Goldfrapp turns back to synths

We met the—forever cool—Alison.


The multi-talents of Goldfrapp are playing with transformation once again. Following their acoustic album Tales Of Us, the British duo now returns to its electronic sound, but unlike we’ve heard from them before. Silver Eye is everything its lead singer is when she enters the room; similar, but different. Her allure is unchanged, but her hair colour has switched from blond to a fiery red. We talk sounds versus visuals, paganism and self-portraiture.

Having experimented with a few different sounds in the past, what made you go back to synths?

When we started with this album, I went into the studio with the idea of using an acoustic guitar again, but it didn’t feel right this time. Also Will [Gregory] was keen to use more synths, but how would we do that without repeating previous albums? It took us a while to find a way that felt different. Supernature and Black Cherry were very layered and quite dense. With this one, I wanted to take things away, let more space into the sound and try out different rhythms. The other thing about this album is that we had other people writing with us, The Haxan Cloak for instance, who is a really great musician.

Why is it so important not to repeat yourself?

I’m not interested in having a format. I don’t think that’s creative and for me, it’s about trying out new ideas, asking new things. It’s not even that I think having a format is boring, but I mean… I don’t listen to the same music all the time. I listen to music depending on what mood I’m in and it’s the same when I’m writing—it’s a way of expression. What is interesting about Silver Eye is that it’s a hybrid of quite a few other things that we’ve done before. There’s a theme in it, ideas that are similar but different.

How do you stay versatile?

This time we did a lot of the album in London—where I live now, which was new for us. When I lived in the countryside, we made our albums there, but it was too isolating. It was great to be in an urban environment, in a small room, with hardly anything in it—it forced us to think differently. Whereby, I don’t mean that the environment itself necessarily influences you, you can stand at a bus stop and make music. It’s about changing your environment, about stepping away from your comfort zone.

What influences have enabled Silver Eye?

Visually, I’m very interested in mysticism. I’ve always been attracted to pagan rituals, the elemental and anthropomorphism. I’ve also been listening to early work of one of my favourite bands, Talking Heads. I love those almost mantra-like Krautrock rhythms that feel very repetitive; they build and over time they start to change and morph into something else. I suppose that fits with that idea of transition, of humans morphing into something else and things changing very subtly.

Your second passion is photography. Can music and photography be related to each other?

Yes! [convinced] I think they’re quite similar in a lot of ways, especially in the way that we record, because we do a lot of improvisation. We record absolutely everything, because you never know what is going to happen. For instance, the first verse in the song Ocean is completely improvised—the words and everything. I tried to re-record that about four times, and I could never do it; the atmosphere and the mood of a moment can never be repeated . Photography is about a very similar idea: you’re capturing a moment too. It’s instantaneous.


How important are visuals for an album?

For me, they’re really important. Of course, ultimately it’s all about the music, but for me, music is a visual experience. It has narrative, characters and colour. I like the idea of translating that in a visual way, to reflect something of the lyrics or the concept image-wise.

Why did you choose to make the visuals for Silver Eye yourself?

Actually, I don’t know why I haven’t done it before for an album! [Laughs] I was already making my own self-portraits and visual work when I went to art school and I’ve always admired female artists who do self-portraiture—Cindy Sherman was my idol. There were a lot of other feminist artists around the seventies making interesting work. I just bought a book that goes back through hundreds of years of people doing self-portraiture. Today, we’re all on Instagram and I find that really interesting, I haven’t put images of myself on my Instagram yet, but I’m really fascinated looking at other people taking pictures of themselves. We’re all doing it and we’ve all been doing it for hundreds of years, it’s this interest that led me back into photography.

What about the visuals’ mood?

About the clothes, I sometimes think: they can say so much, and at the same time, they can say absolutely nothing—or say the wrong thing. The location, on the other hand, dictates so much to you, which I prefer; it’s more exiting, more spontaneous. Those black rocks for example: they become black canvases that have a feeling to them, a feeling that fits for me with the music and its expression. The style is about blocks of colour and shapes. I think you can’t go wrong with a good silhouette.

Words by Laura Bonne

All images by Alison Goldfrapp

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