Who am I?
Parisian dreamgazers PENCEY SLOE looks deep within to answer this essential question on their sophomore full-length Neglect, an album dedicated entirely to the theme of identity. What makes human beings form the image of who they think they are? How do they project or hide this version of themselves to and from others? Are we shaped by our genetic code, or do we become what we are told to be by our family and peers? Is it our language, the country or the society that we live in, or the culture that we grow up with?
While founding member, singer, and guitarist Diane Pellotieri helms Pencey Sloe as its main songwriter, her close collaboration with her new drummer and percussionist Clément Hateau presents a more mature, complex sound. Although the French songwriters continue on their path of cinematic soundscapes and beautiful psychedelic colours, their occasional drifting into darker spheres strikes a perfect balance between Diane’s vocals and meandering guitar textures, creating a sonic world of their own design.
Pencey Sloe originated in 2017, partly inspired by J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye: Diane drew parallels between her music and the novel’s fluid shifts from dark to light, distress, and sadness to the burlesque and mysterious. A five-track eponymous EP soon followed, leading to a record deal with Prophecy. Their acclaimed debut album Don’t Believe, Watch Out came out two years later. During the pandemic, Diane decided to focus on creating new material. While the guest contribution of Alcest frontman Neige on ‘The Run I‘ is a welcome nod to the friendship and influence exerted on Pencey Sloe, the inclusion of Justin K. Broadrick (Godflesh, Jesu) on part II of the two part song brings more subtle inspiration.
Diane Pellotieri of Pencey Sloe graciously took the time to be interviewed again by Post-Punk.com to discuss her remarkable new album Neglect.
How have you been since we met in your rehearsal space in the suburbs of Paris last to talk about Don’t Believe Watch Out? How did you manage to endure the Pandemic? I have since moved to Los Angeles but was in Paris right as the first lockdown began. There was a strangeness in the air as I left.
Yes, it was really very strange, I don’t know what the atmosphere was like on the other side of the planet, but here it was a desert city. It’s as if we were all on pause, time was suspended. But it was also time to refocus. I am lucky to have been able to rest during the first two months, and above all to explore new musical horizons. I took the time to meet new instruments, to create freely, and to let go. It was very enriching. I felt myself growing musically. After a few weeks, the anxiety hovered a little less, so I really took advantage of this opportunity to do just that every day. Sometimes I would like to live this time again in a very selfish way.
I felt that you were in a transitional period with Pencey Sloe when I saw you last. Is this accurate? Can you tell me about the current lineup of the band and the dynamics of this incarnation of it?
Exactly! Clément was brand new in Pencey Sloe. When we did this live session with you, it was our first experience together. It allowed us to get to know each other better, it was really cool. Since he is always there and he brings a lot, he is a very creative person with a multitude of artistic influences. At first, it was quite difficult for me to give him a place, but today, with time and the creation of a new album, it’s easier, everyone knows what they have to do. It is very difficult and even impossible to be in total harmony anyway, you just have to try to approach it as closely as possible, in lightness.
We really like this two-person formula; it allows for simpler communication and makes work easier. It’s quite difficult for me to manage several people; it’s a full-time job! I rather put that energy into our music.
You previously had a creative camaraderie with Neige from Alcest. How has that friendship developed, and is this the first time you have collaborated with him on «The Run I and II»?
Stéphane is a very close friend of mine, and we have continued to consolidate this friendship since our meeting. To me, music is about sharing, something very sentimental and comforting. His participation is a testimony of our bond; I wanted to create a memory, something nice and pretty. Neige is a very sincere person, and everything comes from the heart in Alcest, which is also why I was happy to share this song with him. It is very important for me to collaborate with honest artists in their productions.
And how did Justin Broadrick of Godflesh/Jesu get involved on The Run I and II?
It was Neige who gave me the tips to contact him. I sent him a message to offer him a collaboration, and we offered him several tracks. He chose The Run II. Basically, this song should not be split in two, but we thought it wiser to make two chapters, for two duets. We are very glad to have made this collaboration with him, he is a wonderful, true, and benevolent artist. He is one of the artists who have influenced us the most in music but also in the way of living and perceiving music. He is someone who is not afraid to explore styles, he does it with great freedom, and it is very inspiring. We wouldn’t have hoped for better than him, honestly.
Is there a natural evolution in theme from the first album stemming from Identity? Have you been reading any philosophical books or novels to explore this existential question?
I don’t know if it’s a natural evolution in theme compared to the first one, but in any case, it’s the logical continuation for me if I think of the experiences I went through between the two albums. It is neither art nor literature that inspired me on this theme, but only my personal trials and events happened that allowed me to look into the subject to develop questions and answers. I needed to express myself on this theme which has a very broad horizon. What I like about this subject is that we can store a lot of worries and fears but also joys. We have all wondered who we are or what person we are about to become. Exploring this question allowed me to find answers and to see life from another angle. This is the strength of music and art in general, they push us to introspect, to dig deep. It is an evil that allows you to get your head above water.
Neglect is a very powerful and emotionally charged word, in contrast to its concept being inaction that illicit’s a result. How does this word and concept relate to the album’s themes?
It is self-neglect, a state where the mind does not apply itself to what it would really like to do. This attitude has a major influence on identity; it distorts it, submits it, and destroys it. The consequence of all this is that we rely on others, who define us and draw us so we get lost, and we have a bad image of ourselves since there is no self-care.
Can you tell us about the album artwork? To me, it looks like a literal depiction of a distorted image of the self…and there are several overt references to mirrors throughout the album.
Yes, you’re right ! It’s a pretty scary reflection, and at the same time the person looking at themselves doesn’t seem to understand it. The references to the mirror are coincidental and unconscious, but the reflection is certainly a testimony to identity. In Mirror Rorrim, I tell the fear I have of myself, because of events that made me unpredictable. It had a big impact on the way I perceived myself: different from before and transformed. On the cover, we wanted to show the deformation without it seeming too monstrous or supernatural. The goal was to show something strange, real, and awkward. We find this notion of deformation throughout the development of Neglect, in all its dimensions. First in the music, then on the cover, and finally in music videos.
There seems to be greater confidence to be heard in the melodies, production, instrumentation, and vocals on the new album. Was there a different approach this time in songwriting and recording the LP?
It was an almost vital need to open up. The departure of the original members allowed me to get there, and I want to go even further today. It needed to be an evolution and to not repeat what has already been produced. Emancipation through music is very important to me because it accompanies me at every important stage of my life. During the composition and production of this album, a desire for freedom invaded me, it allowed me to gain confidence and affirm the direction that Pencey Sloe had taken. This process of liberation has still not ended, and it is important that it continues.
Can you tell us anything about the singles «What They Need» and «Smile to Zero»? What are these songs in particular about? Or what was your headspace in writing them?
“What They Need” and “Smile to Zero” were our base; they were the first two songs I presented to Clément, with all the new intentions I had in mind for Pencey Sloe. I mean richer music, less slow but still very melancholy. We really embroidered around these two tracks. For the first one, I hadn’t really perceived the theme of the album yet, so it was still a bit difficult to talk about the subject of identity as a choice. I express the confinement, the distress that erects walls to block the light that radiates from a being. In the second, it’s a bit of a continuation in a way. The walls create a comfortable enclosed space, so you retreat into it, but you can’t see the outside. And when we try to get out of it to find a little light, we no longer recognize ourselves, so what’s the point?
Are there any other songs on the album you feel connected to, or perhaps, whose message reflects what you think is key to the album’s concept?
In my opinion, they all have their place, but it’s true that I feel more linked to Mirror Rorrim and Brutal in Red because they were the perfect layer of my emotions. Maybe that’s why they’re not singles, they’re too closely tied to me and it’s hard for me to listen to them. Inner is also very important because it closes the album and also its whole process, it’s the last one that was written, and I really wanted to stop after this one. I needed to open up about this final point. I left the reins to Clément for the sound design, it also allowed me to free myself and let go within Pencey Sloe.
Have you performed live again yet? Or plan to go on tour in support of the album?
Yes, we did a concert recently, it feels so good, and we hope to have the opportunity to defend this album on tour!
“Neglect“ is available on gold vinyl, black vinyl, and CD. You can order the album here or listen below:
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