just released Magic Hour
, and we had a chance to talk to singer Ana Matronic about collaborations, breaking the fourth wall, and important terminology (including what a 'Kiki' is).
How has the album cycle changed for you guys over the years? Has it always been write, record, tour and start all over again? Or has the process changed a bit by now?
Ana: The album cycle is kind of determined by the record company . So, you put out an album, and however many singles is determined by the record company. So that often determines how long your tour is. We all loved Night Work
[the band's previous album]. I'm not crazy about the job that the record company did with that record. I thought they made very safe decisions in their singles, and I'm not sure people want "safe." We were kind of on a momentum from Night Work
and wanted to keep it going. In order to fund a tour, which takes a lot of money, you need support from the label. And they're unwilling to do it unless you have something really popular or new to offer. We have so much fun touring, and we love the people we're touring with, so we wanted to keep the momentum going. And so, Magic Hour
happened so quickly, and luckily the good songs came quickly, we were able to keep it going. So our last Night Work
show was technically at the end of February I think, or maybe the beginning of March. So it's been actually a really quick turnaround.
Were you actively trying to do something different from Night Work or were you just on your groove and you wanted to keep it going?
Definitely, I think there's something new to us with every album. Night Work
was a very dance oriented record, a very sex oriented record. I mean calling it "Night Work"... it's not night work, it's a day job. [laughs]. We wanted this album to be in the sun, and that was kind of the angle we approached the songwriting with. So yeah, we definitely try to juxtapose releases, for sure.
You guys have always had really great contributors in the past. For this record, did you actively seek out people like Azealia Banks, or did they come to you? How did those relationships develop?
Yeah Azealia is someone we've known for quite some time, we were managed by the same company. And Jake [Shears, vocals] actually met her when she was sixteen or something. His boyfriend was in talks to direct one of her videos. So, he met her when she was just starting out really, and we've always kept our eye on her. And then for "212" we were like "Oh my god! Get her in and work with her." We've loved how she's growing and that's where "Shady Love" came from.
John Legend, who we collaborated with, just happened in the studio. But that was sort of an accidental collaboration that ended up working and making it on the record too. So it sort of runs the gamut. You'll be working, and someone will be working next door, and you'll strike up a conversation, which is exactly what happened with John Legend.
Wow, did he do some of the writing or did he just hop on for the vocals?
For writing, he came up with the piano hook, he plays piano on that song ("Baby Come Home") and sings, and yeah he was a "silent sister." [laughs]
Could you talk a little about the awesome video you put out for "Shady Love"?
We wanted to release something; we were on tour when it was made, so we couldn't be in it. We have a really great video commissioner, and we just kind of gave it to her and said, "see who's out there, see who's interested in coming up with something really creative and low budget." A bunch of treatments came in and Hiro (Murai), who directed the video, submitted a treatment for it and it seemed like the one that people would go back and watch over and over again. So that was why we chose it. Yeah, it's just really funny. I love how deadpan it is because the song is the opposite of dead pan. So it's always fun to see videos throw a curveball like that.
I'm going to ask this at my own risk, but what's a "kiki"?
(Laughs) Don't worry, it's nothing. It's not an orgy. No, it's a drag queen term in America that means a good time. You and I are technically having a kiki right now, but it can also be a good time with your friends. You'll hear a conversation between two drag queens, or gay men, "Did you go to the club last night?" "Yes Girl! Everybody was there, it was a kiki!" It implies a very good time with one or more friends. You can also have a personal kiki, I've definitely had a personal kiki before. But yeah, definitely getting together with friends and that song was inspired by our DJ Sammy Jo, written with a great deal of love and admiration for him.
Something I think you guys have done very effectively over the years is embody this idea of pop music in a way that a lot of other artists haven't been able to change, I think. It seem so hard to do that, how do you guys stay so current, yet sound so much like yourselves at the same time?
Oh, multiple personality disorder! No, we've always experimented with a lot of different sounds. But, ultimately, we want things that sound classic, and classic is a word that we use a lot in the studio. I think there's always a looking-forward that we do, where we think, "is this song going to hold up in ten years." And we like things to sound like now, but we also have a bit of a trajectory and longevity in mind for the music. And that's really important to us.
And you guys always make sure that your live show is always 100%, which is something that's lost in a lot of current pop music.
When we started we were really the only artists who were breaking the fourth wall between the audience and the band, or actively trying to break that wall. I see our shows as a collaboration between us and the audience. And what we want to create is the best time we've ever had and the best time they've ever had. Some of the best nights out I've ever had were at shows where you transform, and that's the experience that I want to give people when they come to our shows.
Is that something that you guys talk about when you're recording, like 'how do we translate this breaking of the fourth wall to a static recording?'
Yeah, I think that we like to make fun music, so that's inherent in the writing process, having one eye on the studio and one eye that's always on the stage. Like, how do we interpret this live? It's really fun and it's really challenging. On "Let's Have a Kiki" for instance there's no bass and there's no guitars, so what does Del [Marquis] do? So he actually plays the tambourine! [laughs] So it's a really interesting way to do things because we don't really have a "box" that everything fits in, there really is no "box." It's, at once, challenging and really fun.
With your band it always seems like you're always doing stuff, other projects on the side, some film stuff. Is there anything Scissor Sisters have going on that we should know about?
Yeah, Jake has been DJing, and he's been turning into a really sick DJ, it's pretty amazing. So he's been traveling all over. Del's making a new album. Babydaddy has actually been producing some television projects. And I have a couple of things in the works, I'm a member of a psychedelic light show called The Joshua Light Show
and I make light show imagery out of liquids. So all that psychedelic imagery you would see behind Jefferson Airplane or The Who at the Fillmore East. And I'm working on my first comic book series. It's been two years of pretty heavy research and I'm just now getting into the actual nitty gritty of writing it.
Wow, what's it about?
It's a horror comic based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft. The protagonist is a mathematician who's been on a dig in Oman on the Arabian Peninsula. There are touches of psychological horror, but also inter-dimensional witchcraft [laughs].
Are you doing the illustrations for it too?
No, I'm doing what they call a "full script," where I describe what's in each panel. It's like drawing it with words and then I'll find someone. I'm actually not good at drawing unless it's on my face. [laughs] But I will be telling the artist exactly what goes into which panel. Hopefully the first issue will come out this year.
is out now.