Interview with Paco Versailles


Discover the world of flamenco with a touch of pop sensitivity.

Paco Versailles It is an unexpected fusion, rhythms in conjunction that catch you from the first moment. On the occasion of his next concert at the Indie Rocks! Forum, We spoke with its members about the origin of the project, the discovery of a unique sound and what we can expect from this concert in Mexico City. This is what they told us.

Vahagni and Ryan Merchant They met in 2017 and, since then, they have not stopped combining to create music. Paco Versailles It was born precisely as an opportunity to explore rhythms, approach new sounds and discover a possible world mixing two genres: dance and flamenco. As a project between friends, the duo has released two albums Dancemenco (2021) and Young In California (2023), creating a completely new subgenre: the dancemenco.

This unique side does not only arise from its sound creation, when telling us about its origins, we also discover that there is an organic and familiar process in the creation of Paco Versailles. A friendship that turns into musical sensitivity and results in energetic music that captivates you from the first listen. About the start of the project, Ryan Merchant account:

The beginning of Paco Versailles really began with the friendship between Vahagni and I many years ago. In 2017 we became friends and started playing music together with my other band (Capital Cities), we started a friendship and continued in contact over the years, we lived together and made music. “We always had this idea in mind, that it would be interesting to combine Vahagni’s knowledge of flamenco with my experience producing dance-like music with a pop sensibility.”

Vahagni He is a flamenco guitarist and composer, also of other genres such as jazz, with traditional training in this, he lived in Andalusia and knows the unique rhythms, chords and harmonies of flamenco. Instead, Ryan Merchant is a musician and producer of dance, electro pop and pop music, who you will remember for his successful band Capital Cities. Both, from very different trenches, began to create something unique, which ignores the limits of a genre and time.

It was in 2019 when I started throwing parties in Los Angeles sometimes, they were very casual parties where we would gather different musicians and try out musical ideas, having these meetings gave us an excuse to combine our styles. We wrote some songs, in fact, the first three songs we released (‘Unwind’, ‘Shangri La’ and ‘Lilac Moon), which we wrote quickly, put them together, and decided to present this concept in front of a live audience. It felt so good to perform that we knew we should pursue this and continue making music, it came as an idea and performing it live made it real,” Merchant added.

Thus, from the natural exploration of two musicians and a different idea, which continued to want to be discovered, was born Paco Versailles. The name, for the curious, arose from the fusion of Paco de Lucia, icon of the flamenco guitar in Spain, and Versailles, French suburb where legends of electronic and dance music emerged, such as daft punk and Air. Giving the first glimpse of the duo’s influences and musical possibilities when listening to them.

From this unexpected combination, difficulties can arise, which challenge musicians to find a common point in traditional genres, such as flamenco, and modern genres, such as dance. For Vahagni and Merchant It was a natural path, there was something organic in its composition and an essential connection to understand both genres together. A process that is reflected not only in the quality of each song, but also in the way we listen to the project. Ryan Merchant Explain:

I think it came naturally to us because we weren’t trying to make super traditional flamenco, the concept was to use the way a flamenco musician plays the guitar, rhythmically and the type of guitar chords, as well as the harmonies that are used. in flamenco, to later incorporate a beat much more dancy. In some things it was very natural, like adding these guitar lines to the songs, in some ways this whole project has been easy because we had a very clear vision of what we wanted, also the fact that when the two of us work together we have chemistry when It’s about music, when you connect with someone like that, on a musical level, it’s very easy to make music.”

How unusual it is to find this connection is also found in the official birth of Paco Versailles, It was at a live show in Los Angeles where they first tried the dancemenco, with a surprise after the positive response from the public: the excitement of hearing these songs for the first time. About these first gigs, Vahagni explains its importance to continue with the project:

The initial reaction we had, related to what Ryan was talking about, in the first show or shows we played, is that we realized the reaction of the public, we knew that we were getting somewhere, making people feel good and excited. I think generally when we write songs, not all the time, but we keep it in mind, is what is this going to sound like live?”

It is a challenge and a different approach to present songs to an audience, to remove the protective plastic from them in response to people’s reactions, which could have led the duet on very different paths. Letting it shine that Paco Versailles was born on stage, with important reflection on the needs of the public and the band, which sought to have fun playing.

Because that’s how we started writing music, we had no intention of releasing an album or anything like that, we just wanted material to play, to have shows. So the concept was, what’s going to sound good? What’s going to feel good live? “That is the approach we have always had, I hope the audience agrees,” he added. Vahagni.

We are approaching, then, the duet’s concert in Mexico City, what to expect? How do our expectations guide us as an audience? Giving rise to the importance of the stage for the band, as well as for their fans, in a series of surprises that await us in the Indie Rocks Forum! Ryan Merchant He tells us what his live concerts are like and explains:

I think our live show is, in some ways, more energetic and more exciting than the recordings, because we have a group of incredible musicians who play with us, a drummer, a bassist, a guitarist, who bring something unique to the form. in which we perform songs live, plus we are now in the process of recording a new album.”

With the surprise of a third album Paco Versailles, We also expect a unique experience for Mexican fans, as we will be the first to hear new songs from this album. Before its recording or release, as an audience we are part of this stage of composition.

We will try, in this particular show, to incorporate some of these new songs into the setlist to try them out in front of an audience, because when you’re working with new music it can be very helpful to present it to the band and see how it feels live, you do that and go back to production. There is a back and forth relationship between live music and recordings. In fact, Mexico City will be our first show of the year and the first time we’ll try out some of these songs, about two or three, which will be a lot of fun. The new songs are very very dancey, very heavy and very energetic,” Merchant added.

If you are one of the lucky ones who already has your ticket to see Paco Versailles, This show will be special, of course because you hear new music, but also because you will be part of this third album indirectly: dancing, enjoying each song and connecting with all the musicians on stage.

Finally, with a special announcement, we can say that Paco Versailles is preparing his third album, where we can enjoy the dancemenco intensified, as a return to the roots to evolve the unique sound of the project. So that you don’t run out of details, this is what they shared with us about the next album:

In fact, this album will be more focused on that (the fusion with flamenco), unlike our previous album, naturally our music is leaning more and more towards dancemenco. We have been using among ourselves the term dancemenco 2.0, we will be returning to our roots, leaving, definitely, more flamenco guitars and syncopated rhythms, like feet tapping on the floor, remembering the feeling of disco music,” he shared Vagahni.

Ready to enjoy a night of dancemenco and new music? See you next February 2 with Paco Versailles in it Indie Rocks Forum!

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Written by

Christopher Johnson

Christopher Johnson is a dedicated writer and key contributor to the WECB website, Emerson College's student-run radio station. Passionate about music, radio communication, and journalism, Christopher pursues his craft with a blend of meticulous research and creative flair. His writings on the site cover an array of subjects, from music reviews and artist interviews to event updates and industry news. As an active member of the Emerson College community, Christopher is not only a writer but also an advocate for student involvement, using his work to foster increased engagement and enthusiasm within the school's radio and broadcasting culture. Through his consistent and high-quality outputs, Christopher Johnson helps shape the voice and identity of WECB, truly embodying its motto of being an inclusive, diverse, and enthusiastic music community.