12 April 2011

Swede + Sour interview (2011)

I first discovered Ladytron pillaging through some old promotion materials from the university radio station. Since then well I guess they have become sort of my favorite band and continue to be to this day present. Last year I got the chance to talk to Reuben Wu about his photography, so to follow-up for this year we talked to bandmate Mira Aroyo whom Reuben previously described as "elegant yet eloquent" in an obscure VHS promo called "Rock School". Read the interview as we talked to our favorite Bulgarian about academia, her beloved motherland and the band’s upcoming record and their illustrious "more-than-ten-years as a band".

Hi Mira how have you been lately?

We are currently working on getting the artwork ready for our next record, doing some promo, DJ gigs and about to start rehearsing next month for some shows. I also have a mini DJ tour coming up in the US in a couple of weeks time.

Last time I heard you were curating an obscure documentary series in London and doing some DJ sets.

Yes, that is still going on. We have a film night showing a great documentary called Sweetgrass next week and I am DJing as well as I mentioned earlier. So nothing much has changed there.

So it's been over 10 years as a band. Ever stop to think about it? You're releasing 00-10 this month a compilation of all things Ladytron. Did a compilation feel inevitable at this point?

It made sense in some way as it felt that was a good time to look back and celebrate us being together and releasing music for 10 years. It is also a way of making a small break between what we have done in the past and the album we are about to release later on this year. Also we felt that some of our albums weren't given a proper distribution first time around and also that a new generation of music fans are listening too our music and they might not be familiar with some of these songs.

There's been a lot of tales and folklore about how the band got together. Did you really meet the boys on a trip to Sofia?

No. That was just a story that seemed fun at the time. It was a long time ago and we were young and needed to amuse ourselves in interviews.

Apparently you were enrolled as a PhD student in Oxford. Seems like a pretty prestigious post did you ever have any doubts leaving academia for Ladytron?

Yes. For the first 3 years of Ladytron I was juggling both, until it became apparent that I would be compromising both if I continued that way. I was young and it seemed a lot more fun at the time to travel the world playing music.

By the way I got bored one day reading academic journals for university and I read your paper. I have no idea what you are talking about. My knowledge of genetics is laughable as a science graduate.

In simple terms it is about how bacteria know when to divide, which is something they do in order to replicate, and make sure they have the right kind of genes in each new cell.

Fans know you as the "Bulgarian" in Ladytron. You first started singing the Bulgarian anthem as something you did for fun when you were drunk but then I guess it stuck and Bulgarian language tracks have been reoccurring on all the records. What inspires you to continue singing in Bulgarian?

The language sounds very different to English, has a different rhythm and so it is a useful sonic tool to have in our arsenal.

I remember reading how ecstatic you were seeing your disc pirated in the streets of Sofia. How are you perceived in Bulgaria and what does it mean to represent Bulgaria on an international stage?

We have played a couple of shows there and the response was great. When we played "Commodore Rock" everyone starting punching the air, so it felt quite touching. Also my grandma and uncle and cousins were in the audience and that made it quite special too. At the same time most Bulgarians don't know about Ladytron and they have some pretty good football players to represent them internationally. I am no match for that.

The members of Ladytron are veterans of touring from DJ gigs to playing together as a band. You've lived all over as well haven't you? Born in Sofia, then Israel and then London. Has that in any way prepared you for the road?

Living in a place is in no way the same as passing through for a day. Saying that, it has probably made me more interested in different cultures and I love traveling and seeing new places. I don't think you could tour unless you liked that. It's a pretty grueling experience and seeing new places and meeting new people is the perk.

Like I mentioned earlier it's been ten years already. How do you keep your cohesiveness as a band giving that everyone lives somewhere else now?

We are in constant contact with each other and we get together when we need to rehearse or work on music, tour, do promo, shoot videos etc. Saying that we speak to each other every day over email as there are always decisions to be made…

There are four members in the band yet everyone has their place in a sort of egalitarian role in Ladytron. How do you divide up the roles creatively?

We don't really divide them. We all do a bit of everything and we all write so it kind of happens quite naturally, without giving it much thought. Over the past 10 years or so we have got to know each other pretty well and we have learnt how to work together too.

Well I guess no one else sings in Bulgarian so I guess your role is pretty easy.

Ladytron is both nostalgic and futuristic at the same time. The band never forgets its use of synthesis but allows itself to be remixed digitally by blogs and what not. Reuben says that Witching Hour was the defining sound of Ladytron. It's kind of hard to say right now but do you foresee any major changes to your sound in the future and what do you envision as the "music of the future"?

We always try to keep things fresh for ourselves and to not repeat songs that we have written in the past. Witching Hour was the first time we felt we made an album that represented us sonically. It was probably where we ‘found' our sound in the studio. It is a good basis to start from and with Velocifero we pushed things further in a certain direction and with the record we are putting out this year we developed things in a different direction again.

Knowing Ladytron I'm sure that will happen. I remember you describing your ideal venue in "Rock School" as being by the sea with beds by the side to snooze off when you're tired. Ever thinking of pulling that off any time soon?

I think I have learnt to go home when I am tired now so I wouldn't need the beds. I'm still up for the beach location though.

Come to Toronto I'll try to best to make that happen. Except we don't really have a sea, just a really big lake. You remember the Harbourfront Centre right? I was there front row haha.

Yes that was a fun show. The setting was spectacular. I remember all the tourist boats passing by.

OK I think I've bothered you enough by now. So one last question and I remember asking Reuben something similar. You're pretty popular among your male fans… anything you want to say to your adoring male fans?

Keep on rocking in the free world.

Thank you so much Mira. I'm such a horrible person that was a terrible joke.