Laetitia Sadier is responsible for more than you might think. As a core member of Stereolab, she helped shape the underground climate as we know it today with a spirit of independence that few other bands have mustered. But now Sadier has a new band, Monade.
As a bedroom-bound project, a spectacularly lo-fi album was released in 2003 after six years of on-off recording. Nowadays, Monade are an eight-legged band on the verge of writing their third album, replete with synth and bass and drums and guitars so milky and well constructed they could slink through the holes in a Crunchie bar. The band's second album, A Few Steps More (on the Too Pure label), is a miracle of dainty construction and crashing build-ups to destructive guitar inferno, and shot through with the kind of ambiguity only someone as stonily passionate and clear about her ideals as Laetitia Sadier.
So is she sick of Monade being referred to as a Stereolab side-project? What's the key behind those glorious accelerations? What the hell does 'Monade' mean anyway? DiS caught up with her at the final night in The French Disconnection's utterly great series of gigs bringing French acts to our fair island, in the bar below the Kilburn Luminaire. It was WELL noisy…
Writer for The Wire Simon Reynolds defined post-rock as using rock 'n' roll instruments for non-rock 'n' roll purposes, often referring to Stereolab. How far is this true with Monade?
I think… I don't know. I hope that Monade rock. I think sometimes it does. And sometimes Stereolab rock as well. I think rock is, really, a wide thing where… it just feels good, there's movement.
Speaking of movement, Monade's songs often move from languid beginnings to crazy endings. Why does this keep happening?
I know, I know, I'm really aware of this! It's like, "Oh shit, another one of those songs where I start slow and goes into a second part that goes really fast…". I'm very aware of the fact that you can't rock all the time. You need two opposites to be able to work off each other. So at the moment it's just my format and I'm really stuck in this thing! I'd like to find a new way and hopefully I will, but it's like trying to find the trick for tele-transportation. You know it's possible, but we just can't quite get there.
Now that Monade has a steady line-up, has the way the songs are crafted changed? Is there an influence from everyone else?
The band only really came together on the last little tour we did, four dates in France. And now I'm thinking, "Ah yes, here's the sound, this feels right." Everyone feels confident in their roles. We are working on new songs together, it's all very new and we can explore.
The word 'Monade' can refer to a psychologically childlike state. Does that come across in your songs?
I don't know where you read this! But that’s what's interesting about this word, it means so many different things. Originally, 'Monade' was about the universe folding, and in that fold everything becomes one. The idea behind Monade is that you cannot separate it, you cannot cut it. It's one. When I first started with this term it was supposed to describe a part of the brain where there are no opposites. And it's strange, because I like opposites. But you know how life is made of paradoxes? Well that’s one paradox – that we're made of opposites but we make one, and we're kind of inseparable. We think we're separable, but that’s not the question. You may think you're separate from that wall over there [points behind my head], but in fact materially you are not. I don't know, I'm really discovering these things as I go along, this ever-expanding word and what it can mean. We are at one on this Earth and in the universe, we are one. Possibly.
On your last record there are two instrumental sketches, 'Dittyah' and 'Dittysweep'. What function do they have in the album?
Well, I'm a fan of a band from Chicago called The Eternals and I was really impressed with their album, Bewareness. All the songs were linked by these crazy, intense, small bits of music and I thought, [adopts baby's voice] "I wanna do that! I want some atmosphere on my record!" And I have a friend from Chicago who was over and was helping his girlfriend record and I said, "Okay, well, let's record two short bits of music, whatever, we'll just do it." I'm not convinced that it did create anything particularly interesting, I just wanted something… other. Something unprepared, something more incidental.
How was the transition between recording the first album (songs recorded by yourself over a six-year period) and your last album?
Recording the second one was completely different, because we were a band, we wrote songs and rehearsed them. We did it in two batches, one in the summer and one in the winter. It was completely different because we were aware that this was going to be an album. It was a lot more work, actually. Just a big experience. With the first one I was thinking, "If I have five more songs I can do an album, woo! Scary!"
What sort of things do you write about with Monade? Stereolab lyrics tended to be rather focused on radical ideologies. Is this still an influence?
It's a lot more introverted because I was really shying away from the lyrics and what I wanted to put lyrically into Monade. To be honest, I was trying more to define myself musically. That was really the priority. I did the lyrics in Stereolab, so I thought, [adopts baby's voice once again] "Music! I want to write Music!" But now that I feel that the music is coming together and I'm thinking about the lyrics. That has to follow, that's going to be good.
You've been quoted as saying that the songs on A Few Steps More are about 'becoming'. Becoming what?
Becoming in the sense that you keep your options open. That people can become, they are always in a state of becoming. Always in a state where you can act upon it, so you can be more in charge of your destiny. We are in control. We cannot give up on that, because I have a sense in this world that things are closed, there's no alternatives, [becomes sarcastic] everybody's sad, human beings are shit, I hate everybody… No. It's not that simple. That’s the easy option. You could have cancer when you're forty, or take lots of drugs… I feel there's much, much more on offer. Don’t take the easy option. It worked for me all the time. Chances are if you think like this in terms of Becoming, you build something and it's like, Oh! There it is! This thing I never thought could happen, this dream I never thought was possible has happened.
Is that how you see Monade?
Yes. Definitely. It has given me much more than what I have dreamt of. Although I think positively, I think there is a big negativist inside me. And so the options are always open. Okay, maybe inside you are feeling fear, I have fear, but open the doors anyway. You don't know who might come in or come out, it could be interesting and 90 per cent of the time, or 80 per cent of the time it is interesting or fascinating. So I think it's always best to open the door and be trusting that life has something interesting to offer.
Listen to Monade at their MySpace site, here.