• UO Journal: The Star of Noir

    Urban Outfitters is proud to present Urban Outfitters Journal, a new print publication that represents the culture and stories behind the UO Men’s brand, available now at select Urban Outfitters locations. 

    South African musician Petite Noir is ready to introduce the world to Noirwave. With his debut release La Vie Est Belle / Life is Beautiful, we think he’s the perfect person to lead the movement. Watch the latest episode of our UO Music Video Series with Petite Noir now, and read our interview with the artist below. 
    Photos by Devyn Galindo 

    Messed up, all black, and ragged: terms Yannick Ilunga uses to describe his personal style. So the brightly dressed, country club inspired icon we see changing clothes in the video for “Chess” must be a joke, right? Better known by his stage name, Petite Noir, the South African musician lets out a laugh, “I wasn’t trying to be funny [but] I watched it and was like, ‘Wow, do I really look like that?’” 

    The quiet 24-year-old with a debut album out this fall on Domino Records—a young man who invented his own genre he calls noirwave—is sitting at Root Studios in Manhattan looking collected and poised, so it’s hard to imagine he could strike a wrong pose. Awkward seems lost on him. 

    But really, his music is where he leads and takes chances.  It’s fast-paced, a bumpy ride into bass and striking drums. Noirwave sounds brighter than it looks on paper; with its upbeat, twinkling guitar parts and howling horns, it’s a positive take on a typically cynical term. 

    He released his debut EP, Noirse, in 2013. At the time, the chillwave scene was settling. Pop punk had a big hold on the mainstream for many years, but at that point, bands like Green Day and Blink 182 had long since been put out to pasture. Still, he used both of these genres as jumping off points for that EP, and when he mixed in traditional South African music, he had his own sound—that needed a name. When he wrote the new record in Johannesburg, he developed it into what he deems the perfect Noirwave album. 

    “No solid thing is out of place, which is good, and it shows where I am in my life,” he says of La Vie Est Belle / Life Is Beautiful. “I never listen to the older stuff,” he says about his own music, “It just feels a bit weird, I guess.” 

    When asked what he hopes becomes of this album, he knows: “I want it to sell, obviously. I want it to go, like, platinum, and see the album win awards. But most importantly, it’s about touching people and getting to their hearts, and making sure that it stays with the people who can relate to it.” 

    Later that week, when Yannick and his band ascend the stage at Brooklyn’s Afro Punk Festival, there seem to be technical difficulties. Originally, he was scheduled to play at 3:45pm, but he didn’t start until closer to 4:25. Instead of vocalizing any frustrations, he immediately laid his focus on his bright white guitar, using it to recreate the anthemic, round tones that make up his 48-minute full length. His band—also dressed in all black—followed his lead.

    “Live is just a different vibe,” he said, days before the show. “It’s like the battleground. I always see playing live as your energy on stage versus the energy in the crowd. It’s like a dance-off, and the drummer is the referee.” 

    If that’s how he sees it, then Petite Noir is constantly the victor in these battles. And, aside from a sound, that must be what Noirwave is: confident, moody, mysterious, and effortlessly cool—just like its principal, Yannick Ilunga.

    See behind the scenes footage and watch the video for Petite Noir's "La Vie Est Belle / Life Is Beautiful" featuring Baloji below. 

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