"I just want people to feel safe when they pick a dress, or a skirt, or some pants, or whatever they want to wear and be."
French indie pop artist Silly Boy Blue - real name Ana Benabdelkarim - invited us into her world to discuss her cinematic brand of glam goth, emo and bedroom pop, using visuals to "vesiculate emotions" in the stunning music video for her latest single, 'Hi, It’s Me Again', and the pop stars inspiring a generation to defy gender norms and be 100 per cent themselves.
Tell us about your love for David Bowie and why you chose to name yourself after his song? I grew up with his music, I use to cover his songs, then I’ve done a thesis on androgyny in music from Bowie to Mykki Blanco. He has always played a part in my life, so when I had to choose a stage name, I really wanted to be linked to him. That’s why I chose Silly Boy Blue. Like Lady Gaga and Lorde, it's not just about the music for you is it? How important is the visual side of things for you? Of course, it’s another way to be understood by the audience, to vesiculate emotions. I’ve been moved by so many movies and videoclips, that I really want to feel what I've been feeling in front of them when I create visuals. Which artists do you admire for their visuals? So many! Lady Gaga of course, Lana Del Rey, Fever Ray and The Knife, SOPHIE, Mykki Blanco…. As a lover of cinema, would you like to create movie soundtracks in the future? That would be a dream. I’ve always thought: the day one of my songs is in a (Xavier) Dolan movie, I can die.
"I was obsessed with Marilyn Manson."
We love your style! Who are your fashion muses? Thank you! When I was young, I was obsessed with Marilyn Manson, but I’ve stopped wearing spikes every day. I’m not really good at picking clothes because I just wear things I love but it doesn’t always match. I’m glad to work with Caroline Dussuel, my stylist, who’s here to tell me when it’s not pretty, but just bad taste. Your latest single, 'Hi, It’s Me Again', is a big step up for you. Tell us about that song and how your sound has developed sonically? I’ve been working with two producers, Apollo Noir and Sam Tiba. They helped me transform my drafts into songs you can actually listen to. They’ve been so helpful, but also really respectful of the way I write my own songs. So we’ve been working with our six hands to create this track, and the whole album.
You've talked about having a masculine and feminine side. Like Bowie did for so many, is it your aim to reject the roles placed on individuals by societal expectations to inspire your fans to be themselves? I just want people to feel safe when they pick a dress, or a skirt, or some pants, or whatever they want to wear and be. I don’t know if I can help, the way Bowie and others did for me, but I’ll try and keep trying because I know that feeling forced to be someone you’re not is one of the hardest thing to do. Artists like Billie Eilish and Yungblud have done so much for this generation. Billie is out there wearing baggy clothes and being badass and Yungblud wears dresses on stage. Does that give you confidence for the future? Of course! And Harry Styles, Frank Ocean, etc. It makes me think that we’re moving forward but there’s still a long way to go because hate is still around the corner. You've been in bands before. Has it been a liberating experience as a solo artist? Did you always envisage going it alone? It has been really scary, but also so liberating. I still carry the impostor syndrome, but I'm starting to feel kinda legitimate. It’s really hard when you’re solo, and a woman, but I’m working on it. And no, I didn’t plan to be a solo artist, but I’ve been working and working and working again to be able to do this and one day I thought « hey, 80% of my guy friends would have never even bothered to ask themselves if they could or would do this, so let’s do this ». You are working on your debut album. How close are you to completing it? It’s done! Finally! It’s gonna be about breakups, mainly, but in different forms the anger, the loss, the pain, but also all the days when you feel okay again, when you start to understand, when you have another crush. It’s also about growing up with all the fears and the questions you’ve got. Has the coronavirus pandemic impacted the way you have made the record? Yeah, of course! A lot of WhatsApp groups and mails were involved. But, somehow, it created a bond between the members of my team. Everyone was so devoted during the process of creation, and we managed to go to the studio after the lockdown. It was a very special moment, and we finished the record within a week. What are your plans for the rest of the year? Release new singles, try to play live, even though the government doesn’t want us to play, and wear a mask for as long as needed!
Stream 'Hi, It's Me Again' here.