Interview by Michael McCarthy
There isn’t much that one could say about the immensely talented Polly Scattergood that I haven’t said already. After all, I gave her new album, Arrows, a very positive review HERE and named it my favorite album of the year HERE in my Best of 2013 list. So, it felt like it was finally time for me to shut up about Polly Scattergood and let her talk about her music herself, hence the following interview. Even if you haven’t read any of my previous coverage of Polly and her new album, I think you’ll find this interview to be rather interesting. Plus, we’ve included her latest videos so you can get to know her music while reading! Without further ado…
Let’s start with your “Wanderlust” video. What exactly is happening there? I love how it expands on the lyric “following my feet as I keep dancing down this endless street,” but what is happening there specifically? At first I thought it was an actress going a little bonkers on a movie set, but it also seems like something from The Twilight Zone or a David Lynch movie.
It’s a little trippy isn’t it, it’s all to do with escaping and the monotony of life going on around you, whilst you are just running for the finish line trying to escape.
Whose idea was it for you to just appear on the TV screen in the “Wanderlust” video? I thought that was pretty clever and it almost makes it kind of eerie, especially where the video is so trippy to begin with.
Yeah the directors came up with the concept of the video, and I loved the idea as it worked really well with the song.
To me, the lyrics of “Wanderlust” are kind of like a fairy tale. Did it feel like you were writing a fairy tale when you wrote it?
I am always drawn to quite childish imagery as I find you often discover the darkest insinuations in the sweetest of surroundings, and I really enjoy that bitter sweet subtext.
There’s a part where you do spoken word during “Wanderlust” – was that always going to be in the song or was that something that came about later? I mean, was it just something you said in the studio that just happened to be recorded and then you decided it would be cool to put it in the song?
I was in the studio and that moment just sort of happened, I think I was rambling into the mic around that bit saying what I could hear, and it sort of worked. Spoken word is a bit of a love hate thing, but I love it.
There’s also a part where a guy says something near the end of “Wanderlust.” Is it in French? What is he saying?
It’s a russian fairytale warning a woman not to go out wearing a red dress – it’s really creepy.
Who directed the “Wanderlust” and “Cocoon” videos?
A Spanish Company called NYSU they are truly wonderful & have such unique ideas and execute them so stylishly.
I found the “Cocoon” video to be quite trippy, too, but where “Wanderlust” might be viewed as a bit creepy with the girl running through all of those doors and such, the “Cocoon” video has an air of innocence about it. It almost reminds me of a Wes Anderson film. How would you describe what happens in the “Cocoon” video and what, if anything, is the plot that’s happening in the video?
It’s all about things not being how they first appear to be, you have to look a little deeper to see them, like the little girl with the knife behind her back, stuff like that. Nothing is as lovely as it first appears, and when you strip away the layers it’s actually pretty fucked up. Some people will get it and notice all the dark stuff, others just won’t get it.
You wrote most of Arrows in collaboration with Glenn Kerrigan, who also performs many of the instruments on the album. How did the two of you first meet? Did he work on your first album?
We met working on a trailer for EA games, he was also working with Emmy The Great at the time & in a few bands I knew of like Rivere. I heard his work and suggested we write together, and it just instantly worked. He is a great writer and producer. He didn’t work on my first album with me tho, I wrote that on my own & Simon Fisher Turner & Gareth Jones Produced it.
How do you usually approach songwriting — do you start with the lyrics or the music, for example?
It’s different each time. often lyrics and music come at the same time, but not always.
Does Glenn co-write the lyrics with you, or do you write the lyrics alone and then bring them to him and finish the songs together? I
usually write most of the lyrics and Glenn edits me if I start rambling too much.
Did you and Glenn write the album in the studio or beforehand?
Glenn had a portable set up so we wrote most of the album before we got into the big studio. We took his studio to Berlin and a few other places to write and record ideas, then we went into Ken and Jolyons studio in the countryside to put everything down properly.
All of the songs on the album are written in first person and your lyrics seem very introspective, sometimes almost like they’re taken from someone’s journal. How much of the lyrics are actually about you?
This is a very personal album.
Are there any songs that aren’t about you whatsoever?
Every song has a bit of me in it, as they are my songs. Some of the lyrics are inspired by other people, places and situations, but ultimately to write a song you have to know what you are writing about.
Which songs on the album are the most personal to you?
They all are pretty personal I have put a lot of time and energy into this album and each song represents something for me, a place, a time, a moment. It’s hard to choose one.
The songs on the album that I relate to most are “Miss You” and “I’ve Got A Heart,” which are obviously very emotional, melancholic songs. Were they especially difficult to write?
I often find the most painful songs are the easiest to write, as they just sort of spil out of you. It’s good to let a wound bleed a bit before you bandage it up, its cleans out the dirt it and gets it out of your body and into music-. So I don’t find it that difficult to write the sadder songs, I find it cathartic.
The album was mostly produced by you and Glenn in collaboration with Ken & Jolyon Thomas. Why did you decide to bring Ken and Jolyon aboard the project and what did they bring to the album?
Ken Thomas is a legend, he has worked with everyone from M83 to Sigur Ros – him and his son Jolyon just have this brilliant energy. They have a studio at their home, which we recorded in, and it was just a really lovely place to be. They just understood what I wanted from this album intuitively, and they have a warmth in their production which I have always loved.
Did any of the songs change much once you started working with Ken and Jolyon?
Yes some of them went through lots of different stages, that’s the exciting thing about being in the studio, you never know where you will end up at the end of the day. It’s all about where your imagination & creativity decides to take you.
The Golden Filter also worked on “Disco Damaged Kid” with the other producers. What did they contribute to the song?
I love the Golden Filter & have been friends with them for a while. I have always really enjoyed there sound and when they said they had some production ideas I jumped at the chance to collaborate.
How long did it take to record Arrows?
Probably longer than it should have. I love being in the studio it’s my happiest place to be.
I understand “Disco Damaged Kid” was a single, but I couldn’t find a video for it, just a lyric video and I’m not even sure it was an official lyric video because it wasn’t posted by your Youtube account. Is there a video for the song? Is that lyric video an official lyric video or did a fan make that?
Disco Damaged Kid was never a single, I gave it away at the start of last year as a little taster of what was to come. I think Mute made the lyric video for it.
Your new single is going to be “Subsequently Lost.” Have you made a video for it? If so, when will it debut and what can you tell us about it? If not, do you plan to make one soon?
Yes I have made a video for it, It will premier next week on VEVO. I made this video with the Director Tom Payne, we came up with the concept together, it’s all about being lost in a fantasy dream like world and then occasionally you snap back to the harsh reality of life where you are constrained by everything- and one of those things being your own thought process- Which is why I felt gluing wires to my head and sitting in a padded room made sense of it all.
I know a lot of artists actually hate making music videos. I’ve often heard artists say it’s a “necessary evil.” Do you enjoy making videos?
Yes in general I do, except for when its cold. I have always seen videos as another creative outlet, I like to be quite involved in them if I can be. This video was also a really fun experience, it was all very personal. It was a tiny team, just me, Tom, and Jay Pinxie Turnbull who did my hair and make up. We spent a weekend shooting it, then edited it together whilst drinking whisky and red wine.
Will “Subsequently Lost” be the final single from Arrows? Personally, I think “Miss You” should be a single. (But then it’s my favorite song on the album, so, of course, I’d feel that way.)
Ha I don’t know, you will have to ask Mute Records.
As I mentioned earlier, to me, the lyrics on Arrows often sound like journal entries. Do you journal or write poetry or anything aside from songwriting?
Yes I write poetry, I am currently writing a poetry/lyric book. I don’t have a journal tho, I don’t have time. I use instagram and stuff to document what I have been doing.
How do you perform your songs live? Do you work with many musicians or is it just you and a synthesizer with a computer playing the other parts, for example?
It’s me and Glenn Kerrigan & we play as much live as humanly possible! In One song glenn plays keyboard, drums, and bass guitar!
Have you done many live shows in promotion of Arrows?
Yes we did some last year, and we have a headline London show on the 7th of Febuary in East London!
Will you be touring the United States soon?
Who are the artists (musicians) who inspire you the most?
Jon Hopkins, Bjork , Aphex Twin, there are quite a few really, I am always discovering new music.
If you could tour with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Given all the heartache expressed in your songs, I have to ask: have you been unlucky in love? If so, perhaps you could share a story about having your heart broken and how you survived it?
I wouldn’t say I have been unlucky in love, I have just made some bad choices & learned the hard way what true love actually is. But in answer to your question about how I survive a broken heart, I wish I knew the answer. I suppose like everything in life, you just carry on as best you can.
Are you currently seeing anyone or are you single?
Finally, I’d like to ask some random questions, which I thought might be interesting…
What was the last song you listened to?
I listened to the Yann Tierson Track “Comptine d’un Autra Ete. ” from the Amelie soundtrack
What was your biggest indulgence this month?
Pretty geeky but probably some software for my studio.
What is your favorite book?
Leonard Cohen’s book of longing.
Do you prefer cities or the country?
I am a city girl at heart, I love the peace of the country but you can’t beat the 24/7 energy in a city.
How often are you recognized in public?
Not that much, I live in London- no one notices anyone!
‘Subsequently Lost’ is Polly Scattergood’s new single taken from her new album ‘Arrows’ out now on Mute.
Pre-order ‘Subsequently Lost’ and its remixes here:
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Polly’s official site: http://www.pollyscattergood.com/