Marie Davidson has been keeping awfully busy for someone who’d supposedly just retired. Earlier this year, the French-Canadian singer and electronic music producer announced her live show at the Red Bull Music Festival Montreal in September would serve as her farewell to the dance floor.
“It’s with a lot of emotions that I present to you my last party playing live hardware club music which will take place in my home town, Montreal,” she said in an August Instagram post. “I’ve been talking about it for a while and the day has come for me to depart from the club scene to explore new horizons.”
Davidson’s declaration was covered heavily by the electronic music press as well as more mainstream outlets, and for good reason: Over the last few years, she’s set herself apart from her contemporaries by tackling darker strains of dance music — think cold wave, Italo disco, electro and the like — and imbuing them with a humorous, lyrical approach that’s not commonly seen in the genres.
Her most recent solo albums, Adieux Au Dancefloor and 2018’s Working Class Woman, both offered biting commentaries on the scenes that once inspired and propelled her into making electronic music in the first place. As heard on songs such as Working Class Woman opener “Your Biggest Fan,” the records bare the mark of someone who’s been to one too many parties and had more than their fair share of strange and often inane conversations.
At the time, Davidson’s announcement regarding her departure from club culture was commonly characterized as a retirement. Speaking to New Times in her first interview since the September show, it seems a ‘break’ or a ‘breather’ might have been more accurate descriptions of her move.
“I never said I was stopping working or making music, I just needed to take a few steps back from the club scene,” she says. “I wanted to take a break from playing live to really focus on writing new music and just taking care of myself. I work every week, but I have my weekends off- my weekends are Sunday/Monday, but whatever. I work in a studio on Saturdays with my bandmates, but I do some [variation of] five days a week of work, but on my own schedule, on my time.”
She says she’s more relaxed now than she’s been in years.
Davidson will be leaving Montreal for warmer pastures on Saturday, December 7, the date she’ll be DJing at the third edition of Rakastella on Virginia Key. This’ll mark her second time visiting Miami as a performing artist; in March she played a live show at late Wynwood venue Electric Pickle alongside its owner Will Renuart and Space Tapes label head Nick León.
Although she didn’t spend much time in the city, she did have a brief chance to explore our world-famous beaches.
“I love the water; I love every city I go where there’s a beach,” Davidson says. “I [always] try to go if I can, but sometimes time doesn’t allow it.” She was thrilled to learn that Rakastella will be taking place on one of the most idyllic beaches in Miami. (“It’s by the beach? Really?! I’m looking forward to it, especially now that you’ve told me it’s by the beach!”)
Her appreciation for Miami’s tropical landscape is understandable considering where she comes from. Growing up in Montreal, a city that’s especially prone to cold, harsh winters, Davidson spent much of the early 2010s immersed in the city’s DIY communities. As a classically trained violinist with a fondness for disco and Montreal’s long lineage of dance music musicians — she says Gino Soccio and Lime are among her favorite artists — she found herself engrossed by the city’s after-hours scene, an environment she says is aptly reproduced on the track "Rave Mélancolie" by Sleazy, her collaboration with Montreal techno producer Ginger Breaker.
“But what pushed me towards dance music was dancing!,” she clarifies. “Before being an electronic musician, I was a dancer; I was already a fan of disco, so I would go sometimes — not too often — to disco parties. I was mostly going to underground rave parties and I loved the music so much and it was around the same time I started making my own solo music, which was very experimental at first… because I didn’t know anything much about electronic music! It just happened naturally.”
But even as she underwent creative and commercial breakthroughs with her solo career and Essaie Pas, the DFA Records-affiliated duo she fronts with her partner Pierre Guerineau, Davidson soon became disillusioned with the very thing that once moved her.
“I needed to take a step back, because it didn’t feel special anymore; for me, it’s a sacred thing, going out dancing,” she says. “I decided that I wanted to step back to hopefully be able to keep it as a fun thing every once and awhile. When it’s special, when it’s good, it’s amazing. And this is what I look forward to these days: I know that two or three times I’ll have a great party, and I don’t know when or which parties [they’ll be], but it happens, you know? But it doesn’t happen every month.
“As crazy as it sounds, I want to experience everything: I want the pain, I want the ecstasy, I want health, I want to feel strong, I want to feel hungover once in a while. I want to sleep, I want to not sleep; I want to do everything. And being stuck in the club, my life felt like it was just too much of a few things. I got bored, and I don’t like to be bored!”
It appears Davidson has no qualms about moving away from club music, even as her discography continues to grow in popularity: A remix of her Working Class Woman hit "Work It" by influential Belgian duo Soulwax has not only been tearing up dance floors and charts around the world, but also recently received a Grammy nomination for Best Remixed Recording.
“They proposed [a remix] and I thought Yeah, well if they should do one on this record, it should be ‘Work It,’” she shares. “That’s a track they seemed to love, so it was natural.”
“This song is not about capitalism, it doesn’t talk about working to make more money, and it’s not about the industry: It’s about working on yourself to become a better person and maybe, eventually, make this world a little bit more of a better place, ” she says. “It’s a sarcastic song and the message of course is, yes, work, yes, be productive, yes, be strong... but [don’t] be hard on yourself. Yes, work, and yes, try to push it to the limit as long as it’s in respect to who you are. It’s more a song about self-help than working literally on your job.
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“What I meant is, your actual job is to love yourself, feed yourself, so you can be a winner altogether. It’s kind of a message of ‘Let’s all together work on ourselves.’
Since her so-called retirement, Davidson seems to be happier than ever with her creative process. She’s kept in touch with her club roots by DJ'ing every once in a while, is enjoying a stint as the frontwoman of a doom metal band, and is already at work on her next album. She says the record currently sounds like “pop and chanson” music, a far brighter side of herself than what she’s previously shared with listeners.
“I have a part of me immersed in many different projects and musical avenues, which is how I feel the most alive,” Davidson says. “Right now I just feel free. I just do whatever I want, and I believe that every artist should do the same.”
Marie Davidson at Rakastella. With Ben UFO, Danny Daze, Dixon, Eclair Fifi, Kink, and others. 3 p.m. to 7 a.m. Saturday, December 7, in Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, 4020 Virginia Beach Dr., Miami; 305-960-4600; rakastella.com. Tickets cost $56.25 to $225 via residentadvisor.net.