American audiences may not be aware that Martin Solveig’s brand of upbeat dance music is erupting all over Europe, just as Solveig himself has never visited this part of the U.S. But both of those things are about to change when the French DJ rocks Beta Nightclub on March 24, bringing DJMag.com’s No. 55 pick for international DJs to its No. 2 best dance club in America.
Solveig has already racked up a few awards in his native France, and his newest single, the refreshingly sunny “Hello,” held a No. 1 spot in countries all over Europe. That momentum carries him across the Atlantic to begin a wave of North American dates promoting SMASH, his upcoming album to be released later this year. Solveig spoke to Boulder Weekly on the phone the morning after the tour’s first show in Washington, D.C.
“Honestly I didn’t know exactly what to expect,” Solveig says. “Most of my DJ friends are telling me the U.S. is the place where things are happening now. Yesterday was the confirmation of this. Of course its just one show, but it was really great.”
SMASH is packaged as an album and a Web series that chronicles the misadventures of Solveig traveling the world with his “manageur” (played hilariously by French DJ Gregory Darsa) in a global search for love and release from self-reservation. They are remarkably high-quality shorts, challenging the likes of Flight of the Conchords with what amounts to viral promotion. With nearly 2 million views on YouTube, the first episode saw Solveig challenge French DJ Bob Sinclair on the tennis court, filmed in the arena of the actual Roland Garros French Tennis Open in front of 12,000 spectators and a host of cameos from French tennis stars. Each new episode of the series also leaks a little more of the album, and Solveig, who creates and films his own music videos, says they are as important as the music itself.
“When I started working on the concept of SMASH, I really wanted to tell a story, to be able to have a little more video material and have fun with it,” he says. “I just like the idea of not being very serious about what I do, especially because we’re in a very entertaining environment. I think it’s really what club music is all about.”
Solveig’s disarming charm reflects the positivity of his music, but the reserved character he plays in SMASH is not so true to life.
“I like very much the idea of having avatars,” he says, noting the iconography of Deadmau5’s stage helmet. “But my idea for my avatar was to play sort of a comedy thing. I’m keeping my normal face in a way, but I have nothing to do with the guy I’m performing when I’m in the video, it’s just an act.”
His 2008 album C’est La Vie showcased Solveig’s preference for clean vocals and sampling real instruments, a hard sell in a DJ scene full of heavily processed and darker sounds.
“In a certain extent you never really choose, I think, the exact direction of your music,” Solveig says. “But if I could choose, I would like that. I’m happy about making, I wouldn’t say happy, but positive, sort of light [music], something not too heavy, just something enjoyable.”
C’est La Vie itself was heavily influenced by The Strokes, of all groups, and it mixed jump-up pop that many can identify as French thanks to Daft Punk’s interpretation of funk.
The question of American influence in his music, however, brought out the Paris native’s global attitude toward style and sound.
“If I had to be honest, I don’t think [The Strokes] have a specific sound in rock that defines American rock,” Solveig says. “But maybe I’m wrong. I thought they were European at first. But it doesn’t really matter or count to me — it sounds cheesy to say this, but we are all citizens of the world. I don’t believe a lot in the regional approach of music now; considering everything is on the Internet, I could exchange more about music with Dutch, English and Italian people at the moment than with French, and it could be the same with Canadians or Russians or whoever.”
There are still several SMASH videos in the works as Solveig says “Hello” to new cities in the U.S. and Canada. He’s happy to explore a little more, he says, noting that a road trip through Colorado’s mountains is his next anticipated vacation.
“As much as I can be happy to be French, I don’t have a pride or going out in America with a French [accent] saying ‘Hey hey, I am French, and you are American,’ you know what I mean. We are all the same,’” he says.
On the Bill
Martin Solveig plays Beta Nightclub on Thursday, Feb. 24. DJ Kostas and DJ Trajikk also perform. Must be 18 to enter. Tickets are $10. 1909 Blake St., Denver, 303-437-3011.