Charlotte Gainsbourg :: The Aquarium Drunkard Interview

Charlotte Gainsbourg is in no rush. Her latest, Rest, is only the singer and actresses' fourth album in 20 years.

Composed over a long, six-year stretch that found Gainsbourg moving to New York and processing the death of her sister, Kate Berry, who died in 2013, the album both memorializes the lost and embraces those who are still here. Working with producer SebastiAn, and collaborators like Owen Pallett, Connan Mockasin, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo of Daft Punk, and Paul McCartney, the record marries pulsing electronic disco and  personal confession. It marks the first time Gainsbourg has largely penned the lyrics herself, and tellingly, it feels like her most accomplished and intimate work to date.

AD caught up with Gainsbourg from New York to discuss the album's genesis and stepping behind the camera as a director for the first time.

Aquarium Drunkard: You worked on  Rest  over the course of a few years. Did you have a sense of ease about it?

Charlotte Gainsbourg: I felt comfortable. I felt that what I wanted to say [was] "I’ve got the voice I have." Of course, I was trying to push myself, because that’s always a goal. I was trying to surprise myself, but not trying to be someone else.

AD: When I learned about how much death and loss informed the lyrics of this record, I was prepared for it to be sort of a solemn, quiet album. But it’s not that at all. Did that contrast surprise you?

Charlotte Gainsbourg: Well, first of all, I didn't start the record mourning. I wasn't in that spirit because my sister was still alive. I started [by thinking] about subjects that were dear to me. Missing my father was part of that already. I knew I wanted to have electronic music as part of the record. What I was hoping for was to mix my voice -- [one] that’s not very strong -- with very strong music and to see if the combination would work.

And when my sister died, I was compelled to write about her and only about her. But I didn’t want the music to be suddenly sad. In order to be very personal and intimate, I needed something to give me a bit of a distance. I felt that through the music and the fact that it was so energized. And at the same time, it was part of the mourning and the grieving. That was what SebastiAn thought of from the very start, and that's why I asked him to come work on the album with me in New York. The decision to come here was, for me, a decision to be alive, to feel alive, which was not what I felt in France because it was too heavy to deal with my life before and the fact she wasn’t there.

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