Angèle is keeping busy. When we speak, the Belgian pop-star is backstage at London’s O2 Arena, gearing up for a second night supporting Dua Lipa on her magnificent ‘Future Nostalgia’ tour. Warming up the crowd with a jubilant set of her thrilling electro-pop, and later joining Dua Lipa on stage for their sultry collaboration ‘Fever’, she’s a welcome addition to tour’s line-up. Despite initial reservations (“I didn’t know how the crowd would react,” she says), the audiences have been charmed.
Her two nights in London have been slotted into a jam-packed schedule, so instead of a celebratory afterparty in the capital, Angèle travelled to France where 24 hours after her stint at the O2, she topped her own bill at the Grand Arena Bordeaux. That was a part of her massive arena tour in support of stellar second record, 2021’s ‘Nonante-Cinq’, and for the next six months Angèle will be on the road across Europe with further live dates and festivals.
As she embarks on this huge string of shows, we caught up with Angèle for the latest in NME’s In Conversation series, to discuss the joy of being back onstage, patriarchy-smashing song ‘Balance ton quoi’, performing with Eels and her recent forays into acting. Here’s what we learned.
Performing live after the lockdowns felt like coming home
Like many artists, Angèle’s live shows were paused by the pandemic; but she’s recently begun a huge tour across Europe in support of ‘Nonante-Cinq’. Playing massive venues across the continent, she finishes up in December with four dates in her hometown of Brussels, playing the 8000-capacity Forest National arena.
After two years off, Angèle admits her first gig back in April was a nerve-wracking experience; but not in the way you might expect. “I was waiting [to perform live again], I was wondering if [on stage] was really where I wanted to be,” Angele says.
Any doubts she may have had were quashed as soon as she started the show: “I was like: ‘yes, this is exactly where I want to be and what I want to do.”
Singing the patriarchy-smashing ‘Balance ton quoi’ live is incredibly powerful
In 2018 Angèle released ‘Balance ton quoi’, an almighty track that takes aim at misogynistic society; it’s since grown into a poignant moment in Angèle’s live sets, the track becoming a rallying cry for female fans. “I feel like it’s a really important moment of the show, and I know that people will sing it with me very loud,” she says.
Released four years ago, Angèle feels like things have changed since then: “Now a lot of people are talking about how to fight patriarchy and the fact that we all need to fight it,” she explains; but she agrees there’s still a long way to go. “It makes sense to still sing this song, knowing that it has taken so much more [meaning] with the years in my life.”
And although she does think things are shifting, Angèle’s still been victim to music industry misogyny. “When you’re a woman and when you’re doing music, it’s always about your physical aspect. You’re too sexy, or you’re too shy, or you’re not enough, or you’re too much. It’s always about how you are and never about what you do…sometimes I feel like as women we have to do double affords to be taken seriously.”
Performing with Eels was a dream
In recent years a stripped-back rendition of Eels‘ track ‘That Look You Give That Guy’ has become an integral moment in Angèle’s live show. So it was a dream come true when Eels’ frontman Mark Everett joined her onstage for the song at the end of her first tour. Finishing the string of live dates with four nights at the AccorHotels Arena in Paris – a 20,000 capacity arena in the Bercy neighbourhood – she explains: “I wanted to have lots of guests, so I was surrounded by my friends…So then I thought, what would be my dream?”
Inviting her brother and pals along to join her, Angèle then extended the inviting to Everett, who accepted. “He [E] came from LA, and he stayed for the four nights, and it was so cool to have him by my side singing my absolute favourite song ever.”
Creating music videos and the songwriting process go hand in hand
The music video for recent single ‘Libre’ sees Angèle donning an astronaut suit and stomping around New York City. The concept, she explains, came about as she’s “always had the idea of being free in another planet. When I felt lost or confused, I just wanted to go to another place to forget about everything.” Here, she was able to create an alternate environment to escape to when everyday life became overwhelming.
Incredibly involved in the process of making these visuals, Angèle explains that the ideas for her videos often arrive early in the creative process. When writing songs she’ll have “at least some images” that come to mind, with Angèle explaining that she may also have certain colours she’ll work from. For example, ‘Libre’ brought to mind shades of blue, with Angèle adding she wanted it to feel like “the middle of the night”.
Moving into acting has been a natural transition
Over the past few years Angèle has been expanding her creative output beyond music, taking on a series of film-roles. In 2021 she appeared in Leos Carax’s musical Annette alongside Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, and next year she’s set to appear Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom, a live-action film based on the Asterix comics.
It’s been a natural transition, as starting with Annette, a film in which she was singing, made Angèle feel comfortable acting: “When I did Annette, I felt like this wasn’t that different from doing a [music video], so I felt really like I was doing my job.”
For Asterix & Obelix Angèle she undertook training to help her get into character and learn the scripts, but the move into this comic-book role still had its similarities to music. “Actually, I felt like: ‘oh, this might not be so different from what I’m already doing’”, she says of acting. “When you’re performing, you have to take the emotion that you have in your heart and to give it to the people, [acting] it’s not that different.”