Tender Forever Interview: The New Gay Interview
TNG Contributor Kaysey sat down with Melanie of Tender Forever on April 20 to talk about her journey as an openly queer artist in France and the United States.
Melanie Valera aka “Tender Forever” is a French, indie pop artist located in the Pacific Northwest where she continues to create thoughtful and raw music. She first settled in Olympia, WA and eventually made her way to Portland, OR where she has been for the past two years. Here Tender Forever has found her home among other Portland-based queer artists including The Blow and Mirah. Shortly after returning home from supporting Men on their European tour, I was able to speak with Melanie about the lack of snare drum in her new album “No Snare” and why it’s harder to be openly queer in France than the United States.
TNG Kaysey: How’s your day?
Melanie: Good just getting ready for planting lots of vegetables. I’ve got some garden boxes, so yeah, I’m just getting ready to plant some awesome vegetables.
TNG: Awesome, I will be doing that next month.
TNG: So you just got back from touring in Europe?
Melanie: Yes, I got back four days ago I think.
TNG: How did that go?
Melanie: Really great! For a big part of the tour I was with the group Men, that was really really fun.
Most of the shows went well, some shows were a little harsh but I think that’s just the nature of touring.
TNG: So you have a new album out, what did your writing process look like while you were creating this record?
Melanie: This album was very different. I had recorded ten songs and then I went on tour, hadn’t saved anything, and a microphone fell on my laptop. I lost everything. It was insane I had to go back and do everything again in two weeks. I recorded everything and I wrote new songs because I didn’t want to record the same songs, they wouldn’t have sounded the same. I really wanted a challenge so I just sat down and every day I wrote a song. And then I recorded them, arranged them, mixed them and mastered them. It was really quick and really intense but it also felt really good to be able to sit down and just write a song, to be like “OK, I’m going to write a song and we’re gonna record it.” It was really extreme but also really great.
TNG: This album has been talked about as being much darker than your previous albums, what inspired that? Was it the process or something that happened beforehand?
Melanie: I had around two years of thinking about what I had done and I wanted to remember that in life I always think and live to the strong beat or the things that we actually hear, like your heartbeat. I wanted to listen to the deeper sounds that we never really listen to and then I wrote around that, not the constant but the feeling. I think that’s how it came out so dark because I got to search within myself and my feelings and maybe that led to us creating something darker. I wanted to apply all of this to the actual making of the album so we didn’t use any snare and we didn’t use anything that could mark the tempo, so we had to go around that and try a bunch of stuff. In that way I think it affected the writing itself which was really, really fun and also really creative. We had such little time that, I think, it was perfect for what we had to do.
TNG: Did you listen to any particular artists while creating this album or was it mainly inspired by the sounds you listened for?
Melanie: We started everyday listening to stuff, sometimes it would be a two hour session of listening to different things. So it was everything, I’m not sure how it would have affected this album so I doubt that it actually did. I don’t know, I like everything so it’s really hard to tell. I have really cheesy taste, some stuff is too cheesy to even mention. I take interest and find a lot of beauty in a lot of different things from Phil Collins, to very bad Michael Jackson, to very experimental stuff from my label mates.
TNG: You currently live in Portland, OR how long have you been there?
Melanie: I first lived in Olympia, WA for three years and I’ve been living in Portland, OR for over two years.
TNG: What inspired the move from France to the Pacific Northwest of the United States?
Melanie: I was living in France and I was really bored, my country is very old fashioned and uptight. The new generation has a lot of work to do but apparently can’t do it. It’s very hard to be gay over there too. Which may explain why it was easier for me to just come out here. Coincidentally I had set up a couple shows with people from the Pacific Northwest. I really bonded with these people and found some similar energy. One day I was coming back from Paris and was like “I just have to get the fuck out of here.” So I sold all of my stuff and my records and I had something like twenty euros left. I played some shows around with Mikhaela Maricich from The Blow, we played some in California and the last show was in Olympia in an attic that could only fit ten people. I had an offer to record some stuff and I’ve never really left.
TNG: I’ll be moving to Portland this summer.
Melanie: You’re moving to Portland? It’s really great I don’t think I could live anywhere else. There are few places in the US where I feel really comfortable and where people are actually nice.
TNG: Good, you’re selling it well! You’ve kind of touched on something I wanted to ask you next. You’ve lived in Europe and you’ve lived in the US, what were the differences in being an openly queer artist in those environments? Was there more visibility in either place?
Melanie: There are three places I feel really comfortable. One is the U.S. because despite what we say I do think there is a longer history of queer people and people trying to build community around that, there’s a lot of goodness here. In France there is no community. None. There really is none, it barely exists and it’s like ten people. I do love my country and I think there are a lot of things about it that are great, but not this. The other place is Berlin, I think it’s really amazing. There is so much being done in terms of music and art there. Everybody kind of lives together but there is still a very strong queer community. The other place I feel very comfortable, even though people probably wouldn’t think this of it, is Spain. My family is from Spain, both my mom’s and dad’s families left during the war so I am sort of Spanish even though I was born in France. People in Spain don’t really give a fuck about who you are. They had a dictator thirty years ago so they’re kind of like “Ehhh whatever, we don’t really care. Do whatever the fuck you want because we were totally oppressed thirty years ago.” They are always really amazing in that way. Other countries in Europe are harder. Italy sucked and France is really hard, people call me mister all the time which is actually really funny.
TNG: Do you have any plans to tour in the U.S. soon?
Melanie: Yes! I do have a plan and I hope to do it in the fall. We’re working on it now. I should be touring the whole world all the fucking time. It’s a big crazy operation but I will make it happen and I really want to do it. It’s going to happen it’s just a matter of when.
TNG: Thank you so much for talking with me today. Hopefully I’ll be seeing you play a show in Portland soon.
Melanie: Yes thank you! I’m playing in September, let me know if you want to come!
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