Smile Politely

Lætitia Sadier: Seeking silence to create noise

Former Stereolab member Lætitia Sadier took some time to talk with us while in London, on a break from touring. The affable French singer shared some insight into her latest album, Silencio, what inspires her, and what fans can expect from her at Pygmalion. Sadier plays Friday night at the Canopy Club.

Smile Politely: I wanted to start by talking about Silencio. You recorded some of it in a church?

Lætitia Sadier: Not really, but something in a church prompted the title. It was recorded partly in a French studio near Toulouse and the other part in Chicago, in my friend’s attic.

SP: Oh, so it was just the last track on the album that you recorded in a church?

Sadier: Yes, uh huh.

SP: What made you want to do that?

Sadier: It was a recreation of something that happened in a church in Zamora, Spain, where at one point there was complete silence and it was a very interesting experience. It was very profound. There I realized that silence is very rare, for one thing, and it’s very rich because it allows you to connect more deeply with what is going on inside you. I do value self-knowledge very much because I think it enables you to grow better and know others better. There I thought to myself, “Okay, my next album will be called Silencio.” I then recorded at home the text I am reading [on the last track] and handed it to a friend of mine whose job it is to record silence for movies. On movies all sound is fabricated.

You need silence in a room, silence in a kitchen, silence wherever — they layer the silence with sound on the street or in a car or whatever. My friend is completely equipped to record silence, so I asked her to take my recording into a church, which is up on a hill and very beautiful, nearby the studio I recorded in Toulouse. She did that with her extra quiet equipment. She broadcast the text in the church, where she recorded, and I asked her to follow that up with a few minutes of silence. So she had to wait for a time when there was no one in the church before she could proceed with the recording.

SP: That’s very interesting, and the message behind the rest of Silencio is also very interesting. NPR called it “an honest-to-goodness protest album,” is that a fair assessment?

Sadier: Yes, there is protest. There is also … I think for me it is important to know what is human. Protest is an important aspect of it, but there is also a more spiritual aspect of being aware that there are things you can’t buy or sell. We live in a system that is very insistent that everything is buyable and sellable and everything can have added value put upon it. I reflected on a theme like fire, for instance, because I studied a little bit of Chinese medicine and they looked at life and humans and everything around us elementally. You have fire, earth, water, metal, and wood — these are the five elements contained in nature and they have an interaction with each other. These things can’t be bought or sold. I looked at fire specifically, like passion or the heart, I looked at that and thought that it was sacred. You can’t get that on the Internet. Like a lightning, or a thunderbolt.

SP: It’s easy to draw a parallel between your message and the Occupy movement. Is there any influence by Occupy on this material?

Sadier: Not directly. Although, I am interested in such movements, I never got directly implicated with the Occupy movement. I think we live in a climate that calls for organization and revolt and maybe asking some questions. And also, we live in a time where there is a big shift going on and awareness is arising around the fact that the system is not working for most people. It is working for a minority now, which it has for a long time, but now it is becoming more apparent that we are brainwashed, and living in fear, to sustain a system that we have to serve rather than have a system that would serve us. Of course, in that sense, there is a resonance and there are pockets of people that are more aware and less fearful than others. And I hope for more. Occupy is not enough; indignatios is not enough, but it’s a beginning. Of course, I think I stem from the same feeling of deep disappointment with the system and anger also. Wanting to start to ask questions like how could we get rid of the system and maybe create a system that would work for most people on the planet.

SP: With your live performances, do you feel the message you have about capitalism and spiritualism is conveyed well, especially at a music festival?

Sadier: I don’t know. I can’t be the judge of that. But I feel there is a place for everything, because we are all confirmed by this every day. I don’t feel it should be reserved to particular places. Of course, the bigger and wider the better.

SP: With this tour you’re embarking on, are you mostly playing music from Silencio or is it diverse, based on your background?

Sadier: It will be a good part of Silencio, of course, then maybe some older stuff from the The Trip, maybe some Stereolab too.

SP: When you play Stereolab tracks, do you feel like it’s a new take on the songs?

Sadier: Yes, it’s new because it’s not like Stereolab with a band, so yeah, it’s new.

SP: Is that more fun for you to do, or just a different experience?

Sadier: I don’t know.

SP: Have you played those songs before?

Sadier: Yes.

SP: Is that something fans enjoy and really respond to?

Sadier: Yeah, I felt people would want more, but I found people came to see me, to hear me, whether I play Stereolab or not. I think it’s nice to play a little bit of Stereolab. It’s nice to honor it, but generally people don’t come to just hear Stereolab; they come to hear me. I have learned throughout all the concerts I have played on my own the last few years that genuinely people came to hear me.

SP: You have a rich musical history and your music has vast influences. I was wondering what kind of music was influencing you lately?

Sadier: I have a lot of music on my iPod and I tend to have it on shuffle. I like the non-predictability of it. That excites me and it’s so varied. I tend to listen to a lot of African music. Recently I’ve been listening to … what are they called, some Taureg music. They are a nomadic people in Africa under a lot of duress, like a lot of people in Africa. I have an interest for music in Africa. I find it very rich, particularly the stuff made in the 60s because Africa opened up to the West and there was a lot fusion in music then. That really, really excites me: the blending of African rhythms and sensitivity to more chords, maybe more jazz. It’s very universal I think, the desire for freedom and opening up. It’s using all the tradition and paying homage to that, using that as a base, but also going higher with something.

That I find really creates very interesting music and very appealing to my spirit and to my body, because it’s very danceable and I love dancing. Egyptian music from the 60s and 70s is very good for that, also some Ghanaian music. I can’t remember of the Tuareg band; it’s terrible. But you know, Brazillian music is also the result of fusion, the absorption of two cultures to make a new culture and that appeals to me. I find it rich. I’m really not into having a pure race. I think you benefit from crossing cultures. It really creates something interesting.

SP: Those are all the prepared questions I have. I know you’ve probably done hundreds of these, so are there any questions you’ve always wanted to be asked that no one has thought of yet?

Sadier: Oh, wow, off the top of my head? What do I want to be asked … I don’t know. What do I do in my spare time?

SP: Okay, let’s go with that.

Sadier: Well, I love to go swimming in natural waters or swimming holes and to do yoga. Those are my spare time, favorite activities.

Sadier perfoms Friday at Pygmalion Music Festival at 11:45 p.m. at Canopy Club with Best Coast, Lord Huron, Hospitality and many more.

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