By Christian Jaeger
WTBU DJ Christian Jaeger sat down with Paul Armand-Delille and Alexandre Gryszpan, better known as Polo & Pan, ahead of their show at the Royale on Thursday, September 12th. Read their conversation below and Christian’s show review here.
Christian Jaeger: I am sitting down with Alexandre Gryszpan and Paul Armand-Delille. Hi guys, welcome.
Paul Armand-Delille: Hey, how are you doin’?
Alexandre Grynszpan: Thank you.
CJ: Thank you, welcome to Boston. How does it feel to be here?
PAD: We’re super happy to be here. We have great memories of our last show, so we’re happy to be back in New England and start our tour here.
CJ: What a special show [that was], at the Brighton Music Hall.
CJ: So where is home for both of you? What city or town in France do you currently call home?
PAD: I guess we’re both from Paris. Alex is much more Paris-native, but I’ve been there for about twenty years now, so I call Paris home for sure.
CJ: (To Alex) And Paris is home as well?
AG: Yeah yeah, I was born in Paris. It’s my main city and I love it so much.
CJ: So how long have you been on the road so far for this tour?
PAD: Well, it’s our very first gig. We flew into Boston yesterday, the tour bus arrived today, and we’re headed to New York, Philly, Washington, and so on for three weeks.
AG: And in November we’re going to spend two more weeks continuing the U.S. tour. So it’s like a huge tour in two months.
CJ: But only in the U.S.?
AG: We’ll have one gig in Canada and a gig in Mexico.
CJ: Very cool. Where in Mexico?
AG: It’s in D.F. (Mexico City), the main city. It’s at Corona Capital, a huge festival.
PAD: Yeah, the Corona Music Festival.
CJ: Just touring and traveling — how does that take a toll on the body and on the mind?
PAD: Ah well, it’s the first gig. We’ve already been here. We’ve done two U.S. tours, and last time we kind of switched into total-warrior-mode. We had stopped drinking, and we were running every morning. I guess we’re musicians, we met like six years ago, we’ve partied a lot, we’ve DJ’ed a lot together, and now as the tour has been going on for about two years, we need to mix it up and learn how to get a more healthy rhythm as well.
AG: And this is the first time we are going to tour with a tour bus. It’s a closed place, so we have to love all the crew. If not, it will be really complicated. But we have a wonderful crew, so it’s going to be like holidays, maybe. Who knows?
CJ: So interesting. So within the last year, it seems that your music has just completely exploded. What do you guys have to say about that?
PAD: Yeah, in the U.S. we’ve picked up a lot. It was a conscious choice. Being Franco-American, I remember two years ago telling the tour manager “OK, let’s try to go to the U.S. more. Let’s try to do it.” And Alex and I, we both wanted to do it, so we kind of set our mind to that. We also got lucky because Apple picked up our song for their iPhone 10 ad, so “Nanã” got some premium airplay in the U.S. We got lucky, but we also really wanted it — kind of provoked this luck that we had. It’s a mix of both good circumstances and a lot of hard work and dedication.
AG: I think Coachella this year [brought] us some new audience to be able to do this tour and be sold out in a lot of different cities. So, wow, we’re so proud. Really, really proud.
CJ: So proud of you guys, that’s awesome. What can you attribute to that success?
AG: We always did good choices. For example, we [decided] to do an album — a really original one, you know. We didn’t want to do any concession. (To Paul) Concession?
PAD: Compromise. No compromise.
AG: No compromise. We had free ideas about this album.
PAD: Yeah, in the studio we really went inwards and it was a very personal journey. Our references were personal. We did our own thing. And then, in the tour part, we’re really going towards the audience. So it’s a mix of that. You need to have the yin and yang — the moment where you’re really picking and looking inside yourself to find something that’s personal and then connect it with everybody. So this tour part has been really trying to make a show on how to transform this music that’s very personal, that’s kind of hard to play live, and we also made good choices at that moment — how to render it, make it fun for people, and engaging and entertaining. So as Alex said, it’s a lot of choices — micro-choices and trying to make good choices. It’s our two minds plus our label, and now we have a big team around us, so it helps a lot.
CJ: Did either of you ever imagine that you would be this big one day? Famous musicians?
AG: I’m not considering we are big. We always try to be bigger. This is the only question we expect.
PAD: Yeah, I remember doing visualization sessions. I was really a big fan of Air (French musical duo). It was about ten years ago and I was visualizing myself on stage, dressed in white, as a duo, but then so much stuff happened. I kind of believe in that. We’re both ambitious, but as Alex [said], we’re just riding the wave and trying to write really good music. We’re all thinking about “OK, next album: what can we do that’s going to be crazy and interesting?” If you stop and say “OK, I’m this big and I want to be this big,” that’s a really bad way to conceive the career and what we’re trying to do musically. It’s got to be about the music, trying to make it exciting and fun. Hopefully people love it, and that’s how we grow.
CJ: First and foremost, what a humble attitude from both of you. That’s an amazing response.
CJ: Have you guys always found support from people? Has everyone supported you through this journey?
PAD: My dad was kind of against it.
PAD: (Laughs) For a long time, my friends have been supporting me, saying “OK, you’ve got talent,” and now they’re like “OK, you’ve kind of made it” and they’re super happy and excited. I guess it’s about luck and also trying for a long time. Alex, when I met him, was a super talented DJ — he’d been doing that for ten years. Also, I had been DJ’ing a lot and producing. The work and what we’ve done together in five years, there’s like fifteen years of DJ’ing and being passionate about music before that. When we found each other, we both had something strong.
AG: And I think we are naturally really optimistic and we’re supporting each other. You know, we’re really close with each other. When, for example, Paul has some doubts, I [try] to convince him that “No, we are in the good way.” And he does exactly the same for me. That’s why our supporter, first, is ourself. And we are perfect — A-Team.
PAD: We couldn’t have done this without each other. We’re very complementary in terms of temperament. We both have our strong points, but it works out beautifully. Between us, what we’re doing together is cool. We’re grateful for meeting each other.
CJ: How long have you guys been friends — like good, good friends?
PAD: It really started with the music. We met, we DJ’ed together, and we loved the music. So it’s always been about the music, and then the friendship started in the studio, when we were having such a good time. Very soon, we did “Rivolta,” our first track, so the friendship really built with the project. We connected humanly, but through the music I remember the first time we met was practically behind decks. It was always about the music.
CJ: At what point did you realize “OK, this is actually going somewhere, and it’s going somewhere big?”
AG: I think it was because of you! I certainly, wow, my God — it’s getting really big. Just right now.
CJ: There’s no way. Paul, you said there was an Apple commercial. You guys just played Coachella!
AG: The beautiful point in the band-aid is that since the beginning, we didn’t… (Speaks to Paul in French)
PAD: Yeah, just say, “We’re here and we want to be here,” riding the wave. And the moment you stop and say, “OK, we’ve achieved this and want to achieve more,” is not exactly the right way, especially the way we work together. It’s more about “OK, if our second album is irrelevant, it’s OK, we did a great first album, but they’ll forget us in two or three years.” We just want to make this good music and share these good energies. It’s about that and if we started thinking “OK, what’s working now? If we take a bit of what we did plus what’s working right now,” that wouldn’t be a good strategy for us for sure.
AG: It’s not like a sport. We don’t want to have a record or be in Guinness [World Records]. It’s always, always like traveling — like a long trip. There is no preset aim. We’re always traveling.
PAD: If you get too competitive and try to sell more records, then you start making these compromises with your music. We’re happy with where we’re at. Five years ago, we were happy with where we were at, when we did “Rivolta,” DJ’ing and living off that. It’s not about trying to make it massive, but hopefully people will connect if we make some music that’s honest and fun. I think it’s been a good choice so far. It’s our DNA, so we have to remember that.
CJ: And you return to that club that you guys have played at for so long? Do you return there quite often?
PAD: Every night in my dreams.
AG: It’s closed right now.
CJ: Oh, it is? I’m so sorry.
AG: No, don’t be sorry because the owner of this club is a guy who always [does] pop-up clubs. This guy is like us: he doesn’t want to have one goal. He always travels all around the world, all around different clubs, and that’s why we were playing at another club in Paris for some time. He owned that club.
PAD: [Lionel Bensemoun] the guy who opened Le Baron Paris, has opened quite a few [clubs] since Baron closed. He’s our close friend. Alex is always playing there — he has a residency there. It’s the same team, different name, different place.
AG: Exactly. So we’re not sad, you know? It’s always traveling.
CJ: Always traveling — what a good way to live. Was there ever a backup plan?
PAD: Yeah, sure. It’s uh —
AG: No. No backup plan.
PAD: The plan was always to make music, and the strategy was a bit “OK, I’m doing wedding gigs, mixing in some safe money stuff, and then DJ’ing clubs I like, and then trying to write music.” So it was always like, twenty percent of something very creative, and then forty percent of your time is just making money, and then—
AG: Backup plan is when you need it, you know? If you start asking, “What am I going to do in five years?” there is something wrong I think. You don’t have to ask so many questions. This is, I think, the start of something bad.
PAD: For a musician, I’d say it’s important to have that mindset of not trying to plan too much ahead and not putting too much pressure on yourself. It took me a long time. I’m older than Alex. I had quite a few records that were failures, but the American failure — you fail three but then you get this big one. It was a positive failure.
CJ: How old are you, Paul?
PAD: I’m 38.
CJ: How old are you, Alex?
AG: I’m 33.
CJ: OK, cool. After gaining larger fan bases and audiences, what are some of the largest shows you guys have played?
AG: Mainstage at EDC in Mexico.
PAD: A hundred thousand people. But that was a DJ set. Live, we’ve played large stages in Europe, big French festivals, and then EDC was kind of this massive EDM event where we were booked and it was fun, but the proportions were very different from what we’re used to. It was fun and we had a great time, but we were like, “Wow.”
CJ: Yeah, and that makes me ask: do you prefer playing major festivals or do you prefer that small club? Or both?
PAD: We like to mix it up. We like both. It depends on the circumstances and the moments. It’s fun to have both, actually, to be able to play the small clubs and DJ large live shows. It makes it more interesting that there’s variety of venues and circumstances.
AG: It’s flattering, you know, to be in a huge, huge crowd. But we are really happy when we are close to people, so when we are in the small club, it could be more exciting because you can have eye contact with people, you can feel if people are excited or not. It’s two different points of view, and they’re not comparable, I think.
PAD: Also for the show, just like a stand up act, they play small rooms to try jokes, to kind of try their shows. Sometimes you get a reaction from a big crowd, but when you play in front of thirty or fifty people, it’s a lot more intimate and sometimes it’s harder, but you also really see if the songs work or don’t — the real reaction. But when you play in front of fifteen thousand people, there’s always going to be kind of movement, but you can’t study everybody and get the emotion of what’s going on. Both are important for us.
CJ: Certainly. Caravelle, your first full-length album was released in 2017. Singles have been added since, but should we be expecting something else soon? Whether singles, an EP, an album?
AG: Who knows.
CJ: Who knows.
PAD: Yeah, well we’re thinking of the next step, but we’re really not there yet. We’re still finishing this tour. As you know, as you saw, [our music in] the U.S. kind of picked up this year, so we’re still following this wave. The Caravelle is still traveling, so we’ll see how that plays out this year. We hope to get back to the studio and work on something new.
CJ: Let it travel — we love it very much. What advice would you give to a fellow musician who has the same dream?
AG: Do what is a good choice. This is the only question, and the good choice is your choice. Be sure and be convinced that if you’re doing a choice and a lot of people are convincing you that it’s not a good one, I think trust yourself. Trust yourself and don’t listen too much to other people.
PAD: I’d say be patient. It takes a long time to make something relevant. Like we listened to so much good music, transmission. You know, there are some wonder kids, but I think to make a good track you have to listen to songs for quite a few years and then you’re able to digest it. And then, collaborate with people because you’re better when more people are giving their soul — pouring some energy into your music. It always improves the track.
CJ: And the last question: You guys have what so many people would consider the coolest, “best” job in the world. Do you agree? What are some of the best qualities and what are some of the worst?
PAD: Well, we are really blessed and lucky. This is a job for us because we love it and we wanted it. It’s a job, so it’s got its hardships and so on, but it’s definitely worth it. It’s the best job in the world for us because we want it, but if someone wants to make beautiful chairs and he loves wood, then that’s the best job in the world for him.
AG: But this is the hardest job, I think — ever.
PAD: Yeah. For family life, for example, it can be hard and challenging just being on the road.
AG: (Speaks to Paul in French) It’s really stressful. You never know what’s going to happen. You’re so far away from your family.
PAD: There can be some stress from competition. You can think “Are you going to be relevant?” As you said, what’s going to happen in a few years?
AG: It’s the coolest but the hardest.
CJ: The coolest but the hardest. Well, thank you guys so much for sitting down. Appreciate it so much.
AG: It’s a great pleasure.