Ladytron on Their Past, Present & Future...
"In 2001, the first fruits of what would become the new electronic-rock movement began to fall. Ladytron's debut, 604, was an integral part of that first strike. A pristine, analogue adventure of sound and substance, the album would go on to influence the genre itself, while the group quietly made a global impact both visually and stylistically. Ladytron's counterbalance of emotional vulnerability and psychological ingenuity – personified by the opposing vocals of Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo – created their own world that had yet to be fully explored". OFFICIAL LADYTRON BIOG EXTRACT
"Ladytron's doom-laden arrangements feel as accomplished as Radiohead jamming with the Pet Shop Boys". BLENDER
Having perfect symmetry, would be an ideal way of describing Ladytron – who formed in Liverpool in the Summer of 1999 and took their name from a Roxy Music song. As aesthetically, with two bombshell femmes, Glaswegian born Helen Marnie and Bulgarian born Mira Aroyo, plus two Liverpudlian hommes, Daniel Hunt and Reuben Wu, they are one of the classiest, most refined and razor-sharp union's you'll ever lay eyes on! For whether Ladytron are gracing artwork, music videos or the stage (in post-Apocalyptic, Blade Runner-esque, utilitarian military-style uniforms), their cool, calm and collected composure, savoir faire + iconography, has always been sympathetic to their songs and is nothing short of enamouring!
And that's just for starters, as I haven't even begun to touch on the other important part yet – their crisp, chilly and crystalline electropop, with a dark edge and slick polished sheen. Which has rainfalls of processed / pneumatic beats, 'Teutonic Krautrock' motorik rhythms, sparks of treated effects, programmed loops, spiralling synthetic samples, embers of effulgent guitars and galvanised metallic bass. All incased in a shiny cybernetic shell, with the simmering, sexy and sparkling 'signature' vocals shared between dual singers, Helen and Mira (who also sings in her native tongue).
Automaton and euphonious voices that are complete opposites, yet as if by magic, gel seamlessly together. Be it Helen's sweet velvety purr, gliding and caressing your ears with ghostly emotion, or Mira's vampish exotic tones, writhing with icy-detachment and dripping with sensuousness. Perhaps this is because every single word and every single breath, is bolted to luxurious and immaculate songs that sound like they've fallen from the sky. Which when allied with the group's enigmatic / oblique lyrics, could be summarised as an alchemic extraction of beauty from technology – or what Mira once spiritedly coined as, "Electro with a fist!".
At its core then, Ladytron's clean, smart, methodical and streamlined retro-futuristic music, cuts both a resplendent and wistful path, and is fundamentally programmed electronica with a human touch, that's festooned with blips + bleeps and emanates a wintry wonder, clandestine romance and vitality, rocketed by the band's zeal and commitment to craftsmanship. Four tantalizing albums are currently available for your delectation – 604 (2001), Light & Magic (2002), Witching Hour (2005) and Velocifero (2008), along with one DJ mix compilation, Softcore Jukebox (2003). Sterling bodies of work, whose spectrum of sound, elegant precision and vapour trails, will quicken your pulse, evoke shivers of pleasure and enrich your life!
So far, each consecutive release hasn't merely been a continuation of the previous LP, it has been a quantum leap record that's raised the bar, with the group swiftly progressing and growing by "focusing on a balance between pop structures and digitally-edited analogue electronic sound, with experimental leanings". Which at this moment in time, has blossomed into a much fleshier, full-blooded, souped-up and robust whole, that's firing on all cylinders! Adding to this eclectic nature and multifarious output, is the fact that each band member now brings his or her own individual musical piquancy to the table; "We've gotten to know each other's strengths a lot better", Mira once reflected on Ladytron's pool of talent and their close, co-operative relationship.
In this sense, with arrangements, instrumentation, complex circuitry, musical compounds and detail to the Nth degree, that can be pored over, Ladytron can rightly be classed as maestros, scrupulous technicians, modern architects and premier purveyors of glacial sonic washes – the "heavyweight template" or omnipresent bedrock of their sound. As they persistently squeeze phenomenal and innovative creative juices from their hearts and minds. In turn, transferring their inspiration / ideas to synthesisers and producing coruscating tracks, that provide vantage points from which to see how far they could possibly go! And on repeated listens, individually disrobe their multi-layered splendour along with a collision of nifty noises that will leave you smitten. A fact not lost on other musicians or club promoters, as exclusive Ladytron remixes and DJ sets are highly-coveted!
Thankfully, the group's latest long player, Velocifero, has been their most successful to date – helping elevate their status by delighting the faithful and crucially, picking up new fans. And after taking a well-deserved break following the completion of their lengthy 2008 tour + writing songs with Christina Aguilera at her LA home, for the diva's forthcoming album. Helen has very kindly filled in an Exclusive Questionnaire for R*E*P*E*A*T, as Ladytron prepare for a new 3 month tour of the USA and Europe – where they will also be supporting the legendary Depeche Mode on some dates! They have even been personally invited by Brian Eno (one of their biggest musical heroes) to perform at the Sydney Opera House in June, as part of his curation there!
So, by continuing to fuse intrigue with accessibility, many more people are now beginning to wake up to the sound of Ladytron, discovering that they are utterly beguiling and endlessly fascinating, with music that lingers long past listening. And as a meritorious band who need to be seen, heard + felt, and who have their own vision of success, I predict that Planet Earth will soon be witnessing the rise of the robots...
Growing up, what was your biggest source for discovering new music, and can you remember the first press coverage, radio airplay or TV exposure that Ladytron ever had?
I was a regular Top of the Pops and Chart Show viewer, so I guess that's where I found different types of music. I think the first coverage we got, was when John Peel played "He Took Her to a Movie" on his Radio 1 show. And then following that, we got 'Single of the Week' in the NME.
You have long had an extremely devoted / cult following throughout Europe, but why do you think Europeans have always been so drawn to subcultures / dark electro, rock and gothic music?
It's strange how particular pockets across the world just seem to 'get' our music. As well as in Europe, we've also always done really well in the US, along with South and Central America. It's a surprise when you go somewhere for the first time and find a fanbase that has been waiting years for you to come and play. It feels good, but the reason for it – I don't know? Perhaps they just appreciate good music and don't want to conform to the norm.
Continuing with this train of thought, Johnny Marr recently gave a lecture at The University of Salford, where he argued that "Outsiders are the lifeblood of The Music Industry, but too often overlooked". What are your feelings on this?
It's true. 'Outsiders' inspire others to do things, but often don't get the success that they deserve. It's not always the case, but it does happen often. It's like the whole surge in the mainstream at the moment for electro / synth tracks. Everyone has resorted to it, and bigger artists are heavily influenced by bands that may never break through. It's just the way things go. Always will be.
What has been the best thing that someone has ever said about Ladytron?
In China, a journalist asked myself and Mira, "Why we looked like men?" It was funny. The girl was sweet, but just got her words mixed up... I assume.
As a primarily electronic-based group, of all the beats, effects, loops, samples, textures etc. in your songs, which have been the most rewarding to create?
I think every song is rewarding in some way, and when you hear them all come together as an album, then it all makes sense. We don't have a formula for songwriting, it changes from track to track. Sometimes it starts with a lyric, other times a melody or riff. "Predict the Day", from Velocifero, started with a whistle and grew from there.
Has the way you worked changed over the years?
The main thing that's changed over the years, is that we are all writing now. When we first came together, Danny had already written the whole of the first album. It's more equal now and more diverse too, because we're all contributing. We all have studios at home and usually we individually construct a track, then pass it on for someone else to add to.
Would you ever consider stripping away some of the electronica in your music, in order to create more acoustic, organic and pastoral songs, similar to what Goldfrapp did with their Seventh Tree album?
I would never say never – as long as it was a natural progression. I wouldn't want to create anything that was contrived. I really like the way Bat For Lashes has melded her folk-like tones with electro.
The Pet Shop Boys deservedly received ‘The Outstanding Contribution to Music' prize at The 2009 Brit Awards, but who for you, would also be worthy of such an accolade and why?
As a kid, I loved Michael Jackson and Madonna. I think they've both done enough to be worthy. Madonna's new stuff might not be what I want to listen to, but at least she has the ability to change.
You seem to have a very strong sense of self, and have clearly taken great care and consideration over the band's style and artwork. Is this important to you?
It is important, because people will take one look at you and judge you. So it's important you get it right, or at least show how you want to be perceived. We're all interested in design – Reuben previously was a product designer and Danny did a lot of graphic design – so it was natural for us to take an interest in our own artwork.
Your live shows are both cherished and celebrated for their all-encompassing nature, but what type of experience do you hope that you give to your audience?
Audiences differ a lot – it depends where you are and what night it is. We mostly get a lot of happy faces and dancers, but occasionally, we get starers. I'm unsure why they need to stare at us, expressionless. I would hope that people go away from our gigs wanting more and wanting to relive the whole experience all over again. We like to mix up the gig as much as possible to include songs from all 4 albums. It's difficult though to please everyone, without doing an Elton John length gig.
And if you had an unlimited budget, what would be your dream stage set-up?
Lights are the most important part of the stage set-up, so if our budget was bottomless, then I'd fill the stage with all sorts of bulbs and an interactive map as a background. It's a crowd pleaser!
What have been some of your personal highlights / defining moments, during your career so far?
There have been quite a few highs with Ladytron. Just touring the US for the first time was pretty amazing to me. Going to South America, to Brazil or Columbia – where the record isn't even out – and playing to a crowd of over 3,000 people is quite a shock.
When you do have some free time to yourself, how do you like to spend it?
Time is precious, that I know. When I'm home, I like to just settle in – see friends, family, my dog, my boyfriend… but not in that order. I've recently taken up the rock 'n' roll art of Knitting and I'm also into sewing and fashion design.
If you were asked to look after 'Later… with Jools Holland' for 1 week, as well as featuring Ladytron in the line-up, which other 5 acts / bands (a mix of new + old) would you book to appear on the programme?
Bat For Lashes
Lastly, chips or cream buns?
Most definitely chips.