Simon Buret and Olivier Coursier are the duo who form the French Electro-Pop band AaRON, and they recently released a new video for their single "Ultrareve" featuring the martial-arts-like conducting skills of Jean-Claude Van Damme (a video that has now surpassed 1 million views). The song heralded the arrival of their first full album in six years, Anatomy of Light, which is now available.
The band always seem to have big ideas in their music, alongside a very humane sense of outreach to audiences. With Anatomy of Light, that idea ties into the elemental force of light itself, and this deeper way in which we need to reframe our humanity in order to engage with nature again. The benefits would be personal, but also global, to finding better balance. In their song "Ultrareve", the duo also delve into these concepts, trying to encourage people to embrace risk in order to really live. The highest goal, according to AaRON, would be to be yourself, but that might be the hardest thing on Earth.
Simon Buret and Olivier Coursier previously appeared on our Tower Instagram Live show, which you can still watch right here, but Simon Buret also joined Tower's PULSE! to investigate some of these ideas and introduce us further to Anatomy of Light.
Hannah Means-Shannon: Congratulations on the really excellent single and video for “Ultrareve” and also for the album coming up, Anatomy of Light. It’s been a little while.
Simon Buret: It’s been a little while, and also we’re in the middle of a worldwide change. It’s hard to make poetry these days, but I need to let these things out. It’s not the best moment, but it’s what we’ve got. It’s interesting because I’m connecting with people in many different ways right now.
HMS: Your music is fairly upbeat even if it’s talking about serious things, so it seems like a good time to release something that might help people be more positive and get them moving. Even the title of the album feels that way.
SB: Do you like it? I love it. What we are trying to do is not necessarily be positive, but create triggers for peoples’ emotions. It will be you who colors the vision based on what you hear. I don’t want to say, “You have to cry here.”, or “You have to be happy here.” I just want to create an emotion. I think this is what every art’s role is, to be there and provoke something in the heart of the listener, viewer, or audience. My only goal is to make something invisible inside yourself move. Then, it’s your job.
HMS: So, even though people may react differently, it’s still an opportunity for them to feel something?
SB: Yes, it’s an opportunity to feel alive. This is the meaning of art. To create milestones in peoples’ lives. As a reader or viewer of books, movies, or paintings, it provokes something in me because I felt alive that day. For Anatomy of Light, we wanted to decompose the light since that is the first thing we see and what closes everything in life. It’s the only thing that rules the world. It captures the emotions like a Polaroid.
HMS: Like a snapshot. Also, talking about decomposing the light makes me think of when you put light through a prism and it separates out the different colors.
SB: Exactly. That’s about it. On the album, the first song is called “The Flame” because it’s the first sparkle that one has inside. It has a big, cosmic rhythm to it and I wanted to create that feeling, like dancing as if no one is watching. But at the end of the album, I wanted to create another version of it, with just piano and voice, to go to the core. And this is exactly what you are talking about. Deconstructing the light with a prism and seeing that the song can have a different vibe depending on when you are listening to it.
HMS: How carefully is the order of the album constructed in terms of this purpose of yours?
SB: We see a collection of songs like a skeleton. You have the skeleton, and then you add the muscles and the whole animal, so to speak. As a whole, they go together, and we start with the flame, and then we end with the flame. Just like a matchstick that you start off with, and it ends up as a burned brown stick.
HMS: That pattern reminds me of seeing a world coming into being and then becoming complete at the end as an analogy for an album or a song.
SB: That’s exactly it. It’s the ring of life. Sometimes I see it like a flower that opens in the morning and closes at the end of the day. To me, this is what a song should be like. As a general vibe, music is still something that I don’t totally understand, how it comes to me, how it can change a life.
If it’s the proper song in the proper setting at the proper time, it can change your whole vision of life. To me, that’s like a magic power. This is why so many people love movies, too, is that they are the proper images with the proper music. We try to provoke emotions, to grow flowers in peoples’ invisible fields.
HMS: That’s a great image. I agree, music is very mysterious and radical in the way that it can change our lives. Earlier, when you described the light and the fire in such elemental terms, you sounded a little bit like an Ancient Egyptian. I was recently watching a TV show about sun worship there. Light is one of the earliest things that we have felt guided by.
SB: Because it is the thing that gives shape to anything, based on the presence or absence of light. It shapes the world. It’s our first clothing. To me, it’s been a passion for many years. Ancient Egyptians were more connected to their environment and what surrounded them. These days, we tend to forget all of that with technology.
We are organic, whether you want to be or not. You can have the best iPad, but you are still made of flesh and blood. It’s really reassuring to know all this, that I am part of a whole and not separate from it. I think if every kid was brought up to be aware of what surrounds them, that would be very helpful. No one is going to feel better walking in a parking lot. Every time we need to feel better, we go back to nature. We need nature back in our daily lives, not just in little pots on our balcony.
Now, with the whole Covid thing, nature is telling us that we have gone too far, too fast. We are killing animals in a bad way and acting as if we are not made from Nature. Light is the thing that gives life and takes life, so we need to listen to the “anatomy of light”. [Laughs] I don’t actually mean my songs there.
HMS: When you were talking about Nature, I started laughing because I remembered the image of you and Olivier throwing yourselves in the ocean in the video for “Les Rivieres”. You obviously had a real desire to ruin some nice suits!
SB: The suits, for us, were the symbol of human modernism. It was all the social rules that we have invented, like we have to wear a bowtie with a suit, but you can be in your underwear at the beach, and you can dance the night away at a night club. But if you go outside and cross the street, you’re not allowed to do that anymore. We are just animals inventing rules. I’m not sure why.
If my head is partly shaved and blue, then I’m a Punk, but if I wear this suit, I’m a really respected guy. To me, “The Rivers” is about putting two guys from the city in the middle of the ocean, in the wildest symbol of life, which is what water is. We were like two little ducks in the middle of raw energy, so we did that, and we almost died, but it was fun.
HMS: [Laughs] I wanted to know how the camera man kept from being swept away. He was getting so many low angles on that water. I think they were in the most danger!
SB: Yes, he was. At the end, we had the symbol of the Statue of Liberty, which now has taken on a whole new meaning. But we wanted it to be a homage to The Planet of the Apes. We were saying that the symbol of liberty was falling apart, but actually liberty is everywhere, in nature.
HMS: My reaction to the image, which was surprising to me, was a less idealistic view of the Statue of Liberty, that humans built that too, and it’s coming down. Like the suits being inundated. It’s all coming apart. Everything is dissolving.
SB: Yes, it’s humans inventing their own vision of liberty, and it’s crumbling. It’s definitely that, too. Seeing this going away is the symbol of capitalism that is not working.
HMS: In that video, you two also have a rope tied around your waists, tying you together. But also the lyrics of that song make me think of how impossible it can feel to know what’s going on inside another person or to reach them and connect with them.
SB: There’s the symbol, also, of diving into someone. As I say in the French, the rivers are all going to end in oceans, as we all know. It’s like falling into another world, like when you fall in love, so it’s about crossing the current in order to melt into another person. But then realizing that it’s not possible to fall into another person, since you still end up alone. No matter what you do in life, you always end up alone. Which I think is a good thing. I think we should enjoy solitude. We’re born alone and we die alone, but the rest is fun.
HMS: I feel like human beings try not to think about this organic, biological stuff as much as possible.
SB: I was brought up to think that we are part of nature, going from nature back into nature. But we’ve cut ourselves off from the ground and earth itself. We cover it with concrete, and we put on shoes. The symbol is very strong. We are trying not to be organic.
I’ve also always seen a lot of connection between the sacred and the organic, though I don’t mean “religious” by “sacred”. Things are very holy to me. I understand that when you see a sunset, you can see magic in it. I can understand people trying to make a god out of the sun because its power is so strong.
HMS: We do a lot to separate ourselves from seeing magic in everyday things. We turn it into furniture, though. Then, maybe something happens, like you are very ill, and weren’t sure you were going to live, but then you recover. And then you see a sunset, and you start crying. Because you understand how beautiful it is, as if for the first time.
SB: I think that’s most likely to happen near the time of birth and the time of death, because your innocence is back. Your shield is down and you’re just facing the truth. These are rare moments in life. Your eyes are born again.
Actually, I don’t really believe in happiness or sadness in life, I believe in moments. And once you realize that, it’s okay to be sad, and it’s great to be happy. But it’s not a goal to be happy. You have moments that make you feel alive.
HMS: This is all really relevant right now. People are dealing with a lot of sadness, and worried they can’t find happiness right now, but if we were to focus on trying to create small moments for ourselves, it might help.
SB: With the moment we’re in, with Covid, and with Black Lives Matter, it’s so powerful, and it’s very awakening. It shows us that we are alive and have choices to make in life. We need to wake up and realize that things need to change. The movement is important, whether or not it is circular and you have to go back again. You have to try things. That’s the message of “Ultrareve”, not to be afraid to make mistakes.
HMS: There’s a very prominent belief in the USA about personal progress, that you need to always be moving forward, increasing your income, increasing your property, or you’re a failure. Or if something happens and sets you back, that you’ve lost the path. Right now, the inability to do that is really shattering for people.
SB: It must be such a strong impact on them to realize that everything they think they have accomplished may not exist. It’s an idea. We are animals.
HMS: How does all of this relate to the new song, “Ultrareve” and how does it fit into the album? The video actually brings in the natural world a lot. Did Jean-Claude choose that, or did you?
SB: I asked him to do that. I wanted him to go from a super concrete, human, place, to a super wild place. We wanted him to command the waves. We thought of him as a Conductor, at one with the elements. We had to find a strong vessel, someone to guide them into this idea of not worrying about making mistakes. When you have a guy like this, who has a strong image and is an icon, who is known for being wild and free, he can take people with him towards an idea of freedom. Jean-Claude captures this emotion and feeling on the surface of everything he does.
He’s mastering the message and conveying it to everyone.
HMS: That’s interesting because his hand motions do suggest that, and the way that the video is cut together between locations suggest he’s commanding those environments.
SB: Also, the fact that he has mastered his craft so well, with martial arts, makes it like dancing. Everything is very controlled, and in this, he finds freedom. Everything is super-detailed in his movements, and I have hours of rushes of that.
HMS: You have hours of footage from the shoot to cut from? Amazing.
SB: Yes, they did a lot. It was fantastic. They really went all in for this. It’s so beautiful to have this kind of ambassador on the journey that comes with this album.
HMS: He seems like the perfect person to use for this video because he captures this state.
SB: Yes, we try to find someone who embodies the song for our videos. The last one was John Malkovich, with Blouson Noir.
HMS: What about just the song itself, and the composition of the song? What are some more of the feelings there?
SB: It’s a waltz. I can read you something about this song that I wrote when I was talking to my father about it:
‘"Ultrareve" is the lack of confidence that we grow over the years,
among the rules of society, which works as an invisible driller on everyday trust;
It talks about the power of isolation in our ultra-modern societies, codified by rules in which everything seems to grow in the direction of self-hatred when we do not fit exactly into general standards.
it talks about the desire for love,
indefinitely forbidden to some simply because of their sexual orientation, their sex, their color, their dreams.
It is dedicated to those who feel more comfortable walking the 'bad off the streets', those who don't fit, the scarecrows no matter how hard they try to blend in with the invisible concrete fields. ,
Its obsessive rhythm like a voice in the shadow of each of their steps, a protective envelope;
no matter what anyone can say two people kissing, it's just two skulls clashing: and the rest, melanin pigments and dreams.
"Do not be afraid, there is no mistake," repeatedly hammering these words as a shield against any form of discrimination.
is a flag, for the marginals , the misfits ;
held by strong arms,
under the din of the stars.”
SB: It bothers me so much that people don’t get to be the things that they want to be. Be yourself. It’s so hard to allow yourself to fail, to grow, to accept that you are aging, to accept that you are in love. But there are no mistakes. Let it go. The whole album is about this.