us to work with people that we like, people which we have a real connection with. It was really fun to work on that music video. People put a lot of energy in it. It was great.

So GrandMarnier is obviously still a big part of Yelle. What about Tepr?
He left after Safari Disco Club. He was really exhausted, and it was a moment in his life where he wanted to focus on his private life. It can be rough to be far from your family for a long time, and he wanted to focus on his solo project that he already had. We are still on good terms and still friends. It was just a moment of change, a normal evolution.

What will the show be like Friday?
It’s a live show. We have two drums onstage now and me. It’s full of energy. There is a lot of dance and choreography and symmetry between the guys on the drums. I hope you’re going to like it, but get ready to dance. We’re just super happy to be back in Miami, and I can’t wait to play there.

Yelle. 10 p.m. Friday, July 31, at Bardot, 3456 N. Miami Ave., Miami; 305-576-5570; Tickets cost $35 plus fees via Ages 21 and up.