Gold stan­dards

New al­bum sees Ali­son Gold­frapp and Will Gre­gory back to their stomp­ing, sexy, glam­orous synth-rock best. The pair tell Lauren Mur­phy about the fun of walk­ing that fine line be­tween cheesy and cool

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music -

MAKE NO BONES about it: Ali­son Gold­frapp’s rep­u­ta­tion pre­cedes her. A group of jour­nal­ists hud­dle around a ta­ble in the bar of a swanky mem­bers’ club in north­west Lon­don, wor­riedly dis­cussing the singer’s re­puted ob­sti­nacy when it comes to deal­ing with the me­dia.

And then she ar­rives. To­day, the pe­tite mu­si­cian – aged any­where be­tween 41 and 45, de­pend­ing on what you read – is dressed in a baggy shirt, train­ers and tinted Ray Ban shades. Her trade­mark golden ringlets are twisted into tight knots, and she’s got a sur­pris­ingly firm hand­shake. Blimey, there’s even a slight smile creas­ing the cor­ners of her mouth as she un­leashes one dead­pan barb af­ter an­other. Ali­son Gold­frapp is, well, nor­mal. Al­though it’s clear that she doesn’t suf­fer fools gladly. But what were we ex­pect­ing – six-inch stilet­tos and fake horse tails?

And be­sides, there’s re­ally no rea­son why she shouldn’t in “good form” – as her la­bel rep has re­li­ably in­formed us ear­lier – any­way. Gold­frapp (com­pris­ing Ali­son and co-song­writer Will Gre­gory), are about to be­come a per­ma­nent fix­ture on the chart, air­play and fes­ti­val land­scapes this sum­mer. Their fifth stu­dio al­bum Head First marks a re­turn to the stomp­ing, sexy, glam­orous synth-rock sound that has in­formed most of the duo’s ca­reer. And it’s a hell of a lot more up­beat than their com­pa­ra­bly pas­toral last ef­fort, Sev­enth Tree. Does this about-turn in di­rec­tion sig­nify a new found hap­pi­ness in life, or is it sim­ply fur­ther progress for one of the most evo­lu­tion­ary bands in re­cent mem­ory?

“Well, Will’s al­ways happy, and I’m al­ways mis­er­able,” she says with a wickedly sharp cackle. “No, that’s silly. Yeah, I think that’s def­i­nitely why we wanted to do this al­bum.Af­ter Sev­enth Tree, we wanted to do some­thing like Su­per­na­ture again, but dif­fer­ently.

“We’d done the more in­tro­spec­tive, dreamy thing, and it just didn’t feel right do­ing it again. We wanted an ‘up’ sound. We loved all the synths and the drums, and we wanted that – but we wanted it to be dif­fer­ent from Su­per­na­ture. I think what we learned from Sev­enth Tree was that it had a kind of warmth to it, and a melo­di­ous­ness to it that we re­ally liked, and we wanted to ap­ply that – but to the synths and that sort of stuff.

“Y’know, it’s bloody good fun do­ing that stuff. I think our pre­vi­ous stuff had a cold­ness to it that we got a lit­tle bit bored of. There’s some­thing re­ally sat­is­fy­ing about go­ing ‘er­rrrrrhh­h­h­hhh’ on a syn­the­siser,” she laughs, thump­ing the ta­ble with her fin­gers. “It sat­is­fies some ba­sic need. I sup­pose it’s the same as if you play the gui­tar, plug­ging it in and just play­ing a power riff.”

Find­ing the right bal­ance be­tween cheesy synth riffs and catchy pop mu­sic isn’t al­ways easy, adds Gre­gory, but it’s some­thing that they’re both aware of when they’re writ­ing. Much of Head First sounds in­flu­enced by the 1980s, not least Rocket, and Van Halen-es­que love song I Wanna Life.

“I think we do like play­ing with what lives on the edge of be­ing cheesy,” he nods. “It’s good fun, but you’ve just got to be re­ally care­ful, be­cause it is a precipice, and it def­i­nitely gives things an ex­tra ten­sion when you’re on the edge. Just one ex­tra note in there, and you’ll be like ‘Woaah­hhh! I’ve tum­bled into some ter­ri­ble cliché’. I think we do play with that, and I think the 1980s were

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