By Eileen Tilson
Making waves through the U.K. with their hit “Quicksand,” duo La Roux quickly rose to the top of the charts before bringing their 80’s synth music to the U.S.A. With repeated number 1 downloads on iTunes with their catchy songs “Bulletproof” and “I’m not Your Toy,” La Roux continue to dominate, selling out venues across the country. Having had to cancel their Atlanta Variety Playhouse date, La Roux is back playing November 5 at the Tabernacle. AMG sits down with “the red-haired one,” Elly Jackson.
You had to cancel your last show in Atlanta, and now you are back and at a bigger venue! Are you feeling better? Lots has changed since the summer.
To be honest, I had a really hard time over the summer. Canceling our U.S. tour was awful, it feels terrible knowing you’ve let so many people down but knowing there’s nothing you can do about it. I’d been singing on a strained voice for months and months and just didn’t have the time to get some proper rest and get better. It got to a point where I knew my voice was on its last legs and we did a show in L.A. and I just couldn’t sing. The notes just wouldn’t come out. I have spent the last month or so re-learning how to sing as I was told I could have given myself nodules.
You have been labeled this new wave pop star, Top Shop model, etc. and yet at your core, you channel a wise old soul. Do you always listen to your natural instinct? Do you think that’s what’s led to your massive success?
We certainly had to be absolutely adamant about who we wanted to be as musicians and as pop stars. I hope that being different has had a lot to do with our success, then that would prove to everyone who wanted La Roux to be something it wasn’t that we were right to stick to our guns. It’s very difficult to be the person you want to be in this industry though, and I struggle with that on a daily basis and even I have had to make the occasional compromise and “play the game.” Essentially fans want to feel connected to their favorite pop stars and it’s actually very hard to show them all of yourself and express your opinions without feeling terrified that if you do a hundred bloggers and journalists will slate you for it. It’s been said a million times but it’s so true.
Do you and Ben [Langmaid] write together? How does that generally work? Who writes the melodies? Lyrics?
It’s a completely collaborative process. Sometimes I come to him with an idea I have done at home and we work on it together. “In for the kill” was like that for instance; I had the first verse and chorus but came to a brick wall with the second verse and we wrote the rest of it together. Other times we just start fresh as a team. I hum and play things and Ben will record it all and we pick the best bits. Although the songs are pretty much about my life, they are all things that Ben can relate to and has experienced as we are very similar people; he is a brother to me. As far as the music goes, I play the parts, beats etc. and then we pick sounds and produce together.
You have been a success in the U.K. for awhile now. Do you find that the U.S. is reacting the same as fans in England? What are some of the differences you notice from the audiences in England and Europe vs. the U.S.?
The reaction is very different actually. Don’t get me wrong, we love our U.K. fans, but they are definitely a more difficult audience. The attitude is very much, “Go on then, impress me. Prove it.” Our audiences in Europe and the U.S. come to a gig to enjoy themselves, to have a good night out and dance all night. It’s lovely. They also tend to know the whole album, rather than just the singles.
When did you decide that you wanted to be a musician, and who was the first person you ever played for? What was the name of the first song you ever wrote and what was it about?
I wanted to be a musician since I can remember. My first ever gig was an acoustic set at a local pub open mic night, very different indeed to how it is now! The first song I wrote was when I was about 12. I’m pretty sure it was about unrequited love… what a surprise!
I read that when the first single “Quicksand” came out that you wanted it to come out grassroots style, so that it would be almost an underground song. Why was that important to you, why not just release on a major label?
Because I didn’t see myself as a mainstream artist at all. I went to warehouse raves and only listened to The Knife for about two years. Although we all knew “Bulletproof” would almost certainly be a mainstream success, which I came to want, it was still extremely important for me for the project to maintain its cool. We were signed to Universal at the time, but I wanted our first release to come more from the type of musical place the record was influenced by which was a lot of french electro, so Kitsune made perfect sense. Also, it’s so hard to have any real “from roots” growth anymore; fans don’t have the opportunity to grow with an artist nowadays and I suppose this was our attempt at doing that as much as we could.
Your favorite cities are London and Berlin. What is it about these two that draws you to them so much?
I love New York too. I’m a city person, I grew up in London so that’s my natural habitat. Berlin is amazing, the sense of history and the underground party scene there is like nowhere else. I like places where lots of very different people, from all over the world and with totally different stories, come together because they want to live alongside each other. I love the fact that you can do 10 different things a day in a big city and still not even come close to having done everything that’s on offer. You can’t get bored. Well, you shouldn’t anyway!
You were quoted in saying that you didn’t think anyone wants to kiss you, has that changed now?
Do you want to?
What are you listening to right now?
A lot of disco. I’d recommend ‘Beam Me Up’ by Midnight Magic, ‘I Need You Tonight’ by Punkin Machine.
If there is any one musician or producer you would love to work with who would it be?
I work with Ben obviously but I think he and i would both love to work with Nile Rodgers.
What’s coming up for you? Are you going back into the studio?
I’m in the studio as we speak… loving every second.
La Roux play The Tabernacle on November 5.