Progress Report: Alison Goldfrapp talks about The Singles and opens up about the recording of a new album.
Earlier this year Goldfrapp released The Singles — a tidy 14-track compendium neatly summing up over a decade of work. Five albums deep into their career, Goldfrapp now occupy their own unique niche in the world of electro-pop music. As the songs on The Singles so warmly indicate, the band has a knack for marrying their twin obsessions — club-ready dance bangers and Kate Bushy synth etherialism — in a way that is distinctly their own. Furthermore, they’ve been making music for so long and so well that it’s easy to forget just how good at it they really are. Goldfrapp pioneered a kind of austere, chill-wavy synth-pop that lots of young bands circa right now are busy trying to replicate in their own bedrooms and basements. Unfortunately, most young bands don’t have someone with a voice like Alison Goldfrapp.
STEREOGUM: What part of the world are you in right now?
GOLDFRAPP: I am in the west country, which is west of London, very near Bath and Bristol. In the countryside.
STEREOGUM: Oh nice! Well, I’m calling you from Brooklyn, which probably isn’t nearly as beautiful. We’ve actually spoken once before. I interviewed you in New York, the day you guys played Radio City [Music Hall].
AG: Oh wow, okay. I remember!
STEREOGUM: So I’ve been listening to this singles collection, which is a nice summation of your career thus far. When you look at this collection of songs, how do you feel about it? Does it feel weird to see a decade of your work wrapped up in one object?
AG: It’s funny. We’ve kinda lived with it for quite a while now, the concept of it all. So, it’s actually a quite nice thing to do, after ten years – sort of the natural thing to do. It was nice to write two new tunes. That is what made it just feel kind of more like something substantial — a reminder of what we’ve done, but an indication of moving forward. But yes, it’s been quite cathartic. Going through the old songs, kind of like going through a wardrobe. It’s a bit like moving house in a way –- going through your drawers and thinking should I keep that or should I not? It’s been quite a process, which is still just … we are just very much looking forward to getting on with new material, to be quite frank.
STEREOGUM: Does it feel like making a line in the sand … and saying this is what it was, and now we can do something else?
AG: A little bit, yeah, and especially because we are not with the same label anymore. Yes, it very much things like past is done with now and it feels like a very good thing, a positive thing. We are proud of things we’ve done – and also not so proud of some things.
STEREOGUM: Well, it’s nice to know those old songs still have a life out in the world. For example, a few days ago I was the DJ for my friend’s wedding in Dallas, Texas. I played “Ride A White Horse” and lots of people — including some grandmas — were seriously getting down to it. I hoped you would appreciate that.
AG: Ha! Lovely.
STEREOGUM: I know you guys are recording now. What can you tell me about the new material?
AG: Well yeah, we are just taking our time and just going with the flow, in a very relaxed fashion. And enjoying that we have this time here in the country. It feels a bit like the first time we made a record. On the last album, Head First, it felt like we were really a bit rushed and a little bit strange, and I am very glad to not be in that space this time. I love the whole writing process, so Will and I are just really enjoying doing our thing at our own pace –- and not being hassled by anyone. It’s hard to believe. It’s good. We are really enjoying it at this moment. I think it feels good.
STEREOGUM: Has your way of working changed erratically over the years? Is it a very democratic process, the way the two of you make songs?
AG: Um … how does it work? It’s one of those things you don’t really know, to be honest. It might start with a lyric I did in the studio … or a melodic idea that could be a vocal idea or it could be a keyboard part or melodic line, or could end up being a string line, anything really. Most of the time, it’s Will and I jamming when we get into the studio, and um, chatting about things we like or that we’ve heard that we liked. There is no sort of set order or preference to how we start writing a tune.
STEREOGUM: One thing that I’ve always find interesting about what you guys do has to do with the balance between making really ballsy pop music and mixing beautiful and an inclination towards making really ethereal, spaced-out lounge music. You have a knack for marrying those two things. The songs included on The Singles represent a nice balance between those two impulses. Is it a conscious thing to sort of react against what you’ve done before? Or does it just happen the way it happens?
AG: If it is a reaction to what we’ve done before, then it is sort of subconscious thing, I think. We don’t want to repeat ourselves, but at the same time, we are drawn to certain things. But it does feel like it is almost like two personalities to it, which is sometimes hard to balance. When it works best is when it’s a combination of the two. I think I tend to kind of hate Head First because it’s almost too on the nose.
STEREOGUM: Too much of one thing?
AG: I think what has made it interesting in the past is a combination of things. Not just one inspiration … Head First is really only one direction and it’s particularly poppy. I’m really proud of the things we’ve done. I don’t think they’ve always been right, but I don’t think that is what creating is about. That’s the exciting part. I don’t want to find a formula really. That’s not what being creative is. Once you’ve found a formula, you kind of reach a dead end.
STEREOGUM: In a weird way, looking at your back catalog kind of reminds me of The Cure. There are people who will always love them for their pop songs and people who always love them for their darker, moodier music, but the band has always been a balance of what seems like two opposing impulses. Given how the marketing of pop music tends to work, were you guys ever pressured to go in an increasingly pop-oriented direction?
AG: No, to be honest, we have not…except with like picking singles or labels and producers wanting to get or stuff to the radio. They wanted to speed songs up and put beats on them and things like that –- just horrendous. It’s still kind of like that. Still, we have been fortunate that we have never really had that kind of pressure, to be honest. We have made the things we wanted to make.
STEREOGUM: That’s good to hear. What do you imagine the rest of this year will be like for you guys?
AG: I don’t want to get 30 gigs this year. I just want to write and do new things – and take some time out with all the things that have happened, all of the stuff around The Singles. We’re sort of building a new platform, if you like. I feel like I sort of need to wipe the slate clean, to start new stuff.
STEREOGUM: Are you guys working out of your own studio space?
AG: Yeah, we have our own studio. It’s sort of tucked away up in a house on the countryside, quite domestic. Neither of us like being in a studio proper, unless we are recording strings or drums or something. It’s a good way to work. I really like being in the countryside, having that space and focus.
STEREOGUM: The two new songs that are on the singles collection are really beautiful. I didn’t realize until I’d watched the video for “Yellow Halo” a few times that it was shot with an iPhone. Did you shoot the footage yourself?
AG: No, it was shot by Lisa Gunning. We really loved the way it came together.
STEREOGUM: Well, thank you for taking time out of your schedule. I’m looking forward to hearing what you do next. I’ve also been closely following your Twitter updates on your cat.
AG: Well, thank you. I’m really excited about the new stuff. It feels good to be just on a new beginning. Hopefully we’ll maybe we’ll speak again when the new record comes out.
The Singles is out now on Astralwerks.