20 April 2011
Format Magazine interview (2008)
Helen Marnie, one-fourth of the universally respected electro-pop group Ladytron, makes a good point when she discusses the perks of a slow-building fan base. "I think some bands are hyped far too much initially, and therefore they feel the pressure to have the same success with their next album."
While Ladytron has certainly seen their share of hype in the past few years, the hype did build slowly, giving the creatively daring group plenty of time to plant their roots. These roots have allowed them to believe in the kind of music they want to produce – not what a label or current musical climate might ask them to – which has resulted in sounds that are not just momentarily fresh, but perpetually so. Read on as we catch up with Marnie about the process behind Ladytron's latest album, Velocifero.
Format: All four of you had musical careers before joining together as Ladytron. What were you up to in those days?
Helen Marnie: Actually, the only one of us that really had a career based in music was Danny [Hunt]. He ran a club night as well as his own indie label called Invicta Hifi. Mira [Aroyo] and Reuben [Wu] used to DJ occasionally, but it was more of a fun thing. I was still at university studying music when I met Danny. After that I just took on a few odd jobs to get me by and about a year or so after I left [university], Ladytron became more of a full time thing.
Format: It's been several years since you first started making music together, and for the greater part of those years you've been really successful. Do you miss anything about the excitement of the beginning, or has settling into your careers been a greater reward?
Helen Marnie: We're more experienced now, so I guess know what we want. The music industry has changed substantially since we started and we've had to take note and adapt to it, and have learned a lot about the industry along the way.
We still get excited about doing certain gigs, otherwise there would be no point in being in a band. We've been together for quite some time now so I think we know each other far better, which makes touring and working together a lot easier.
Format: Aside from playing roles in the actual instrumental of the band, what would you say that each of you contributes uniquely and creatively to the direction of your sound?
Helen Marnie: Obviously the voices are very important to Ladytron; we've two very different styles and techniques that work well together and also individually. We all write, each member having different ideas and influences, which in turn makes a more-well rounded album, diverse yet coherent.
Format: Your album before this year's Velocifero, The Witching Hour, really marked a shifting point in your sound – a lot of critics excitedly described it as a leaps-and-bounds evolution from your previous albums. In what ways do you think Velocifero continued that evolution – or didn't it?
Helen Marnie: I think if you listen to both albums consecutively then you can hear the natural progression. Witching Hour sounds the closest to Velocifero.
When we first started out we were still learning how to produce and promote our sound on the live stage. The amount of touring we were doing before and during Witching Hour really contributed to the feel of Velocifero. It's punchy, dynamic with infectious beats, but retains a distinctive Ladytron sound – the warmth of the synths and floaty vocals.
Format: What are some of the things that were influencing you during the writing and recording phases of Velocifero?
Helen Marnie: It's always very difficult to say what influences you as a songwriter, as you're not actually aware of one particular thing at the time.
For me, I'm influenced by personal things that go on around me – people, places, thoughts and feelings, reminiscing but also looking forward – I think that's why there are so many moments of light and dark on the album. I love the softness of certain female vocals such as Nancy Sinatra, but have also recently been drawn towards more recent folk artists such as Bon Iver and Laura Marling.
Format: Some of your lyrics seem to hold references to Paganism. Am I right in observing that?
Helen Marnie: Nope. Afraid not. We never actually like to discuss our lyrics in depth, we prefer to let the listener conjure up their own images and let songs be personal to them.
Format: As Ladytron has become more and more successful, do you feel more pressure to keep your sound in the comfortable realm of what you know your fans will continue to like, or do you fully bow to your creativity?
Helen Marnie: We have never felt any pressure to stay the same, or please anyone in particular. All we want to do is make music that satisfies ourselves. I think some bands are hyped far too much initially, and therefore they feel the pressure to have the same success with their next album.
Format: As electronic artists, what are your thoughts on the remix? Do you tend to think of them as a derivative of the main track or something that can take on artistic merit of its own?
Helen Marnie: It depends. Remixes can be great, and some can just be miserable. It often depends on the song to begin with; sometimes a gem can be created, other times a monster.
Format: This is a really extensive tour, where will you be heading next, and what are you crossing your fingers to experience this time around?
Helen Marnie: This tour has been so long. I'm just looking forward to putting my feet up over Christmas and seeing friends, family, and my dog. We're in Scandinavia right now, and in five days we wrap this year up in Oslo. It's been great, but we need time off to refresh for 2009. Tonight we are sold out in Stockholm, so it should be fun, and we're on in less than an hour, so I better put my makeup on.
Tag: Ladytron interviews