Armand Penicaut and Ulysse Cottin, the key players in French indie-pop duo, Papooz, have been best friends since meeting at a Patti Smith show in 2008. “We would just be kids, smoke joints, talk shit, play guitar, and make up songs,” Penicaut says of the early years of their friendship. The carefree comradery and fellowship of the two overflows into their creations, resulting in three very different albums.
Papooz released their third album, None of This Matters Now just this month. The band’s funk-driven Green Juice (2019) precedes their recent release and differs greatly from folk-infused None of This Matters Now. The former is high energy, filled with songs meant for nights spent dancing, while the latter seems destined to be played on a weekend trip away with friends among the trees.
The entirety of None of This Matters Now was recorded in an all-wood studio, built by the band’s drummer, Pierre-Marie Dornan. “For a couple of weeks we would rehearse the songs during the day, and then record at night while drinking red wine,” Cottin shared in a press release for the album. The ease of the album’s flow is a testament to the band’s natural chemistry and desire for authenticity.
“As musicians, we needed to be way more demanding of ourselves,” Cottin shared, “We couldn’t just rely on fixing mistakes later. No one could get distracted by their phone or smoking a cigarette. It’s about focus.” The focus was due in part by being surrounded by likeminded and comfortable collaborators: “Plus it’s way easier to be focused in the room when it’s just your best mates, friends coming to visit late at night,” Cottin says.
The second single from the album, “Hell of a Woman” channels that revered 70s-inspired psych-rock sound that resembles a ray of sunshine, but be warned: the track is misleadingly melancholy. “Hell of a Woman” mourns the loss of light in a relationship that’s lived past its expiration, and accepting that loss with grace. The pre-chorus is especially bleak: “We’ve been together for so long it’s a crime / I’m stealing thunder from the rims of your eyes / You heard the words right / What in the world went wrong?”
With dreamy instrumentation, it’s incredibly easy to get lost while listening to None of This Matters Now, despite its candid lyricism. “Armand studied literature, and I’ve always loved poetry, so I think the best songs in life are the more intimate ones,” Cottin shared. With themes of global-warming-induced anxiety on the title track, of remorse and reflection on “I’d Rather Be the Moon,” Papooz creates a tenderly raw listening experience.