Hey, kids! Remember La Roux? …anyone? …really? None of you? Bulletproof? That shit was EVERYWHERE. End of the 2000s was a great time for synth-pop. Apparently there’s going to be a second album? Yeah, right. I bet it comes out the same day as the new Avalanches album. This was towards the end of the extensive touring for that incredible debut, and something called the Bacardi Express was happening; headlined by La Roux. I think Art vs. Science were on it, too? Bluejuice? Yves Klein Blue? Cassette Kids? I think that was it. Ahh, just checked. No Bluejuice. Miami Horror were there, too. HA! Remember those guys?
I was really happy with this feature at the time. It was one of the more high-profile chats I’d done at the time; and Elly was quite nice – if a little secretive. I wonder if Tom Ballard was on the money with his assessment of Cover My Eyes…
– DJY, April 2014
Poor Elly Jackson. It seems Australia can’t seem to get her at any good time. Our original scheduled interview time is delayed, and on the phone from London when we finally do come into contact, she notes that she’s a bit tired. “I’ve just woken up, in fact,” she informs.
Even before this, her first visit to Australia with the act she is the voice of, La Roux, was plagued with exhaustion and illness, resulting in late timetable swaps for their appearance at the Parklife festival and cancelled shows.
“That was sort of the beginning of my illness, unfortunately,” she says with a certain sense of worry in her voice. “I think it was just one too many flights and not enough early nights. I let it all get on top of me and then I got ill – and then, of course, there was no time to prepare myself, as we were to begin another tour straight after that one. So it was all just a build-up of things, unfortunately.”
In spite of this distressing Jackson, La Roux still put on some exceptional shows when they finally made it to the main stage. Her vocals a pitch-perfect sight to behold, the crowd adored every second of her Sydney appearance at the festival. Jackson is also very quick to note how much she enjoyed her first visit to the country, ignoring her illness.
“I loved it,” she enthuses when asked about the tour. “I had an amazing time – we were told that La Roux was doing well out there, but I didn’t have any idea to what extent. So playing to forty thousand people each night was always a surprise!”
Indeed, Australia has been good to Jackson and La Roux – even a recent example comes from two of their debut self-titled record’s major singles ( In For The Kill and Bulletproof ) taking out enviable top spots in Triple J’s annual Hottest 100.
On the topic of the station, it’s also interesting to note the interpretation of Cover My Eyes from the record in the eyes of openly gay Triple J presenter Tom Ballard. “As far as I’m concerned, this is an anthem for every gay man who’s fallen in love with a straight friend,” he wrote on the Hottest 100 page.
How does Elly herself feel about having her music interpreted like this – presumably quite different to how she originally intended it to be? She thinks for a moment, before noting: “I always like that.”
Jackson continues: “There was another instance where I was reading what people were saying on the MySpace, and there was this one boy who said that In for the Kill was the track that made him come out to his parents. He made it about doing something really courageous, in coming out. It is a song about courage, but you can take from it what you will. I mean, I know exactly what it means to me, but I think it’s really important that people get their own perspective on things like that. That’s why we make music – just when you hear something in your own take on it and you think, ‘I really like that.’”
It’s been nearly a year since the self-titled album dropped, which has seen critics divided but sales suggesting that of a pop juggernaut. Even after considerable success, however, Elly herself is still somewhat uncertain about the entire thing.
“I haven’t listened to it for months,” she confesses when asked about the record – a statement that is a little surprising, but ultimately makes sense. “I think now, that I’m playing these songs every night, I’ve grown used to them in their live environment.”
Jackson, too, remains a little iffy in regards to the finished product of the self-titled record. “We’ve gone over so many times if the bonus tracks should have been the album tracks, or if the album tracks should have been the bonus tracks, or what should have been left off entirely,” she muses. “I don’t think you can ever be truly satisfied with your own record – your first record, at least.”
By “we”, Elly refers to the man behind the instruments and production of the album – the other half of La Roux, Ben Langmaid. If you were unaware of Langmaid’s involvement in La Roux, perhaps thinking La Roux was Jackson’s moniker or alias, it’s understandable – aside from the music itself, he is practically a ghost. He refuses to be a part of photo shoots and videos, and declined to be a part of the live band when it came to putting the songs on the road.
Jackson knows, however, that the music of La Roux is far more important than its aesthetic – even with her wild hairstyle often the centre of attention.
“He’s just not interested in any of that stuff,” she says of Langmaid, with a certain degree of acceptance in her tone. “His focus is really just working on what he feels are good songs. He spends a lot of time in the studio, and I can’t really help that or hold it against him.”
In Langmaid’s absence on tour, Jackson enlisted the help of keyboardists Michael Norris and Mickey O’Brien, with electronic drummer William Bowermann (formerly of I Was A Cub Scout) completing the line-up. These aren’t session musicians, mind – they’ve quickly become some of Elly’s closest friends.
“Some of the funnest and most hilarious times of my life have been with my band,” she says with a giggle. “They are such amazing people – I missed them all so much when I was away from them on holiday. They’re like my family now. I don’t know what I’d do without them – even if La Roux all ended tomorrow, I know we’d still all see each other every second day.”
The four are making their way back to Australia in March, headlining the Bacardi Express tour alongside some of Australia’s strongest up-and-comers, including fellow Hottest 100 sensations Art VS. Science, Yves Klein Blue, Cassette Kids and Miami Horror. “We will be getting to tour with all the people that are involved, which very, very rarely happens any more, if at all,” Jackson comments enthusiastically. “It’s going to be a really nice way to see the coast of Australia!”