If only one thing is clear from speaking to Laetitia Sadier, it’s that she has come into her own since going solo. Once the lead singer of hallowed alternative indie rock band Stereolab, Sadier has just released her second solo album, and she couldn’t be happier with the creative freedom this move has granted her.
Describing the process of writing and recording an album as “much more complete” when she’s going it alone, it seems as if she felt quite stifled when she was part of the band. While she wrote almost all of Stereolab’s lyrics, it seems that the band’s guitarist Tim Gane took the lead when it came to the music. Sadier explains: “In Stereolab, I would have sounded more satisfied if I could have had my musical way with it, to some degree. I think Tim was very scared of passing any musical responsibility to anybody apart from Sean O’Hagan. They are considered arrangers; they don’t write songs particularly but they bring a touch here, a touch there. I wanted that. I have that in me; I enjoy writing songs.”
Describing herself as more like Gane’s muse than his collaborative partner, Sadier could only dream about the songs she would write had Gane allowed her the opportunity. She describes her frustration during that time, saying: “It’s not something that one necessarily controls. What drove me to write songs was that I dreamt I was writing songs, so they came out in my dreams; it was my only outlet then. At some point I just started writing songs almost mechanically, almost without me consciously realising this was happening, until I realised consciously and thought: “Ah yes, I can do this”.
It seems funny then, given her drive to put music out that had her own stamp on it, to call her latest album, Silencio. However, she disagrees: “Silence doesn’t mean emptiness, or no sound, or nothing, so I don’t think it’s necessarily an opposition to music. In fact, there is a lot of silence. Music is silence-based. I mean I had the title before I had any music or even any intent of making a new album. It came about in a church of all places. I am not necessarily a church girl, but I was in Spain in a place where there were a lot of churches and there silence presented itself to me. It was absolutely like an epiphany. It was a deep connection with the self and beyond the self, you know how connected we are to all other beings and the universe so it was a very strong experience, and in there I saw the resonance, I resonated with everything and everyone. I found a profound political significance in that.”
Sadier is nothing if not outspoken in her lyrics, and that political significance is something which crops up again and again on this record. She explains: “I felt that the capitalist system and its dictatorship over us presents a loud noise and vibrates on a level. It presents a deeper connection. You are more deeply connected with yourself and you’re more at peace and you’re like, you know that everything is okay. You need to buy less stuff and it’s only when you’re kept in a state of fear and insecurity that you’re going to be more compelled to buy products that you don’t need essentially. I felt this idea was not translated enough in art and particularly in pop music, so it ended up being a theme for the record.”
This is one of the more important aspects of music-making to Sadier. When asked whether she felt her music could make a difference politically, she says: “Well in as far as changing the world, possibly not. But yes, I think that any form of political expression will help solidify a political awareness. I was educated, pop music informed my political awareness a lot because I used to listen to a lot of pop music in the ‘80s and the whole mentality was about being indie. You do it yourself, and you say ‘fuck you’ to the big commercial apparatuses that you have to subject yourself to. That was ‘indie’ in the ‘80s and early ‘90s.”
Sadier believes the indie scene has turned almost entirely on its head since she began her music career. She cites Nirvana gaining popularity as the first major sign that money and capitalism were starting to seep into musician’s ideals in a way which she doesn’t believe was entirely healthy for music as an art. “I think that it is dreadful, that everyone is so desperate to make a living out of this. I’m sure there are still pockets of resistance, but generally I don’t see the world that we evolved in. I see a lot of bands who can actually play in tune, who can actually sing, who can actually move but who don’t have any musical idea or political background in their body. It makes it rather empty, an idiomatic system to support that and it is, well, boring.”
Still trying to hold onto the ideals and beliefs which she tries so hard to put to the forefront in her music, she’s taken the show on the road. She’s currently working her way around the major cities in the UK, but she’s most looking forward to revisiting Dublin. “Dublin is always vibrant and fun. You are always guaranteed to meet some super nice interesting people, not that I want to flatter you or anything. It’s true though when you get to Dublin you are guaranteed that it’s going to be colourful. I’m really looking forward to going to Ireland and I’m really glad that Ireland has appeared on the tour. It’s always a pleasure.”
With no apparent plans to get back together with her Stereolab bandmates in the near future (“You should ask Tim that because I really don’t know. I’ll just get on doing what I have to do.”), it seems that Sadier is happy to run with her solo career, continuing with her own personal kind of musical rebellion.
Laetitia Sadier plays the Workman’s Club on November 9th. Tickets are priced at €16. Silencio is out now.