Live at Loch Lomond - Róisín Murphy
Róisín Murphy may be the fashion A-list’s darling, but she’s also responsible for a decade of glorious pop nuggets. Claire Sawers talks to her about her sartorial flair and equally spectacular back catalogue
A backless dress with a microscopically small pork pie hat. A sequinned black body sock topped off by a feather boa. Spray-on Lycra and a red ‘Allo ‘Allo beret. Pop chameleon and ex-Moloko frontwoman Róisín Murphy knows a thing or two about killer combinations. When it comes to picking out eccentric, androgynous or eye-rollingly aloof outfits for her concerts and videos, she knows that when it’s done right – maybe topping off a three-piece suit with a 50s fur stole or some ankle-snapping 70s wedges – the finished article will be greater than the sum of its parts.
That eye for a perfect fashion match has come in handy during her music career. ‘I’m a collaborator, there’s no question,’ says the County Wicklow-born girl, in her strong Irish accent. She’s at home on a break between playing giant summer festivals like Benicassim, The Big Chill and Live at Loch Lomond, and has found time to blether on the phone. ‘I’m a born gaffer, as Mark (Brydon, her former boyfriend, and other half in Moloko) used to always remind me, but I love collaborating – whether it’s on a video, a photo shoot or an album. The more I have to organise, the better really.’
As someone who once claimed to bring out the creativity in the men around her, some of her most memorable, and lovably off-kilter work has come from clever pairings. First it was her and Brydon, taking the piss one drunken night. They’d met in a club that evening, and she chatted him up with the line, ‘Do you like my tight sweater?’ A few hours later they were back at his studio, and Murphy was coyly purring it into a mic. The line became the title of their debut album. During their eight-year partnership they created a string of electronic dancefloor fillers, full of bleepy synths and throbbing bass, including the theatrically vocalled, ‘The Time is Now’ and ‘Forever More’ and their over-played Ibiza anthem, ‘Sing It Back’.
But it was Murphy’s inspired decision to work with experimental electronica maverick, Matthew Herbert that produced a career high. Their album, Ruby Blue, came after she’d split – both romantically and professionally – from Brydon and re-launched herself as a solo artist. With Herbert on production duties, and Murphy bending her ice-cold deadpan, or at other times honey-dripping, come-to-bed voice around his glitchy, twitchy beats, it was one of 2005’s more complex pop gems.
Moody disco tracks like ‘Sow Into You’ and ‘If We’re in Love’ were also a perfect showcase for another of Murphy’s special skills – dancing. Imagine a jerky, jelly-legged style, then throw in some cocky strutting and bendy body-popping, and you’re probably almost there. ‘I can’t help myself,’ laughs Murphy. ‘I love it, and I think it’s very important to dance. It’s such a human thing to interact with music, and lose yourself. It’s good for you too.’
Crowds at Live at Loch Lomond can expect to see some of her robotic shape-throwing when she headlines the main stage, no doubt in one of her trademark quirky but sexed-up outfits. ‘I love that tension when I perform live, of being glamorous on one hand, but then losing it completely on the other.’ And before all this talk of catchy disco choruses and a showgirl’s wardrobe leads to any comparisons with other pop dollies, Murphy hates being tarred with anyone else’s brush. She might share Björk’s love of musically left-field sounds, Kylie’s crowd-pleasing charm, or Alison Goldfrapp’s love of a good multi-coloured frock, but she likes the idea of occupying a pigeon-hole all of her own.
Murphy says she can trace her fiercely individual streak back to when she was nine-years-old. ‘I had this beautiful, long blonde hair,’ she remembers, with a half-snigger, half-sigh. ‘But I went uptown with my pocket money and got the hairdresser to give me a marine’s flat-top. I went home and me father cried his eyes out. From then on I guess I was a bit of a rule breaker about everything.’
It’s one of the reasons she loves the fashion world so much, and plans to spend September hopping between fashion weeks in London, Paris, Milan and New York. Once that’s done, she’ll be ready to settle down to make the follow-up album to last year’s Overpowered. ‘All the weirdos who got picked on in school for being too tall, too outrageous or too individual have found a place for themselves in the world of fashion,’ she says. ‘It embraces the weirdos, so they can be free to express themselves.’ Her fashion connections meant she was asked to perform at the glitzy Swarowski Fashion Rocks show, and more recently provide the soundtrack for a Gucci advert. ‘Moviestar’ – the dancey, techno-lite result – will be released as a double A-side single in the Autumn, along with a cover of Bryan Ferry’s ‘Slave to Love’, produced by another favourite collaborator, electro producer, Seiji.
Headstrong, unique, avant-garde – call her what you like. She’s blaming it all on Sonic Youth. ‘They were my first love. I went to see them when I was 14 and that changed my whole direction,’ she recalls. ‘I started hanging around with the weird kids at school, and stopped trying to fit in. I found my identity then, and found a lot of strength in. I felt stronger for it, not weaker.’
Róisín Murphy plays the Main Stage at Live at Loch Lomond, Sat 2 Aug. See www.liveatlochlomond.com for line-up.