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Date August 1 2005
Type Review
Source ic Wales
Title Goldfrapp avoid the mainstream
Country Wales, UK
Journalist/Photographer ?/
Text There's a song playing on the radio at the moment called Ooh La La. It's the new single from Goldfrapp but, if you weren't listening properly, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was a cover of Norman Greenbaum's 70s glam classic Spirit In The Sky.


"I know," cringes Alison Goldfrapp, glamorous frontwoman of the band that bears her surname. "My sister said that when I first played it to her, which was slightly irritating.

"Obviously there's that element to it, but I'd like to think Ooh La La is a little bit more playful and glam than that really. A bit more Bolan-esque."


"That's what people said about 2003 single Train as well," adds Alison's partner in pop Will Gregory. "It's just because it's got that glam swing to it. I think a lot of it is down to the rhythm track more than anything else."


Despite this Goldfrapp are the last band around you could accuse of being unoriginal. They arrived on the music scene in 2001 with the lush, dark soundscapes of their debut album Felt Mountain and followed it up with the vastly different sulky, sexy pop of their album Black Cherry.


Most of the time Goldfrapp don't sound like anyone but themselves. But they've made such an impression on the music scene that their musical ideas have begun to be incorporated by the mainstream.


That first became apparent last year when former S Clubber turned solo artist Rachel Stevens released Some Girls. The single was produced and written by pop experimentalist Richard X and achieved the impressive feat of putting a highly acclaimed record to Rachel's name.


But most interestingly of all many of its reviews said the song sounded like Goldfrapp.

"I think I heard it once on Top Of The Pops and thought it was very bland," says Alison of the song. "I really hope that people don't think we're bland like that.


"I've nothing against her. I mean the poor girl probably doesn't have anything to do with what she does anyway. But I don't see any relation to what we're doing at all.


"It's a weird one because when Ooh La La first got played on the radio someone said, adopts stupid voice - Ooh it sounds just like Rachel Stevens".


"Because she's so mainstream and we haven't had that kind of exposure obviously there's going to be people who think that that somehow came from her. I'm not upset about it because you can't claim a sound. In a way it did us a favour because it got people talking about Goldfrapp."


And now people are talking about Goldfrapp once again. Their forthcoming album Supernature is being tipped to take them from successful cult status over to mainstream success where, just like Rachel Stevens, they'll be household names.


"I feel a bit weird about that, possibly," says Will. "I don't know. Mainstream equals average to me sometimes. But not always, there's some really excellent things that become mainstream aren't there? He said, trying to think of some," he laughs.

"It's a bit scary but who knows, we'll see. It may well not happen."


"People say that sort of thing and I just think, nah," says Alison. "I can be quite pessimistic most of the time. I'm one of those people at school who came bottom of the class.


"I permanently had this idea that I just wouldn't happen," she laughs.


"But it's nice that people have had this very positive reaction to the album. It seems like this time people have got the gist of what we do a bit more. I think we're a bit more in people's radar this time."


What is very apparent when talking to Alison and Will is that Alison is very comfortable with the attention that success has brought them, while Will is much happier hanging back in the shadows where few can see him.


Alison usually does the interviews, Alison appears alone in all the photos and Will sometimes isn't even on stage when they perform, staying backstage a lot of the time to "sort out the sound".


Rather than cause a conflict of interests, this is actually how the band works so well.

"I'm happy with the situation and I hope Alison is too," says Will. "I sometimes worry that it falls on her shoulders rather heavily. But it was always set up like that from the beginning.


"Where the music's concerned there's a very strong role for Alison as the lead protagonist in the drama of each song. She's the leading lady and there isn't really a leading man, shall we say," he laughs.


The pair met in 1999 when a mutual friend sent a demo tape of Alison singing to Will. Alison had already begun her singing career guesting on tracks with Tricky and Orbital, while Will had made a name for himself as a film composer. But in each other they found their musical soulmates.


"I thought what everyone thinks when they first meet Will," says Alison, "that he is this well-spoken, quite boffin-y looking bloke.


"But what's great about working with Will is that I was so bored of working with people who seemed to be much more interested in what was cool or fashionable.


"Will is very open-minded and even though he's classically trained, he's the only person I've ever met that I feel I can relate to musically. He understands how I think about music and vice versa."


Whether Supernature will take Goldfrapp into the mainstream remains to be seen. Maybe the band's sound and Alison's accompanying visual theatrics are a still little too quirky for mainstream tastes.


Whatever happens you can be sure that Alison will never be lumped in with fellow pop divas such as Rachel, Kylie and Beyonce.


"It's like they're a separate identity to the whole music and imagery," says Alison of those singers. "They have a whole entourage of people doing it for them so I find it hard to know what they are.


"They seem to have these personalities that are very generic and so I can't really relate to them. I suppose I can't really relate to it on a personal level at all, because you never really understand where the personal comes into what they do."

 
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