#17 : We’ve talked about early beginnings in music, introspection and life decisions with Gilone, who released on December 3rd her first EP “Ocean Call”
Some artists have had a completely different career before getting into music. Some, for example, have been models : we are thinking of Lous and The Yakuza, for example, but also of an artist we have introduced you to a few weeks ago and who has just released an EP she has worked on for three years : we are talking about Gilone. We recently reviewed her second single, “Run”, a track that heavily reminded us of major artists like Bjork or FKA Twigs ; Gilone keeps the momentum going with the release of her first EP “Ocean Call”, an EP as raw as it is poetic, two adjectives which fit well with her artistic persona. In order to celebrate this first release with her, we have asked her a few questions !
1. Hey Gilone ! Thank you for answering our questions today ! Before we get started, can you introduce yourself in a few words for those who may not know you yet ?
Hello Hauméa ! Thanks for the invitation. I am Gilone, born Virginie Lentulus, in Guadeloupe, France. I am a singer, songwriter, producer, artistic director and model. I take life by the horns and I run after time. Oh and I hate anise and pickles. I love the Spice Girls, and I watch way too much Netflix shows.
2. Before working on your music, you were (and maybe still are) a model. What made you get into the fashion industry, and what has then pushed you towards music ?
I started modeling at 15 in Guadeloupe, to make some money. Later on, I was scouted in high school by the former founders of Elite, but at the time, I wanted to be a dancer. A few months later, I broke my knee which forced me to give up on my first dream. I have then studied art in Bordeaux and then, after a breakup, I wanted to change my life. I signed at 21 with Women in Milan. And fourteen years later, I’m still a model !
However, music has always been a part of my life. I have danced for 16 years, did 7 years of piano, several years of singing in a choir, even orchestra during all my time at school. I have composed my first songs in my twenties when I was in South Africa, while studying at the same time. I was searching for my “signature”, I was swaying between an introspective electro universe, imbued with contemporary pop, lo fi music, film music… in short, I was experimenting a lot – but the music style was very precise in my head.
On my 30th birthday in Berlin, it all clicked. I wanted to go all the way in. So I recorded my demos on Garageband on my old MacBook in London, and in the meantime, I moved and worked in the USA, then I came back to France in 2017, really motivated by my experience in the US. I went to all the electro pop concerts I could possibly find – my goal was to find “the” producer who sounded like what I wanted my music to sound. And one day, I met Yvan Ginoux, a former collaborator of Rone, play at the Mess concert in Paris. I was in awe. It was him who I wanted to work with. He liked my demos, and I was then in the studio with him in Montreuil. My EP “Ocean Call” was born from this meeting.
3. You’ve been working on this EP for over three years. What made you want to compose, write, and even sing ?
My life as an expat, my solitary profession and all of the people I have met over time have been the guiding light of my music. Creating a unique entity – where I sing, dance and make films – took a long time to set up, especially without a label, and while being a model. I had to put a lot of money aside for my music to live up to my ambitions. Create the whole sound and visual universe in synergy, as a first musical project, it either works or fails. I was building my musical project from scratch and I self produced 3 music videos for a 4 track EP, with a whole pandemic in the middle of it. I had never done this before ! As an independent artist, it took over 3 years of hard work, and there is still a long way to go !
4. Your first release was quite discreet : it was the single called “Fight”. How did you experience this first release ?
The single “Fight”, released in May 2020, was an important transition for me. People only knew me as a model, an often underestimated profession, and they didn’t know me as an artist. So I chose to release a live session as a music video to slowly show that I have more than one job now. It is not always easy to accepted in France… and it is even cliché for some people. Not to mention that I only sing in English as well. So it took its time. The first music video is very important to show that I “exist” in the music industry, especially coming from the fashion world. In this music video, I sang live, barefoot, with my coat, in the studio where I was recording in Montreuil – the song is about self-esteem. There, people could not misinterpret the message. “Gilone sings too”. It was very intimate, very personal. I was scared but I really wanted to show up as myself, as who I was in real life.
5. After that single release, you went on and released “Run” – which we talked about previously on the magazine – a track of great intensity which puts your voice at the very center of the track. What pushed you to write this track ? I understand that its story is largely linked to the emotions you felt during lockdown ?
“Run” changed my life. In 2020, I no longer had a producer and I still didn’t have a label. Lockdown was a shock because overnight I could no longer work. And I had no safety net. Models had no financial support from the state to survive during this crazy time. It didn’t bother anyone, even though everyone sees us every day on social networks, in the streets, in the media. Was I going to be able to keep working internationally knowing that my activity is 80% based abroad ? Not easy, especially at 35. I was on my own.
The “Black Lives Matter” movement affected me deeply so I wrote a lot as a means of emotional release. I also got back into dancing, and I learned music production on Logic by watching tutorials on Youtube every day. And there we were. “Run” was the first instrumental I had written on my own. It’s far from being perfect, of course, but it’s nice enough to be the track that people commented on the most. Even the one that got me a nice review from an iconic electronic music celebrity that I admire. It gave me a huge confidence boost ! “Run until the fear is burnt”, run towards the light : this song is a call to let go. It spoke to people a lot.
6. The track comes with a very aesthetic music video in which dance is omnipresent and acts as the vector of the story you tell in your lyrics. Why have you chosen to convey your message through dancing, and more particularly through contemporary dance ?
Because I dance instinctively, I don’t have to think of anything. It’s just me.
7. Before diving into the two other tracks of the EP, I wanted to take a closer look at its name : it is called “Ocean Call”. The sea – and the theme of the ocean as well – was already very present in the music video for “Run”. What relationship do you have with the ocean ? What does “Ocean Call” mean to you ?
I was born 200 meters from the sea in Guadeloupe. The ocean is my environment, it’s where I come from. My first landmark. It is the very thing that softens my anxieties, that regenerates me and fascinates me the most. I am a great swimmer, I like snorkeling, diving, boating, surfing. Everything that comes close to water moves me.
In my music, I wanted to have this organic element in the music itself, in terms of music production. We hear a lot of sounds that could be associated with an imaginary underwater world, and you can hear in my backing vocals too. Contemplative ambient music that moves like waves. Nothing is static, nothing is repetitive. In the artistic direction for my visuals and for my music videos, the ocean will always be represented as a form of serenity, of connection to nature, as an anchor point.
I worked in all the big fashion capitals at a very intense pace, while I was young, alone, and without my family. One day, my body had had enough. I couldn’t stand the noise and the crowd anymore. I’ve been on vacation to Biarritz for a week for the first time and I decided to stayed there – hence the even more symbolic name of “Ocean Call”. Everything is now aligned. For three years, I have lived on the South-West coast of France. The ocean is right under my house. I’m back to my roots !
8. After “Run” and “Fight”, it’s “Slow Down” that we have the opportunity to listen to on the EP. For some reason, the song reminds me a lot of the early beginnings of FKA Twigs, but with a twist that makes it so the track borders on glitch and hyperpop music : are those the references that you have in mind when you write your tracks ?
Comparing me to FKA Twigs, it’s classy. Thank you. I love her music, she is a very talented artist, and an outstanding dancer. It is a very nice reference. I am rather oldschool in what I listen to, like Bjork whom I adore, Max Richter, Hania Rani, Four Tet and Massive Attack. “Slow Down” has all these inspirations but in my style. The producer Yvan Ginoux captured the hybrid universe I wanted to go towards with this more organic dimension and this low tempo lyrical universe, which my voice was setting up upon. Just like movie scores, I like wide sounds with a deep sub, orchestral music that triggers emotions, mixed with aerial voices that make you relax. The contrast with the faster breaks, with this deeper, half sung half talked voice that Neney Cherry used to have is also part of my signature. I’m having fun !
9. Also : how did you find your voice ? It comes close to lyrical, opera songs on some verses !
You don’t find your voice, you are born with it. It’s your first default instrument. She finds you, she is you – and your history, your culture, your origins. I never worked on my voice until I turned 30. I sing as she comes, depending on my mood that day. I am still discovering it, it is evolving. I never sang for operas or did lyrical performances though. It was during my time at the studio that I realized that it was my jam, in the way I sing, in the backing vocals especially. I think this sensitivity comes from my years of classical dancing. From films that have marked me, maybe, I’m not even sure…
10. Finally, the EP ends with a track called “Ella”, a track that bears interesting contrasts : the rhythms are more mainstream and therefore more easily identifiable, but your voice seems to be freer, liberated even from the stereotypical codes of pop music. What does this track mean to you and why did you put it last in your tracklist ?
“Ella” is the most unexpected track from the EP. It is more pop, more engaging. “Ella” addresses racism on an imaginary planet that bears the same name. I wanted to place it last in the tracklist to surprise the listener until the last second of the EP. Let them have the feeling that I still some tricks up my sleeve. Encourage them to listen to the track again because it is built differently from the other tracks. There’s more word flow, more synths, more drums… I wanted to bring freshness to a topical subject that does not yet speak to everyone. Since the “Black Lives Matter”, I hear a lot of people say “we get it, we understood”, thinking that racism barely exists in France. It was necessary to have a fast beat which could convey the message of the lyrics without falling into some sort of dramatic stereotype. Also, it is meant to be listened to it at the end of the EP to meditate on its message. It was the goal. I also wanted to end the EP on something more catchy to show another side of my music. It’s like the end of the EP is also the start of another chapter… To be continued 😉
11. I know you’ve just released your first EP, but what do you plan for the upcoming weeks ? Should we expect live performances from you, for example ? Have you already started working on this aspect of your project ?
I’ve been working on a second EP since November. And I really want to sing live indeed ! My project is quite ambitious musically and visually speaking in terms of organization – so it will take time. This is my next goal for 2022. I can’t wait !
12. Finally, here’s a question I always ask when my interviews come to an end : is there an artist that you are keeping an eye on at the moment, and why ?
Not just one actually ! I make playlists every month on Spotify to share the music gems I discover here and there. Why ? Because it’s important to support other artists by sharing what I find well produced and musically sharp. I just finished my playlist on “my favorite tracks of 2021”, take a look !
As a music web writer for several years, I have developed a particularly devoted passion for electronic and alternative musics. From the ethereal melodies of Max Cooper to the introspective music and lyrics of Banks, my radar has me listening to the wide French and international independent music scene... all of this between communication plans for independent labels and artists !