say lou lou's new sound nods to trip hop and 'james bond'
As i-D premieres 'Ana,' the first single off Say Lou Lou's long-awaited second album, the sister duo discusses their new direction.
Photography Axel Lindahl
After Say Lou Lou’s 2015 debut album Lucid Dreaming, the musical duo from Sweden and Australia needed to re-center. For twin sisters Miranda and Elektra Kilbey, this meant taking time away for themselves, away from the clutter of the world. "Following Lucid Dreaming and its anthemic earworms like "Julian," they stepped away from the major label world and focused on shaping their own artistic vision. They had cut their teeth on the road and needed to clear their heads - so they journeyed to California to reset their creativity. Miranda and Elektra spent a year song-writing and only allowing a few collaborators to work with them — Say Lou Lou became an intimate and exciting project for them again.
From the sisters’ renaissance year came Say Lou Lou’s forthcoming album Immortelle — due September 21 — an exploratory look at the roles women play. The album captivates the duo’s dreamy ethos and affinity for James Bond scores, letting them create their own sonic universe. Premiering on i-D today is the album’s first single “Ana”: a trip hop-inspired track that reveals the pop outfit’s new direction.
i-D caught up with Say Lou Lou to talk about taking their power back, the impact of LA on their music, and how leaving the major label world helped them grow.
You were on a major label before and you’re doing it independently now. How did you approach putting together this record in comparison to your debut?
Miranda: I think the whole process has changed in every way. After the last round of making music, and being with a major [label]... we wanted to do everything differently and take a chance. We really wanted to sit back and be like, ‘How are we doing this and how does the process reflect the material, and with makes us feel creative, confident, and excited about art and life?’ We were very adamant about it not being disjointed. We wanted to be in charge of the process, so we decided to be in LA — just me, Elektra, and two other people during one condensed time, and pay for everything ourselves and be completely in charge of the material that was coming out. No one was really allowed into the studio. There were no external expectations. We really got to roam free without any expectations. It was [about]: ‘What do we want to do? What do we want to make? What do we want to say?’
Tell me about your first new single in over 3 years, “Ana.”
Miranda: “Ana” was the first song we wrote for the album and was the starting point for the whole world to open up. We were so driven by things that were sensual, cinematic, and dark, and we really based the whole structure of the song around strings and it being a film score to a movie we hadn’t yet made. It really helped us figure out where we wanted to go with the rest of the songs.
How did going to LA change how you find inspiration?
Elektra: Being in LA, you can be hidden and make a little universe for yourself. You can really focus on your craft. For us, it’s really central to disconnect and create a little hub and bubble for a year. I think that’s why a lot of people do come to LA — it has that magical feeling of escapism.
Have you just been working on music since your last record?
Miranda: We toured for a year after the last record came out. Then we started working on new material, but there was a lot of new material we didn’t end up using. We were sort of in a leap year where we were trying to find ourselves: a journey of self-discovery. It was the first year that we really took a step back. It was very existential, but healthy for us to think about because we had just only been doing music.
How did you choose your producers Trent Mazur & Dashiell Le Francis?
Miranda: We met randomly through writing music sessions and we instantly musically connected. It was almost love at first sight. The chords and the musicality that we both felt from them was so on point with what we’ve always wanted to do, but weren’t able to explain, verbalize or try ourselves. It was such a visceral connection musically. They hadn’t done anything in the same vein at all before, so we decided to trust our gut and go with it.
What were you guys listening to when you made the new album?
Miranda: The starting point was a lot of trip-hop — a lot of Portishead. We deconstructed trip-hop, generally speaking, it’s a lot of cinema scores broken down and looped around. Most of those bands didn’t have big budgets at all — they basically sampled vinyls and created loops. Almost all the music you hear is samples. We thought: ‘What if we took that approach with a sonic template where we create all of the samples ourselves and record everything live with a string arranger? What if we do it so it’s not sampled or looped?’ We could be in control more and let the tracks explode. Of course when you start going into the whole idea of cinema and the soundtracks they have sampled, we end up in the worlds of classics like Lalo Schifrin, Bernard Herrmann, George Martin, and Ennio Morricone. That’s where we got a lot of inspiration for the string arrangements. In terms of song arrangements, we have our Russian tango and our Laurel Canyon ode… we wanted to drop into different worlds. We were really inspired by James Bond soundtracks — especially for “Ana.”
Is there a theme for your forthcoming record?
Elektra: The theme is Immortelle: the undying essence of the woman. Immortelle means immortal, in the French female spelling. It’s also a flower that never dies.
Did politics have anything to do with the record?
Miranda: I think politics is 100 percent related to music, and music is 100 percent related to politics. Art imitates life and life imitates art and we couldn’t have gone by this past year without [addressing] it.
Have you been doing anything else in the arts world in addition to music?
Miranda: I think all these different things — fashion, music, art, and film — are becoming one. I think being indie artists and self-funded artists — the way that we are — you can venture into a lot of different things. You can find ways to pay for what you’re doing and it doesn’t have to be a classic set up of a label giving you money and you making a record. It’s been a really good way for us to grow in terms of gaining exposure and expressing ourselves.
What would need to change with major labels for you to join one again?
Miranda: There’s a lot of great music that comes from major labels. It just didn’t work for us. We found a way to work that suits us and our projects. As women, if you want to disconnect yourself from a male-driven industry and distance yourself from the male gaze, one way to do it is to be in charge of yourself. I think we’re still in a situation where the male gaze is upon us, judges us and rules our industry. You have to realize you’re the master of your own destiny. Us working any other way… we couldn’t have made this record.
How does the dynamic of being sisters and being in a band work?
Miranda: I think we gave each other way more space this time. It would be like, “Elektra, you go in the studio this week without my judgment or ideas,” and then the reverse. I think we didn’t have the other person standing over them. We let each other explore more. It is hard, but we’re trying to find a process that works for us and take charge in different areas.