Maxim Meyer-Horn

15 Aug

Interview: Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul on the Impact of Their Debut Album ‘Topical Dancer’

Some artists manage to not just release an album but create an impressive sketch of our society. This is exactly what Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul did, who tackle difficult social issues in an almost playful way with their debut album ‘Topical Dancer’. The impact of their album can hardly be put into words, but it becomes increasingly clear when you go to one of their shows. We met up with them backstage at DOUR festival and reflected on the influence ‘Topical Dancer’ has on themselves and others.

The last time we met, it was the night before the release of your debut album Topical Dancer. Does it feel like there’s a difference between the period before and after the album came out?

Bolis: Definitely because the album exceeded our expectations. We already prepared ourselves that it wouldn’t be easy because of the post-COVID period, especially on an international level since there’s so much music coming out. We really can’t complain about how things went.

Charlotte: If you had told us that day what would come, we would both cry with happiness. It was such a beautiful but stressful day, but it was very symbolic for all the months that were about to come. We don’t have a lot of time to stand still and look around. It’s just fantastic to see how everything developed.

The reviews were extremely positive with media outlets calling it the album of the year. How much do these words matter to you, as the creators?

Charlotte: I’m just beyond happy that they hear what we hear in it. The recognition of the things we like and the intentions behind the lyrics of our songs is beautiful. You can hope for that, but we’ve never expected it to be so great.

Bolis: We were both curious and a little bit anxious about how our music about political correctness and racism would be received in America. So far, the reactions over there have been massively positive, and people seem to be happy we’re using these topics in our songs. We want to make room for conversations instead of killing conversations, so we’re glad it apparently contributes to that.

The music is somehow a bit of satire. Was it a conscious decision to use humor in the lyrics to address social problems?

Charlotte: That’s something we usually do, and self-realization is something very important to us. I think it’s a good idea to bring some air into these heavy conversations because it makes it easier to connect to one other. It’s more fitting to tell these stories from that perspective. As Bolis already mentioned, we were a bit afraid of the reactions in America, but we saw how the crowds were reacting to songs like “Blenda” with the line, “Go back to the country where you belong”. They understand the double bottom, which is something very difficult at the moment.

Bolis: Sometimes, which is partly because of the media, we’re trained to make our opinion based on a headline, which makes everything very shallow. For me, it’s important in art, and in general, to look for more than just what we can witness on the surface. Seeing people understand the meaning behind the songs and interact with them has already made us emotional on stage.

Are there specific songs that showcased that?

Charlotte: “Blenda” is, for example, written from our perspective, people with a different background, but it’s more than that. When I saw how white, queer people sang the song, I understood that the song has more than one meaning, and it’s also fitting for other people. There was a trans woman at our show in Los Angeles, and you could see how represented she felt because of the song. In Glasgow, another fan told us how difficult it is for her to be a trans woman of color in her city and how much she felt heard by our music. That really hit me.

Bolis: We currently do a club show in Europe of around two hundred people, which also goes for America, and the audience is always so diverse. That’s something you can’t force or create, and it feels good to see that our music brings so many different people together.

Charlotte: It’s especially nice because the conversations we want to trigger need to happen between this diverse audience. During our shows, we see how a 75-year-old man stands next to a young queer girl of color.

Does it overwhelm you to see what your music brings about?

Charlotte: We’ve had it happen a couple of times that we stood on stage with a lump in the throat or were about to hit the stage when we realized where we were. During our show at Rock Werchter [editor’s note: a Belgian music festival], I had to keep myself together during “Paténipat” because I felt what our music does to people.

Right before the album came out, you announced that your stage name would extend from Charlotte Adigéry to Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul. Why was it the right time to change the name?

Bolis: It felt a bit like a now-or-never situation. We’ve talked about it before because, for us, it was clear that it was a collaborative project. We just saw that people often taught that it was a solo project with me being the manager or the producer. To get ahead of that question, we decided to change the name and make it clearer for everyone. We also knew that if we wanted to do that, we should do it before the album came out. It feels good like this.

Charlotte: We also both feel at ease and know what we mean to one other. We were looking for a way to make clear it wasn’t just me but also Bolis. We had to fine-tune it a bit.

Is there something you still want to achieve with the album since you’ve already done so many great things?

Charlotte: I want more streams. (laughs) The streams should be higher. What I often envision is doing all this but reaching more and more people. We feel that the effect that Topical Dancer had on the people that listened to it was beautiful, so we hope it can reach more people soon.

Bolis: I think it won’t be with this album, but I have the ambition to become an act that can play all around the world in front of thousands of people. It would be so cool to have this standard capacity everywhere we go, and I think that’s something we’re working towards.

Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul are currently on tour with their debut album ‘Topical Dancer‘. Tickets and dates can be found on their website including festival shows, a US tour and Belgian club shows this fall. 

Pictures by Robin Joris Dullers

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