The Freedom of Sound With Stereolab

This last July we had the opportunity to speak with the lovely Laetitia Sadler of the experimental/lounge/Kraut Rock whatever band known as Stereolab. Laetitia sings in French as often as in English and her lyrics are intelligent and searching. Seeking meaning in life and society, her ideas range from wide political themes to more personal issues yet she always comes across as informed and likable. Lets hear what she had to say about Stereolabís latest album and about the themes running through the songs.

Highwire Daze: What is the full title and meaning of your new album?

Laetitia Sadler: Cobra and Phases Groop Play Voltage in the Milky Night. Itís open to free interpretation.

HD: What songs from the new album had outside producers and players and what did they contribute?

Laetitia: We did have a few contributors. We have some regulars and some new contributors. We have Sean OíHagen from the High Llamas, heís been with us for many years. He came into the studio a few times and recorded some bits on keyboards, we did some groovy harmonizing and he did some brass arrangements. He did all of these funny bits that sort of dress up the songs. We worked with John McIntyre whom weíd already worked with on Emperor Tomato Ketchup and Bits & Loops. Heís a sound engineer but he's also a musician who brought a lot of ideas to the music. Heís a drummer, so a lot of his ideas were in rhythm , complicating-up the rhythms so they arenít too boring for the listener, and a few keyboard lines and such on People Do It All The Time, at the end it goes (sings) ďDoo do doot do do dooo, do do doot do do doooÖ.Ē Isotope 217 has this coronet player called Rob Manzurek [who John had recorded some trumpets and coronet parts with] and we also worked with Jim OíRourke who you are probably familiar with, heís a great character, fun to work with, full of ideas. He wrote all the string arrangements and came up with a lot of good, strange, funny sounds.

HD: Itís good to know that you are able to work with so many other people and bring their ideas into your bandís framework.

Laetitia: Itís actually very important to us. These people that we know, we donít need to explain to them for hours what we would like, itís already almost pre-understood. Not said but there is sort of the same quest to let the song be born in front of us and do whatever it takes to make that song. That kind of process where influence the song and the song influences us. It says ĎI need this and I need that.í Do you know what I mean?

HD: Your songs seem to flow very organically and are very free. While every one is playing their instruments and jamming will you be singing little harmonies and stuff?

Leatitia: Thatís right.

HD: It seems to me that with the complex arrangements that your vocals and harmonies mesh well with the music, you donít try to fill the song with too much of your voice.

Laetitia: I think that you need space. I think it would be tragic, especially with my lyricsÖthey are already quite denseÖsort of filling up the song they would be indigestible to the ear. I think the songs need space and I think weíve understood that, thereís no point in overcrowding the song. There are already so many ideas and they are already so layered that you need space for everything and everybody. Usually I sing the sort of lead-ish part and Mary has her counter singing going on.

HD: you do sing off of each other, donít you.

Laetitia: Yes, we do.

HD: Thatís a very distinctively Stereolab sound. I donít know of too many other bands that even have a male and a female singer who will play off of each other like that.

Laetitia: Thereís a lot that can be done like that. To us it is completely natural, we are so used to it. You can do a lot really, donít be afraid to bring in things. We will work together most of the time.

HD: Do you play instruments also?

Laetitia: I play the Moog Synthesizer Opus III. Theyíre great. At the same time as being an organ, a polyphonic organ where you can play more than two notes at once, you can also get it to sound like a whale screaming and all sorts of bloops. Theyíre a very fantastic instrument.

HD: Thatís perfect for you because with your voices, organs and different harmonies going around it all meshes well together. I saw you when you played Lollapalooza a few years back. You performed in the Cal State Dominguez Hill Velodrome, a bike-racing track.

Laetitia: I remember. I had such a hangover that day. A humongous hangover from Nick Caveís party the night before. I must have drank a bottle of vodka on my own. I was so hung over, it was horrible. Everyone was so drunk at the party, the Nick Cave mob, who drank so much the whole evening, and when we left around three or four oíclock in the morning they were still at it. When I found them the next day they didnít look hung over or anything. How did they do it? So sorry about the hangover.

HD: I didnít notice.

Laetitia: Good. It was quite a good lineup at that Lollapalooza. We tried to get Nick Cave to come over to the side stage, out of the dust, to where he would be able to play to more of his fans.

HD: I think he made a few converts while playing on the main stage. When are you going on tour?

Laetitia: I reckon in November or December, weíll come to L.A., the West Coast, sure.

HD: Whom are you touring with?

Laetitia: We are going to tour with Jim OíRourke, and whomever else they will be quite the support act.

HD: What set you on the way to becoming a singer? Did your parents influence you?

Laetitia: They did indirectly because I didnít get along with my parents so music was my best refuge. The best thing that would fill the big void inside. As far as doing music, it was always in the aim to give back to music what it had given me. Thatís what prompted me to do music, to be in a band. I used to go to concerts in France, on my own most of the time. I was just a big fan; music was my best friend.

HD: Who was your favorite group when you were young?

Laetitia: I liked the Residents, Joy Division, McCarthy, Timís (Gane) old band. When I was even younger I was into disco music, Donna Summer, Michael Jacksonís Off The Wall. That goes back to when I was 10 years old.

HD: I like how there are three women and two men in your band, it gives a great balance of masculine and feminine to the music and the image of Stereolab. Is Tim the dominant personality of the band?

Laetitia: I wouldnít say heís the dominant personality, because heís not a boss type of person, he canít be, he canít give orders or anything. Stereolab is very much the product of his ideas and we serve these ideas, we nourish these ideas and perform these ideas. We make these ideas ours as well.

HD: You write the lyrics, so you have that.

Laetitia: Yes, thatís my bit. On this new album I have a central theme to those lyrics. I was concerned about freedom and how freedom is formed. Itís something that is looked upon as bad, that people shouldnít be free, they should be controlled, they should be surveilled. They should be protected; they should not take any risks. I was looking at what was behind all this, how individuals are degraded somehow, they're just viewed as being bad. And how we shouldnít trust each other. I think society suffers a lot from that, that bad view of the human being who is either a victim or someone with thoughts; an aggressor. I donít look at people that way. I think you get much more out of people if you trust them and if people are ďresponsibleizedĒ and take responsibility for their own lives rather than the contrary. I was just thinking of all these tendencies and I think that freedom is such an important issue. So many people have fought for it. Now you get all these left-wing people going íyes, put new lawsíÖitís always supposedly to coerce the baddies, but in the end it just to coerce everybody, to discourage everyone to take any risks or feel responsible for what they are.

HD: It seems to me that there is a basic laziness in humanity to be reactive and know that the easiest way to control people is by making them not want to do anything themselves.

Laetitia: Itís not just the government, itís the people themselves. In London there are CCT (Closed Circuit Television) cameras every-fucking-where on the streets, not just in private areas, in banks or whatever, but on the streets. It is an invasion of the publicís fear. You should be encouraged in the city to be creative and to be assertive, to do things. Here it is the contrary, the people know the CCT cameras are good because we catch the baddies and in fact people have to watch their behavior all the time. When youíre being filmed all the time the spontaneity goes. You become very conservative in your behavior. I think it is a bad blow for Democracy, a bad blow for humanity, a bad blow for freedom.

HD: I think that the ideas expressed in ď1984Ē were just a few years too early.

Laetitia: Yes, because it is very authoritarian. We live supposedly under this New Labor socialist government but they are so authoritarian. Itís very scary. Itís really about distrusting people and people ask for more police, more State intervention. Even inside their homes. I see it as a very bad thing. People need intimacy. It doesnít mean that because they need intimacy, that they are up to no good. It just doesnít mean that. It really kills the creativity, peopleís desire to do things. To be creative and forward looking.

HD: Wow. You put that all into song.

Laetitia: Of course I didnít. Such was the central theme. A lot of the songs that I wrote specifically I reaction to thatÖsome of them ended up as b-sides, some of them we didnít have time to record. Maybe itís not so strong on the album, as a central theme, but it is there. The free design is blatantly asking the question ĎWhy do people want to be trapped?í It is also looking at the project of autonomy that has been going on since the Greeks when they came up with the idea of Democracy. At the time slaves and women werenít aloud to be part of the democracy. There was a project there, an idea, and I thought it was a worthy idea because people were conscious and knew what they were fighting for. They knew that they were members of society, they could decide about their surroundings and that really empowers you when you can decide how your society is going to run. Whether or not society is going in the direction you chose is different because thatís why there is voting, and there are people who think differently than you. At least you have a say. At the same time [the Greeks] their whole idea was to be able to govern, like every citizen was to be able govern and be able to be governed. There is reciprocity in that process. Itís a project that has existed for many hundreds of years and gets resurrected now and then, in the French communes for instance. But now this project is completely annihilated it seems. People just donít want to be free, they want to see cameras, they want more rules and regulations, to tell them how to behave, even in what they eat. Itís bad to eat fatty foods, its bad to smoke. They want to be told whether they have to wear a condom or not. Itís getting into the realm of self, not just at work, but in your house. They want all these rules and regulations. Itís getting really, really crazy. I see Democracy as a very empowering process and if people knew what is to be gained out of autonomy, when you make your own decisions, you know why you do things in your life and it makes sense, and you know that itís worthy. The sense of empowerment, wanting to live and when you want to live, you want to do more. Itís really excellent. I think only too few people have come across this will, this great feeling of knowing why they do this, and why itís worthy of them.

HD: Iím glad you are out there thinking these thoughts and singing your songs because it certainly appeals to me. You got your message across.

Laetitia: I think I must go now. I hope you write a good piece. It was good talking with you. Iíll see you in L.A., in November. Bye.

Be sure to get Stereolab's new album and look for them to tour at the end of the year.


Main Page: Read More of Bret's Ramblings

Elektra's Stereolab page: Read More about your favorite band on Elektra's site with photos and sound clips.

The Official Stereolab Homepage The most comprehensive site on Stereolab to be found anywhere on the web.

pixelelectronique Take a look at this incredibly designed fan's site. Choose the hi-fi.

Stereolab check out other Stereolab site addresses on this page.

This page has been visited times.

Nedstat Counter