The British electronic pop duo look back at their first decade
By Kathy Iandoli
Special to MSN Music
Goldfrapp's decadelong tenure in music has included surviving the ever-so-fickle tastes of audiophiles worldwide. While traveling through a bevy of soundscapes, including ambient, acoustic, and rock, the focal point more often than not rested on an electronic foundation.
With their latest album (and final offering on EMI Records), "Goldfrapp: The Singles," the duo of Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory not only aimed to conclude their stay at their label, but also reflect on a glorious first chapter of their career. The album includes two new songs - "Melancholy Sky" and "Yellow Halo" - with the latter of the two turned into a mini-documentary recorded solely on an iPhone. The vid strips down the synths and whistles of Goldfrapp's mainstay aesthetic and presents an au natural look at a group who pioneered mainstream electronic music. While penning their next album, Alison Goldfrapp talked to MSN Music about the past, present and future of Goldfrapp the band.
MSN Music: Your latest album concludes your current record deal, but what made you decide to make it a collection? Was it really just to finish off your contract, or did you feel it was time to look back on all of your singles?
Alison Goldfrapp: Well, to be honest, it was something we had to do. But at the same time, I sort of feel like it's a good thing. It's something EMI could have just done on their own, but we decided to get involved with the whole process. We thought that would be a better idea. So, we wrote two new songs ["Melancholy Sky" and "Yellow Halo"] for it as well, and it's been a good, kind of cathartic process in a way, I guess. Doing it, going through everything and, I don't know ... it feels like a good time to do it. It's been 10 years, so it felt like a natural time in which to do a collection of songs.
So, you actually filmed an entire film in South America based off "Yellow Halo" on your iPhone?
Yeah! It's amazing, isn't it, how we managed to make it behave like film. It's unbelievable. Yeah, I really like that little video. I've never done anything like that, since they're sort of personal, as far as those videos that are mixed with budgets and got hair and makeup. I haven't got any hair or makeup. Well, I've got some hair, but it hasn't been brushed. No makeup, and there's a sort of intimacy that I think works really well with the track as well. I must admit I've always liked watching little films of people with sort of, little glimpses into their lives on the road and what they do. I kind of like that sort of thing and doing it on the iPhone is such an easy and convenient way to doing it.
Goldfrapp was really at the forefront of the electronic music movement, and now it's become mainstream with the inclusion of dubstep and other styles. What have you noticed over the decade as far as the changes in the music and in the artists that have fallen loosely into the same category as you?
I just think things go round and round and, you know, that's just the way it goes. But yes, it's interesting like how electro-pop is a word that's sort of commonly used now, whereas no one had thought of that word, even when we were doing it. They were partly confused by whether it was dance music or what it was really. It's just strange when you think how lots of bands were using synthesizers back in the '80s. I think in the '90s it became deeply serious; everyone was wearing black. There's such a crossover of different sounds now and this sort of whole synth-electronic thing has become mainstream. It's so funny how those things work. In "Seventh Tree" we went and did pretty much an acoustic album, so, I don't know. What is interesting is how quickly things come and go, and there are so many artists, it seems! It just seems to be more and more and more and more.
More: See Goldfrapp videos
You mentioned that you were going toward more of an acoustic sound with "Seventh Tree." What made you go that route back then at a time when electronic music was exploding?
I think we just sort of wanted to try. We were using a lot of acoustic sounds as well as synthesizer sounds. Then "Black Cherry" [and] "Supernature" became very much more kind of hard and poppy and very much synth-orientated, and I think ... we were in the studio one day and kind of jamming with just the voice and one instrument, and there was something very refreshing for us about doing that. I think with each album, they've all been a bit like diary if you like. So it very much reflected how we feel, how I feel in my life creatively and personally. I think music expresses a mood and a feeling at the time, and we've always just gone with that.
What would you say is probably your favorite album thus far?
Oh my God. I can't tell you that! Gosh, I don't know! I'd say my least favorite is "Head First."
I really like about three songs on there. I really dislike it.
Why do you dislike it?
I think for me, I feel like what we've done, what we do is very kind of ... [pauses]. I think for me "Head First" is too on the nose. It feels too poppy, I suppose. As to the things we've done in the past have always been a real mixture of sounds and it's been more eclectic and less obvious.
Now that you've closed one chapter, what's next for you guys? Are you working on a new project? Are you working on changing your sound or going more toward the obscure or whatever direction?
I don't really know, to be honest. I'm really enjoying writing at the moment. We're both [she and Will Gregory] kind of just really enjoying the time and the space to just write and not feel any pressure. We're really enjoying that. I think maybe that's another reason why I feel uncomfortable about the last album. There were lots of things going on, and we were being rushed and just everything felt kind of a bit wrong around it. What was happening in the record company and sort of personally and business-wise, it's kind of slightly strange times. So the fact that we got this time and there's no pressure, we're actually really enjoying that space. It almost feels a bit like the first time again, really, which is a great feeling. So we're just really reveling in that. That's an exciting feeling.
It's like a totally blank canvas now for you.
Yeah, exactly! Exactly. Which is really amazing, so we're just really reveling in that, actually.
What do you do to inspire yourself to write? Do you have to hole up in your room, or do you have to go to the mountains, or what do you have to do?
Yeah, all of that. Reading, and I just kind of like drink in as much as I can, really. It's funny. I feel like I'm doing that even more. I think as I'm getting older, I'm appreciating the time that I have to go to the cinema. I'm like, oh, I just can't get enough of going to the cinema. I absolutely love it. It's just sort of, you know, going into the depths of the cinema and escaping. That's such a wonderful thing to do.
If you were to retire right now and do something completely new with your life, what would it be
Oh, God, I don't know! I quite like the idea of having a sort of farm and a teashop on an island somewhere. Becoming a beach bum somewhere.
A farm and a teashop on an island?
Yeah! Get really, really old and wrinkly and let my skin go to like a dark brown leather handbag sort of wrinkly, saggy t--s. I'm looking forward to that next phase, actually. Yeah, cool. Maybe I don't know ... a psychologist. Maybe I'd like to become a psychoanalyst or something. Or maybe I could be a psychoanalyst on a beach with saggy t--s and a sun visor and a teashop. I'm actually really excited by that concept. I'm looking forward to it. I can feel it coming on pretty soon.
Kathy Iandoli has written for publications including The Source, YRB, BUST, XXL,VIBE, RIME and Vapors, and her work has appeared online at MTV, AOL and MSN Music sites. She is the former Alternatives editor of AllHipHop.com and the current music editor of HipHopDX.com