Published Sep 21, 2010Twenty years after forming Stereolab, chanteuse Laetitia Sadier has finally taken the plunge and gone solo. Having worked with side-project Monade for three albums, going out on her own isn't much of a shock, especially considering Stereolab's hiatus, but neither is The Trip. While Stereolab is Tim Gane's baby, Sadier's musical tastes aren't far removed. With the kind of autonomy she likely wouldn't receive in Stereolab, Sadier's songwriting is loose, yet structured, with a cast that includes Richard Swift, April March, Rebecca Gates (Spinanes) and members of Monade. With this support, Sadier is free to move fluidly between Krautrock ("One Million Year Trip," a tribute to her late younger sister, who took her life), neo-lounge ("Another Monster"), a post-disco cover of Les Rita Mitsouko's "Un Soir Un Chien" and, of course, Stereolab's perpetual avant-pop ("Natural Child"). Always recognized most for her silky, bilingual intonation, The Trip is an album that wows and flutters, proving Sadier is an artist capable of more than fronting Stereolab.
What made you decide to release a solo album after all these years?
I already made three albums with Monade, which ran at the same time as Stereolab. As Stereolab have come to a natural point of rest, it was a good time for me to step out of the "side-project" territory and play under my own name.
Do you feel different at all being Laetitia Sadier the artist, as opposed to Laetitia from Stereolab or Monade?
Well I am Laetitia Sadier regardless of where I am or with whom I play. I am further down the line, writing and singing my own songs. Performing under my own name brings about more responsibility, particularly at the moment because I play alone... Still I would like to perform with a band again at some stage, probably next year.
You've always been the lyricist for Stereolab, but found Monade as an outlet to contribute more to the music. How does going solo compare to your roles in those bands?
Monade was a side-project, which this isn't any more. This step seems a natural one to take as I had some personal things to express and as the band format of Monade became difficult to maintain when I moved away from Bordeaux. It's hard to keep up a band with such distance separating us... Besides it really didn't make sense anymore to try and keep it up.
Some of your lyrics on The Trip get very personal, much like the last Monade album. Was going solo an opportunity to be a little more free with your music?
I am still not as free as I would like with my music. The last Monade LP took me to where I wanted to be at the time; it felt like an artistic achievement ― as well as a beautiful human adventure with so many friends participating in it. The Trip has been a great human adventure too, but somehow I must accept that one can only take so many steps at a time and that it is difficult ― if not impossible ― to walk away from oneself all together.
How would you describe the experience of recording The Trip compared to recording with Stereolab and Monade?
The Trip was home produced. Firstly at my friend's house near Oxford in August of last year, and at Richard Swift's house ― his garage turned studio ― in October 2009. Although I am in the driver's seat, I like to really collaborate with the people I am working with and am not scared to include as many people as I feel is necessary. Very different to recording with Stereolab, which was a less integrated process for me; it was more in bits, like working on a production line!
The arrangements on The Trip don't feel like such a major departure from your other work. Would you say that has more to do with your taste in music or because you have such a distinct voice that is easy for the listener to familiarize with?
It is very kind of you to offer those choices. I haven't yet reached the point I want to get to with my music, to be somewhere I don't recognize... I think it is yet a question of working it out and having the time and space to do so. It will come.
There are a few different musicians who helped you with this album. What were you looking for in a collaborator? Did they come in before or during the recording process?
I very much enjoyed working with Richard Swift. I felt that whatever I came up with, he would have followed my ideas; his capacity for exploring musical ideas seemed limitless. I am ready to collaborate again with him knowing that I can be much bolder! Generally I don't like working/ recording alone. I enjoy having good company, people I can bounce ideas off and then move on in the moment. I will write the song in a sort of rough demo version and take it to the studio where it will be dressed and developed together with the collaborators.
What is the status of Stereolab? There was talk of a hiatus and rumours the band had split and then news of a new album came.
The new LP is the second part or as I describe it, the "night side" of our last LP Chemical Chords. The band hasn't split up officially but Andy our drummer quit at the end of the last tour. If and when Tim is ready to write some new Lab material, then we might take it to the studio once again.
Last year Stereolab's manager said there were no plans to record new music. Where did Not Music come from?
We wrote 35 songs in 2008, selected from a previous 54, which took nine months to complete ― from composing to final recording and mixing. The first batch of songs became Chemical Chords and the second batch from the same recording sessions is Not Music.
Tell me a little about Not Music. How does it differ from previous Stereolab albums?
I really like it; it is my real Chemical Chords! There are two very interesting and beautiful remixes of "Silver Sands" and "Neon Beanbag" by Emperor Machine and Atlas Sound, which cohabit well and expand the record into other dimensions. I like its generally darker and more fluid quality. I find it haunting, shining softly upon a deep blue velvet background.
Will we ever hear the album you recorded with Mouse On Mars?
We have to record it first! Will that ever happen? I don't know, but I keep my hopes up.
How would you say your outlook on making music has changed since you first started working with Tim 20 some odd years ago?
A lot more seems possible now in my outlook than it did 20 years ago. I was fresh out of my Parisian suburb, from which little seemed possible. Where you had to be touched by the grace of God to ever make it as an artist or into music… Now I realize that making music is not an insurmountable effort; that the process of meeting and trusting people is an enriching one; that it is about liberating one's ego rather than wanting to control every aspect; that sometimes it is a painful process but it can also be a lot of fun!
Your son Alex is at the age where kids really develop a taste in music. Does he ever weigh in on the music you're working on? Is he a fan of your music?
Alex like most boys his age listens to Daft Punk and Michael Jackson. He doesn't comment to me on our music, Stereolab, Monade or The Trip. He silently absorbs it all! Very hard to know exactly what goes on in his mind regarding music. His taste is still in the making; difficult for the son of two musical snobs like Tim and I! (Drag City)