Agar Agar is the Parisian synth-pop duo – Clara Cappagli and Armand Bultheel – pushing the electronic scene in interesting directions with their haunting melodies and infectious loops. They made a name for themselves with their first EP, Cardan, back in 2016 that was filled with immediate and mature dance-floor-fillers. We chatted with them about their creative process, their love of Sims and their upcoming EP.
Let me start by saying, I've been listening to you all weekend since I heard I was interviewing you. Prettiest Virgin has been stuck in my head.
It's the aim of that song. Or maybe the aim is to get laid if you’re still a virgin.
To begin, please forgive me for the age-old question, but could you introduce yourselves and let us know how you met?
Clara is a singer and songwriter. Amongst other things she likes playing the Sims 4 and watching movies. Armand likes to compose weird music and ordinary pictures, except when he's playing videogames on his computer. We met in art school a while ago.
What’s the meaning behind your band name? Is jelly that delicious?
It’s not jelly that’s delicious it’s more the ants that love agar agar. Armand used to raise ants in little transparent tubes and Clara would feed them with agar agar and other stuff –it’s just a texture agent. It means that it’s something you use in cooking only for its texture properties – it has no flavour or colour. It says a lot about industrial cooking nowadays, which is close to chemistry and its grandfather, alchemy; it’s analytic. The synthesis of the meal is made with separate components that are used for single properties: texture, taste, flavour, colour, etc.
We can’t say it's directly connected to our way of making music, but it has a lot to do with the way synthesizers work: the sound is made from different specific modules that are not made to work alone. Agar Agar is just the part of meal, like LFO is a part of sound synthesis.
Despite being from Paris, I hear a lot of traces of Italodisco in your music. What is it about that genre that is so irresistible?
Italodisco in itself is not that irresistible, but we were influenced by music that was itself influenced by that genre – but with more emotions and images into it, like Bernard Fevre (Black Devil Disco Club) or Shit Robot. I think that we passed those first influences. Now we are opening our music to many more different kind of tastes that allow us summon a wider spectrum of emotions and messages.
How did you first discover the ‘80s dance music that influenced your sound? 
‘80s dance music was clearly something we could hear a lot in 2010-2015’s DJ sets. It became a fad in Parisian clubs and bars. This wave of nostalgia matched a period where young musicians, interested in electronic music, rediscovered the world of old analogue synthesizers – and Armand was one of them. These machines were a real relief for those who were bored of computers and this cold bureaucratic way of making electronic music. Some of these old keyboards (we bought the cheapest ones three years ago) can almost produce ‘80s dance music by themselves. That’s why we think it is not really interesting to develop that aspect of our music any more. We are looking at a lot of different directions, challenging our synthesizers and drum machines setup.
What is your song-writing process like?
We write songs by intuition. We first put the machines on, play on them, Clara sings whatever passes through her mind, and then we put a structure over it. That’s why our first songs were influenced by the machines that made them. We think that’s a good way to compose, as it reveals the direct and present context you’re in when you write the song and compose the music, so it’s always very sincere and anchored in your time – even if we are now experimenting with other methods, like cadavre exquis, or the rules of rigorous counterpoint (that are obviously made to be disrespected).
Your first EP, Cardan, went out in 2016, and last year you released the single You’re High. Can we expect more music in 2018? Is another EP, or even an LP, on the horizon?
Yes! It took us time to make new songs because we spent most of last year on tour. But we’re back with a new single out the second of March and an album coming in September.
If you had to pick a film to describe the Agar Agar sound what would it be? Purple Rain 2Tron?
It would definitely be Suspiria or Daisies, or actually any De Palma movie. He is a genius.
What's your favourite dance move?
A sim-move from the Sims. The one where they make a little cute wave with their hand. It’s a really awkward move.
How would you describe your live show to people who haven’t seen you before?
We wouldn’t try to. It’s way too difficult to speak about something you don’t even see. Maybe we could do it if we played in front of a huge mirror and spent the whole concert watching ourselves but that sounds like an awfully narcissistic idea.
Would you say the French Touch genre is underrated or overrated?
We would say it’s sufficiently rated.
Air, La Femme, Jacques and Faire are some of the examples that embody a sort of new wave in the French music scene. How do you see the country’s current musical panorama? Do you feel you’ve been influenced by any of the above mentioned?
I guess there’s a lot of awesome stuff right now in France in many different genres and scenes. Loto Retina is sick in the experimental field, or Faire in a more electronic punk style. Losange, Musique Chienne, Leo Hoffsaes: a lot of French artists deserve to be known outside our borders. It’s hell worth digging.
What are you listening to on repeat at the moment?
Clara can’t stop listening to Smerz. Armand is on the OST by Arcanum. We also like to spend our nights surrounded by dungeon synth.
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