When France's Olivier Libaux and Marc Collin formed Nouvelle Vague, they inadvertently created the perfect amalgam of new and old. Though they had both been punk and New Wave aficionados, "in 2003, Marc dreamt one night of a bossa nova version of 'Love Will Tear Us Apart,' sung by a Brazilian girl on a beach in Rio," Libaux explains. "He called me the day after to tell me about his dream."
It would lead to more covers from the vast catalogues of punk and New Wave done in combination with Brazil's greatest musical export. They employed an army of previously unknown female singers to give the songs new life. It all clicked. Fourteen years later, with their fifth studio album freshly under their belts and embarking upon another U.S. and European tour, the two have relaxed a bit.
I Could Be Happy, their first LP of new music in six years, features an eclectic mix of punk standards and a handful of original songs. And the album is garnering the amount of love they were once accustomed to.
Aside from the obvious play on genre — nouvelle vague and bossa nova both mean "new wave" in French and Portuguese, respectively — the duo's greatest accomplishment is in capturing the slick, space-age bachelor-pad cool that TV's Mad Men helped a new generation visualize. Soothing and ethereal as the music might be, there is something cinematic to their work.
"It's a very spontaneous process," Libaux says. "We pick songs that are meaningful to us — as we were huge fans of punk and New Wave — and that we feel we can cover in a good way. Arrangements are very easy to us as soon as we feel inspired."
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Libaux attributes Collin's almost supernatural talent for discovering singers as part of the formula. Working with vocalists for two or three years is a symbiotic relationship and has helped launch the careers of singers such as Camille, Mélanie Pain, Helena Noguerra, Mareva Galanter, Phoebe Killdeer, and Nadéah Miranda.
After rescheduling, Nouvelle Vague will take the stage at the North Beach Bandshell to begin the U.S. leg of the tour, just after Miami Music Week. The concert will mark the opening salvo of Heroes Live Entertainment, the new promotional venture from former Grand Central co-owner Mario Arango, who looks to continue to bring live music to Miami.
Will another six years go by before the duo puts together another album? "We don't know yet, but we feel free to do whatever we want in the future," Libaux says, "covers, original songs... which is good." And that's good. Their work has become timeless and will be enjoyed for generations.
With Liset Alea. 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 29, at the North Beach Bandshell, 7275 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-672-5202; northbeachbandshell.com. Tickets cost $30 to 35 via ticketfly.com.