Kavinsky on his return and a new collaboration with The Weeknd: “It’s happening soon”
The electro-pop pioneer behind ‘Drive’ mega-hit ‘Nightcall’ talks to us about his first album in nine years and the legacy of Daft Punk
Kavinsky has spoken to NME about what to expect from his long-awaited second album, ‘Reborn’ – as well as news that a new collaboration with The Weeknd is on the way.
- READ MORE: Drive at 10: the story behind its moody, synth-laden soundtrack
The French electro-pop pioneer, real name Vincent Belorgey, announced details of his first album in nine years last week along with the single ‘Zenith’. Kavinsky will now release ‘Reborn’ on March 25 via Fiction / Virgin Music France, marking his first full release since his 2013 debut ‘Outrun’ (which featured his breakthrough track, the Drive-featuring ‘Nightcall’).
While faithful to his electro-pop roots, Kavinsky explained how the sound was more expansive and bolder with lush, futuristic electronic soundscapes. “The first album was really an album from its era,” Kavinsky told NME. “Listening to it now, it sounds like it was from back-in-the-day. With this new album, I tried to record something more timeless.”
He continued: “It’s a much warmer sound, a more laid-back, less excited sound. If you compare the last album to driving a fast car, this is more about driving the car slowly. With the previous album, you couldn’t open the window! It wasn’t a part of any master-plan, it was just me recording music and being the artist that I am and this came out. There are some songs that are similar to ones I did in the past though too.”
One way the album leans back into his early work is latest single ‘Zenith’, which he described as the follow up to ‘Nightcall’. Like that, it has male and female vocalists (Morgan Phalen and Prudence) and has plenty of soaring synth-filled crescendos. Yet it’s very much its own song too: a romantic slow burner with a saxophone.
“At the end of the recording sessions, it became obvious this special song was the sequel to ‘Nightcall,’” he said. “It’s got a similar movement, beat and tempo but that was very much an accident. It started with a simple guitar hook and the idea of putting a saxophone on there came soon after.
“We called a saxophone player who arrived at the studio within the hour; then the song really came into its own. It took a whole team of us to get it right,” he added, revealing that Justice’s Gaspard Augé and French musician and producer Victor Le Masne were both involved.
Meanwhile, lead single ‘Renegade’ – released back in November – featured vocals from Cautious Clay and was reminiscent of his 2013 collaboration with The Weeknd, ‘Odd Look’. Asked how he first came to work with Abel Tesfaye, Belorgey said: “My friend (the artist Prince 85) introduced me to him. He was one of his collaborators and producers. I happened to just love his voice when I heard it so we did our track together back then very easily, very simply. This was way before he became super huge and was really accessible and available.”
Kavinsky also revealed that he and The Weeknd have been talking about working together again “for a long time”.
“So something might happen ≠ something might happen very probably,” he told NME, coyly. “It’s happening soon, and he is still such a nice guy.”
When ‘Outrun’s lead single ‘Nightcall’ was used on the opening credits to Nicholas Winding Refn’s, Ryan Gosling-starring hit moveie Drive, it propelled him into the spotlight – something that he described as an uncomfortable feeling for someone who’d created an alter-ego to conceal his real self, much like his early tutors, Daft Punk. The Drive soundtrack went to number one in the US and the UK thanks to his mega-hit: its earned over 226 million streams to date.
“After the sudden success of ‘Nightcall’, I didn’t really want to record again at that moment,” Kavinsky told NME. “I sensed some pressure; I was scared. I was scared to imagine what my music was going to be after this success. I took two steps back and started to imagine what I was going to record after that, at my own pace. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next.”
The artist explained how he’s the opposite to artists who record quickly in the age of streaming – hence the nine year wait for the LP. “Most other artists are way quicker than me,” he said. “My album is from the stone age compared to how quickly everything is going on now. But the break was [necessary] and it really helped me.
“It allowed me to breathe some fresh air; it allowed me to think and it allowed people to forget about me for a little bit so that when I felt ready to return, I could perhaps try new things.”
While it took six years for Kavinsky to even know the direction he wanted to head in, the last two years saw him working at pace on the album, when the tracks were eventually laid down in just one month at Motorbass Studio in Paris, belonging to the late, great Philippe Zdar.
Having “only recorded with plug-in’s previously” on his debut, this album saw Kavinsky open himself up to more equipment, instruments and collaboration.
“Some of the songs came from demos that I recorded myself and I just developed them,” he said. “Some were created with guest artists on the album or the producers, depending on the mood of the day. Unless we were drunk! I loved the process. It was a real joy, my best time.”
While cinema was a huge influence on his first album, television has been a greater influence on his latest – with old zombie and sci-fi shows helping to shape some of the songs.
“I watched more TV shows that movies for this,” he said. “Cinema is less of an influence here, but I really enjoy deciding what’s going to happen to the character I have created. I’m a musician and have no desire to direct a real movie, but as a film-lover since childhood, doing this is a dream for me.”
In between planning his music videos, Kavinsky said that he’s now also deep into planning a tour of the record for next year after a long time away from live performance. “There are going to be some nice surprises,” he said. “I’m working on it visually and musically now, but I’m really excited about what’s to come.”
Having earned his live-touring stripes supporting Daft Punk – a duo that still inspire him to this day – Kavinsky said that he was shocked when news of their split arrived last year.
“When I heard the announcement, I was really surprised,” he said. “I feel forever really grateful to both of them because they taught me so much. They showed me the way for many things. I can understand that after recording together for more than 30 years, they needed a break. They needed to change things and I can really respect that choice. I think it will be really beneficial to them, no matter what happens in the future.”
As for album number three, he told NME that fans won’t be waiting another eight years. “My next album will be ready much quicker than this one was,” he said. “It’s my intention to release another much sooner.
“I’d like fans to feel my comeback wasn’t useless. I know it’s hard to make a comeback after such a long break. But I hope they will enjoy this record being played and that it will bring them joy for a long time – certainly as much joy as I had making it.”
‘Reborn’ is released on March 25 and you can pre-order it here.