Like so many great electro-pop duos, Sally Shapiro first came together while singing Christmas carols… Okay, so maybe their backstory isn’t so common… But neither are their methods.  Sally Shapiro is one lovely and anonymous blonde chanteuse (who prefers to just go by Sally Shapiro) and producer Johan Agebjörn, who work primarily in the realm of 80s Italo Disco.  The two got together in 2004 and have, since, released two LPs and over a dozen singles. However, Sally Shapiro has never performed live.  Next Tuesday, February 26th, Paper Bag Records will be releasing the band’s third LP, Somewhere Else.  And, despite her introversion, I recently got a chance to chat with Sally Shapiro about the duo’s current state.

Sally Shapiro photo

Izzy Cihak: It’s been a few years since your last LP.  What have you been up to since then?

Sally Shapiro: Well, in my private life, there’s been a lot happening! 🙂 But, as Sally Shaprio, I’ve just appeared on some collaborations. I appeared on a few tracks on Johan’s album, Casablanca Nights (including a duet with Fred Ventura), and I appeared on Anoraak’s and Wolfram’s albums.

IC: What can fans expect of Somewhere Else, in comparison to your previous works?

SS: Well, it’s a bit more varied than the earlier albums, we think. There are more acoustic instruments (flute, saxophone, guitar), more guest producers/musicians than before, and more experiments with different genres of electronic music. But the 80s feel is still present and the style of songwriting is pretty much the same: melancholic pop songs with typical Italo Disco harmonies.

IC: Do you have a favorite track on the album, that best characterizes your current musical passion? “This City’s Local Italo Disco DJ Has a Crush on Me” is definitely one of the best things I’ve heard of 2013.

SS: Thanks! My favourite track is “What Can I Do.” It was the last track we made for the album. We thought the album was finished, but I felt I wanted something more indie-poppy on it, so I talked Johan into doing something with flute and guitars.  It’s a bit like Belle & Sebastian (a band I really like) going disco. We were really happy with the result, so we made it the first single. Johan’s favourite track is “If It Doesn’t Rain.”

IC: What were the album’s biggest influences, whether musical or otherwise?

SS: Apart from the obvious influence of Italo Disco, there are influences from genres like funk, indie pop, eurodance, trance, ambient, IDM, and jazz. It’s a difficult question to answer because, of course, your whole life influences you, but often probably on a subconscious level.  You’re not always aware of where everything is coming from. But we chose the title Somewhere Else because, somehow, I’m seldom happy where I am in my life.  I always want to be somewhere else. And maybe that’s reflected in the music.

IC: The album is being released courtesy of Paper Bag Records.  What attracted you to this particular label?  Do you have any labelmates that you’re especially fond of?  I’m quite a fan of Yamantaka//Sonic Titan, The Rural Alberta Advantage, and Young Galaxy.

SS: Paper Bag is great to work with.  They do things seriously. The label boss (Trevor Larocque) is a big fan of our music, and that’s, of course, important, to have a stable supporter who believes in you. Paper Bag has put out all our albums, as well as Johan’s solo album. It feels like a stable label relationship and they help us a lot with finding good remixers, for example. As far as the Paper Bag roster goes, we, of course, have to mention CFCF, who has remixed us twice and we also made a special version of CFCF’s “The Explorers”.

IC: I actually quite identify with your unwillingness to tour for seemingly practical reasons that exist profoundly among more solitary individuals.  But I’m curious if you ever consume live performances of others that you find to be particularly intriguing, inspiring, or engaging?

SS: I don’t go to many live concerts, and maybe that also contributes to why I’m so uninterested in touring – I don’t really understand the thing with standing, packed together, with a lot of drunk people and listening to music that sounds much worse than the studio recordings. I prefer to listen at home. But sure, I’ve been to a few concerts that I really enjoyed, Swedish singer Marit Bergman for example, and Kraftwerk.

IC: What are you most excited about in 2013, whether in regards to your own work or anything else going on in the world of music?  Are there any acts or scenes that you find to be especially interesting?

SS: Honestly, I’m really bad with checking out music! I listen a lot to Regina Spektor’s albums these days. So if she will release something new this year, I would probably listen to that 🙂