Surely you’ve heard a lot about Elvis Perkins this summer. His appearance at the French festival La Route du Rock was the perfect bait for lazy journalists: the guy’s got such a good, catchy story that the writers don’t have to talk too much about music in general, or his in particular. They just need to tell who his father was, what he died of, or what exactly his mother did, and the readers will get the sadness and his (deep-rooted) need to write songs. End of story.
Elvis is just a young man with stories to tell and a solid sense of how to sing them. His first album opens with “While You Were Sleeping”, the longest and maybe simplest song on the record. It doesn’t try to create a melodic pattern, but instead settles for repeating its intonations almost endlessly, raising their intensity a little bit more each time, as if to emphasize the importance of the lyrics and the way they are sung.
While You Were Sleeping could last for hours, unraveling itself forever and ever, from one story to another. And this is what Perkins seems to be doing on this video. Never before, when following an artist, had we experienced this feeling of embarking on a long, long walk. Never before had we felt we were shown so many things. One could almost change the lyrics to have them talk about what we saw: an age-old copper column, or the stylish/chic storefronts, or these Japanese, Mexican and American tourists, and babies, and fifty-somethings wearing Bermuda shorts. Perkins leads the way and looks at everything without ever stopping. Moon has got too much for one single camera; he takes a break every twenty seconds and then meets the cowboy a little farther.
I hardly ever miss a Take Away Show filming. But when I do, Murphy’s Law strikes. This is when Moon brings back the craziest “souvenirs”. I was not there when The Kooks mingled with the young, hysterical crowd, nor for the blissful procession of the Hidden Cameras. Unfortunately, I was not there either when four Americans and a French guy with a hat on made an assault on some department stores. When Moon came back, there was magic in his eyes. He was overexcited and talked about Paris, but a version of the city that we hardly ever visit: districts such as Opéra, Vendôme, the Printemps and Galeries Lafayette department Stores.
There is a real desire to try and be a little crazier, a little wilder, a little less well-behaved. Nevertheless, the desire would stay buried if the bands did not help and give us the primary impulse. Just listen to Moon hesitate before going in the department stores, and to Perkins and his band encouraging him. Once inside the Printemps, they were more careful. At the Galeries, they went so fast that it was only at the end of the performance that they were called out by guards.
When a security guy asked Moon whether he had an authorization to film, Perkins is the one who answered: “Yes, of course.” To us, Elvis Perkins is that very kind of person: the real American guy, one who is completely fearless. “Il n’a peur de rien”—“He fears nothing.”
Translated by Nora