Two years after their spectacular rise, Scissors Sisters are about to re-enter planet pops atmosphere with a bang. Their sparkling new single, I Dont Feel Like Dancin, is set to contradict its title and cause dancefloor mayhem from Brooklyn to Brighton.
The song may sound like a party but the lyrics, as the title suggests, are resolutely downbeat, telling the tale of someone whod rather have a quiet evening in than go out and paint the town red. Surely not
Heres what happened, begins Ana Matronic. We were on tour for nearly two years, finishing in March 2005, though things only came to a complete stop after the V festival last August. During that time, most of our really big success happened while we were 3,000 miles away [in Britain]. When we finally came home to New York and tried to pick up the threads of our daily lives, it was like an astronaut re-entering the atmosphere from space. It had been so crazy and successful and amazing and colourful and fun it had been like New Years Eve every night but we needed about 365 New Years days to recover!
A quick recap: Scissor Sisters are Jake Shears (lead vox), Ana Matronic (vox), Babydaddy (bass, guitar, banjo, keyboards, technical guru), Del Marquis (guitars) and Paddy Boom (drums). They formed in New York in 2001.
Scissor Sisters began 2004 as a little-known act, and ended it as a pop phenomenon. Their eponymous debut album was the biggest-selling album in the UK that year. The album has since gone almost ten times platinum there. In the US, they were featured in countless magazines and programs including Saturday Night Live, Live with Regis and Kelly, The Tonight Show, Late Night with Conan OBrien, and the Late Late Show. Theyve been playing to sell out crowds across the world ever since culminating with a primetime slot at Live 8 and a headlining stadium tour in Europe.
And then Scissor Sisters went home. Back to life, back to reality. Jake recalls it as the mother of all comedowns, which had a physical, as well as mental effect. When you experience something like weve experienced, the constant performing, your body gets used to pumping huge amounts of adrenalin. I was still getting huge adrenalin rushes back at home, when I shouldnt have been getting them. Youre trying to relax and suddenly you feel like you want to rip your skin off and fly away.
As they began to turn their attention towards their sophomore album last summer, they were overwhelmed by the suddenly stifling weight of expectation and gnawing self-doubt. The first time around we didnt even realise we were making an album, says Jake. It wasnt even our intention. We were just having fun, writing songs. Now the stakes were higher, the pressure was on and, for the first time, they felt self-conscious, uncertain. And because the first album was such an eclectic mix, we could have gone anywhere, says Ana. There were a lot of options and sometimes you can have too many.
The mirror ball had stopped spinning but Scissor Sisters had a plan: to record a fun and optimistic dance song because a) the planet needed cheering up (every time we turned on the TV it seemed the political situation in the world was getting worse and worse says Babydaddy) and b) they needed cheering up.
The solution: I Dont Feel Like Dancin possibly the happiest-sounding song ever conceived about staying in and feeling miserable. By singing about not feeling like dancing, it was the only way to write a dance song that was fun, but still came from an honest place, concludes Jake.
The song is also about being in love, adds Ana. There is a line that goes, Id rather be home with the one in bed till dawn and I think that sums up a lot about what its like to be constantly on tour away from the person you love.
With Dancin in the bag, the cloud had lifted to reveal a silver lining the ideas started to flow again. It gave us renewed hope in ourselves, says Jake. Theres a lot of anxiety and self-censorship that happens when youre dealing with this kind of pressure. But we realised that were special after all, and weve got something amazing going on. It was extremely liberating.
They moved their studio from Babydaddys front room where theyd recorded their debut album to a rented building a few streets away. It was time, he notes, to give myself a break and walk to work, every day. To help create the appropriate mood, they went into the studio (which says Ana looked like a barn from Beyond The Valley of the Dolls) repainted it in silver and blues and renamed it Discoball Jazzfest.
But they didnt change everything. We still live in little apartments in New York, hang out with the same friends and go to the café every morning, says Paddy. For Jake, success means I can go out and buy whatever DVD I want, or a bunch of CDs, or videogames. For Ana, it means buying lots of books and the fact that I now have a savings account.
Scissor Sisters began to hone their myriad influences and inspirations including, in no particular order, James Bond theme tunes, early disco (Hamilton Bohannon, Creative Source, The Blackbyrds), funk and rare groove, Fleetwood Mac, Dr John, the city of New Orleans, bluegrass, Billy Joel, Goldfrapp, Roxy Music, and Paul McCartney more on whom in a moment.
The end result is, as ever, wildly eclectic, brilliant, life-affirming pop. The overall sound? Its fuller, says Del, and thicker. And Jake [who, with Babydaddy, forms the bands main songwriting axis] has gotten wordy as hell.
Its funny, when I write a song, I have to have some visuals in my head, says Jake. I also have to have a story. If the narrative or visuals arent in my head, I cant write it. Sometimes, the stories emerge from the weirdest places. I have really vivid dreams. I had one about Paul McCartney. We were in a room by ourselves, having a conversation about songwriting. He told me some amazing things. Then, right before I woke up, he said and it sounds a little cheesy if you just say it out of context Its the music that connects me to you. I felt like Id had a visitation or something. Which, in a nutshell, is the story behind the song Paul McCartney, co-written with a special guest, David Bowies guitarist Carlos Alomar. Jake met Macca shortly after writing the song, and told him about it. He must think Im a complete nut but he gave me his address, said hed love to hear it.
Then theres the joyous glam-rock-disco shakedown Shes My Man, which contains the intriguing line: She strangles for a good time and she kills my self control. The explanation? Its based on a woman called Annie Christmas, who was a New Orleans folk legend. She was a huge lady, a riverboat pirate, a thief and a killer who passed herself off as a man. This song is from the point of view of someone who is in love with her Im completely fascinated by New Orleans. Its a city built by whores and thieves Im very inspired by the music thats come out of the city. I think you can hear that on the record.
Then theres the blissed-out, harmony-filled I Just Might Tell You Tonight, the only love song weve ever written. Its about that weird moment when youre falling in love and just feeling it so strongly. And the widescreen epic Land of a Thousand Words, borne of the bands obsession with James Bond theme songs (Nobody Does It Better, Live and Let Die et al). Im not even a fan of the movies they bore me to tears! Jake admits. But, oh my God, the songs, the visuals, the openings those classic songs sung by a woman that are always just out of reach. Its that longing, you know, youre here with me now but I know youre going to have to roll out of bed and go kill some people.
Ana, meanwhile, spits out a lead vocal of her own on Kiss You Off. Its not a love song, its a falling-out-of-love song, she cackles. Its about knowing youre better than how youre being treated in a relationship, and getting the fuck out. And then telling him to kiss your ass! I think itll be a good break-up song for a lot of people.
And if that raises a smile, The Other Side might just make you cry. Its about contemplating the end, not really wanting to let go of someone, but knowing that eventually death is death is the end. Its basically saying to someone that, when I go, if Im going to go before you, Im waiting for you. Theres definitely some melancholy going on, says Ana.
Whether that melancholy, or the months spent grappling to find themselves again, is implicit in the album title, however, is open to debate (and it has been debated furiously on fan sites already, to Jakes eternal amusement). The record is called, simply, Ta-dah. It came to me in the middle of recording, and it wouldnt leave, says Jake. It was just there. I kept coming back to it. I think its got a lot of different meanings and layers. If you just look at the word Ta-dah with no exclamation mark, no full-stop, its very abstract. Theres magic behind that word, illusion behind that word you think of performance, showmanship. But Ta-dah is also about expectations. Because this is a second album, theres an aspect of presentation
Ta-dah. This is what weve done. This is what it is.
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