Practically every show has been selling out, besides the Philly and D.C. shows, where they had a state of emergency because of the heavy snow.
Liverpool foursome Ladytron caused quite a commotion when their debut album 604 came out of nowhere and launched the band as forerunners in the electronic music genre. They are not electroclash, they are not disco, techno, or house; what they are is a foursome of pop-driven electronic sounds wrapped in My Bloody Valentine swirls, Kraftwerk bleeps, and New Orderish teutonic beats. Their newest album, Light & Magic, has continued their propulsion into pop divination. It has shimmer, shine, and metalness, all wrapped in warpy synths, bleeps, and layered electonic melodies.
Playback St. Louis spoke to co-founder Danel Hunt in Chicago on the band’s recent American tour. Since the U.S. tour, they have released a new single, “Blue Jeans,” and returned Stateside to play the Coachella Music Festival.
How has this tour been going?
It’s been really, really good. Practically every show has been selling out, besides the Philly and D.C. shows, where they had a state of emergency because of the heavy snow. The Philly show was bizarre because only about half the people with tickets could make it. There was no public transport and cars weren’t allowed to drive. God knows how these people made it there. It made for a really nice gig because everyone was obviously so desperate to be there. But on the tour, the high points have been Boston and Columbus. I was surprised by Columbus because it is such a small place. We had no idea what to expect.
How difficult has it been to transfer the Ladytron studio sound into a live show?
I think it depends on your approach. Obviously, lots of electronic acts tend to either use a laptop or a DAT or whatever; they rely on that. But what we wanted to do was make it a real live dynamic. We are still using technology like we normally would, but we play with a drummer and a bass player. It’s more like a band. It isn’t really that difficult to translate to live now. The live thing is a lot more brutal than the record.
One of the things about Ladytron that is interesting is that you have managed to present yourselves as this very futurist, clean, art-schoolish band. Your image, from the artwork to videos and photos, seems very well thought-out and controlled, as is your Web site.
Well, to be honest, there is less planning than this would appear. The Web site, for example, is very corporate; it is not our design or anything. It needs to be redone. It is too slick for us. It’s quite hard to express what you actually are through the mechanisms of the band. All you’ve got is a photo. Do I smile? What do I wear? Besides the record, that’s all you can do. There’s not a component of people that make the decisions. We can’t even remember [making] the decision to wear uniforms. It just seemed the right thing to do. The way we appear implies a degree of planning that isn’t really there. It is more instinctive.
Where do your songs come from?
Lyrically, they are very nondescript.
Melodies just come from somewhere. They come first. They ca be hovering about for months and months before they’re even on tape. With “Blue Jeans,” I wrote that on the plane in my head. I never recorded it. I didn’t even play it on the keyboard until six months later or something. Songs are just a lot of metaphor. We are always annoying interviewers because we refuse to talk about what our songs are about. We just think it destroys their power as soon as you define it. There’s a level of ambiguity and interpretation. It’s got to be the power within the interpretation.
There is a certain melodic sleekness and lyrical ambiguity in Ladytron songs that make them work.
Exactly. I think it’s better when its asking questions. I think that with any kind of films, music, art, or anything, it’s go to be asking questions. It’s a better exercise.
What was the creative process in making Light & Magic? I read somewhere that you recorded it in pieces.
It was quite a short amount of time, about eight months. It would be mostly two of us at a time working on anything and we went to L.A. to finish it. It was about sixty percent done anyway. [The time in L.A.] was a time of rapid development for the tracks. We worked with Mickey Petralia and Roger Manning, as well. That was a good exercise, taking it to a completely different environment than the one it was written in. I think it is always better than recording in the same place it was written; that can become very claustrophobic.
So recording the album in Liverpool and Los Angeles was a refreshing change of pace for you and better in the long run?
It made us think about the tracks in a different way. If you take them into the sun, they sound different.
Was that process tiring at all?
It wasn’t tiring. I like staying in sunny places. [Laughs] I stayed in L.A. for quite a long time and finished the album. But I found I was losing the reference points of reality quite a lot. That was the only tiring element. When we were recording in Earth, Wind & Fire’s studio behind Hollywood Boulevard, the only other reference point was that area. There was nothing else really there.