The 405 meets Lætitia Sadier
"I have no idea if there will be any more releases as Stereolab," says Lætitia Sadier, who for the past two decades has been the voice and main lyricist of the influential Anglo-French band. "A part of me wishes that yes, another thinks that perhaps not..."
Stereolab were formed in 1990 by Lætitia and the guitarist Tim Gane from the c86 associated band McCarthy. After 19 years and many acclaimed releases the band went on indefinite hiatus in 2009, towards the end of a world tour. Since then Lætitia has been working under her own name, releasing the album The Trip in 2010 and now the follow-up Silencio. It is an impressive record and is much more than a side project, and it actually fills the gap left by Stereolab very well. I caught up with her as the album came out, and I wondered that, as Silencio sounds more her old group than any of her previous work and because Tim Gane has some input, if she wasn't tempted to release it under the Stereolab name?
She sets the record straight. "Tim doesn't play at all on Silencio, I just asked him if he would write a song, which he did. He sent me a demo via the internet. I wrote lyrics for the song and recorded it with my friends Aquaserge in Toulouse. There was no temptation there to release it as a Stereolab album! God forbid!"
That's a pretty definite answer but I was puzzled by the blurring of the lines between Lætitia's solo work and her side project Monade. What is the difference between that project and recording under your own name and how did Monade manage to co-exist with Stereolab for a long time?
"Monade could only be the counter part of Stereolab, as there is stereo and mono," she explains. "When Stereolab went on a undetermined break, Monade ceased to exist because it didn't have its stereophonic counterpart which gave it its raison d'être. It was a natural time to become Lætitia Sadier and not be defined by Stereolab any longer, though I realise that I'm still working on this very transition!"
Silencio sounds like a progression, it is more lush and less lo-fi than the The Trip. Did you approach the writing and recording differently?
"I always attempt a new approach on each album, and yet find that it always sounds like me," she says. "I am glad that you find it a bit different to The Trip. Personally I can't tell what sounds like what. I don't have enough distance from it, and only much later do I listen back to my work. For these recordings I did start writing on the keyboard rather than the guitar, but had to revert to my good old guitar ways as it had to be written pretty quickly. I realise I need to work more slowly in order to develop a deeper relationship to my work and stop doing the "urgent" thing! Maybe there is a kind of fear of going deeper and what I will find, but it is also a journey to the depth of being."
The album ends with a minute's silence recorded in a church. "Listen how resonant with truth silence is," are the last words which we hear. This seems like an epiphany, so was it something that inspired the rest of the album?
"As explained on 'Invitation au Silence' on the record, I found Silence in a church in Zamora, Spain. It was a surprising encounter, where by all of a sudden there was complete silence in that church and it created an infinite space in which I was able to connect deeply. I heard the echo of my ancestors, it was very inspiring. From then on I have been searching for silence again, and have found out that it is rare and difficult to find."
There has always been a strong political element to your work, and this is also very much in evidence here. Even on the opening track 'The Rule of the Game', you describe the ruling class as "overindulged children." Why did you decide to combine your 'protest' songs with such intricate, beautiful music?
"Politics can be intricate and beautiful! Or can they?," she wonders. "You're right, there are some protest songs on this album, but also reflective songs about Fire, the inner fire of passion for instance, which cannot be bought and sold. It seems that everything has a price nowadays, and all interactions are about how they can be profited from. There is an important debate here to be had, and I don't want to bring it about aggressively, but more in a manner of how can we think and talk about these things that define our relationships to the world and others. It is a sensitive subject. Although I agree there is a time and place to get angry with how we are manipulated to the advantage of the powers that be when really the powers that be should be in the service of the people!"
With the amount of discontent around and the rise of the Occupy movement, why do you think there aren't more people making political music?
"This is another good question. Why, seeing on how deep the crisis is, do not more people unite to oppose the capitalist system? And why do these questions do not arise more in the realm of the arts. Have we become so complacent? It seems to me that the idea of politics has been destroyed over the past decades. The idea of Communism completely tarnished by its terrible implications and all the bad propaganda around it. In the 60's people still believed that we could organise a better, fairer society and that we could live more authentic lives. Then we got caught up in false ideas of happiness 'owning your home, 2 cars, making lots of money' which sounds good on paper. but of course implies that you pay for this sort of happiness; that you get caught up in work, exploitation and relinquish your authentic self - and that isn't happiness! So perhaps there is still too much food on our plates and entertainment to occupy our mindless brains? Perhaps we are still under the illusion that 'I too can make it big and walk over everybody else.' I remember a time when most music around me was made to affirm independence in the face of 'the Man.' Everything thing had a political edge. Now it seems that bands groom themselves to make it big, and that's the sole aim, make money, have an easy life!"
Getting back to the music, Sam Prekop (from The Sea and Cake) also features on Silencio, is he someone that you have wanted to work with for a while?
"I had approached Sam when recording the third Monade release Monstre Cosmic," she says. "I had asked him if he would remix one of the tracks, but really what I wanted was him to sing on the track -however I must not have asked clearly enough! James Elkington (who plays on the album and who some may know from the bands Sophia and Elevate) suggested that we ask Sam to create an electronic part for the end of 'Auscultation to the Nation' on the new album, which he kindly did. I think it is a beautifully intense and poetic piece of electronics and thank him greatly for its precious addition to the record."
It seems that this is the continuation of something exciting for Lætitia, and she still seems inspired to make music, whatever the name. I wondered what she was hoping to do next. Her answer is hugely positive.
"My plan is to work my songs in a slower way, without safety nets. To get away from the methods I learnt at the Tim Gane school of music! (Tim wrote most of the music in Stereolab.) To dig deeper into the realm of possibilities without fear of getting lost, with trust that I will come across more beautiful interesting landscapes."
Finally, what inspires you to keep making music?
"The love of it," she says. "It is kind of gratuitous but it is also what brings a degree of structure and meaning in my life."
Silencio is out now, and you can find out more about Lætitia Sadier here.