Laetitia Sadier finds herself in a hairy situation

Twenty years on, the Stereolab star looks back on their iconic debut release

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Taken from the August issue of Dazed & Confused:

Stereolab’s avant-pop hit the musical landscape like a ton of Space Bricks, serving up their signature drones and vintage analogue synths in a heady mix of 50s lounge, 60s pop and 70s krautrock. French lead singer Laetitia Sadier was born at the height of the country’s situationist-influenced revolutionary fervour in May ’68, and has been constantly inspired by its uncompromising philosophy. In 1993, she put pen to paper and co-wrote (with Tim Gane) the band’s first fully grown vision, Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements.

1993 was the year we signed to Elektra Records, so it was a landmark in the life of the band. I remember getting off the dole and the Enterprise Allowance Scheme, on which we started our own label, Duophonic, and signing to Elektra

“It was the shoegaze era, which I’m not dismissing entirely, but some people saw it as the music of Thatcher’s children because she killed the nerve in people. So there was this really dull thing going on where people looked at their shoes and had no self-confidence because Thatcher had crushed it. But there were also bands like Gallon Drunk, Silverfish and Sun Carriage who wanted to kick back from the self-conscious, looking-at-my-navel shoegazing thing. Riot grrrl also started happening, which was another kick in the bollocks of the status quo. There was a night called Sausage Machine, run by Paul Cox at The White Horse in Belsize Park. It was a big institution for us. We saw everyone down there. Bands like Bikini Kill, Angeline, the Voodoo Queens, Huggy Bear and Mambo Taxi had a massive impact.  

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1993 was the year we signed to Elektra Records, so it was a landmark in the life of the band. I remember getting off the dole and the Enterprise Allowance Scheme, on which we started our own label, Duophonic, and signing to Elektra. I’m not sure if they saw the commercial potential in us – if they did then they really failed – but we went for them because they seemed to agree on all our conditions. Traditionally a record label could have total control over a little band like us. The music industry was at a radical turning point. I think Nirvana had a huge role to play in this. 

They were a small indie band and then all of a sudden they shifted millions of units. That really resonated throughout the industry. It’s just a detail in the sea of what it takes to affirm your feminism, but I remember having hair on my legs and being totally happy that I had hair on my legs. I did the whole of Lollapalooza with hairy legs. So that’s what I remember from that time – the dullness of shoegazing against the vibrancy of riot grrrl. In our community of bands everyone was really political, there was a great deal of solidarity. I don’t know how it is today, but I know it’s hard because everybody seems to have to self-promote a lot more.

I haven’t played Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements in such a long time, but I remember writing, “All good things to come / All good things to come / Will come, welcome / See you on battlefield when we go through the mill. (“Analogue Rock”). Twenty years on, I feel this is exactly what is happening. I think all good things will come, because we’re going to have to learn as humans. I guess that’s what we’re here for, and sometimes we need to go through these horrible crises to learn something. For me, the priorities are still the same: to make good music, and to fight off the kind of capitalism that crushes people. At the same time I also see that I need to evolve as a human being, to know myself better.”

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