Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier to play Celtic Connections 2012
Material from Sadier's solo album The Trip, plus Stereolab songs
This article is from 2012.
In 2009, when Stereolab announced plans to go on indefinite hiatus, the group’s spectral-voiced singer Laetitia Sadier prepared for a life away from making music. Her other project, the pop quintet Monade, closed for business the same year. Suddenly, after 20 years of touring and recording, the road ahead seemed destined to take a different turn; most likely in the direction of a new career as a London-based shiatsu professional. ‘I didn’t think I would carry on in music. I was ready to stop,’ she says. ‘But it seems like the universe reached out to get me.’
When Sadier was given money to release a solo record on Drag City, the shiatsu qualification was put on the back burner. Critics lavished praise on The Trip, released in 2010, a short but compelling album of fragile, lo-fi torch songs; Sadier’s transition to solo artist was deemed a success. Moreover, it has given her a renewed confidence as a performer.
‘It has been super formative,’ she says. ‘I went from barely being able to play my guitar to really enjoying it. It was also quite liberating for my voice and emotions to find the space that for years I didn’t have. It was always a struggle to be on stage with those boys [her Stereolab bandmates]. They could crank up; I could never crank up. It often happens as a female singer – you get crushed by the boys.’
The Trip was written in a bubble of grief. Many of the songs, such as the haunting opening track, ‘One Million Year Trip’, deal with the suicide of Sadier’s little sister. Her next album, likely to be out by the end of the year, will look outward. ‘It will be less introspective and hopefully it won’t be about grieving anybody in particular, although there might be songs about my little sister,’ she says. ‘I feel what’s going on in the world right now is quite intense and there seems to be a lot of material there. I think the consciousness is rising. There is still no political will to act successfully but it’s clear that something must change. For a songwriter it’s quite an inspiring time.’
Balancing the nature of songwriting with a message, and a personal musical aesthetic that rejects overt sermonising, is a challenge that excites the French-born singer.
‘It [political music] is not very conducive poetically; it resonates differently than, say, a love song. I don’t want to be overtly political and come out with slogans. I want it to be subtle. I like universal subjects that resonate with everybody. I think you just have to think a little harder than just ‘fuck the system’ and instead think of ways of coming to it sideways.’
Sadier will record the album between Christmas and New Year before heading to Glasgow for Celtic Connections – where she plans to perform some recently worked up Stereolab numbers as well as new material – and then on to Chicago and possibly Belgium to complete the tracks by mid-Spring. Although happily domiciled in London with her son Alex, by former husband and Stereolab bandmate Tim Gane, it’s clear Sadier, now 43, still relishes the opportunity to rack up the airmiles.
‘The way music changed my life was about empowering myself to do it,’ she says. ‘If you want to do it go out and do it. It was a punk rock thing. I think I still believe that.’ And will the Stereolab hiatus ever be over?
‘When I know, you’ll know,’ she says with teasing laugh.
Platform, Glasgow, Sat 21 Jan, as part of Celtic Connections.