An Interview with LADYTRON

“Living in the moment is a lost art…”

Electronic pop outfit Ladytron return this month with new album Time’s Arrow, which presents a collection of songs that build on the band’s impressive musical foundations. Ladytron ploughed through the 2000s on the back of albums such as 604 and Light & Magic (which enjoyed its 20th Anniversary last year). Among the contemporary synth-pop songs the band were responsible for were tracks such as ‘Blue Jeans’, ‘Destroy Everything You Touch’ and ‘Seventeen’ (which has recently enjoyed a new lease of life via TikTok). Meanwhile, songs like ‘City Of Angels’ from the new album offers a breezy pop delight and shows a band playing to their strengths.

Blitzed had the opportunity to chat to Helen Marnie and Daniel Hunt about the new album for the magazine (a brief excerpt of which is below), but also touched on topics including cultural memory, the nature of time and Ladytron’s musical legacy…

When you first formed Ladytron, did you imagine that the band would still be going over twenty years later?

Daniel: No, to be frank. I found recently, when we were doing this stuff for the 20-year anniversary for Light and Magic, which was our second album, and I saw some old interviews while we were going through archive material. We didn’t seem certain that we were really gonna make many records more at all. At the beginning, it was a lot more basic: ”We’ll do a single. We’ll do an EP. OK, what have we got? We’ll do an album”. There wasn’t really a very organised plan until the second record to be honest. By that point it never went beyond the plans for the follow up.

Twenty years… Time is a quite a strange creature, isn’t it? When you’re younger, a short amount of time takes a hell of a lot longer. When you’re a kid, three months is a lifetime. And then just as you go through adulthood, it’s the same thing. But I do think the nature of how we experience time has probably changed a little bit because of the way we communicate now. I think a lot of musical artists who emerged at the same time as us are still making records now and they probably give you the same answer, that they weren’t expecting to be. But then again, I think in in in most people’s cases, including ours, there’s the question of really not knowing “Well, if we’re not doing that, then what are we doing?” And if we’re still doing it, we’re still enjoying it, then why would we stop? I think those questions, the finite notions of it, evaporate as you get older. As you know, your perspective and philosophy changes in general. But to cut a long story short, no!

Helen:  It was the right time for us really and things just kind of clicked. I had no idea that we’d still be doing it. It’s kind of scary that we’ve been doing it this long!

Photo: Jeaneen Lund
Photo: Jeaneen Lund

The song ‘City Of Angels’, apparently deals with “Beauty, disposability and fragility of the culture that surrounds us”. Can you elaborate on that?

Daniel: When you travel back and forth from the place where you’re born and you have this kind of comfortable, familiar culture around you, there’s a temptation to think that this is all permanent. It’s also a temptation to think that it is universal as well.

Because I’ve lived in various places, I just became kind of aware of the fragility of it, how much it depended on certain things and also how different things are in different places. For example, where I live in Brazil, you can come across some kind of universal youth culture, British music and things like that. I also started thinking about the way that in other parts of the world, there’s been these collapses of cultural memory caused by war, caused by famine, caused by whatever. And it just made me think that the west has never really experienced that and that we all live in this kind of comfort zone. So that was really what ‘City of Angels’ began as. There were certain other things in play, but it became a riff on those kinds of thoughts and just that we just take a hell of a lot for granted and I’ve learned to appreciate things a lot more than I than I used to. 

I mean it’s not like a kind of apocalyptic vision. It’s a lot more subtle. You notice, especially, when we travel in places, you notice this slight erosion of things. I guess you become more aware of this as you get older as well. It’s a question of age and perspective as well. But in in terms of the rest of the album, I mean Mira’s song, ‘Time’s Arrow’, the title track, she talks about it being about the impossibility of living in the moment. That how living in the moment is a lost art. There’s a certain thread there for sure. 

Helen, could you describe the lyrical narrative and approach on the album from your perspective? 

Helen: I always find it’s weird when you try and dive into lyrics. I think the lyrics that I’ve written on this album, they’re generally quite dark, but at the same time, hopeful. Because that’s just the kind of person I am! I don’t want to be too negative, so it’s all about looking forward really and positivity. Because a lot of it was written at that time when everyone was locked in. I didn’t really want it to be about that.

I couldn’t stand a lot of the music that was coming out during the pandemic/post-pandemic, I just thought the lyrics were almost twee, like too simple about how people were feeling and things like that. I get people need to express, but at the same time I think there’s a way of doing it without just being bleak and negative. For me it’s normally like personal relationships and things like that, but sometimes it’s more like a dream.

Read more in our exclusive Ladytron interview in the latest issue of Blitzed, out now. Our review of Time’s Arrow in the same issue describes the album as “a series of exquisite electronic compositions” and one that “offers up an older, definitely wiser incarnation of Ladytron.”

Time’s Arrow is released 20th January on Cooking Vinyl.

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Main photo: Wendy Redfern