Photography by Mauricio Esquivel
Every time a band I love comes to town I have a little ritual. I get super stoned for a few hours before and just jam out to the artist’s album work in hyper-saturated anticipation. Yelle is one of those artists that came to me while I was still in college. Surfing the web at the university English Department computer lab, probably trying to print out a paper on some black feminist literary critique (as was my usual interest), I fumbled onto a queer little video with the cutest French guys and (even an ambiguously ethnic looking guy!) dancing in the most incredible, syncopated and vogue-esque fashion. I was blown away by the song, the high pitched corky singing, the electro-grinding dance beat in the background, the bright colored wardrobe and the mysterious band that never appeared, save the flashing multiplication of the band’s name, letter by letter, on every mark. Some random Asian girl sitting next to me caught on to my solitary and silent excitement and asks me, really shocking me from the rave happening in my head, “you like Yelle too?”
I imagine a lot of people had a similar introduction to Yelle, as they climbed the obscure ranks of MySpace nothingness into lofty success and cult following status. Their specific brand of super-charged techno-pop slowly took over all our summers and our lusty desire for booty-shaking fun in Chicago. Yelle passed through town and, of course, I missed them completely. To make things worst they played at the Logan Square theater, and me being born-n-bread Logan Square riffraff, has (to this day) never even so much as set foot in the highly popularized LST.
Point is, yeah I kind of love Yelle too, I guess. I mean a bunch of time and a bunch of shit has passed since college, since their missed Chi-town set, and since I started settling into life over here Mexico City. I’m still the same dude who only writes music journalism because it lets him talk about the dumb anecdotes that he’s related to every song he enjoys as well as affording himelf a space to voice his opinion without the rubric of academic or absolutely formal restriction. I’m about to get heavy y’all, so bare with me. But, if you do get bored, just remember the English papers I was writing and a sexy Asian girl dancing next to me.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t know what to make of Yelle’s recent Safari exploration. The most fiercely Black queer feminist side of me want to accuse the band for cultural appropriation and African-facing among the worst of them, and the other part of me just wants to pretend that their M.I.A. knock-off RyeRye, Ratatat rip-off of Matt ‘n Kim is simply spectacular. I mean this is really one of those moments when someone’s privileged and persecuted identities start do duke it out, yo. I really just had to write this review to let you all know, and to pardon my morbidly intellectual curiosity for their latest album and album art. I suppose I can’t make any solid judgements until I learn french and Google translate their latest and former lyrics, but I just hope they’re singing about genocide or French imperial history or something cool.
Which brings me to another point, Yelle and her sexy band mates were really effing cool at the their Mexico City press conference! I mean really, really goodam cool, and really hot. Did I mention the band’s hot? We won’t belay the point any further. As I’m running through my ipod recording apps just making sure I saved the conversation properly, after some boring questions on French and Mexican relations since that whole stupid incident that rerouting of some giant sculptor’s transnational float to Mexico, the band started opening up a little. The translator was pretty adept at maintaining the flow of the event, and kind of reminded me of my girl Sage Morgan-Hubbard who last I remember was working on some stellar queer representations in hip-hop conference or panel or something back home.
As the gorgeous moderator took the last question, she noticed me raise my hand from the corner and actually granted me the last inquiry. As I sat waiting for my turn, not even paying attention to what was being responded or to the question even, I’m suddenly called upon to give my question. I rise slowly up from my chair, only to lean in sufficiently towards the stage. I rest my elbows, ever so nervous yet flirtatiously towards the stage. I shoot one, simple question towards the panel. “Do you like the genre, house music?” The band erupts into laughter after the question, and smile to themselves in unison. Unsure if they’re going to want to follow up, I blindly shout back my want for more. “Could you give us any names?” And, here’s where it gets interesting, the lovely and talented newest member to the team, perks from his chair to quickly affirm his adement love of house. Among a slew of names I couldn’t remember, I held on to one, Housse de Racket.
If it weren’t for the minor fact that my press status garners my responsible attendance of this event and the fact that the last song was the long awaited, un-remixed performance of “A Cause Des Garcons,” which set me into a tribal trance, banging on the concert hall floor like some reincarnated 90’s AIDS mortality and ball scene diva who really knows how to break it down; I wouldn’t know what to tell you about this band.