SISU: Sandra Vu, Scaring Herself

I kind of want to hate Sandra Vu… She’s been drawing comparisons to The Smiths, The Cure, Siouxsie, Cocteau Twins, Lush, and Slowdive… I draw comparisons to Russell Brand…...

I kind of want to hate Sandra Vu… She’s been drawing comparisons to The Smiths, The Cure, Siouxsie, Cocteau Twins, Lush, and Slowdive… I draw comparisons to Russell Brand… However, she’s certainly earned all of the glorious comparisons.  In her latest project, SISU, she produces a kind of anti-pop music.  She filters the greatest kind of Post-Punk through a Shoegaze aesthetic for something that is both very morose, but strangely infectious, something that makes you want to tap your foot, despite giving up hope on humanity.  It’s pop music for the disenchanted.  SISU released their first EP, Light Eyes, in April, and their debut LP, Blood Tears, is due out September 17th.

Although SISU might be new to you, Ms. Vu has been helping to make pretty cool sounds for some time now, most notably as drummer in Dum Dum Girls, but also drumming for The Raveonettes, Boredoms, and Dirty Beaches.  SISU, however, is a creation that is entirely hers, which she holds more dear than anything that she’s ever done (Which also, apparently, scares her more than anything else she’s ever done.)  She’s going to be bringing SISU’s live show to Johnny Brenda’s Monday, September 9th, supporting Dirty Beaches and, from what I understand, it’s a show worth going out of your way to see.  I recently got a chance to chat with Sandra about her admirably intense passion for her latest project.


Izzy Cihak: Since this is a Philadelphia-based publication, I have to ask if you have any significant thoughts on or favorite memories of the city?  You’ve been here a few times now.

Sandra Vu: I went to school there one summer in high school and I drew naked people and got hit on by a girl for the first time. It’s been downhill since then. Just kidding, SISU opened for Cat Power at the Electric Factory last time we were in town. That was epic. I wish I could spend more time there so I could have more than just late night cheesesteak memories. That’s so cliché, but every band always ends up going “there.” Johnny Brenda’s is a great venue though, and I’m so excited to play there again. The stage is perfectly intimate. What else? I really like that song “City of Brotherly Love” by Cass McCombs.

IC: What have been the highlights of SISU, thus far?

SV: Putting out Blood Tears tops it all. I took it from my bedroom to the pressing plant, literally. It’s been quite a journey. Every little step is a milestone. The other day I picked up cassettes from Burger Records (for our split release)–such a minor thing but still, every time something becomes real and physical is definitely a highlight. I make all the artwork, too, so it’s especially rewarding to see ideas and things fully formed.

IC: You’ve played in quite a few cool bands.  How do you feel like SISU compares to your other projects, past and present?

SV: I can’t compare, SISU is closest to me in every way. It sounds quite different from every other band I’ve played in. In a collaborative project, you always end up compromising, which can be great, too. In SISU, I can go ahead and make a song with no drums, no guitar nor bass guitar. I can go ahead and make a weird flute song, if I wanted to. Having said that, I like playing in other bands, as well. It’s refreshing to turn off your brain sometimes and live in someone else’s vision.

IC: How was the transition from drummer to frontwoman?  Are there any aspects that were especially exciting, or especially scary?

SV: The transition was not easy. When you’re playing other people’s music and not singing your own words, it’s so much easier to simply perform. I can detach myself mentally sometimes and feel like I’m watching the show myself. I’m not sure if that means I’ve just grown completely bored or what. Maybe the right word is “comfortable”. It’s definitely freeing, which is nice. Being a frontwoman, I have all these other concerns, many of which have not much to do with the music itself or performing. I guess I am a bit of a control freak, so I am hands-on with many aspects of the show. I get easily distracted by many small details, like adjusting someone’s amp. That sounds a lot like micromanagement. Sorry, band! Maybe that’s just a symptom of dealing with the uncertainty of the whole thing. Anyway, whatever makes it scary is exactly what makes it exciting so I try my best to embrace it.

IC: What are SISU’s biggest influences and inspirations, whether musical or not?

SV: My Bloody Valentine are back right now and they are such a huge influence on me. Very obvious, but essential! They changed the way I thought about music.

IC: What are your personal plans for the immediate future, whether relating to SISU or not?

SV: Second LP! And hopefully a real vacation.

IC: You’re about to head out on tour and have a September 9th stop here in Philadelphia.  What can be expected of SISU live?

SV: Dave, our touring bass player, is going to be creating visuals en route to our shows. I don’t even know what to expect. Also, we sound different live, harder.

Band Interviews

During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.