At the sound check Tender Forever is picky with the sound engineer. Everything has to be in place and the sound has to be right because later on stage she is not going to make any compromise, but cutting loose, forgetting everything around and going deep into performing her music. "Who needs fucking machines when there are humans," she will animate the finger-snapping crowd during one of her songs. Tender Forever has a lot of energy, with a lot of head shaking, bending, jumping, crying - letting her hair down. Although she speaks about exhibiting herself on stage, she tells stories and performs songs with a comical and ironic touch. Introducing a acoustic set with the words: "Magazines wrote about me that I am a comedian, so I decided to play a little guitar, to show you that I am not a comedian. But I hate it.", performing a love song to Beyonce or putting the word "Peace" on a picture of fries reveals also a playful, self-ironic artist behind the very serious and devoted musician.
Melanie Valera, born 1977 in Bordeaux, comes from a Franco-American background and started performing as the one-woman-band "Tender Forever" in 2003. Since then she has released two records: "The Soft and the Hardcore" (2005) and "Wider" (2007). Her music is described as free-minded pop with tender, gentle and feathery sounds. Synthesizer-sounds, strings, percussions accompany her clear voice telling stories about the dark sides of life, strong feelings and bonds of love and friendship. "Tender Forever" invites her listeners to overcome oneÂ´s inhibitions and the ideogical obstacles between humans.
AVIVA-Berlin: The "LFSM Festival 2010" presents exclusive female musicians and the idea is to support all kinds of womanly music. Do you understand "tenderness" as an expression of womanhood?
Tender Forever: Yes I guess so. But I guess it`s more a personal way of thinking of love and trying to think about an alternative to it. Being in love doesn`t mean that you are more tender. Tenderness means being really soft. Sometimes people in love are really hard. I know actually a lot of men that are really tender. So I think it depends on your personality.
AVIVA-Berlin: How about your band name "Tender Forever"? Does it include a kind of programme, a certain wish or a mission? What does it mean to you personally and your music?
Tender Forever: I think of it definitely as a slogan or kind of mantra. I think itÂ´s more something I want to reach out for. Something I am trying to be and maybe itÂ´s part of me, but more like an ideal.
AVIVA-Berlin: You are not a tender person?
Tender Forever: I think I am, I am mostly like really rough. But mainly itÂ´s because I am a woman and I am alone and I am doing all that stuff alone. It makes you kind of harsh and hard in some ways. But then you have to be humble as well, because you are lonely and you have to meet people and work with them. But you also have to get the things that you need in order right to work. ItÂ´s like a hard pack. ItÂ´s like having a soft spot and receive whatÂ´s surrounding you. No matter if it is good or bad. I think being tender is to observe a little more.
AVIVA-Berlin: I read on the internet that you are "openly lesbian". Since we are talking at a womenÂ´s music festival I would like to ask you: would you label your own music as "female music" or "lesbian music"? Is there such a thing? Are there certain topics that belong to such a category?
Tender Forever: I think thatÂ´s bullshit. Ricky Martin just came out. Everybody thought he was straight. He played all this crazy fucked-up songs about all these girls he would potentially have romances with and he had this woman carrying his baby. Now he has twins and the day that woman gave birth he said: "I am gay and I have always been". I think the content of your music is important not the type of music. There are lyrics and content that people relate to more easily. But I donÂ´t really want to think about that. I am part of my community and I love so many things about woman and so many things about queer artists. But I donÂ´t get up and think: hey today I am going to write a lesbian song.
Â© Undine Zimmer, AVIVA-Berlin
AVIVA-Berlin: You do use a lot of instruments in your songs. There are for example clarinet sounds. Which kind of instruments do you prefer in your music?
Tender Forever: I play so many instruments and I use all those instruments my friends play. I play just a little bit of everything. I am not a specialist, but I love keyboards.
AVIVA-Berlin: Your lyrics are very strong and in the centre of your music. Your voice is very clear and every word seems to be important to you. You tell stories about abandonment, about observing oneself and about loving. Which are the key moments for new songs?
Tender Forever: When I sit down and write I donÂ´t know really what I am going to talk about until it first comes out. I donÂ´t really have a proper way to write a song. I am rather hectic. I just sit down and play keyboard a lot and itÂ´s sort of an accident most of the time. Happy accidents I guess. Sometimes I need to sit down and say something, but I donÂ´t know what it is about yet. It just comes out and I try to listen to myself. Life inspires me, I write about things I know and that I have experienced. I am a really grounded person and a heavy being.
AVIVA-Berlin: How is vulnerability and passion related in your lyrics?
Tender Forever: They are really close. I donÂ´t think you can be vulnerable and not be passionate and you cannot be passionate without being vulnerable. If you show passion, if you show your true self then you are vulnerable. And if you show your self vulnerable, you must have done something passionate. I think they are really a great reflection of who I am and what I do. I do expose myself a lot and sometimes people donÂ´t like it, but I have nothing to hide and if I want to say something I am going to say it.
Â© Undine Zimmer, AVIVA-Berlin
AVIVA-Berlin: In the beginning you said, "Tenderness is about being in love. Are you always in love?"
Tender Forever: I am in love with friends, I am in love with the place where I live, I am in love with what I do. I am in love with what is around really. I have had in my life lovers and I think love is not necessarily a partner that you get to kiss before going to bed. Love is like getting up and doing your thing and doing it the best you can. And itÂ´s about receiving love, too. Which sometimes is not an easy thing. So yes, I am always in love.
AVIVA-Berlin: Could you tell us something about your future plans?
Tender Forever: I have so many actually. I am going home in 7 days and I have multiple projects - multimedia projects. I will come back to Europe and tour a little more and 2011 is right around the corner. I will be recording more music. I started this heavy metal band with other ladies and I am excited about starting 2 other bands. So 2010 is just about playing a lot of music.
Thank you very much for giving us your time. Have fun on stage!
Visit Tender Forever at: www.myspace.com/tenderforever
Read more about The Female Indie-Music Festival 2010 at: www.lfsm.net
Read more at AVIVA-Berlin at:
Interview with Golden diskÃ³ ship