Languishing in the lethargic haze of a late Friday afternoon, the pint-sized singer sinks back into one of the Covent Garden Hotel’s decadent antique sofas. “I definitely feel a bit like a sloth right now!” she laughs. And it’s no surprise that our interview should begin with discussion of the animal kingdom: Alison has always had an intense fascination with nature, as her album artwork and music videos demonstrate. And we all remember that infamous equine get-up of course. “Humans have always used animals to depict ideas about themselves through art and music, so I see them as a big part of our culture. They have always been a big inspiration to me,” she explains. But disappointingly enough, this latest offering, ‘Head First’, doesn’t directly reference our four-legged friends in any obvious way. After a little bit of digging however, I am told that the album’s primary cultural inspiration was Georgio Moroder’s soundtrack to Cat People, the 1982 erotic feline horror flick starring Nastassja Kinski and Malcom McDowell. I wouldn’t have expected anything less.
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“We’re both really into films, they constantly inspire us,” says Alison. “‘Cat People’ - the Moroder not Bowie version - kept cropping up as we were making the album. I would love to do the music for a horror film actually.” The duo have in the past namechecked Roman Polanski and the James Bond franchise as affecting their musical style. So films play a big part in their work, that’s for sure, but what else gets their creative juices flowing? “We get ideas from all sorts of things,” says Alison, speaking on the band’s inspirations. “Old books I’ve seen that I like to collect, films and fashion but not really fashion in the straight down the line sense. I guess it’s more like things I see in books on national costume or from old magazines.”
Goldfrapp have always produced their own records, with astounding results. But when asked if they would consider expanding their production portfolio, they were unsure. “If the timing was right then I think we’d definitely be interested in the idea of it - but not so much producing, more writing, as we like our sound for ourselves,” says Will. “I like the process of writing a song that’s totally out of character for us: we wrote a track for Christina Aguilera but we don’t know much more than that at the moment. They won’t play it to us!”
Nineties kids like me will have noted Goldfrapp’s musical progress over the years - subconsciously or otherwise - watching their career rise from the depths of obscurity to the blistering heights of global stardom. These purveyors of leftfield indie became pop sensations thanks in main to second album ‘Black Cherry’, and in particular to the success of single ‘Strict Machine’. This marked a substantial turning point in their career: the album made it to number nineteen in the UK chart, thus establishing them as a mainstream pop act. There was no looking back. Things went from good to phenomenal for the duo after that, with ‘Supernature’ diving straight in at number two. They had the winning formula.
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The trailer for the band's new single, 'Rocket'.
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And their popularity traverses oceans: Goldfrapp’s following in the States has gone from strength to strength since their inception all those years ago. “We have had a lot of good gigs over there. We have played in Canada quite a lot and in LA and NY, the usual places,” says Alison. “We always have a good time over there but we’ve never trawled America like a lot of bands.” Would they consider following by example and setting up home in the US? “We have spent time there but the novelty of it always wears off really quickly: after about four days you start feeling depressed, so I don’t think I could handle living there, although I do fantasise about it sometimes,” says Alison. “But if I move over there it will be because I’m retiring and going to live in an old people’s home to wear pink nylon and take loads of valium and sit in the sun.”
So, in ten years of Goldfrapp, what has been their proudest moment to date? “I think the fact that we’re still here and that we’re still standing is something we’re very proud of,” exclaims Will. “We did a lovely acoustic gig a couple of years ago at the BBC Electric Proms, which is something we’ve never done before. We had a string orchestra and a choir and we just played totally live, which sounded really good. It’s not so appropriate to this record as it turns out, but maybe in the future we’d love to do something like that again.”
Alison interjects: “Of course there have been ups and downs along the way. I mean, there have been a lot of brilliant gigs but some really appalling ones too,” she says. “They’re usually abroad at some god awful festival where you’ve driven miles out to a dusty field in Eastern Europe. And everyone’s standing there with their mouths wide open and you’re thinking to yourself, ‘Why am I here?’ and, ‘Why have we come all this fucking way?’ Sometimes there are deathly silences after you’ve finished a song and you wonder if it’s hatred or whether people are just soaking it all in.” William reminds her that they are famous in Norway for not clapping.
And how has Alison changed since the early days? “I think I was very naïve when we started because I didn’t really understand, especially with interviews, why people were interested in us and why they wanted to know why we did what we did,” she admits. “I didn’t really understand why I had to talk to anyone else. I was also incredibly shy and found talking about anything excruciating. Strangely enough, I found standing on stage pretty excruciating as well. Performing comes naturally but I think it’s dealing with the expectation that comes with that is something which isn’t always easy at first. I’m much more relaxed with it now and so being more relaxed with it means that I enjoy it a lot more.”
With their relentless energy and joie de vivre, this pair are going nowhere just yet: Goldfrapp’s polished pop sound and luscious disco vibes will surely stand the test of time, that much is true...
Words by April Welsh
Big Chill Festival 2010
Goldfrapp's Will Gregory is performing at this year's Big Chill festival. Join Clash on the road to the Big Chill Festival with news, interviews and features. Visit ClashMusic's Big Chill hub for all the latest news on the festival HERE.
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