Laetitia Sadier is only five minutes late for a scheduled interview, but she apologizes profusely. The French ex-Stereolab frontwoman has been scampering through London all morning, and after swimming a few laps at the Brixton Recreation Centre — her favorite exercise — she was heading straight home for a transatlantic phone interview to discuss her new sophomore solo set, Silencio. But then, a store window display beckoned.
"I saw a nice dress and I don't know what happened," she says with a sigh. "I had to go in and try it on!" While Sadier ended up leaving empty-handed —the dress didn't suit her — she expresses embarrassment at her unwitting complicity in the spectacle of consumerism.
In fact, that's one of the societal ills she spends much of her record railing against, in thoughtful keyboard meditations like "Silent Spot," "The Rule of the Game," "Find Me the Pulse of the Universe," and the self-explanatory processional "There Is a Price to Pay for Freedom (and It Isn't Security)."
"That's the interesting side of the times we're living in," muses Sadier. "The propaganda is still working — the fear and the lies and the seduction ... But maybe there's a shift in consciousness coming, like 'OK, now we know they're lying, now we know this big machinery is working against us'."
Sadier was working as a Parisian au pair when she met guitarist and future Stereolab cohort Tim Gane in the late '80s. They started dating, then making music together in London, and formed the synth-fizzy Stereolab in 1990. The couple also had a son, but separated in 2004. Even so, they continued on with their band until its hiatus in 2009.
The singer hasn't exactly been indolent since: She launched another outfit called Monade. She recorded with artists like Blur, Luna, Atlas Sound, the High Llamas and Mouse on Mars. And back in 2010, she released her debut solo album, The Trip.
Meanwhile, Sadier continues to integrate her sociopolitical concerns into her domestic life, bringing her own bags to the grocery store and harvesting food from her own backyard garden. "Right now, my apple tree is making kilos and kilos of apples," she says. "So I've been making apple juice, apple crumble, and maybe I'll make a bit of compote if I get the chance before I go off to tour America."
But Sadier knows there's much more to social change than apples and pop songs: "I think the changes have to be deeper and they have to be in people's behavior, and that's a problematic thing, because people tend to fear change. And it takes a lot for humans to learn their lesson, it takes them a hard, hard ride. So perhaps that's our fate — we have to hit rock bottom to then lay some new foundations."
On Silencio, she describes it as a reconnection with the "pulse of the universe" with which we've lost touch. "I really am convinced that we can strike a balance between pleasure and work and creativity," says Sadier, who's optimistic about movements like Occupy Wall Street. "It's just a question of being able to visualize it and fighting for it. Because the guys who are in place now are not gonna let go so easily. But when millions of people are saying 'Enough of this,' they can't fight it."