Goldfrapp Discusses New Album, “The Tales of Us”

Shapeshifters

Oct 08, 2013
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After six albums skittering from haunted ambient soundscapes to hypersexualized dance floor fodder to dream-influenced folk, both members of London-based Goldfrapp admit that it would be near impossible to sum up their body of work in a single concise statement.

"It feels a bit weird to talk about it," moans frontwoman and vocalist Alison Goldfrapp, imaging the arduous task. "If I was in a cocktail bar and someone asked, I would probably tell them I did something else. I'd probably lie."

Multi-instrumentalist/producer Will Gregory gives the exercise a try, but concedes with a hearty laugh that his elevator pitch falls short.

"If they really wanted to know, I say it's songs that are all about atmosphere and drama and trying to evoke something," he says. "In some ways it's like an atmosphere to a film."

For their new album, The Tales of Us, the pair takes a sharp turn away from 2010's disco-driven Head First. Pressured to finish out their contract with EMI and under tight deadlines, both Goldfrapp and Gregory admit that they weren't pleased with Head First's final form. "Got to get an album finished," says Gregory pragmatically. "You get to that downward part of the slope, and you think, 'Hey, I can see the finishing line.' Suddenly it's not necessarily pretty, but you get there. So your album is finished and you think, 'That was a shame, why did we put that on there?'"

A kissing cousin to previous releases Felt Mountain and Seventh Tree, The Tales of Us sees Goldfrapp and Gregory eschewing their soaring synths and dance-driven atmosphere for introspective harmonies comprising guitar, piano, strings, and voice. It's a stylistic shift that Goldfrapp hopes will evoke the mood of some of her favorite singer/songwriters: Joni Mitchell, Vashti Bunyan, and Françoise Hardy.

"All the music that I really love is quite simple," she says. "All the things that I go back to are quite often singer and guitar or singer and piano. Cinema film scores. They say what they have to say."

"You need an antidote," adds Gregory. "Each record had been an antidote to the one before for us. Maybe this is the medicine that we felt we needed."

To assist with the lyrics, Goldfrapp turned to classic fairytales, dark cinema, and literature to help her flesh out tales of lost and wandering souls. She decries the films from the golden age of noir, calling them a "watery mess"-instead lingering on work by David Lynch, European auteurs, and psychological crime author Patricia Highsmith. ("I love her evil little stories," says Goldfrapp.)

"I didn't want to make an album where the lyrics were about me," she says. "I really enjoyed focusing on these characters and immersing myself in these characters and the music.... I suppose that's why I love reading and going to the cinema. It's the same when I'm making music. You totally immerse yourself in this world, in the sound, or the story, or the visual. I suppose it is escapism. But dream on!" 

[This article first appeared in Under the Radar's August/September 2013 print issue.]

 

 



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