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Artist Léo Lalanne makes his debut as a spoken-word artist with Caïds, a haunting recollection of the violence he experienced in his youth. The artist reconnects with his native language, French, after previously working in English, to tell his story – not out of confidence, but out of necessity – in the upcoming EP Allen.
You are authentic and vulnerable in debut single Caïds, reflecting on your teenage years experiencing discrimination and exploring how masculinity and gay identity interact. When did you find the confidence to open up so much?
Writing this first EP has been such a liberating experience for me; confidence or either courage to discuss the matters that I am evoking were not something that motivated me. I wanted this first piece, the songs, to reflect my youth, the griefs I experienced growing up. This had to be me, without any filters. I am not presenting a character to the public ear to listen to, it is me in the most honest form possible. Every song despite the heaviness of its words expresses hope at the very end; having a brighter horizon is also a truthful testament of the state of mind I am in from what I have been through in the past years.
The sneak-peak you sent of your Caïds music video draws strongly on previous poetry you have published as videos with tailored soundscapes. How is Caïds set apart? 
This music video, directed by Christophe Ideal, had to reflect the vulnerability Caïds has from the first second. His direction highlighted in the most accurate way possible the duality this debut single aims to put forward, where images and lyrics are shaping an equal performance. It is also the first time I am leaving the direction to someone else. Christophe intuitively pictured the song and accurately imagined the atmosphere to represent it in; it came as evident to start this collaboration.
One of your lyrics is, “Suis-je un mec vrai?” (‘Am I a real man?’). Do we still need a definition of what it is to be a man?
This question was essential to have in Caïds. Growing up, I was – and we all have somehow been –confronted to how society defines what a man or a woman is and should be, from a direct or unspoken representation of the gender. As a young boy, growing up in a village from the countryside of France, I was physically and verbally confronted to the reactions my ‘difference’ was creating. Insults on how feminine I seemed to behave, being kicked and beaten from kids of your age to separate you even more from the crowd you did not seem to fit in. In these lonely years of my youth questioning myself on how much of a real man I was, was omnipresent.
Having lived in London for approximately six years, what do you think about the protests happening at the moment against schools including same-sex couples in sex education?
I think education should be a truthful reflection of our lives, not only on LGBTQ+ matters but aiming to respond to interrogations young minds have on religions, disparities, cultures, etc. Sexuality should not be an exception and must be discussed in schools, regardless of the sexual orientations. Finding the right format of discussion is essential to assist young adults in understanding the importance of respecting bodies and minds, not only ours but others as well.
Is Amort, a prelude track you released, a play on words? ‘À mort’, to death, sounds very similar to ‘amour’ (love). Could it evoke a to-the-grave pride of loving who you love? 
Amort is the first piece I have ever written in French and initiated the following ones, which are composing Allen, my upcoming EP. This song goes beyond evoking a to-the-grave pride of loving who you love; its name relates to death purely, where love has no part in the equation. It is the deconstruction of a trauma, which in this case is about sexual abuse and how it impacted my journey growing up to the emotional balance I am trying to find as an adult today.

“J’etais un garçon et lui un homme”, which translates to ‘I was a boy, and he was a man’. This line in Amort evokes sexual violence towards a minor. Can you explain this?
It does. Amort is my journey, reconstruction from the sexual violence I have been through and that I later put myself through. I was forced into having sex the first time I was ever confronted to it and it destroyed any sense of love or pride I had for myself as a young teenager. I only came to accept it recently, in London. Allowing myself to use the word ‘rape’ came as a liberation. Sharing this painful experience artistically as well as finding the words were the most challenging parts but making this song saved me, transported me to a much brighter place.
Has your family life and childhood influenced the music you create?
I do not think it has very much. The music we are aiming to create is quite different from the one I grew up with. I believe the spoken part of it has been influenced – consciously or not – by artists such as Léo Ferré, Barbara, Jeanne Moreau and Georges Brassens, in mind from my childhood.
Your music video sets are striking. What would your dream concert venue be?
I would love to be performing in small theatres rather than the concert venues we are all used to, thinking of the set as an elongation of the performance itself. I am very much looking forward to preparing a unique atmosphere and experience. Having no stage and creating the concert around the audience, ground level, is also a path I want to explore and that fits with how intimate this EP will be.
Your video Nuit, from Spells of Deconstruction, seems to criticise celebrity-hungry culture. You explain, “We live by likes in daylights, running for recognition, failing for fame”. Do you think social media can be damaging to artists?
We are already damaged from social media, artists or not. It is an ambiguous platform: it helps professionally (that is undeniable) to spread your art, get to interact with your audience, professionals from your industry, but personally, it destroys our perception of achievement. If you are to sign a singer, the eventuality of having a decent number of followers as part of the decision process and not purely based on the creative’s potential is already quite an insanity in itself. Appearing as likeable or giving some sort of influence based on how popular an individual is on Instagram or elsewhere online should not be a normal, but it is in the meantime a schema I am also in, despite the feelings I just expressed.

“Jouissance creative” (‘creative climax’) is how you describe your passion for writing and performing. Like French theorist Barthes, you map the joy of writing onto sexual climax (Le Plaisir du Texte). Can you explain more your relationship with creating art, how it makes you feel?
Creating is a vital need, it is where I feel the most accomplished. The writing process with the emotional stages you are in while doing so is a sense of empowerment from your experiences, defeats or successes. This excitement of composing music, seeing how someone else is interpreting your words, poetry into a melodious arrangement is incredible to live in the moment and perform when you have the chance to. These are the pleasures.

Bella Spratley
Steaven David
Cover painted
Dylan Silvan

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