Barbe À Papa, Borders & Family: Jennifer Cardini Talks
Over the past twenty years, across several continents and hundreds of clubs, Jennifer Cardini has been saving on duty free. Combine that travel with running a successful record label for five years, from a very personal stand point and I guess you could get worn out. It's a Tuesday morning, that day in the week when the fun of the weekend may decide to take it's toll. In between smoking her cigarettes, she explains the morning's routine health kick.
"Healthy breakfast. Banana & blueberries granola, and a juice of carrots, beetroot, ginger and apples. When you get to 40 you begin to feel bad about all the times you got too fucked. I don’t think it will work, it would take Keith Richard’s doctor I think."
Just ahead of her label Correspondant celebrating it's fifth year (and the compilation album and events to mark that), Jennifer will be playing a closing set at Alfresco Festival at the end of May. Now in her 40s, she's done her share of the circuit and struggles to remember her first times, nearly twenty years ago.
"I did lots of festivals, from small festivals like Fusion Festival in Germany through to big festivals like Primavera or Benecassim. There were lots of festivals in the South Of France, where I’m originally from. I think the one that sticks in my memory the most was Fusion. I played many times there, this time I was closing the big stage, I made this connection with the crowd, and at the same time the sun was setting. It was 10 years ago and I still get people talking to me about that night. It was very special."
With the corporate machines and sponsorship tie-ins that have changed the festival landscape, Jennifer can be quite dubious of their artistic merit vying with fiscal complexities.
"Festivals can be quite tricky. They can tend to be too big and you are very far away from the crowd, and it’s hard to get a connection. With Alfresco I feel that’s going to be different, it sounds special with a family atmosphere, more than those big machines. Those festivals have changed, you are just under a massive tent, like you are just in a huge club. Alfresco looks like it doesn’t follow the rules with the programming, not just booking the same people like those big events do. And that makes it really interesting for me as well."
Music and refreshments by day, camping under the stars by night, waking in a pool of rain water and muddy clothes with a hangover in the morning. Is that her style? A howl of laughter greets the prospect, although it sounds like the missus has other ideas.
"Nooooo! I have a love/hate relationship with camping. I’m not so much the camping girl style, but my wife is changing that. I like to have a real bed and a shower, I’m a little bit snobbish. I’m not a diva but I like comfort. Four days in the mud and showering with other people is not my thing. When I went to Burning Man that was my first consideration, but then I had a real bed, and electricity and air conditioning and I was like “Yeah, finally!” But my wife and I have this plan to go through Sweden in the summer, camping and I can see the beauty of the nature and not be connected. My wife is changing me to a better person."
She becomes very passionate and supportive when asked about her friends and label family that are on the bill that weekend.
"I must see Chloe from C.A.R. I love her like she is my own family, she has such an aura on stage, she owns it. I’d love to see Vox Low live, although they are very much part of the Correspondant family, I still haven’t had the opportunity. The new EP is so brilliant, I’m pressuring them on a daily basis for it. Days Of Being Wild, again I haven’t seen their live set, I am going to try hard to move my diary around and stay as long as I can!"
Post festival, there is the pressing matter of her label's anniversary. What started as something run from her bedroom five years ago, Correspondant is now a beast amongst electronic imprints. At first Jennifer plays down the achievement, but it becomes very clear how proud and commited she is of the landmark.
"The annual compilation will be out, maybe some special editions and merchandise, but hey it’s five years? Maybe we will do something bigger when it’s ten! It has just gone by like ‘super fast’. It started as a little adventure here in my flat, and after all the EPs, albums and compilations and club nights it become something a little bit bigger. We are going to celebrate with parties, one at Rex and another at my favourite little festival in France called ‘Big Love’, and we’ll have a three-hour special on Tsugi radio. I think of all my label artists as family, great friends like Roman Flugel and Andrew Weatherall. The Asphodells track he & Timothy did for the label is still one of my favourites, so beautiful! The designers and Nadine who is doing the artwork now. I always regretted a little that we couldn’t afford nice art, and so the Man Power release will start a change, as we'll have a residency each year or so with different artists, illustrators and photographers."
"If it were like a kid's 5th birthday party, we should have 'barbe à papa', like a sugar cloud on a stick. Candy Floss, balloons and unicorns. Maybe Andrew Weatherall could do magic tricks for the kids, and Man Power (who is really funny) can do naughty jokes for the adults. Marvin & Guy can provide disco music!"
The label has a worldwide roster of artists and producers. Managing colleagues and expectations in a small workspace can be challenging enough, but in a global environment and artistic temperaments, how does that work, and how would her 'Correspondant family' describe her?
"Quite tough at times, maybe just because I’m French, and the way I put English together even in an email may make me sound rough. We all get ‘lost in translation’, especially with artists from so many countries releasing on the label now. The most important thing for me is that I hope they trust me. I’ve met nearly everyone on the label, for me the human connection is really important. I met Marvin & Guy for the first time last weekend, but you know in the time we live, it’s not like you meet people for the first time and they are totally strangers, you know all about them through Facebook and what they eat with Instagram. It’s quite a weird thing!"
"It’s not easy to run the label. All the artists expect a lot from you, that they’ll get a lot of gigs and their life will change, which is not always the case. Some artists have one release and then tour for two years, as was the case with Barnt after ‘Geffen’, but as a boss even when you believe in the artist and totally believe in the talent you have to ground them. You can’t always come up with the solutions. It’s a matter of moments, and you have to deal with disappointment and it’s challenging sometimes. I really hope they know I do everything I can. It’s tough as a newcomer, you can see it in festival line-ups, not may promoters are taking risks and I think it’s harder today than 10 years ago. On one side you have more tools- managers, booking agents, but maybe that’s why it happened then. You just made a mixtape back then, but now you have all the social media avenues and streaming, although you have way more people wanting to make it."
"On the other side, this has been the most fantastic years of my life. The past five years I have grown so much, I am so thankful for all the input we’ve got from the people who have made records with us."
A French person, living in Germany, with work and colleagues across the continent. Many UK politicians, the press and therefore the public believe that is not something for us Brits. Jennifer has benefitted from this free movement and is formed from it since childhood.
"I see Britain as part of Europe, but you guys were never really part of it, with your currency and additional border controls. You never went into the full process. My dad is Italian, my mother is Swedish and I was born in France. I was part of that generation that grew up with the idea of Europe, so I’ve felt European all my life. I also think that if we all stick together then we all have to be honest financially. Governments are creating all this social tension with the classes, this is not the idea of Europe. I would be sad if the UK stepped out, but on the other hand is Europe still working, and if not, what do we need to do?"
Growing up in Monte Carlo, the principality gave her a privileged view in a macroscopic community which also wanted to protect its rights from neighbouring states. All be it for its financial self-interests.
"In the Seventies it was a very European city, Italians, Swedish, French, Spanish. I went to an international school with kids from all over the world. All from one social class, as you would expect, but different religions and nationalities. In France today, only a certain category of society are included in the decisions the government are taking. It’s the same across Europe, you can’t move forward without taking everybody. We have austerity across Europe and yet we have senior public figures and businesses getting bonuses. Jean-Claude Juncker (President of European Commission) and others like Cameron, who are running the countries have these offshore accounts. ‘We are all in this together’? They are in with lobbyists and big business, but not with us."
"It really brought me to tears when I had to go through passport control, from Germany to Bordeaux, something that hasn’t happened in years. It was after the shootings in Paris, even on the train. It’s made me really sad because it felt like the end of something, but I don’t forget that as a French person with an EU passport I can move anywhere, which is not the case for a lot of other people. I see it so much, it’s always the same people that get stopped and questioned. It is so unfair."
Without the borders and back on the dancefloor, Jennifer says she generally tries to be a crowd pleaser. "I’ve never tried to hide that, I just want people to have fun. The people in the club have been working hard all week, and I can be a bit poppy". A new project for her this summer are her forthcoming 'Nikotin' parties with Lena Willikens.
"Lena and I smoke too many cigarettes. I’ve been living in Koln for few years, and you wanna meet new friends. Lena works in a record store I really like, and she has amazing taste in music and in perfume! I love her, she is a great person and we’d played together a couple of times and we wanted have some more fun. It’s been pretty hard to throw a party here though, in the past we’ve had Weatherall, Ivan, Chloe, Red Axes and still couldn’t get enough people in a club. Nikotin has come together really quickly. With this I can play some of my weirder, more obscure records from my collection."
Jennifer Cardini is playing in the Nein Igloo at Alfresco Festival, Tunbridge Wells on 29th May 2016. Full info and tickets can be found HERE. The compilation album 'Correspondant 04' will be released on 10th June 2016. Follow Correspondant on Facebook HERE.