Scissor Sisters: Practical Magic

Scissor Sisters
Arts Editor and Senior Writer (many years until 2012)

Just before these Olympics, the Scissor Sisters headlined the American stage at The River Of Music, a festival showcasing acts from around the world at various points on the River Thames. It’s the sort of honour they could never actually receive in America.

“Absolutely not,” laughs multi-instrumentalist Babydaddy, who founded the group with frontman and fellow New Yorker Jake Shears in 2000. “No, we would not be picked in America. It'd be LMFAO and Katy Perry, something like that. But I'm very, very happy to say the UK seems to hold on to at least a little bit of their great taste in music. We’re perceived very differently in the UK than we are in the US. Not that the perception is bad, but we're still seen as kind of a 'cool band' in the US, maybe even a little bit alternative.”

In the UK, however — and Australia, for that matter — they’re household names; genuine pop megastars used to being greeted with open arms by rapturous festival audiences (much like they were on January’s Summadayze tour). Babydaddy has his theories as to how this schism came about.

“We were originally signed to a label over in the UK,” he explains, “and I think that was because there's just a different passion there for pop songs and classic songwriting and things that are kind of flamboyant and different. I mean, there are a million reasons. But we did get signed over in the UK first, and coming over to Australia was a natural leap, because there's a big cultural exchange program going on between you guys... we do understand that when we come to the UK, music is everything. There's that festival culture, and people listen to national radio stations that play music. These are things we don't have in the US, or that we didn't have as much ten years ago.”

Which is not to say they've been completely ignored in their homeland. Last year, for instance, they scored a coveted support slot on the North American leg of Lady GaGa's Monster Ball World Tour. “I think she represents a real push towards something different and alternative in pop music,” Babydaddy says of the controversial pop diva. “I mean, she's not the one I sit at home listening to, necessarily, but I have respect for her. We all have respect for her.”

Regardless of where they sell the most records, of course, Scissor Sisters are still a quintessential New York band. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine them having the same kind of success from any other base. “'Success'?” Babydaddy cocks an eyebrow. “I don't know. I can't really speak to that, because it's all a bit of a gamble anyway. But in terms of who we are, and the kind of band we are, we are a New York band. We come from a very specific history. It's a city of people who have an idea or a dream and they have a stage to get up on and make it real.”

Scissor Sisters have been making their dreams real for 12 years now. The latest record they’ve willed to life is Magic Hour, a Josh Homme-approved stew of beat-driven future pop. If the LP has a concept, it’s the complete abandonment of cohesiveness.

“In a way,” Babydaddy says, “what we set out to do was to not be too concerned about whether everything fit together... we went back to this idea that we're not going to worry about that and we're just going to write what we want to write. I think that's the truest thing the Scissor Sisters can do. For some reason, we can get away with it... our fans expect that, and that's where we're lucky.”

Magic Hour is filled with left-field collaborations, including Azealia Banks' guest spot on single 'Shady Love'.

“I think we were at a bit of an advantage with Azealia,” Babydaddy says of the notoriously difficult MC, “because we already knew her... we met her three years before we worked together. We had the same manager when she was just this sassy little kid that was coming up. When we heard '212', we thought, 'oh, she's done great for herself, this is amazing, we'd love to try something different like that', and we're always open to working with new people, so it wasn't awkward. It wasn't like, 'oh, here's some stranger, and she's supposed to be the coolest new thing in the world, and we're going to go in and get to know her and make a song in one day'.”

The album was released earlier this year to rave reviews — a far cry from the confused reaction of some reviewers to their self-titled debut. “I don't even know if they have caught on in the end,” Babydaddy says of those early critics. “This album was very well reviewed, it's true, but there are plenty of people who don't like or respect what we do.

“We worked with a great producer on this album in Amanda Ghost, and she told me that getting perfect reviews means your album's not going to sell. We should thank the gods that we always have critics and people who don't enjoy what we do, because I think that makes what we're doing boundary-pushing. That's what keeps people talking about us.”

Scissor Sisters play the following dates in Australia:

Tue Sep 25 – The Arena (Brisbane)
Wed Sep 26 – The Arts Centre Melbourne
Thu Sep 27 – Sydney Opera House

Magic Hour is out now.


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