A talk with Petite Meller
photos / Michael Donovan
story / Alexandra Gjerpen
”Je veux être le muse de ma muse.”
” I’d like to be my own muse.”
I sought out Petite with my boyfriend and photographer, Michael Donovan. As part of our New Years resolution, we were looking for people that intrigued and inspired us that we could meet through our work and Petite Meller’s name came up quickly. We listen to her music at our NY East Village apartment, and always put it on when Michael is shooting. We fell in love her videos, and she made perfect sense to feature our project.
Petite’s music makes me feel happy. Her visuals are like a daydream and we weren’t sure what sort of person would be living under the pink cheeks and knee-high socks.
Michael met Petite first on a cold snap that hit NY during Fashion Week, she stopped in NY on her way from Tokyo to LA to London while working with producers on her upcoming album.
After spending a couple of days with Petite which included a million cups of hot chocolate, a wild and outrageous visit in the MET museum and a philosophical enlightenment discussions, Michael became even more inspired by her and insisted there was something magical about Petite.
“In life you have to make the first step. And then all the world is open and all the right things come your way.” Says Petite with a soft french twist over skype from London, her currant stop on her journey.
Our conversation was an unusually inspirational one.
Her persona, her music, her visual and her precious voice all unite in a wonderful lolitaesque universe set at the sweet spot in life; where one is no longer a child, but not yet an adult.
Petite exists in this limbo, playing with wisdom and youth.
Her style comes from spending time with her grandmother as a child. A delicate style with garters and silky scarves. When I ask about the origin for her iconic pink cheeks, she is explaining about some vague recollection of a manga series she used to watch as a child called “Marco”.
“It’s a sad story”, she tells me, little Marco is looking for his mom with his companion – a tiny monkey that sits on his head. But I actually identify with the circus girls helping Marco through his way, they all had these constant red blush cheeks and wore a farm-circus hats, I think they were his muse.”
What was Petites first step into the world? “I think it was my music video NYC Time” she tells me, “I wrote it while walking down the streets of NY, I felt something really strong in myself, some kind of magic and acknowledgment that I can’t repress things, I have to push out the genre of music I felt is burning within me. NY is a place that has its magic on you to go on your own path.”
When her previous band didn’t want to do the song because it wasn’t their genre, Petite created her own genre, Nuevo Jazzy Pop. The music is inspired by the vinyl’s Petite grew up on and danced to with her stylish grandma. “It’s a combination of jazz, French chanson’s…” and well…the saxophone is her favorite instrument.
There have been a number of fortunate coincidences for Petite. Like when she casually bumped into Andrew Wyatt from Miike Snow and he asked her to perform on his East Village Radio show. Or when her manager was about to go traveling to NY from London and googled the words “NYC Time” and the search engine led him to her video on youtube where she is being carried by a guy all the way from the Hampton’s suburbs to NYC.
I told Petite how Michael wanted to help her. His goal was to get her images published in several NY based magazines that he works with. “Michael doesn’t want to help me… he wants to collaborate” She’s right. And that is how Petite’s world is working right now. People are coming to her. “It`s funny how they find me and approach me. It started with that first step I did, and since then it’s an amazing rollercoaster.”
The decision to trust herself and do her own thing has progressed to the point that people are out of the woodwork make to do collaborations. She is currently finishing up a track for her upcoming album produced with the Swedish producer Jocke Allan from Teddy Bears. “I love Stockholm. People there are really funny when they drink!” she giggles.
Petite draws a lot of her inspiration from cinema. “When I finish a song I immediately start to imagine how the video will be”, she tells me. In the “NYC Time” video inspiration came from Antonioni’s “L’eclipse, and in her “Backpack” video she payed homage to the French directors, “Henri George Cluzot’s “L’enfer” (Hell) and Godard’s “Pierrot Le Fou”.
Petite collaborated with the director team A.T. Mann and Napoleon Habeica, who’s known for shooting for ‘American Apparel’ campaigns. Together they created a memorable imagery that combined fashion and film.
“I found out where L’enfer was filmed and sent A.T.Mann to see if it was possible to shoot there. He said it was a beautiful untouched piece of land with an amazing huge pink Eifel’s bridge that no one ever heard of. A summer resort, where Picasso and Dali used to spend their holidays, over the years it stayed exactly the same. Even the hotel owner that had a role in the original film is still running that place called “Garabit Hotel.”
“Backpack” takes us back to the views of Petite’s childhood, where she used to spend her summers at the French Riviera, she is explaining how in those views she was discovering her sexuality for the first time. When I ask about the sexy connotation she explains, “You can look at it and say ‘oh, it’s very sexy, but the sexuality is more from a funny girly point of view rather than of a guy. Its like an invitation to my own world and fantasies.”
At this point of our conversation it doesn’t come to me as a big surprise that Petite is a philosophy master and that behind her catchy tunes and sexy sax lays a deeper message. “The backpack is like a symptom you carry from your childhood, like an obsessive repeating trauma thing which holds you back in life – but then if you use this symptom to your own thing in a practical way, or what Zizek calls fall in love with your symptom, you can be free, and that’s how I finally feel.”
Petite laughs. “No one is standing behind me telling me what to do – I’m just putting ma lil world out there, inviting people to be a part of it and its happens outside of the video too. I think for a woman to create on her own is a very powerful position. It really makes me strong. There are so many things that can blur your mind but the answer is always inside. Sometimes you don’t have the gut to deal with it. It’s scary. But it’s worth it.”
I think she is smiling on the other end of the call. Petite Meller is truly is her own muse.
MORE PICTURES HERE.
Petite Meller’s single ‘Backpack’ is out April 28 via Night Beach Records (digital and limited edition 7″ vinyl)