MAKING A SCENE
Why Lewis Ofman is the toast of Paris right now
WHEN PRODUCER LEWIS OFMAN sits at his keyboard to write, he imagines a scene in his mind. It’s always two people. Maybe they’re walking, maybe just looking at each other. They’re in love, he says. His songs are always romances that play in his mind.
The 20-year-old, Paris-based artist’s music traces a line through eras of Euro pop: the warm and funky bounce of French house or Italo disco’s animated melodies packaged in plasticky tones. The orchestral pop of classic romantic Serge Gainsbourg guides like a polestar (perhaps that’s a bit like telling an American band they sound like Dylan or Springsteen).
His greatest influences, though, are the soundtracks of old cinema — the sweet, swelling strings of Italian productions from the ’60s and ’70s, especially, the moody worlds of composer Ennio Morricone. Ofman wants his music to impact the audience like film, he says. “Every time you finish a film that touches you, you carry it in your head, in your atmosphere, for the next two or three days.”
When he imagines the best place to play his songs, it’s the car, he says, driving on a highway through the countryside during the night. “No lights, no people, just one person driving and thinking. I want my music to make people think about themselves.” It’s a curious ambition to place on dance music.
Singing in la langue de l’amour and shuffling in his Guccis, Ofman enamoured the crowd at a Toronto East Room show most fully when he stepped to the keys, where he flexes in jazzy flourishes and witnesses push close to capture video proof because damn, he’s good. His main keyboard, the Technics unit pictured on the cover of his Yo Bene EP — which he calls his soul, his friend, and his voice — broke in sound check, so he performed on an off-brand loaner shipped at the last minute and didn’t miss a beat.
Cinematic and set to the clip of a mean strut, Ofman’s music has found favour on fashion runways. He likes those projects because the scale of the show lets him build a larger world than a pop song does. That means he gets to soak longer in his private cinema, and he gets to dream a bigger dream.
That transportive power is Ofman’s gift. For his listeners, the headphones become a dance club and the street becomes a runway.