A Half Dozen Questions for Benoit Pioulard

We first fell in love with the music of Benoit Pioulard when he released his debut album Précis in 2006. It was a collection of dreamy pop and gentle drones that made for a satisfying listen. We’ve followed him ever since, and though he moved away from the vocal side of his music several years ago, he’s returned with Eidetic, his first vocal-heavy album in years. It is, of course, classic Benoit Pioulard; dreamy, hazy atmospherics with sweet, gentle singing. We were happy to sit down with him for a few questions. You should visit his Bandcamp page to hear his lovely music.

This is your first record with substantial vocals in quite some time. What made you go in a more instrumental direction—was it something planned, or did it just happen that way?

Yeah it’s true — after my last vocal-heavy record in 2016 I was dealing with a good bit of loss and trauma, so the instrumental tack helped to allay some of that, just spending an hour or two every morning making a new piece based on improvisation and loss of self-consciousness.  A meditation in its own way.

How do you rate yourself as a lyricist—is it hard for you to come up with words, or do you write constantly?

Even though I tend to bury them in the mix in general, I work really fucking hard on lyrics.  Like, to the point that I will agonize over one particular word or something with the right syllabic rhythm.  I feel like, if you’re going to say something, it should be pretty, thoughtful, and memorable in equal measure.

It’s been nearly 20 years since you came to the world’s notice, during that heady era of the “Blogger bands.” Looking back at that era, what do you think of it, and your experiences with it? Do you think the hype helped you out—did more people hear Precis because of it—or does it seem rather fleeting to you now?

It is indeed kind of wild to recall that era of music journalism, as it seems not so far in the rear-view.. for sure, with algorithms and various other trends, it’s been harder and harder to expect the number of reviews and analysis that I might’ve been privy to 10 years ago.  But I remain completely grateful to all those who support what I do, from labels, to Bandcamp subscribers, to my fiancee Molly, who did all of the art direction and video work for “Eidetic”.

You’ve taken on a subscription service on Bandcamp, where patrons can pay five dollars a month to hear new and exclusive music. How has that worked out for you? Has it changed the way you interact with your music and your listeners? Does it free you up to be more experimental?

I’ve been maintaining the subscription service for almost 5 years now, and am extremely grateful for the folks that have joined on and stayed faithful over that time.. I write studio updates and share new photos on every first-of-the-month, along with a new piece of music exclusive to those who follow.  At the moment I think there are like five hours of exclusive pieces, again with the echo of meditation and the spirit of simply making something.

You’ve also become a relatively prolific collaborator. What do you seek in a collaboration? Do you prefer it to your solo work? Is it easier for you to compose music that way?

It’s always a fascinating process — sometimes it’s purely ambient and textural (as with my LP with Viul last year) and sometimes it’s more song-oriented (as with the Orcas project I have alongside Rafael Irisarri) but it’s always a good time to send something off and hear how it’s treated — as well as to get a sketch from someone you admire and mess it up in your own way.  I just hope that any given collaboration will illuminate the individual elements of each artist while still sounding cohesive.

What do you have planned for next?

I’ve got another collaboration in the works for Laaps Records, but am also going to be taking a 3-week Alpen hike in August, and marrying my partner Molly next June.  Surely lots to be grateful for.  Thanks for having me here! 

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