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“Did you know it’s my first time performing in New York City ever?” says Claire Pommet, aka Pomme, to a whooping crowd in the Bowery Ballroom on Wednesday, December 14.
“How many French people are in the room?” she asks. The cheers get louder.
She’s wearing a T-shirt she’s been “obsessed with” lately: It says “lait d’avoine” or “oatmilk” in Satanic lettering. Ripped tights and a recently shaved head complete the look.
She’s surrounded by several guitars and an autoharp. “Usually, I’m not alone,” she jokes. “I have a band.” Despite being “alone,” and getting over a cold, she exudes stage presence.
New York City was the second stop on Pomme’s first-ever US tour. Her recently-released album consolation contains two English-language songs. Well, two and a half.
There’s “when I c u,” with the beautifully romantic lyric, “I miss your hands.” There’s “very bad,” a funny-yet-serious song about a “fucked-up” relationship with an older man.
Then there’s “puppy,” dedicated to Pomme’s dog Pizzaghetti. It’s written in a French-and-English hybrid, a kind of “puppy language.” On Wednesday, however, she performed “puppy” in English only: “I’m afraid of the day you die,” she sang heartbreakingly.
Over a hot bubble tea (with oat milk, obviously) in the Lower East Side, Pomme discussed her tour.
“Every first visit in a new place is really special,” she says. “For me as a human. And then performing in front of new people is also really special.”
She says that going from Los Angeles — where she performed on Monday, Dec. 12 — to New York City was “like changing countries.” While LA felt laid-back, the New York City crowd “was really electric and everyone was excited and intense, and it felt more like a band show.”
“Montreal” — where Pomme is performing on Wednesday, Dec. 21 — “is more similar to France because people are French speaking, and a lot of people understand my lyrics.”
“My lyrics are something that I really work on,” says Pomme. “I’m really into poetry, and it’s deep, and I’m talking about my emotions. But at the same time, there’s something nice about the fact that people don’t understand [my French songs] here. They listen to a piece, and they get a vibe, but they don’t really get what I’m saying.”
“Maybe it’s even going to make me rethink the way I’m writing songs in a positive way. Sometimes, I’m too picky on lyrics. I’m just too hard on myself in general.” There’s something “really humbling” about the language barrier.
On the other hand, “I think writing in English makes me say different things and in a different way,” says Pomme. “I would never write the lyrics, ‘you look very bad’ in French because I just can’t do that.”
Indeed, there’s something adorably non-idiomatic about the song, which goes, “Now that I have more money than you do, does it make you feel like you failed? I recall the last time I saw you, you looked very bad.”
Pomme called this tour the “very bad trip,” a riff on what The Hangover movies are called in France.
“It’s an absurd song because it’s a real deep subject in society. Like it’s ‘really bad,’ for real. Men getting much younger women, and everyone thinking that it’s normal. But also, I’m telling it in a way that is so childish. I think the contrast is surprising.”
“It’s an innocent and naive way of, again, expressing my emotions,” she says. “I don’t want to be poetic, and I don’t want to be delicate. I just wanted to be direct. For this, I needed to write it in English.”
The LA show as the first time Pomme sang “very bad” live. “I realized people weren’t getting the lyrics as French people — they were just getting the lyrics as English-speaking people” she says. To her delight, people laughed.
“Don’t you find it strange to like girls my age or younger?” Pomme sings in “very bad.” “I hope your sis is fine. When you see her face, tell her that I love her.”
Pomme listened to a lot of American music growing up in Lyon. “I was a big fan of Lady Gaga, but I didn’t get any of her lyrics,” she says. “I loved going to her concerts and listening to her music because I could think about whatever I wanted. It was a kind of freedom.”
She started playing the autoharp, “because I listened to country music when I was like 15. A lot of artists in my iPod played the autoharp, like Dolly Parton, Joan Baez, and June Carter.”
In terms of Pomme’s journey with queerness, “I was a really late bloomer,” she says. “I was born in a Christian family and they’re really open-minded, but I was never really aware of what being a lesbian was.”
“As it was late, it was kind of violent,” she says. “I met a girl and fell in love at like 20. At the same time, I was falling in love for the first time, I was realizing that I was probably lesbian or bisexual. So, it wasn’t easy for me. Now that I’m 26, and I’ve experienced this relationship, and made my way through this, I feel really good.”
“I have a few songs talking about queerness, but it’s not in a political way,” she says. “I just write love songs about my life and that’s what people don’t get. People think that I’m trying to be interesting.”
“I have queer songs, but I don’t write songs that are queer,” says Pomme. “I just write songs about me.”