“Hello?” squeaks a high-pitched accented voice on the telephone line. I’m calling Petite Meller and it’s not her little sister or cousin answering the phone, but the Parisian singer-songwriter herself. And, if you’ve listened to any of her tracks, you wouldn’t be surprised at all.
Because for the past year-and-a-half, Meller has been recording and releasing songs that fall somewhere between a child’s lullaby and an indie dance club anthem. Think Chantal Goya, Stereo Total, Passion Pit, and a library filled with Jacques Lacan books--plus some blue lipstick thrown in for good measure--mixed up in a blender and you’d get an idea of the music she’s making. It’s sweet but not overly precious, childlike without being infantilizing, and it’s utterly catchy. It’s a combination that Meller came up with herself: “When I was younger I was listening to jazz music--Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington--and Chantal Goya and Charles Aznavour from my mother...and also Europe’s eurotrash! So I mixed them all together and came up with my own sound, nouveau jazz-y pop.“Finding her signature sound was, in many ways, the easy part; what came next was the sort of networking you’d only get in the 21st century. Meller took to the Internet, reaching out to people whose work she came across and was impressed by. Her backing bandmates, for example, were found online--“I just met them in New York; before they were only virtual because I met them on the Internet,” she says, adding, “I’m collecting people I admire.” They’ve included A.T. Mann and Napoleon Habeica, who have directed her music videos, Nao Koyabo, a London-based stylist who pulled together the hyper-stylized outfits in “Backpack,” and the French band Call Me Senor, who connected with Meller through Facebook and ended up remixing her track “NYC Time.” And that’s only the beginning; the musician, who’s in New York recording new tracks before heading to Sweden to spend even more time in the studio (this time with Jocky Ahuland, another producer she reached out to), giggles when talking about a recent connection she made. “I went to this bar, The Cabin Down Below, and I met Andrew Wyatt from Miike Snow, and he was really nice and invited me to his radio show, East Village Radio, where I played my songs. So it all happens really fast!“It’s hard to be jealous when the product--quirky, catchy songs that might go down like candy but are actually filled with dark, deep lyricisms (Meller is getting her masters in philosophy and hopes to continue on with her doctorate once she finishes writing her thesis). Take “Backpack”: The track, whose music video is like French new wave-meets-Wes Anderson (it was actually shot in the same place as George Henri Clouzot’s L’Enfer--and yes, that’s Meller actually waterskiing), makes as many references to young love as it does to Freud. “I wrote it when I had a Paul Simon tune in my mind, so it’s fun, but it’s also about discovering myself and my sexuality for the first time. So it’s like the backpack is a symptom from childhood that we carry, so this is the feeling of trying to express my freedom,” explains Meller. “I’m mostly inspired by philosophy and ideas, so I try to put them into my songs.“Whatever the inspiration--and whatever, oh, Lacan would say about taking these theories and applying them to pop music means--the end result is something that’s hard to resist. While you wait for Petite Meller’s first major New York City show, listen to our exclusive premiere of “NYC Time” (Call Me Senor remix).
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