The lone pines of robots dying on Mars, feminist inquiry borne from scripture and the history of dance await the curious in this debut interview with Justine Marzack, vocalist of the newly formed Chyldren. Tell us about the narrative of your debut video ‘Beautiful Rivers’.
Justine: The song is based on the Biblical story of Judith and Holofernes, and it is very much an answer to the song Medusa, as far as the EP’s narrative is concerned. Most specifically, it refers to some anti-feminist critique of the character of Judith, in the lyrics “you will say that my courage is tainted by the attitude”, and takes it as a feminist counterpoint. Should the validity of women’s attitude to the ways they are empowered and seek repayment for the actions of others be discussed by third parties? Is there one right way to be empowered while others ways are wrong? In that respect and from that feminist point of view, I think I will have no problem standing by the song and its themes. But of course, only time will tell, and I am not scared of giving myself the uncomfortable option to change my mind.
We seem to occupy an era where people treat opinions like football teams, pressured to support what they might have outgrown for fear of betraying a side. Do you hold views that are arguably out of step with mainstream definitions of feminism? Ever sung lyrics directly about said views/opinions?
Justine: As a queer person, I don’t know what mainstream definitions of feminism are. I believe in intersectional feminism, which means that I am trying to leave space to listen to and learn about issues that are not directly linked to my personal experience.
That’s a healthy position to take. Entrenched postures must be painful to hold. I’m keen to know about the mindset of ‘From the Earth to the Moon’. It’s like nothing else on the collection.
Justine: Victor (guitarist) and I have known each other for many years. He came to me with this beautiful song, and with an underlying narrative of impossible love and the difficulty to find a sense of belonging. The lyrics came to me in an almost perfectly formed manner. We all have stories of passionate love that didn’t quite work, no matter how hard we fought for it, and for me, it was an occasion to revive the feelings of a particularly doomed old passion. Call me melancholic if you like. When I heard the work of Jacques (bass player) and Dave (drummer), it took my breath away.
So, from the astral climbs to the black-clad leather subterranean promise of ‘Pavor Nocturnus’.
Justine: ‘Pavor Nocturnus’ is almost like one of those super sour candies, I feel. It’s the first of Victor’s demo I heard, Victor and I have known each other for many years, and I was like: “Wow, ok, I didn’t know that about my friend!”. I hope this song gets into places where it makes people dance. It has this potential, I’m sure.
And what is it they’ll be dancing to, I wonder? Doesn’t sound like an especially happy place. But do we need to be happy to elicit the ritual of dance? I think not.
Justine: I grew up dancing to the Cure, Joy Division, and Siouxsie, so I don’t believe that we need to be happy to elicit the need to move our bodies and get dancing. And if you look at more classical types of expression through dancing like ballet, there is a history in our cultures of wanting to transcend complex emotions that are perceived as negative, through dance and movement. If everyone experiences only happiness, then who will know sorrow?
Intrigued as to what your stage manner might be like. Have you played live to an audience and if not what stage business do you envisage?
Justine: As Chyldren, no, we have not played live yet. Dave and Jacques, however, have a lot of experience performing together in the metal outfit Abraham, and Victor used to play with them quite a few years back too. We are working towards a European tour in the New Year, around our date at the Parisian venue the Supersonic on the 20th of February. At the end of the day, we are entertainers; our aim is to entertain the audience. Whatever that will mean.
Before questions regarding the title track, please cite your fav line from ‘Pavour Nocturnus’ and what the song means to you.
Justine: I like “I know what you said, mum wants you back before the sun sets”. ‘Pavor Nocturnus’ talks about the horror of what industries do to our brains, in late capitalism. What horrors things like bright lights, and neon colours, and artificial sweeteners, and so on create. There’s this constant tension between narratives in the media like, on the one hand, you should indulge in one more of these little naughty things that you like so much. Maybe it’s one more sweet, or one more cigarette, or one more swipe on tinder, or one more whatever – because only one more won’t hurt you, while at the same time we also need to aim to a particular sort of virtue. Green living, going to the gym every day, meditating daily or listening to the five best-selling self-development audiobooks on the way home from work. All that creates guilt, which is a great way to sell more products. And this constant market for both problems and solutions is there to pick up customers from a very young age. I think that’s why I like this line in particular.
Sounds like the genesis for a book. Have your literary skills been an adage or a hindrance to the creative process? Do you feel confined at all to the structure of rhymes within a song?
Justine: I want to approach this question with the full acknowledgement that I hold a certain number of privileges that allow me the bandwidth to think in that way. I am in a position where I can say: I don’t particularly think things are hindrances, as long as one is ready to open up to solutions in a creative way. In my personal experience, it’s been a useful viewpoint for many things, including creativity. In other terms, I like a challenge, and songwriting can sure be one.
‘Creatures’ if I’m not mistaken, shares a surety regarding the human condition. Lyrics stating that we are what we consume, am I right? Put me straight.
Justine: Interestingly, you’re interpreting it in this way, my intentions were very different. I wrote these lyrics on the day NASA decommissioned the Mars rover Opportunity. I was reading in an article that people at NASA tried to revive it for a long time, and amongst other things, they played a playlist that they curated just for it. Eventually, the rover sent a message saying that its battery was low and that it was getting dark, and our hearts broke here back on Earth. I just questioned what loneliness, sleep, death, dreams, could mean for a robot, and the reasons why we anthropomorphise the things that serve us to such an extent that a low battery message can make us feel heartbroken. The intensity of our feelings towards small robots on the surface of Mars does tell a lot about our fears.
The answers you give do mark your band in a different region to the usual confessional goth contingent. Care to share the lyrics of ‘Creatures’? Would also like to know if the EP was named after this song for a particular reason.
Justine: ‘Creatures’ was the last song we finished. As such I think it tied the identity of the EP together, in my opinion. I like the parallel between the band name and the EP title. The artwork by Gabriel Delmas compliments this association. What I also like to wonder is what exactly those ‘Creatures’ are. Are we, the band, the creatures? Or are the songs beings that we brought to life..?
How many hours does the day count? / For how long now will it be so dark? / Our voices break down over the dust clouds Are you afraid now? / This will be your shroud / How will you know what dreams feel like when you have never slept like we sleep? / Electric tempests will guide you into the sweet slumber, the wild unknown / Here are the songs that you loved / Here are the things that you saw / Here are the hearts that you broke / The hopes that you fed / Here are the things that you loved / Here are the songs that you sang / Here is the promise you broke / The hearts you bled / For all the distance you ran / For all the dunes where you fell / For all the loneliness that you held until the end / You are free
‘Creatures’ was mixed and mastered by Magnus Lindberg from Cult of Luna.
‘Beautiful Rivers’ video was directed by Victor Jacquier and Hugo Veludo’