The story of French folk-pop duo Brigitte is of friendship. Sylvie Hoarau and Aurélie Saada are friends, neighbours and mothers who formed a band simply because, as Saada tells us, “We love each other and there is something magic between us.”
It’s also a reminder that good things can happen when you’re not trying too hard. Before they formed Brigitte in 2008, Hoarau and Saada worked in music and were signed to major labels. “We tried a lot and nothing really good happened. We were like two losers,” laughs Saada. “We decided to do Brigitte not because we thought it would be successful, but because we wanted to do something together. To be totally free and do the music we deeply wanted to do.”
What happened next, Saada says, was crazy. The duo shot to fame in France after it released their debut album, Et vous, tu m'aimes, in 2011, and their cover of Ma Benz by French rap group Suprême NTM went platinum and viral.
They’ve since released a second album, À bouche que veux-tu, and in November, a classical reworking of that album – with strings and horns in place of guitars and keyboards. On the Saturday after the Paris attacks, Brigitte played an emotionally charged gig for 6000 people in the Paris arena Le Zénith, one of its hometown’s largest venues. “I really wanted to take each one of them in my arms, to give them a hug and say to them, “Congrats for being here and having no fear,’” says Saada. “’For trying to make Paris a city of culture and nightlife again and for not being afraid.’”
The full house that night is also a testament to how the nation has embraced the duo. Brigitte is the French archetype – named for Brigitte Bardot, Brigitte Lahaie and also your aunt, neighbour, colleague: everyone in France knows a Brigitte.
The duo embodies this French spirit in their music and performance: their songs are feminine and strong, sexy and intelligent. They are playful yet completely sincere – a paradox that is played out between their retro glam matching stage costumes and their heartfelt lyrics.
“We try to do the show like old disco divas from the ‘70s, because it’s more easy to say what we want to say,” explains Saada. “There is something that is naked and real in our lyrics, so we like to have opposition – wearing sparkling dresses, wigs and high heels gives us that.”
Saada and Hoarau have cultivated their stage look with the help of the French fashion designer Alexis Mabille, issuing him with photos of their mothers at weddings or bar mitzvahs in the ‘70s, or shots of Diana Ross. “That was three years ago. Now we work a lot with him because we’re really good friends and he knows the DNA of Brigitte,” says Saada.
Like true auteurs, Saada and Hoarau handle every element of Brigitte. They created their own record label to make it possible. “Because both of us are mothers, it also feels like we are the mothers of Brigitte. Even if it’s not easy every day, we like to take care of everything. We have no manager or editor and we like to produce, write, direct the music videos and do all the artistic direction. It’s like putting our hands in the middle of le cambouis, we say in French.” Getting their hands dirty.
Because they are involved in every last detail, everything that unfolds is even more special – including their impending Australian debut. “We are so excited,” Saada says. “This is exactly the other side of the world! It’s crazy for us to think that our French songs that we write in my dining room with kids around are bringing us to Australia. This would have been unimaginable for us before.”
The moral of the story? “Don’t take care too much of what people think or what people want you to do,” says Saada. “Try to be who you are and maybe good things will happen.”