Squidgy synths, go-go bells and aerial vocals sashaying across the forecourt: Supervision is the latest record from Elly Jackson, who has uncovered a fresh fountain of creativity on the third album from her electro-pop project La Roux.
The yin and yang symbol seems important to this album; you’ve been sporting a ring in its shape, and you use it on instagram quite a bit. What significance does it hold for Supervision?
I think partly there’s something really brilliantly graphic about that symbol. But the album is basically about balance; if you listen to the lyrics, every song is about me learning how to re-balance myself, and looking back over the last 10 years, and trying to understand where things have gone too far, and how to pull them back, and then the joy in pulling them back – the joy in seeing the hindsight and the lessons and understanding what’s happened. And writing this album was a strange process because I didn’t write any lyrics intentionally; I never chose what a song was about – which I don’t really think you should ever do anyway. I think if people sit in a room and go ‘is it a breakup song, is it this, is it that?’, you can f-cking tell.
I think the songs have told me how I feel about my life. It’s been a nice learning process about myself, and also I’ve tried to put in lessons that I’ve learned, and tried to present them to other people in a supportive, friendly way. A lot of it’s about mental health, but it’s mainly about balance. And I feel like that symbol is the best way of explaining that.
Towards the end of the Chic-esque Do You Feel, you’re singing wordlessly in this beautifully smooth way, and your voice…
Sounds like a saxophone?
Yes! Was it deliberate, were you consciously mimicking a sax?
No, I didn’t mean to, it wasn’t intentional! When I get to the end of a song – I love outros so much, as you can probably tell from all my albums – but for want of a better expression, I just like to ‘vibe out’ over my own music. At the end of Do You Feel, I was genuinely extremely elated. You know, there’s no fake elation on this album: if I sound elated it’s because I was completely elated when I was writing it.
The album is clearly carefully designed; how much time do you allow yourself to pore over the details?
Depends on the album. Last album [Trouble In Paradise, 2014] was excessive, and I was obsessive, and I procrastinated. This album was the exact opposite, partly because I had to ditch an album and then start making another one. This album I set myself limitations purely because I didn’t have any choice: I haven’t really had that much money over the last few years; I used to have a studio, I now don’t have a studio; the desk that I was using, on the album I was making, needs to be in a big room – there’s no way I could have it in my house, it’s in storage gathering dust and I now have a sort of mini-desk installed in my kitchen at home; I don’t have an engineer any more. I’ve built a studio with the intention of being able to engineer most of my future records but at the moment I’m not quite there.
One of the killer threads throughout Supervision is the mad percussion: there’s sounds of metal bells, woodblock, triangle, and a hundred other things. How were they planned?
Dan [Carey, producer] said ‘I think we should get this guy Julian, we should fly him over to play percussion. We’ll only need him here for like, a few hours. I’ll get him to bring some raclette; whenever he comes he brings raclette, and we can all have raclette’. I was like, ‘There’s not going be time to eat raclette, we’ve got to do a whole album of percussion, what are you talking about?!’
But basically, he was absolutely right. And it was the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen a percussionist like it. Julian Sartorius – lovely, lovely guy – has got all this stuff that he’s collected from the street, and all over the world – ragged bits of metal that look like they’re nothing – and then he lays them on a blanket. He was really, really working on the tone and the level of dampening, to create slightly different tones for each track so that they’re kind of in tune, but without a really technical way of doing it – he’s got an amazing ear.
Do you think Dan has all these genius musician gremlins in his pocket that he can pull out for whatever situation?
Yes, he does. He’s also maybe one of them – like he’s got a hundred little gremlins inside of him. But he doesn’t overcomplicate things, he’s not over-serious, he’s not self-important about what he does, and it allows him an ease, and a no-stress approach to everything, that really works. I can’t explain it.
Supervision by La Roux is out February 7 via Supercolour Records.
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