Enormous, multistage festivals like Outside Lands can give attendees crippling FOMO: What if you miss the generation-defining thing that everyone talks about forever because you were grooving amiably to something merely pleasant—or, worse, waiting in line to pee?
Hear it from us: L’Imperatrice is the act to see. A French nu-disco sextet whose members joined one by one after founder Charles de Boisseguin began the project a little over a decade ago, they’re riding high on the strength of 2021’s full-length Taku Tsubo and their most recent single, the French-and-English “Heartquake.”
A typical L’Imperatrice song feels like the perfect accompaniment to day-drinking rosé in a caftan next to an infinity pool, layering frontwoman Flore Benguigui’s feather-light vocals over sprightly bass lines and all manner mid-tempo synths. It starts off danceable, and then the middle eight makes it more danceable still. L’Imperatrice, French for “The Empress,” is a bit like Poolside—also an Outside Lands 2023 act, incidentally—were a little more louche and a lot more French.
Listeners can tease out clear influences from Nile Rodgers, Jamiroquai, Air and, above all, Daft Punk. So strong is the influence of those two disco robots that the video for L’Imperatrice’s “Peur de Filles” contains headless dancers whose moves evoke Michel Gondry’s famously goofy video for Daft Punk’s “Around the World.”
“Heartquake” happens to be a collaboration with the Mexican American singer-songwriter Cuco, who’s playing Outside Lands on Friday at 4:05 p.m. at Lands End. They met at Coachella 2022, when Cuco approached the members of L’Imperatrice, striking up a relationship. A six-against-one tug-of-war feels unfair, but who gets to play the song at Outside Lands?
No one, it turns out.
“We didn't really have time to rehearse in person, but we were that close,” de Boisseguin, who bears more than a passing resemblance to a young Benny Andersson of ABBA, told The Standard.
What the band did have time to do, though, was create a very charming Instagram reel that invites fans into their studio to watch how “Heartquake” came together, from the choice of a Pro One synthesizer to a Snoop Dogg song they had in their minds to the revival of an unused track from their first album, 2014’s Sonate Pacifique.
Even in an era when fans can demand extreme intimacy and vulnerability from their heroes online, many artists and musicians shy away from opening the door that wide onto their process. Not L’Imperatrice, it seems.
“I think we make our music right across generations,” de Boisseguin said. “Then there is obviously this French thing, which helps you to travel and to touch people, to bring emotions.”
🗓️ Saturday | 7-8 p.m.
📍 Sutro Stage
Astrid Kane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org