Nouvelle Vague form global partnership with Le Méridien

Nouvelle Vague's “24-hour soundtrack” will feature in Royal Meridien hotels around the world.
Phoebe Killdeer and Melanie Pain. French loungecore legends Nouvelle Vague playing bossa nova versions of punk and new wave classics in Le Royal Meridien Hotel, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Mona Al-Marzooqi / The National
Phoebe Killdeer and Melanie Pain. French loungecore legends Nouvelle Vague playing bossa nova versions of punk and new wave classics in Le Royal Meridien Hotel, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Mona Al-Marzooqi / The National

When bands’ activities in five-star hotels are reported in the popular media, more often than not, the story is likely to involve defenestrated televisual equipment, all-night parties or the latest teenage tantrum by Justin Bieber. So when we heard that Le Méridien had actively sought out a global partnership with the French alternative outfit Nouvelle Vague and brought them to Abu Dhabi to celebrate the post-refurbishment reopening of the Le Royal Méridien Abu Dhabi as part of a global tour of Le Méridien hotels, we felt obliged to find out more.

Musical synergy

The first burning question is why a respected global hotel brand would be reaching out so warmly to musicians – a section of society that is well-known for redecorating hotels but not in a luxurious refurbishment manner?

“Music has always been part of the heritage of Le Méridien,” insists Jenni Benzaquen, the vice president of Starwood Hotels EMEA’s luxury resorts. “Over the past year we’ve shifted the brand a bit, made it more light and fresh. The brand director came across Marc [Collin, the founder of Nouvelle Vague] and the group in Paris and felt there was a great synergy. Le Méridien and the band are both from Paris, but also the whole bossa nova and post-punk thing tied in with us, making the brand more accessible to our target audience – curious-minded, creative travellers from the MTV generation.”

Was this synergy with the Royal Méridien something the band were previously aware of?

“No,” says Collin. “But somehow we are working the same subject – playing with time and place. We do covers of 80s songs, but in a way that they could have been recorded in the 50s or 60s in Brazil or Paris and I think Le Méridien plays in the same way with time and place, so there is a link. As a Frenchman, it’s always fun to play with other people’s perception of France around the world and I think there we’re on the same page as Le Méridien.”

What’s in the mix

The partnership has created a “24-hour soundtrack” that will feature in Le Méridien hotels worldwide. But rather than the background mush of new-age ambient noises that often soundtracks hotels, this is more like a 24-hour DJ set.

“It’s a collection of songs that have inspired Nouvelle Vague over the years,” says Collin. “Cool jazz in the morning, electronic beats in the evening and plenty of our own songs, too. It’s been a great opportunity to put this together and know that people in hotels all around the world would hear it.”

How punk is that?

That’s all very well, but hotel partnerships are hardly in keeping with the punk spirit of some of the bands Nouvelle Vague have covered. Is this something Collin has done before? “We’ve worked with brands in fashion before, but never a massive project like this. Also, I’ve made compilation albums and movie soundtracks before, but again, not on this scale or as a branding exercise.”

One major difference between the modern era and that of Collin’s post punk-era inspirations is that, for all their spitting and snarling, at least people were buying their records. In the post-download era, it’s much harder for musicians to get paid, so could this be a new way for struggling musicians to feed their families?

“I think it’s very interesting now to develop the possibility of linking music with different brands,” says Collin. “The old system of you like an album and go to the shop and buy it is over, but the world still needs good music and artists still need to be paid. With this project, they’ve got the designer from our first album to design exclusive key cards, they’ve linked with themed aperitifs and coffees – it’s very much a Nouvelle Vague product as well as a Méridien one. I think only French people could have done this project. We’re not scared to link things as long as we still keep that bon viveur.”

Staying alive

Looking at Collin’s musical heroes who have duetted with the band (Echo & the Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch and Depeche Mode’s David Gahan are just two A-listers who have appeared on Nouvelle Vague’s reworkings of their tracks), not to mention the band’s 10-year, four-album longevity, I wonder how they have escaped the disposable novelty status that has befallen lounge covers outfits such as the United Kingdom’s The Mike Flowers Pops. “I think we escaped the lounge thing,” says Collin. “Our songs are a mix of really well-known songs like Just Can’t Get Enough and new versions of totally forgotten songs by bands like The Sisters of Mercy. Because we’re live, too, I think we actually became a real indie band and escaped the novelty that goes with the lounge genre. That’s why we’ve played all the big rock festivals – we really don’t consider ourselves a lounge band.”

As if to prove a point, Collin reveals that his next project, Bristol, will be giving a similar treatment to the often incredible, but hardly mainstream, music of Bristol, UK’s 1990s trip-hop scene. For all the credibility, though, I suggest to Collin that even if he doesn’t see himself as a lounge act, a global tour of five-star hotels is possibly the pinnacle of lounge achievement: “OK, I’ll give you that,” he says, laughing. “That is pretty lounge.”

• Nouvelle Vague will be releasing a 10-year anniversary DVD featuring new tracks soon. Check out the rest of the tour at www.lemeridien.com/music

cnewbould@thenational.ae

Published: May 18, 2014 04:00 AM

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