Ladytron has been making their particular brand of icy, New Wave-influenced electro-pop for a long time now. Following their Best Of 00-10 album, released earlier this year, the band's fifth album Gravity the Seducer is out today. While we've come to expect a certain gloom from the four-piece collective — serenely stoic goth-like hooks sung over sleek ambience or sparse electro-rock, for example — Gravity isn't so heavy. Instead their newest creation tones down the dark disco aesthetic for a brief foray into the light.
The lead singles are the clear successes of this endeavor: intro track "White Elephant" is built on a foundation of grandly swooping strings and lightly floating synths, "Ace of Hz" carries the strongest hook of the set and hauntingly broods in a style that's distinct to the group, but with a little less melodrama. Gravity, however, does work best as a whole. Where once we found ourselves playing a never-ending loop of "Destroy Everything You Touch," the recurring shimmer of chimes and warmly laid synth-beds of the band's newest creations are best understood when played as a set. Gravity the Seducer is more of a cinematic experience than anything they've done before.
Hive caught up with Ladytron's Reuben Wu a few days ago to talk about the release, the band's recording process, and what makes this album different from the rest.
You recently toured in support of your Best Of career retrospective. What was it like to be sitting on a new album while playing mostly your back catalog?
We played "White Elephants" and "Ace of Hz," so we were able to have a bit of fun and play at least two new songs while playing our old stuff. I mean, obviously, playing new music to an unsuspecting audience, it's not really great for us. Because, you know, a lot of people who go to gigs just want to hear music they recognize and they can sing to. I mean, the first time we ever played "Destroy Everything You Touch" was in '05 in China and when we played it there was absolutely no response. It was quite funny. So you say, "This is a new song," and you get a half-hearted reaction from the audience. It's actually quite nice to play hits and music that people know and love. It's nice now that the album has come out that now we can start playing the new stuff because that means there will be more recognition and audience participation, which is really what it's all about.
When you started recording Gravity the Seducer did you already know how you wanted it to be different from Velocifero? Or anything else you had previously done for that matter?
Well, we had some themes. We knew that we wanted a more kind of mid-tempo, a down-tempo, album. We wanted more of an atmospheric, surreal soundtrack vibe to it. We also knew it was going to be an album that people wouldn't necessarily expect us to produce. I think this sounds [like] what we wanted it to be but it morphed into something else. It did eventually become another kind of pop record in a way. It stands alone from the other albums that we've done but it's very, very, very much us. You can still hear our sounds in the music.
I know you wrote "Ace of Hz" a few years ago, around the time you were touring around your last studio album. Considering Gravity is so fluid in the way you mentioned earlier, did you have to consider that track in particular when recording the rest of the album? Did you have to mold anything around it?
That track is a little bit different from the rest of the album just because, yeah, it is one of the oldest tracks on that album. I think it still fits in to the story of the whole collection of songs. With every song, every song has it's own identity as one, yet it sticks together as an album perfectly for me. It works as an album better than any album that we've produced, I think. It's a very cohesive sounding album yet every song sounds different from each other.
This album also has an ethereal quality that makes it kind of cinematic. Are you guys interested in doing soundtrack work in the future?
We have quite a lot of our work used in movies, but they're songs. We've never actually written our own soundtrack and that's actually something we'd really like to do in the future.
If you were given the opportunity to choose a director or writer to work with, who would you pick?
For fun, I don't know, David Lynch? No, I can't say David Lynch. Everyone says David Lynch. I'm a massive massive Twin Peaks fan and a fan of Angelo Badalamenti's music so that would be cool. Werner Herzog. Alejandro Jodorowsky if he were to make another film. Anything really. If we were given the opportunity we would just make it our own and make it cool.
In past interviews Dan [Hunt] has avoided listing any influences or anything that could be genre-binding to the group, but there's definitely an impulsive desire to define your sound as '80s New Wave, electro-pop, or synth-pop. How do you maintain that ethos without becoming a slave to it?
It just comes from having a broad interest in music. A broad taste in music. That's the thing that Dan is probably thinking of, because we like so much music. It would be wrong to say that we liked this or that because, you know, it doesn't really give a true picture. It also helps that we are four people. It keeps us from doing the same thing. We kind of keep each other on our toes. It's a really good thing. Instead of just working alone, you have to be incredibly aware of everything. It's very difficult to keep yourself aware and take a step back from your work, you know? It helps when you have three other people listening to your stuff and always thinking, "Is this new?" Are we writing the same song again? Does this sound like someone else?" At times you have to create something that is original to us but interesting as well. That's why every album sounds new.
Do you ever listen to music while you're recording? Do you ever feel like you need to be keeping "in the loop"?
No, not really. Especially now when it's very difficult to be in the loop and also maintain this calm enthusiasm for music. Mainly because there's so much stuff out there. There's so much crap stuff as well. You have to listen to so much crap to get to the good. Whereas in the past you'd have people who would tell you for this band to look out for or you'd go to a record shop and you'd hear something someone was playing and then you would buy analog recording. You really had to listen to the music. Nowadays you have everything, like iTunes, out there telling you, "If you like this, you'll like this." And you have to kind of try it to actually know. It's quite frustrating, you know, taking suggestion from a computer. I'd much rather have real people giving me tips about what they're listening to.
That said, you're also releasing a new album into that market and your following is somewhat cult-like. They've been following you forever. How do you expect new people to be tipped to you?
The internet. [Laughs.] Yeah, their computer. I think the problem is that we live in this twenty-second attention span, where if you don't like it in twenty-seconds you move off from it. It's important to us that people look at the whole rounded idea of who we are and what we produced. That was one of the reasons we made the Best Of compilation, because we wanted to give this idea of who we were, not just the popular singles we produced. Also, I like to think that people learn about us through reading reviews and word of mouth more than anything else. Parties too – people playing our songs. That kind of thing. I think that's one of the reasons we have such a great following, because people think the music scene belongs to them and not to everyone.
I know that you and Dan met in the '90s while DJing. Are you still doing that?
Yeah, for sure. Whenever we get a gig we go out and play. We generally play high-energy music. Not really music like Ladytron but a party vibe and an electronic vibe. But yeah, that's a fun side project.
Have you been paying attention to any newer dance-outfits lately? There's a few that are pulling inspiration from '90s-era house music.
It seems like there are a lot of bands right now that are using keyboards. These cycles go in ten years or something like that. There's been a resurgence since about ten or twelve years ago. That might explain why a lot of bands are using keyboards and those sounds now. When we started off playing keyboards people would come to us like, "So, uh, why are you playing keyboards instead of guitars?" Now everyone's doing it again.