Ia ora na Christophe and Maxime! Can you introduce yourself ?
Hello, my name is Christophe, I am 49 years old and I am a photographer in Côtes-d´Armor in Brittany.
Hello, my name is Maxime, soon to be 42 years old, I work as a psychiatric nurse and I live in Normandy.
How long have you been playing the ukulele?
Maxime: The first time I touched a ukulele was in 2011, a ukulele that I couldn't tune because of the mechanics that turned when I tried in vain to get it out of the right notes and then we m 'gifted one (an Aloha 20 soprano) in 2012 that got me started.
Christophe: I started playing the ukulele in 2013 thanks to Maxime who transmitted the virus to me. At the time I was looking for an instrument that would allow me to play alone and acoustically because playing bass on my own was starting to tire me. Max arrived home one day with his uke and it was a revelation for me! The next day I ordered my first ukulele (a Flea Tiki surf that still serves) and from there we thought we could form a duet for fun.
Why did you choose to learn the ukulele?
Maxime discovered the ukulele in 2009 after a trip to Polynesia and influenced it because he liked the sound and returned there in 2012 knowing how to play. Otherwise, we didn't really learn and we got down to it on the job but since each of us already played an instrument, the uke seemed to us to be a fairly accessible instrument. While the learning didn't happen overnight, it wasn't long before we uploaded our first covers!
Why this instrument rather than another?
Maxime: I played the guitar a bit and the ukulele seemed easier to me, there was also the benefit that it brought to others. This instrument was out of the ordinary and we really liked its size. Even as beginners we thought we could play in the bathrooms of friends or people because we don't need a lot of space and also in the gardens hence our name Ukulele in the Garden.
Christophe: I agree with Maxime and I will even add why this instrument among the others? Coming from bass, I stayed on 4 strings and I loved its fun and joyful side, being able to do it all on the ukulele immediately convinced me. It's still a really user-friendly instrument that makes people smile as soon as you release the first chord. The uke can be taken everywhere, it remains affordable, which is its biggest problem, because when you buy one, you want 20! Joking aside and since 2012, we have been collecting different models of ukulele ranging from sopranino to tenor, including electric and Polynesian ukes. We can thus choose the uke corresponding to the musical style that we want to use.
How did you learn to play it?
Maxime: On the job and mainly by watching tutorials on Youtube but with the basics of string instruments.
Christophe: Like Max, on the job, thanks to tutorials and especially by ear. It also helps a lot to cover songs that you know at first.
Have you taken any music education lessons and if not, do you think you can learn ukulele without music theory?
Maxime: I learned on my own and without music theory, but you have to realize that the lessons allow you to progress more quickly by having a good foundation and making it possible to manage time or read tablature easily. That said, Christophe and I take part in Master Classes at the St-Denis d’Anjou ukulele festival which allow us to correct some bad habits. But that is not essential if you already have a background in music (well I think).
Christophe: I have never taken any lessons and I do not know music theory, just the Master Classes with Maxime. In fact I've always played by ear, it's not necessarily the best option but it has always served me well. The lessons still allow a better mastery of the instrument, to know its tablature and to play at the right tempo. After that, you want to take lessons, do it and if you don't want to, that won't stop you from playing.
What are your favorite songs to play on the ukulele?
Oh so at the beginning it was clearly doing quirky songs, songs you could sing and as you go, each one brings their own musical influences. Max likes French punk and rock, which I don't necessarily listen to and for my part, I am more Anglo-Saxon indie rock and folk that Max is discovering. In short, we can say that when you do a cover, there is always either one or the other who discovers the song. It's also great to discover titles like this and especially to reinterpret them in our own way. In short we can say that we remain open, it can go from a cover of Radiohead through Ludwig Von 88 or Dinosaur Jr and end with a cartoon song but still having fun. We like to invite friends to sing with us.
Are there any artists who inspire you?
Maxime: Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, a revelation in the quirky style that will have marked us! Afterwards, they don't have a direct influence on the way we play, even if we keep the quirky side. However, we don't necessarily draw inspiration from just a band playing the ukulele, and that’s the starting point for what we do today. We start with Oldelaf music and especially Les Petites Bourrettes, which we use very often for their rather funny lyrics and which musically stick well to the ukulele. Anyway, we can take it all back on the ukulele!
Christophe: In the ukulele world, it's undoubtedly the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain !! We saw the band on stage at the St-Denis d’Anjou Ukulele Festival, we also got to chat with them and do Master Classes with George Hinchliffe. This band plays everything with a lot of humor and that’s probably what influenced us the most. I agree with Max on our inspirations and being able to take everything back to the uke. Even though I like to listen to artists like Ukulele Clan Band, James Hill, Zoé Bestel, I like to cover Cure, Pixies, Nick Cave or Sufjan Stevens.
Do you think it is difficult to learn the ukulele? Why ?
Maxime: It is not necessarily difficult to learn the ukulele when you already have the basics and having given lessons to beginners who have never used instruments in their life, you get there but it is a good learning more fierce. The placement of fingers is more complicated but they get there fairly quickly with routines and within a few months they are relatively comfortable holding a song.
Christophe: I agree with Maxime on this point, having already held a much larger neck with my bass, I didn't have too much trouble positioning my fingers but he will still have hours of play to get used to it. After that, it's like everything, by running your fingers over the frets, you end up having more flexibility and holding the pieces.
Do you have any advice for someone who might want to get started?
Do yourself a favor, the ukulele even if it is not played very well, it is not a big deal !! It happens that the notes jump and well continue the piece with a smile, it will play better the next times. The ukulele community is really open, you can always get help and support because it will allow you to evolve much more easily.
Finally, where can we find you on the networks and do you have any future projects related to the ukulele?
You can find us on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/ukuleleinthegarden/), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/UkuleleInTheGarden/) and Youtube (https://youtu.be/8RFBXr3j6HI).
For future projects, we will already see each other again because between the pandemic and the distance that separates us, we have not been able to make new duets but we will make sure to bring some new features in addition to old songs that we would like to play at the end of October. .
Then the main project is to work seriously on a set and to do some open scenes.
Thank you Upa Upa Tahiti for giving us this interview.