Australian-born (and LA and London dwelling) singer and sprite Sia is best known to American audiences for “Breathe Me,” a track that exploded after being featured on the soundtrack to Six Feet Under, her work with Zero 7 and the head-squishing video for “Buttons,” which came out last summer before the release of her latest album this winter, Some People Have Real Problems, which has been called everything from “stunning” to “hypnotic” to “breathtaking” by the media folk.
Also, in spite of this video, everyone from Joel to Erik to Cale’s boss seems to have a monster crush on her.
And that in combination with her being back in town this Friday @ 930 club was reason enough for us to set Rachel loose on her for a phone interview that involved: bad tacos, good love and lots of “whethers”.
Breathe (her) in.
BYT: Hi, Sia, this is Rachel Eisley from brightestyoungthings.com
S: Hello, Rachel Eisley, How are you?
BYT: Yes, I’m recording the conversation on my computer so I don’ have to type while we talk.
S: (laughs) Well I’m sorry, I’ve got “bad belly” today, I had some bad tacos.
S: It’s been: “ ‘Uh-oh!’ bum.”
BYT: It’s been what?
S: Uh-oh bum. That’s what I like to affectionately refer to it as. I’ve been shouting at my shoes, “uh-oh bum”. What a combo! So what’s brightest young things?
BYT: It essentially started out as a myspace blog of this lovely lady Svetlana (I keep people in free tickets and stuff, so they say these things-S), complete with photos of her and her friends going out on the town and participating in the music/art/culture/entertainment offerings of DC. Once the photos and reviews started flying, it eventually took on a life of its own and has become a well visited online DC culture magazine that’s targeted at the 18-35 year old demographic.
S: That’s great. Did I meet you on the dance floor of a club in NYC? I remember telling someone me about this once when I was out, that they had this blog.
BYT: No, that probably wasn’t me, but maybe it was Svetlana, or one of our other contributors. I’ve been working for BYT for a few months now doing photography and writing. This is my first interview for them. So, to get things started on the right foot, I might have to quote you about your “uh oh bum.”
S: (laughs.) That’s quite all right, go bananas, I knew I was being recorded. I’m out! I’m out about my bum! (laughs)
BYT: Well that’s good to know. Ok. Let’s talk about your new album. So how long has it been since your last album? I know you’ve done work with Zero 7.
S: It’s been about 5 years since my old album. I’ve been on every one of Zero 7s albums for the last 7-8 years, it was pretty much my bread and butter, since they were successful and my solo albums were not as successful. So it was really great for me because not only were they awesome people to spend time with, they were great to work for. I kind of learned a “teacher’s salary” every year just from publishing, having songs that I did with them in TV shows/movies.
|BYT: I’m a fan of Zero 7 but I hadn’t done research on them to know the names of those contributing to their music, so when I visited your website this week, I thought “Oh, she’s the girl from Zero 7!”
S: That happens a lot. Maybe we didn’t do it right, but maybe it’s good that people are just now figuring this out for themselves, but for my last album, Colour the Small One, I fucked myself over big time because I thought I was fucking Radiohead or something, because I didn’t do any press, I think I only did like 4 interviews or something. Tt was like, Zero 7 was pretty successful, and they had sold a million records, and that could have potentially translated into success for me if I had bothered to do the press so that people actually knew there was a record out that had me singing on it which was all mine. But instead I sort of shot myself in the foot really and so for the past 3 years, a lot of people were like “What, you’ve got a solo record, no way!” Zero 7 seven fans had no idea. So that album flopped because I was an asshole and wouldn’t do the work, and then ….
BYT: What happened?
S:I started working on another Zero 7 album, and was thinking about what I was whether or not I wanted to make a solo album or whether I wanted to be a song writer and try and write pop songs for other people, because that would be really fun and I love doing that. Then my song “Breathe Me” was featured in the last episode of Six Feet Under, which totally resuscitated my solo career. That album had never even ever come out in the US, it had only been an import, so then I worked on Healing is Difficult. I put the album out, it went reasonably well, but I would say it laid the foundation for something bigger and that something bigger is this album, Some People Have Real Problems. Its songs have been accumulated over the last 4 and a half years. For example, “Electric Bird” was a throw away from Zero 7 that I had wrote with Henry from The Garden, that Sam wasn’t so into. “You Have Been Loved” was supposed to be on the Colour the Small One but it didn’t work because we recorded it the wrong way, we liked the demo but we decided we’d keep it for the next album. As for the rest of the songs, some are new, some are old, some are as recent as a year old, some are like 5 years old, and “I Go To Sleep” is obviously 30 years old. It took us 2 weeks to record and then Jimmy (my producer) took it away without any interference from me.
|BYT: Well looking at your website, I wouldn’t get the idea that you are lazy, because looking at your graphics, they are pretty energetic. Can you explain a little bit about them? I did read in another article that you had some of your fans help with some of your album design? Was that the case with the website as well?
S: My Ex, Peter, had sent me a Valentines card that was like that [the website graphics] made with AppleWorks, and I just loved it, and at the time I was designing the website, and we were doing something else, and it looked like shit, and when he sent me this love card, it was so awesome, naïve and simple and beautiful, and I was like “I want the whole website like this. Like children’s drawings.” So Peter sent me a whole bunch more, and I did some, and Leo the website designer did some, it ended up being a composite of all of our stuff. Then while I started getting into doing them while I was waiting in airports while touring, I decided to try and do a drawing for every song. I got about 8 songs in when I got distracted with another project, and then my managers asked me for the rest of them, and then because they know that once I’ve moved on from something it’s difficult to get me back into focus, they realized they were never going to get the rest of them from me. (laughs)
S: REALLY! So they suggested that we have a contest for the fans to do the rest of the artwork, and that we could show them the already designed cover so they could make something cohesive. We got 20,000 entries. My management sifted through and chose the 300 that were most cohesive with the cover and then I chose the rest. I think they are fun, slodgy!
BYT: That’s an amazing response.
S: I know! It was incredible.
BYT: To change the subject briefly, is there a question that you wish someone would ask you when you’re getting interviewed?
S: Well I do like “what if/would you rathers.” I love being asked questions like “would you rather have 3 tits or an elbow coming out of your head.” That would really be my ideal interview, if someone asked me random questions like that. “Would you rather eat a shit sandwich or cut off your Mum’s foot.” Those sorts of things would really make life way more fun. Or, “whats your favorite word today”, you know?
BYT: I have a “would you rather” for you. Would you rather have eyes that always smile, or a voice that makes people calm.
S: Wow, that’s a lovely one. I think I would like to have a voice that makes people calm, right now, =I think that would be really nice, and its not precluding that your eyes can’t smile, its just that they can’t smile all the time, and I think that if I were to have children, when I hve children, that having a voice that makes people calm will really come in handy. And also if you have any anxious people in your life, it’s good to be able to make them calm. It feeds back.
BYT: Ok, this is a good one, I don’t know which answer I’d choose. Would you rather be able to stop time while you slept, or never need to do laundry.
S: Never to do laundry. Definitely. I don’t mind missing out, I used to be the type of person who wouldn’t be able to go to sleep on the tour bus because I was worried about missing out on something fun, but now I totally don’t mind if things happen without me there. (laughs.) So never need to do laundry. That’s hilarious. Because I live in New York, so I never need to do laundry anyways. You just drop it off. (laughs)
BYT: I see.
S: Yeah, laundry sucks though.
BYT: Agreed. Another non-would you rather question I’d like to ask has to do with the subject of your sexuality. Do you care to discuss the media attention you’ve gotten lately as being an artist who has “come out”? I read articles discussing the subject on the Lesbian and Gay Foundation’s website, lgf.org.uk and AfterEllen.com
S: Well the thing is, that I haven’t really “come out.” I’ve had mostly boyfriends, but have also gone out with women. I don’t care what you are. If you’re smart, funny, kind, sexy then I might fall in love you with you! Yeah that’s the way it’s been for me all my life really. And I’ve always talked about that in interviews for 10 years now, and it’s never been a big deal, but I think now that maybe because I’m gaining a little more success, that’s its being championed. And also right now, I’m dating a girl. [ed. according to Perez Hilton, Sia’s current flame is the lead singer of Le Tigre, JD Samson, WHOM WE WILL BE INTERVIEWING LATER TOMORROW. Ta-dah!.]
|BYT: In some ways I understand the media’s obsession with quantifying and labeling sexuality, but at the same time I don’t think it’s necessary to constantly compartmentalize. I was just curious to ask you about it since I read several different that references to it.
S: When I did the interview for AfterEllen.com, I was making jokes about being how I’ve been with women but I’m straight! All the girls I’ve ever dated have told me that I’m straight. I’ve asked them, “am I a lesbian?” and they’ve said “No you’re straight.”
BYT: Well, I’m a huge fan of the L word, so I’m trying to think of an L word character comparison I can use with you, do you keep up on that show at all?
BYT: You definitely should. Right now Shane is trying to get with a straight girl, named Molly.
BYT: Do you think you should go?
S: Well if I’m about to barf, I’ll just literally hang up the phone. We still have a few minutes if you still have anything left to ask.
BYT: Well, have you spent a lot of time in DC?
S: No. But I do have one experience. When I first went on tour in DC with Zero 7, me and Sophie we got there early, and we decided to go for a walk, I don’t know if you know the 930 club or where it is?
BYT: Yes, I’m familiar with it. Was it at night?
S: No, it was daytime. But fuck, it makes no difference, I tell you what, because it was like “crack town,” there were just crack junkies everywhere.
BYT: Was this recently?
S: No, it was about 6 years ago.
BYT: Because the area has changed quite a bit in recent years. Lots of bars, restaurants and shops everywhere.
S: It was amazing. We went into a corner store to see if we could get a bottle of water. But they ddin’t sell water. They only sold soda and huge bottles of beer and lottery tickets. It was really sad, actually. More than anything.
BYT: Yeah, Washington is a varied place, lots of different types of areas. There’s been a good deal of “urban renewal” in the recent years which can also be described as gentrification, that has changed the face of the city quite a lot.
S: Also I went to the White House and saw the woman who has sat there for 25 years who had a helmet made of hair, because people had hit her on the head while she’s been sleeping. And she’s protesting her son, I can’t remember why, but it was really sad as well.
BYT: Do you have any positive memories of DC?
S: Yes, we went to this place around the corner where we got really drunk and did a lot of dancing.
(side editorial note: this was at Kingpin, which our very own Joel used to own, who still gets misty eyed talking about the fun he had when they were in town.-ed)
S: Gotta nother call coming in! Gotta go! Stop by and say hi if you come to the show!”
BYT: Would love to, hope to be there. Thanks for talking.