I have been lucky enough to see Leonard Cohen perform live on stage 3 times. He is one of my absolute favourite musicians. His lyrics are like poetry. I was playing his music in the store a few weeks ago when Véronique came in. She was looking for something to wear on stage for her next music performance at the Ellington. One of her new songs was inspired by Cohen...
DIANA: Your home is so tranquil, Véronique. I just adore all the antiques. Do you collect them on your travels?
VÉRONIQUE: The majority of the collection I acquired in Perth over the years from Brans Antiques.
What is it that you love about antiques? And what are your favourite pieces?
Antiques have character and tell a story. They have lived lives with people before us. They are made with skill and to last, handed down from generation to generation. Many of the skills are now lost and may never be reproduced. I like to be surrounded by unique and beautiful pieces, each chosen carefully by me for what I see as being beauty and quality. They add richness and texture to an interior. I am especially fond of the 16th and 17th centuries Italian furniture. 16th century Italian furniture set the tone for furniture in the rest of Europe at the time. They were designed for specific purposes, in oak or walnut, richly carved, massive and palatial in structure.
Each piece in my collection has meaning and my own history to tell. I am especially fond of the table I eat at every day. It is an Elizabethan oak dining table with provenance from Lea Castle in Worcestershire which was demolished in 1945. I once had a dinner party with 23 people sitting cosily around it.
You relocated with your family from France to Perth when you were 17. Do you think that your European roots influence your taste?
Very much so. Europe has a long history and is rich in beauty. However, my mother also created lovely interiors in our homes in France and Australia over the years that also influenced my taste.
It must have been such a cultural shock for you to move here. How did you end up falling in love with Perth?
It was a huge cultural shock. It took many years and a lot of soul searching snd travelling to realise how lucky I was to live in such a beautiful country like Australia. Every place has it's own specialness. I love the ocean. I love the Western Australian landscape, it's ruggedness and colours, it's flora and it's communities. I like travelling overseas but I love returning to Perth.
I notice you that you have books from Nick Cave and Kate Bush on your bedside. What is your favourite book you are reading right now?
I switch from one book to the other. These days it takes me forever to finish a book. This year I was very privileged to visit Kerry Stokes's collection in Perth. It was fascinating. Especially his collection of early explorers to Australia and more so to me, the French explorers. Kerry acquired the journal of Pierre Bernard Milius who was the last commander of the Baudin expedition 1800 - 1804. Milius brings to life an important but less known period in the history of the discovery and exploration of Australia, especially Western Australia, including many places names like Vasse, Point Peron and D'entrecasteaux to name a few and how they washed up on Cottesloe Beach and nearly died eating Zamia nuts.
Mr Stokes published the journal into a beautiful book in French and English. At the moment I am reading the French version and absolutely loving it. Not only is it a fascinating account of a long, perilous and courageous travel in the early 19th century, but it is also written beautifully and in parts very poetically. It has inspired a song that I wrote in French.
You recently performed at The Ellington with your band, Cassis. How long have you been making music?
Since about 2014 when I first met Jon Edwards. We used to do acoustic adaptations of French sing song poets such as Georges Brassens and Georges Moustaki.
Eventually, I began to write our own lyrics. As our sound evolved from acoustic to electric, so did the band. There are five of us now - Jon Edwards on guitar, Warren Hall on drums, Sebastian Davidson on bass Dylan Hooper on saxophone and keys, and myself on vocals. I am very lucky to be working with such fun and talented musicians.
What is your process for writing a song?
I am an early riser. Before the sun rises and after my first coffee, I go to my desk and write for a few hours to capture my thoughts and develop my stories. After, I go for a morning walk/run. I go over my work throughout the day and sometimes writing takes time, other times the words just flow. I keep a journal and continuously capture thoughts and feelings about life, love, myself, people and friend's hearts and minds. The lyrics are inspired from my experiences and journeys through emotions.
I was playing Leonard Cohen in the store last week and you mentioned that he influenced a new song for you. Are there any other musicians that inspire you?
I am very fond of Leonard Cohen, his poetry and his music. I wrote a song a number of years ago in just a few hours. It is called, "As If You Were Here". The entire time I was writing I could hear in my head over and over again Leonard's "Waiting for the Miracle". These days I listen to a lot of music from all the ages - Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Tim Buckley, Bob Dylan, Scott Walker, Karen Dalton & Nick Drake. Artists like Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan & Nick Cave are my favourite because of the nature of their poetic and reflective music.
Does it feel very different for you when you sing in French as opposed to English?
Yes, definitely. French is my mother tongue and really suits the tonality of my voice. For a long time, I resisted writing songs in French. To be honest I didn't feel up to the task of writing with the same poetic license of English given that English is what I speak and write every day. However, thanks to the encouragement of my dear friends Marco and Terry, I have started writing songs in French and the words actually flow better from pen to paper. I have since written a few more, slow, melancholic and poetic songs. Ah! This French heart of mine.
How do you dress for a performance? Do you get inspired by musicians like Patti Smith or Kate Bush when getting ready for the stage?
I dress like I usually dress every day. The clothes I wear are an extension of myself. I like to be comfortable and effortless. Before getting on stage, I sip on a glass of Scotch whisky to take the edge off!
You clearly have a great passion for history. Does that intersect with your love of fashion at all?
I like innovative designers like Yohji Yamamoto, Dries Van Notten and Anne Demeulemeester. They have a very personal and unique form of expression. They're universal, timeless and they don't follow trends.
How would you describe your personal style?
Comfortable and effortless, but I hope stylish and somewhat eclectic! Ann Demeulemeester and Dries Van Notten are the designers that emulate my style. I love colours but I also like black, prints, fabrics, layers, shapes - both bohemian, poetic and incredibly beautiful. They speak in a "sensual language".
Do you think that fashion can be art?
Yes, definitely. Take YSL dialogue with art throughout the career. He designed a series of dresses in the 60's paying homage to Piet Mondrian, the punk movement that translated into Vivienne Westwood's iconic label. Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake both use cutting edge techniques and materials to make structural shapes that are distinctive and instantly recognisable.
How did you end up with the name Cassis?
Cassis is French for blackcurrant. It was one of the first things that came to mind when we started thinking about a name for the band. It also seemed to fit since it is like our music - dark and bittersweet, but our music does not come from a bitter place. It comes from a sweet place in a world that is unfortunately not always sweet.
What is Cassis currently working on?
We are working on new songs, and also going through the songs that we want to record for our first album. We are also producing a music video before the end of the year.
When is your next show?
We are playing at the Darlington Arts Festival on Saturday 2nd November.
Lastly, I must ask for the recipe of these incredible biscuits we have been snacking on all morning!
Makes approx. a qty of 3+ trays (depending on thickness and size of biscuits)
215g unsalted and softened butter
210g dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
½ teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon bicarb soda
360g organic plain flour sifted and extra for dusting
200g chopped walnuts
50g finely chopped dark chocolate
Beat butter with sugar until light. Add vanilla essence
Add the eggs one at a time beating well
Mix salt, bicarb with flour, sift and fold into butter mixture
Fold in chopped walnuts and choc (some of the chocolate can be grated ,the
rest chopped finely)
Mix the dough until it comes off the edge of the bowl, add extra flour. Dough
shouldn’t be sticky
Roll the dough into two logs between 25 and 30cm long, wrap in plastic film
and store in fridge until hard about 2 hrs
Preheat oven to 180 degrees
Cut the dough into 3mm thick slices and place them on a tray lined with
baking paper, turn once until lightly golden
Leave to cool on a rack
Discover music and upcoming shows from Cassis here.
Véronique wears Ann Demeulemeester.
Words by Diana Paolucci.