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Clara Luciani exclusive interview Exception french music
Shooting our latest campaign at Auguste Perret’s architectural masterpiece ‘L’ordre du béton armé’, its plush soft furnishings and vintage sensuality felt like the perfect place to sit down with L’Exception’s seasonal muse - Clara Luciani. Sashaying into the space wearing a pair of high-waisted trousers and a slogan tee that read, ‘Monstre d’Amour’ – a nod to her latest EP, authenticity and fragility are the watchwords to this interview that was conducted just weeks after she released her first solo album “Sainte-Victoire”.
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L’Exception: You were part of the group ‘La Femme’ before working under your own name. How did your first musical experience influence your solo career?

Clara Luciani : I loved being a part of that group and enjoyed the experience. It was really stimulating, we were 7 people on stage, it was rock n’ roll! But there came a time when I started saying to myself, “Ok, I’ve achieved everything I can as a performer”. I never dreamed of being a singer, I’ve always been into songwriting.

After listening to La Femme and your EP, they seem like two very different styles of music…

The style isn’t the same but there are lots of common themes. That’s how I got to know Marlon and became part of the group, we were chatting on the beach in Cannes about artists like Yéyé and Barbara etc. We realised we had the same influences and interests – a shared DNA that spanned a wide gambit. I think that what we’re doing now is very different.

You mentioned Barbara, tell us about some of the singers and groups that have influenced you.

I think they can be separated into two different families. On one side there is Chanson Française with traditional artists like Barbara, Françoise Hardy, William Sheller… and then there are the classic rock artists like The Velvet Underground and Lou Reed.

It’s interesting that you cited these artists as you’ve gone on to work with the likes of Nekfeu and Jul etc.

I’m a pretty curious person by nature and I think not using modern tools to find exciting new things is stupid – especially in 2018 when you have apps like Spotify and you can listen to music from around the world and every era. I think this is the time to embrace curiosity – before it’s too late.

Your style has been called acoustic, but that doesn’t seem to be the case in this latest album, collaborating with artists like Yuksek. It is something totally different for you, wouldn’t you agree?

Yes, honestly most of the songs I create take form naturally in an acoustic way. The guitar is the only instrument I can play, badly. It’s the first thing I use, then later I will work with producers to create the rest of the song. But, I like the idea that my songs have two lives! ‘La Grenade’, for example – I enjoying singing it solo with just a guitar and as part of a group, too. I think both ways still stay true to my style – even when I went to see Yuksek and Benjamin Lebeau, we worked hand in hand to create something that still felt like me. Just like my two categories of influence, each of my songs has two facets – one can be really hard and rocky, and the other almost disco.

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One song that really stands out is the cover you did of Metronomy. You created a version in French that takes us back to our teens. It was really surprising to find that on the album…

Yes, I don’t know if it’s something that only happens to songwriters, but when I hear certain songs I think, ‘I wish I had written that’. That happens to me when I read, too. The first time I listened to the song from Metronomy I knew I had to find it or at least use it – transform it, that’s what happened really.

And so, what did Metronomy think?

I sent them the song and I thought it was really cool of them to let me use it. You can’t do anything without first speaking to the original artist. For example, I covered a song from Lana Del Rey in French but I couldn’t record it because I was refused permission and I don’t have her digits to ask directly *laughs*.

You’re touring at the moment, what is it like being on stage?
What do you like the most?

I’m enjoying being on stage more and more. When I started I was really shy and it felt uncomfortable. I’d find myself trembling so much I couldn’t play my guitar. Now, it’s a lot better and my fans are really supportive – when I play people sing along, you can feel that they’re really there to hear you – there’s something reassuring and kind of addictive about it. That’s my favourite thing I think.

Going back to your music, first, there was the EP ‘Monstre d’Amour’ and then the album ‘Sainte-Victoire’ both of which with an autobiographical feel. In your EP, you talk about separation – and the themes on the new album are very different!
What changed between the making of these two releases?

I think it’s all about narration. The EP signified destruction and the album was all about reconstruction. There’s almost a tale between the two. That’s why the album is more illuminated and has more energy – it’s about finding yourself again.

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Clara Luciani music interview
"Honestly most of the songs I create take form naturally in an acoustic way.
The guitar is the only instrument I can play, badly."
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Clara Luciani Saint Victoire new music album
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Saint-Victoire is a mountain near Aix-en-Provence, what’s the importance of this reference?

I said to myself, “ It’s stupid to have an album that is autobiographical and in which I don’t mention where I’m from ”. I wondered how I could pay tribute to my roots and the region I grew up in. One day, I arrived at the train station in Aix-en-Provence and you could see Saint-Victoire straight ahead. It was a reflex reaction and I thought, “ It sounds pretty good, it’s beautiful and it has lots of different meanings ”. It felt right, and I sent a message to my team straight away.

It also has a ‘victory’ element to it, too...

Yes, and ‘saint’! The idea of the Madonna, a sacred woman. It really worked on a lot of levels.

You reflect on some really personal issues, how do you feel about laying it all bare to the public?

It’s funny because, if anyone had ever asked me back then whether I would be singing my heart out on stage, I would have said ‘ Yer, right! ’ Sharing my songs felt somewhat immodest. Songwriting was really a personal diary for me – something that would never have left my bedroom. But, when I arrived in Paris, I started showing my friends the stuff that I was writing and they said they’d never heard anything like it. The people around me really encouraged me to share my stuff, even singing in public felt a bit vulgar, but also really powerful. For me, there’s this cathartic aspect to sharing my problems, and once I’ve shared it with a crowd I feel a bit lighter afterwards.

There must be lots of women that can really connect with the contents of your songs…

Yes, that’s true, my fans are largely female. Sometimes I feel a bit sad that my music doesn’t speak more men. When I look around the stage I definitely see more woman and I think it’s disappointing that just because I say words like ‘boobs’ men don’t think the subjects I’m singing about are relevant to them.

Maybe there are just fewer men interested in songs about girls…

But it’s not just about girls! Love is a universal story. In the song, ‘La Grenade’ yes I sing, ‘Sous mon sein la grenade’ (EN: the grenade behind my breasts)but that could mean anything. It really means that behind this form of fragility is something strong – and I think that sentiment applies to men, too.

There is also this duality in some of the titles like, ‘Les Fleurs’ for example where there seems to be a sadness and also a very vibrant musicality. There is a strong balance of opposites in your music…

I feel like it’s a blend of opposites that comes from within. Even in my personality, but I think that’s less audible in my music. I think it’s essentially human to have this oscillation from joy to sadness… there’s an idea of finding your balance between the two forces, it feels like part of the human spirit, these contrasting energies.

Do you think the Clara you sing about on the album is the real you?

I’ve done everything to strip it back – I even removed my cape and hat. This album represents the best and the worst parts of me.

That’s true, in the clip ‘Pleure Clara, Pleure’ you have a cap and a hat…

Yes, I needed them because it was already intimate and intense I needed something to cover myself, something that I’ve always considered modest. I found singing like that very complicated in the beginning, I think it was really important to embrace the phase where I was just like ‘ yes, it’s me but not exactly ’. Now I could stand on stage in just a t-shirt.

Do you think you were playing a part?

Yes. It was my name, my songs and my stories, but I needed props and theatre - the striptease. I’m back to being me.

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"In life, I’m a feminist, and I think it’s intolerable that other people aren’t.
It’s a battle we have to fight, but I don’t make that a central issue in my music."
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You define your album as ‘female’, why not feminist?

Yes, I call it a feminine album because it’s an intimate album and expresses my femininity. For example, last year I was reading a lot of Annie Erneaux, it oozes femininity. It’s so sensual and visceral, but not feminist! The idea was to poke the fun at all the things I hear about women in music, but I never said I was going to write a feminist hymn! In life, I’m a feminist, and I think it’s intolerable that other people aren’t. It’s a battle we have to fight, but I don’t make that a central issue in my music. Although, it is something that is a constant debate for me… Benjamin Biolay speaks about women he has fallen in love with… It’s a male discourse about masculinity. And women love it, listen to it, understand it… It’s shocking that when women speak about the same thing it automatically only concerns women. One thing I’m really proud of is that women suffering from breast cancer connect with my song, ‘La Grenade’.

I found it a bit strange to start with but then I saw the hidden meaning. It’s beautiful. They started using my song to give them courage and I was so proud of them. This is an album about healing, whether that’s emotional, physical or something else, I’m glad they found that shared energy in my songs.

Do you think the music industry is still macho – even if there are lots of female artists?

Yes, it’s pretty complicated… For example, the first time I went on stage with La Femme I was 19 years old, I was wearing a mini dress and I didn’t even have time to open my mouth to sing before this guy shouted up from the crowd ‘she wasn’t chosen for her voice’. It’s this kind of remark that you hear – when a male musician can wear what he wants – and that’s totally fine.

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"I’ve always loved anything Baroque.
That type of Italian eccentricity in fashion has always spoken to me, but it’s not always practical for everyday wear! "
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Clara Lucianie La Baie La Grenade interview french music
In the song ‘Drôle d’époque’ you say that don’t have what it takes to be the woman of your generation and yet, we have the impression that is the case. You’ve succeeded in releasing a popular album, going on tour…

Yes and no. I think in that respect I am a woman that represents my generation, but I refuse to be a figurehead, I have my own personal limits and I know I can’t be all things that society demands of women. You can’t be expected to wear all the hats at once. I think as soon as you say to yourself, ‘Right, I can’t be expected to do it all’, everything feels better. I personally feel better after writing and performing that song, I think it helped me to realise how capable I could be when I removed the pressure. Getting rid of the guilt and realising no-one is perfect is the first step.

Do your parents like the album?

Yes! Although I think they found it hard because my parents aren’t very objective, I even stopped them reading the lyrics. It’s difficult for a parent to not say ‘it’s brilliant’. They are so encouraging and supportive - they even keep clippings! It’s so cute, but I don’t think they’re the best people to judge my career.

Let’s finish with a fashion question, what’s your sense of style, the Clara Luciani look?

First of all, it’s got to be comfortable. I think that’s the priority in life. I like to dress in a way that’s both comfortable and elegant, but that’s not always easy! For example, I really like high waisted trousers. I think if I had to choose one piece of clothing in my wardrobe to define my sense of style it would be a pair of classic high waisted suit trousers. Something simple, I don’t like to over think how I dress.

What designers do you like?

There are loads of things I like, the artistic director for Gucci Alessandro Michele for example. I also like Chloé and I adore AMI. I think those brands really define my everyday style - beautifully tailored pieces that are simple and elegant. I would love to wear stuff like that on stage with eccentric pieces from Gucci or Miu Miu…

It’s important to stand out on stage, it’s a bit like a party and you want to impress…

Totally! I’ve always loved anything Baroque. That type of Italian eccentricity in fashion has always spoken to me, but it’s not always practical for everyday wear! At the moment, I’m all over the place during the tour, it would be madness to try and wear pieces like that!

What is the one thing you always have on stage – an accessory, keepsake or maybe a good luck charm?

I have a tiger-shaped box that I have used to keep all my guitar picks in since the very first concert. I always have it with me! If anyone tried to steal it… they’d be in big trouble! *laughs*

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Photography: Manu Fauque
Hair: Cyril Nanino @ latelier68 using Sebastian Professional
Make-up: Amélie Moutia - Tom Ford

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