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"We don't have naked groupies chasing us around, that's for sure"

Formed in Paris in 2001, Poni Hoax is a French electrorock band that will play at Phnom Penh’s Institut Français for one night only on October 20. Laurent Bardainne is the band’s keyboardist and Nicolas Ker is their Franco-Cambodian vocalist

Interview by Jemma Galvin
When studying at the Conservatoire de Paris, what did you expect your career as a musician would be like?
LB: Well, personally, I was really into free jazz, avant-garde and experimental stuff. I also loved to listen to pop music, but I didn’t know how or with whom I could make it. So, with a group of friends, I decided I would make music that was avant-garde and would make people dance.

Banding together: (left to right) Nicolas Ker (vocals), Laurent Bardainne (composition, keyboards), Vincent Taeger (drums), Nicolas Villebrun (guitar) and Arnaud Roulin (keyboards) of Poni Hoax
Photo by Agnes Dherbeys

What was your first big break?
LB: [Laughs] I have seen many bands land a big break, but I can tell you that it has not happened to us yet. We don’t have naked groupies chasing us around, that’s for sure.
“Budapest” was a huge single for you guys. Could you tell you were creating a hit when you were writing and composing it?
LB: Totally. I was quitting jazz at that time, and I wanted to make a disco song, but a dark and frightening one. That was the initial goal for Poni Hoax – to create dark disco.
How did you make ends meet when your 2006 self-titled album didn’t do well in terms of sales? Have you ever had ‘day jobs’?
LB: We had the chance to be on tour doing side projects and supporting artists such as Feist
and Air. We also spent some time doing studio sessions with a few French singers.
What did you learn in terms of professionalism and recording in the lead up to the release of the album Images of Sigrid?
LB: We learnt that when wrapping up recording in the studio, only 5% of the work for the album had been done. Then came the editing and re-recording, which took us two years.
Pitchfork called that album “perversely good”. How did you feel about it?
LB: Perversion is not really up my alley, but some other members of Poni Hoax can’t live without that, hmm, quality [smiles].
What was it like opening for Franz Ferdinand in London in 2008? Are you fans of their music?
LB: I love them. I saw them in August in Paris, and they killed it with this perfect mix of punk-dance-pop-savage-dawn music. It was an honour to open for them. And they are really smart people.
What are you expecting from your forthcoming show in Phnom Penh?
LB: I’m so happy to come back to Phnom Penh. I love Cambodia for so many reasons – we couldn’t even begin to get into them here. Nicolas’s mother says I’m Khmer at heart, too.
Nicolas, you are Franco-Cambodian – have you visited Cambodia before? Does the country influence your music in any way?  
NK: I’ve never been back to Cambodia since the fall of Phnom Penh in 1975. I have forgotten the language that I once spoke fluently. I was too afraid to come back, but then last year we did this LP about that trauma called A State of War,
and it helped me to overcome that fear and return to Cambodia.
What’s coming up in the near future for Poni Hoax?   
LB: We released A State of War globally on September 24, so now touring all over this whole fucking world is our plan.
Also view:
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“People are recognising that by appreciating art, art appreciates” – Kuala Lumpur will be awash with colour during the seventh annual Art Expo Malaysia. Polenn Sim is a member of the family behind the event, which takes place from September 19-22

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