"The best of British pop music" – that's how Brian Eno, no less, once described Merseyside electropop institution Ladytron. That's no small praise, especially considering that the band took their name from a song off Roxy Music's classic debut album. Premature though it may be to describe Ladytron as legends, the release earlier this year of career retrospective Best of 00-10 served to confirm just what a glorious niche they've carved out for themselves since they were so idly lumped in with the electroclash movement of the early noughties.
If that compilation can be seen as closing a chapter in their history then, goodness, they haven't half been quick to open up another – in fact, though it does not see the light of day until September 12th, Ladytron's fifth studio album Gravity the Seducer was also completed earlier this year. As is the way with these things nowadays, they've been forced to sit on it for a while at the behest of various market forces but a steady drip-feed of tantalising singles has cranked up the anticipation to almost unbearable levels amongst the group's dedicated and by-now-considerable fan base.
Rest assured, though, that the time is nigh for Ladytron to once again cement their place at the very forefront of dreamy, electronic pop music on these shores, or indeed any other you'd care to mention. As such, Rocksucker caught up with lead singer Helen Marnie to discuss Gravity The Seducer, the media's attempts to categorise the band's sound and why she'd think twice about sharing a stage with confirmed Ladytron enthusiast Christina Aguilera...
You've just come back from what looks like it must have been quite an exhausting tour. How was it for you? Where had the best crowd? How do you get the energy levels back up for your American tour?
Yeah, our touring this year started at the end of April with a one-night trip to Beijing to play a festival there. Since then we've done lots of European dates, festivals, and managed to squeeze in a short UK tour as well. I think the best crowds of the summer have been in St. Petersburg, Russia, and the Selector Festival in Poland. They were both fun gigs. As for North America, we get a great reception over there so we're all really looking forward to going on the road for four weeks. It's like being in a little gang for a while, and you kind of feed off one another.
What was the thinking behind releasing a Best Of just a few months before a new studio album?
We'd had a bit of a break from touring Velocifero so it seemed like a good time to release a Best Of package to keep fans interested and to also set up the new album. We also couldn't pass on releasing an album which celebrated us over the last ten years. How many bands are lucky enough to get to do that? Releasing the deluxe version with the photo booklet actually made me quite nostalgic. When we were collating the photos, it was like the story of Ladytron through the years.
What can we expect from Gravity the Seducer? Would you say that "Ace of Hz", "Ambulances" and "White Elephant" are good indicators? Is it true that there will be a different version of "Ace of Hz" on the album?
Gravity the Seducer is a journey from beginning to end. Songs flow into one another as if they belong. The songs released so far are an insight into the album and instrumentally there are recurring sounds, along with themes. There is an alternative "Ace of Hz" which features on the album.
What can you tell us about the "dramatic arc" that holds the album together?
Reoccurring themes weave throughout, with the sounds of organs, bells, and strings. These ideas and sounds, along with lush, full vocals, make the album complete.
How frustrating and/or nerve-wracking is it to complete an album and then have to wait until several months until its release?
It's always frustrating when there is a long delay between studio completion and release date. The release of the Best Of made the wait a little longer, but hopefully people will appreciate the album when it's released in September and will think it's been worth the wait. There really is not a lot that can be done about it. Everything needs to be done properly and set up in order to make the greatest impact. For us, we're just excited that it will finally be released and we're moving forward concentrating on the new.
Looking back, which of your previous albums are you most proud of? And why? Which one involved the biggest workload?
It's hard to choose, but I think Witching Hour was a turning point for us all. It kind of took Ladytron in a new, exciting direction. Personally, I feel that vocally it was a more demanding record and it pushed me more than previous studio albums, which was good as it made me a more confident singer. All in all I think it was more representative of Ladytron as four individuals.
Were you uncomfortable with the media lumping you in with the electroclash movement during your early days? In a way, did this kind of stereotyping inform the subsequent progression of the band's sound?
We were always lumped in with bands we sounded nothing like and often didn't have much in common with. That was what made us uncomfortable. For that reason, we just tried to avoid any connection with the term. Our sound is never reactionary to outside elements, it's always natural and down to experiences. Velocifero had a harder, more live sound due to the immense amount of touring we did before going in to record that album.
How does it feel to have Brian Eno describe you as "the best of British pop music"? Might you ever collaborate with him?
Wow, it's amazing for anyone to say that about us but coming from Brian Eno it's rather special. I'm sure Brian Eno is far too busy to find time to write with us, though it would be great.
Apparently Christina Aguilera has said that she intends to attend your LA show in September. Might you get her up onstage and do [the Ladytron-produced] "Birds of Prey"?
Haha. There's no way I would be able to sing after Christina Aguilera. She'd blow me off the stage. She came to our last LA gig though, so it would be nice to have her there again.
Are there any up-and-coming artists you'd like to give a shout out to?
No. Apart from my friend Land Of Bingo.
Finally, could you name – as of this very moment – your top three albums of all time?
Hmmmm. Joni Mitchell - Song to a Seagull. Heart - Dreamboat Annie. Laura Marling - Alas I Cannot Swim.
Helen, thank you.