August 03 2017

What Louisahhh Is Here For

New York-Le Bain
We chat with one of Le Bain's early emblematic artists, the New York-raised, Paris-based artist Louisahhh, before she returns Saturday, August 5th.
LE BAIN:  What’s your state of mind as a New Yorker living in Paris?
LOUISAHHH: I discovered that I didn't really know what my culture was until I had been displaced from it. Though as a boroughbred New Yorker I had never really considered myself an "American," I got to see how some of those values were inherent to me only because they came up against something different. It took a while for the subtle differences to expose themselves, so it feels like the longer I live in France, the less I feel like I know about how things work in romance, in business, in society at large. 

All photos by <a target="_blank" href="https://www.marilynclark.net">Marilyn Clark&nbsp;</a>

All photos by Marilyn Clark 

"No growth without discomfort." –Louisahhh
How do you deal with it?
For about two years, I walked around Paris feeling invisible, because nobody would make eye contact with me. They'd look through me like it was the Sixth Sense. Same thing on the metro. In New York, I was used to sizing people up by staring them down, or at least acknowledging they were sharing space with me by meeting their gaze and having them meet mine. It was explained to me that in France, this kind of behavior is actually super vulgar and predatory. Oops. It's stuff like this where the mistake is assuming our cultures function in the same way when there are vastly different codes in place. It's deeply humbling (and alternately funny, frustrating, ridiculous, and delightful) to get to live in the liminal state of now, uncomfortable in my homeland and not quite at home in France. No growth without discomfort, so it's all a blessing.  

The Bromance label has come to an end. I believe it’s been an amazing ride with Brodinski and co....
Oh man, the whole ride was incredible. It felt so special to be a part of something like that, to be welcomed into a family where finally I wasn't asked to be anything but what I was, and not allowed to be anything less than what I could be. I have to say our gigantic family style Nous Sommes holiday tours were probably the biggest example of the magic and mayhem of traveling with the whole crew, where all the artists and production team and even the fans who showed up felt really connected and ecstatic to be getting to do this together.  
"I want to create a space within dance music that is safe for the freaks."
You’ve created your own label, named RAAR, with the French producer Maelstrom in the fall of 2015. The motto is, “A techno label for punk rockers, a punk rock label for techno-heads.” Do you feel like the dance music scene is in a comfort zone? 
I don't know if it's in a comfort zone so much that in the process of going mainstream, dance music has commercialized itself into being an endeavor about entertainment, about making and playing music that pleases the beautiful people as pyrotechnics go off and the DJ jumps on the table or crowd surfs on a boat made of cake or whatever. I mean bless 'em: underground only exists as a reaction to this mainstream, but this is not what we are interested in.

What are you interested in?
I want to create a space within dance music that is safe for the freaks, urgent for those who might not identify with the sexy EDM festival vibe, that is about making art that is challenging and disruptive and vital. The point of RAAR is not to consider if the music will please an audience so much as demanding, "is it beautiful, interesting, unique, upsetting? Is it necessary?" If people like it, awesome, but that is not something we consider when deciding to release something. We are a terrible business model and very proud of it.  
"Being loving and honest with some sharp sonic knives."
RAAR also follows an innovative approach (e.g., digital releases are pay as you want and artwork is sold with the vinyl releases). After almost two years of RAAR behind you, what works and what doesn't?
We are learning as we go, definitely. It became clear after our first year that we needed to be in online stores as digital releases to gain visibility, but our sound banks and free remix giveaways still exist on the website. We are still about keeping the work that we do open source. We've included hand-painted record sleeves and screen prints in our releases thus far. An upcoming EP with Obi Blanche is actually a poster-sized photo 'zine in a record sleeve with a download code for the music (no vinyl). Goals for the future include trying to make the RAAR parties we throw more sublime, a universe unto themselves, to incorporate more live elements and to expand the territories we are touring. Progress might feel slow sometimes, but getting to do what we want to do on our terms is a really fun and exciting challenge.  

Brodinski once told DJ Mag: “You know, the very best thing about Louisahhh is that she really has no idea how good she is.” If you don’t know, now you know?
I try to keep in mind that it's none of my business what other people think of me, it's about showing up and being loving and honest with some sharp sonic knives and doing my very best no matter what, because what else am I here for?  

On Saturday, August 5th, Le Bain presents Louisahhh
Nelleke and Aharaw
The Standard, High Line | 10pm