Do you have any idea how difficult it is for a radical leftist, genderqueer, humanities professor not to champion people like Lætitia Sadier? So yes, a fondness for the French, postmodern, Marx-influenced chanteuse and composer may be a bit obvious, but I think it’s more than warranted. Although best known for her gig as Stereolab vocalist, Sadier also has a potent catalogue of solo work (in addition to collaborations with artists as impressive and disparate as Luna, Mouse on Mars, and Tyler, the Creator). Sadier recently released her third full-length, Something Shines, on Drag City last month. Like her previous two solo efforts, Something Shines boasts a similar brand of post-rock/indie pop as Stereolab, although more stripped and just plain more blunt. However, the album is actually slightly less explicitly sociopolitical than previous solo efforts… while still utilizing Guy Debord to deconstruct the mess we’re currently in… The theme of the record would seem to be the responsibilities that come with being human, not so much in regards to rallying or revolting, but in terms of considering the role you play in the society in which you live and the impact you have on those you come into contact with. The album shuffles between the breezy and abrasive, both sonically and intellectually. It is likely her most complex solo effort yet and she recently took some time to tell me about it… which actually began with the most poignant foreign perspective on “The City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection” I have heard in my time as a journalist.
Izzy Cihak: Since this is a Philadelphia-based publication, I have to ask your thoughts on the city. You’ve played here numerous times over the years. Any particular favorite memories?
Lætitia Sadier: Philly has always been a bit of a mystery city on the US map. I remember it took us a long time of touring the US before getting our own Philly show… I remember a lot of racial tension in Philly, a sort I hadn’t experienced anywhere else, poverty cohabiting with riches… It is a stunning city which for me was like a small NYcity, forgotten about in the early 70’s, which of course gave it its appeal. I made a good friend in Philly the first time we played there, still good friend to this day. Last time the LS trio played — a very beautiful pub whose name I forget alas [Johnny Brenda’s]… She took us to the woods. It was good to experience some nature close to the city. I remember a big bridge over a river, which had a great symbolic meaning at that time in my life; it was about crossing it and heading on to a new land… All in all I can say that I love Philly!
Izzy: You recently released your third solo LP, Something Shines. How do you feel as though the album compares to your first two solo albums, both in terms of the sound and the process of writing and recording it?
Lætitia: Something Shines took nine months to make, so much longer than the two previous albums, which were very quick to make. I wanted it to have a maturing process, like a slow fermentation that would bring about its own transformation. The sound is perhaps more experimental, but I will let the critics do their job here.
Izzy: I really love your interest in cultural theory, the humanities, and people like Guy Debord. I actually teach his work at Temple University. Are there any other theories or theorists (or anything outside the world of “music”) that you find to be especially influential to your own work, or just your own understanding of the world we live in?
Lætitia: In terms of “thinkers,” there are a couple that have influenced my thinking. The first I can name is Cornelius Castoriadis, a Greek man who lived in France from the age of 18 — that would have been in the early 40’s. He was a philosopher, economist, historian, psychoanalyst, and generally someone who based his thinking on reality, the beauty of the earth, the amazingness of life processes and people; he wasn’t just a dry philosopher, only concerned with concepts and making reality fit into his ideas. I felt a lot of love coming from his thinking and a real sense of being led in a visit to higher spheres. I also like Hannah Arendt. I admire her strength in her thinking, also more concerned with reality. She had to stand against pettiness and preconceived ideas that people around her had at a certain given moment in time. And that particular struggle still needs to be fought alas… Someone like Gunter Anders also fascinates me, someone who analyzed the drama played out in what would be later named by Debord, La Société Du Spectacle, and how it would impoverish and strip humans of their sense of creativity and their sense of identity. When he realised that a lot of them were more driven by their egos than their genuine desire to have a transformational impact on reality, he refused to be called a philosopher and enter the ranks of various institutions such as universities around Germany.
Izzy: Throughout the years you’ve collaborated with a number of really cool musicians. Is there anyone you dream of getting a chance to work with that you are yet to?
Lætitia: I’d like to collaborate with Beck. I feel he is a musical brother of mine and I long to mingle notes with him! I would like to work with Peaches too, more for personal reasons than musical, though I am sure we would come up with something surprising…
Izzy: What do you have planned for the future? You’re playing some shows in Europe. Any chance of some US dates?
Lætitia: Indeed a big European tour is planned in November with the trio. I am hoping to get to the US by March. I am faced with very high visa costs which make it difficult for a band our size, that wouldn’t do an arena tour (!), to tour the US. New taxes are introduced as well, 30% of pay of our fee every night goes to pay off the bankers’ interest … Anything to penalize workers…