In 2009, La Roux’s self-titled debut was a surprise hit, a collection of bouncy electro that came along at the right time and spawned a pair of trans-Atlantic hits, “In for the Kill” and “Bulletproof.” Half a decade later, the singer and producer known offstage as Elly Jackson is ready to release a follow-up, and the way she tells it, the new record – Trouble in Paradise, out July 8th – will be a warmer affair, one enlivened by a full band and featuring songs that have been tested and revised while out on the road.
What will you have planned for the set list? Is it going to be new and old?
Yeah, it’s new and old. I think if we had just new it would have a really short set. We don’t have a really long album, the new album. I actually really like going between the new songs and the old ones. It took a little while to make it work: We needed to add some body and some warmth to some of the tracks from the first record, but it worked surprisingly well.
We’ve also taken ourselves away from the grid and the structure of the songs a little bit and been able to experiment a little bit more and explore outros and intros and stuff without being stuck to the normal track lengths. Because obviously some stuff has to run off backing tracks just because there aren’t enough musicians – no band really wants to use them, but I don’t want eight people on the stage, either. If we’re feeling it, we can look at each other and go around another time, and we haven’t been able to do that before.
It seems like you play electronic festivals or on the electronic stage. Do you ever find the people at these places expecting to hear a DJ or the all pre-recorded sound?
Oh God, I hope not. I mean why would anyone go to a gig and expect that? People expecting that from gigs are in a really sad, sad place. I like to see interactions in a performance, and I don’t know, I think if you’re a DJ, you’re a DJ. Obviously that’s fine. But we’re not DJs. We are musicians. Of course the new record’s got electronic bits on it, but I wouldn’t even say I primarily see myself as an electronic artist now. My band is a pop band. It kind of covers a lot of different areas, and I think for that reason you need musicians.
Are you in the studio with this band as well?
No, I’m learning to play the saxophone, but I didn’t play on the record. The guy that I made the record with, Ian [Sherwin], played a lot of the bass parts, the light bass parts, and I played most of the synth bass parts. My guitarist did come in to do a guitar line because I don’t do lead guitar. We actually got a pianist – I’m a keyboard player but I’m not accomplished enough – to play single piano lines.
How does this record sound compared to the last one?
It’s a lot warmer, it’s a lot sexier. I’ve said a lot but it’s true, I can’t think of a better way to explain it. I wouldn’t say it’s more playful, but it’s playful in different way. It’s cheekier – I would say it’s musically cheekier. And I think it’s got a lot more groove because it’s all kind of performance based. If there was sample that wanted to be looped or a creative reason for something to be looped, it was looped, but in general the record is performance based when it can be – it just feels better.
At least in America, pop music and dance music have changed so much since your first record. Has that affected you at all?
There’s a lot of commercial dance music now, but there’s not as much of a zeitgeist as there was in 2009. But I think in a way it’s a good thing. I think the thing about that first record is that if it had come out at any other time, I don’t think it would have been as successful as it was. I think we were very lucky in the way that we caught it at a time where there was something going on and there was a definite theme in the music that was coming out.
I think this record is slightly less stuck in a time than the first record. Obviously, it’s still got my character in it, so there are obviously elements of the first record there character-wise, but I just wanted to make a record that I loved, and I couldn’t do anything else. There are certain things going on in the underground that you could connect to one another, but I would say it’s a much more vague time in terms of that. I have to kind of not care, and I don’t care because I love the record that I’ve made.
What artists have you been listening to while recording it or what you’re into at the moment?
When we started making it I was listening to a lot of disco – kind of Larry Levan era. A lot of stuff that Nile Rodgers has been involved in. It’s weird, I can’t really say artists because its usually just songs for me. It’s specific sounds of specific songs like “Shame Shame Shame” by Shirley & Company or “Clean Up Woman” by Betty Wright or “Love Me Tonight” by Fern Kinney or “I Need You Tonight” by Punkin Machine. It’s specific tracks, that I feel particularly inspired by, its something to do with the way they feel, the way they sound.
“Heartbeat” by Taana Gardner, for instance, nothing else sounds like that, nothing else feels like that. I love the fact that the groove moves around all over the place. I love the fact that it, I don’t know, it’s like it’s got soul to it. It’s got all the sexiness of disco, but I wouldn’t say that it’s like classic disco that a lot of people think of when you say the word disco. It’s kind of a whole thing of its own and I love it for that, but I can’t explain what it is about it. I think if I could explain what it is about it, it wouldn’t be as interesting.