Laetitia Sadier – Interview – 2017

Best known as the singer and keyboardist with the hugely admired and much missed Stereolab, a key band of the 90s and one who helped introduce 'post-rock' as well as bringing analogue synths back into action. Sadier has been pursuing her own projects for the better part of ten years; firstly with her four-piece band Monade and now as essentially a solo artist. Her last three records bear her name, whilst the just released Find Me Finding You has been released under the name Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble. Whilst Stereolab were largely about mixing lounge with krautrock droning and sing-song vocals, Sadier has broadened her musical palette in recent years, forging many new and sometimes experimental musical combinations, that sit alongside her continuing interest in political philosophies and ideas in general.

First of all, can you tell me about the title track, and why you decided to call the album that?
I'm not certain why the title Find Me Finding You imposed itself in the way it did at the time. My work is very intuitive and I just follow. Only after can I interpret why in the end things are as they are!

What I did like about the title was the reflexive aspect of the ‘Me’ and the ‘You’. That if I am to learn about myself, I will have to learn about you, the other. We are all mirrors of each other, we are all part of one another. It may be just a philosophical point of view but seen this way we are less isolated in our own little spheres.

I think it is more realistic to our condition as living beings, to see it through the lens of one another.

Why did you decide to call the band Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble, when your previous albums have been made under just your name?
Again my preoccupation was to find balance between the notion of the individual – which is totally overinflated in our contextual neoliberal ideology – and the idea of the collectivity, which we would need to found our basis to a new way of organising society more effectively.

So I wanted my album to reflect this idea that nothing on such a creative scale – very modest at my level, but still… is ever done alone. It is a collective effort. It is done "ensemble", together, for a much better result! I believe we need to push the notion of togetherness and collaboration in such an over-individualistic world.

Can you tell me about the band and players on the album?
There is a good number of collaboraters on this album. There are my usual acolytes, Xavi Muñoz on bass and Emmanuel Mario on drums and production work.

The band has expanded as we welcome Nina Savary. She completes the sound perfectly, with her voice – the four of us sing which I am most excited about – and some keyboards and synths action in the live formation. She also sings quite a bit on the album as do another bunch of friends who were willing to sing the string parts that both Jeff Parker and Joe Watson (ex-Stereolab) wrote.

Phil, Man From Uranus, brought some synths parts to ‘Committed’ and ‘Love Captive’. David Thayer played from his array of keyboards on many of the songs, as well as some flutes. Mason Lelong added a couple of assertive guitar solos to 'Reflectors' and 'Undying Love For Humanity, he plays together with Joe Carvell in a band called Batsch, who will be supporting us on tour throughout the UK. Joe came to the house with his double bass and we spent a whole afternoon experimenting with those sounds. Chris Cummings, alias Marker Starling, wrote 'Deep Background' which I then sung and arranged.

Hope I'm not forgetting anyone!

How did you hook up with Alexis Taylor (of Hot Chip)?
Ah, I forgot Alexis! We met a number of years ago when we did a bit of touring together in the US. They supported Stereolab on that occasion and we befriended each other. I remember watching them every night and having a large smile on my face and in my heart. They were so brilliant.

I always wanted to sing a duet with him and it made sense to ask to do this with me on 'Love Captive'. He kindly accepted.

Can you tell me about any underlying themes on the album?
The importance of togetherness and collectivity in the time of change that we are facing. Also the lyrics visit ideas of empowerment of the people, that force is on our side, not the side of the ruling elites who fear us getting organised independently. To act out our power as a societal body.

Another theme in 'Love Captive' is one of our rapport to love and ownership of the partner in wanting to belong in intimate relationships. Not that I come to any conclusions on that, but I observed the phenomenon both in my private life and in others around me and thought it is really worth exploring. Love, like so many other things, needs to be reinvented.

There are other themes, of avoiding facing up to hardship and wanting instant gratification, the sacredness of life, and voluntary servitude. Our capacity to perceive reality in ways that we think are universal and the disillusionment that can arise around this failure to analyse subjective conviction. And affirmation of the life force.

Can you tell me about your working practices, how the songs came together?
I collect sounds, chord sequences, lyrics, song titles, melodies, basslines as they arrive, ad hoc, furtively delivered from somewhere mysterious. When it is time I go back to my data bank and develop some of the bits into songs, associate them, and string songs together.

Then at some point it is clear whom needs intervene, such as Rob Mazurek who plays one of his very special coronet solos on 'Love Captive'. Emma Mario does a lot of polishing up the sound scape, at a later stage. A lot of what is written is done so on the fly. I don't do any demos. I find it kills the original energy of the music.

What is ‘The Woman With The Invisible Necklace’ about?
That is the song about tyrants, and that if they even exist it is due to the fact that we implicitly uphold them in their place of power.

Also, it highlights the fact that we all want stuff for cheap, avoiding paying the real price for things – and that includes our freedom – and the tragic twist to that is that the revolutionary concern is severed.

You have said that music is your best friend, and that it opened up your life in the years following punk (I’m guessing we’re talking the early-mid 80s here). Can you tell me a bit about that, the music that inspired you, what you felt and saw in it?
As an 11-year-old, when I lived in America with my family for two years, the song 'Heart Of Glass' (Blondie) would be on the radio regularly. Each time that happened it felt like a moment of transcendence! Time would stop, the whole world would stop beyond time and space, and I would enter the mesmerizing garden of music… I had a sacred relationship to music.

After punk, the music of the eighties in Paris was a highly creative time, where the DIY ethos prevailed. It was about being responsible for your life, taking it into your own hands and responding to one's true artistic desires, with no fear of exploring. It was a freeing time, which quickly dissapeared under the weight of judgemental and self-conscious attitudes which crushed that beautiful rise of creative self assertiveness.

I note you were born in May ’68, the month of the famous French Revolution. Do you think there is some kind spiritual kinship with that notion? Where were your parents at the time?
I really can't know for sure. I tend to think that there is a link between my rebellious nature and the insurrectionary times of 1968. It was amazing how people took to the streets, and not just the students, everybody – mostly – was out on the streets discussing what needed to be done, what the problems were and how they could be solved. Everybody took turns to speak or listen to what others had to say and measure their own thoughts and impressions on the time. People formed groups everywhere and talked, talked, discussed, argued, shared visions. There was an incredible vitality and urgency in that month of May. A great film/documentary to watch for inspiration on how we could proceed for our own revolution is May Day 1968 by William Klein.

As a Frenchwoman living in the UK, how does Brexit feel? Are you a natural European, how does it feel this notion that EU nationals are currently observing their future as being one where they won't be able to live in the UK.
Like a lot of people at present I feel my future in the UK is very uncertain indeed. I do feel European more so than simply French or British. A citizen of the world even!

I'm trying not to panic about how to react to all of this, but I certainly am thinking about where to go next. The tricky bit is that there is no El Dorado to flock to and I love my life in London. I don't know. Theresa May's government promises only dark times for the people… the levels of pollution are worsening… maybe it is time to move on?

The inevitable Stereolab question, I’m afraid. Are they still considered to be on indefinite hiatus, and why is that?
Yes, we are still on indefinite hiatus, until the day, should it ever happen, we decide to break the hiatus.