La Roux is a duo, and a wildly successful one at that; their homonymous debut album blew up in their native UK (with singles “Bulletproof” and “In For the Kill” pushing it to #2 over there) and worldwide fame seems only a few short centimetres away. But you’d be forgiven for thinking of them as a one-woman show: 21-year old Eleanor “Elly” Jackson is the face of La Roux, as well as its voice (co-producer/collaborator Ben Langmaid is not part of the live La Roux experience). Jackson cuts a striking figure, her voice and presence both icy and yearning, and her delivery as in-your-face and prominent as the cantilevered rouge mane that frames their album cover. I caught up with Elly on the phone while she is in Old Blighty preparing for La Roux’s upcoming North American tour:
You have both a striking visual theme and a distinctive musical attack. Which came first?
The look was definitely inspired by the music, it came much later. Basically, we’d been in the studio for years working on songs, until it was finally time to start playing live, and then we had to think of things differently, you know? When you’re in the studio, you’re not necessarily thinking about the aesthetic, you’re just thinking about the sound and the songs. And then when you have to tour the record, you know, you start doing album shoots and whatnot and it all becomes a bit of a bigger thing. You have ideas about things during the record but they don’t materialize until afterward.
Right — but the band is called la roux, which is French for “the redhead,” so you must have has some idea when forming the band what you would be shooting for, right?
Well, that’s only referring to my hair, you know? I’ve always been a redhead and I suppose I always will be, right? But that’s just referring to who I am, and now people perceive it almost as a brand, or something going along with the visual image. In the end it’s just a band name.
You and Ben recorded this album by yourselves, not in a big studio with a big producer, and now that album is huge and has spawned chart hits, etc. Given the album’s success, how do you feel about its humble sonic origins?
Well, the thing is that I don’t like records that sound really shiny and overproduced and stuff. In my favorite records, you can hear the room and the atmosphere of that day of the recording. You know, recordings where you can hear little things in the background. We also really liked having it be, at times, a bit cheap sounding. Me and Ben are big fans of that, we’d talk about how we could make things sound really cheap and tinny, we were definitely kind of putting that on; you know, in addition to the record being made in a, well, a shit situation where there was no soundproofing and it was just some small dirty room.
Now we have options and we could go into big studios with a big producer, and I don’t want to do that. I don’t look back on the album and see it as being a demo, as some people do. For me, the album is still a bit overproduced, there are still parts that I wish could be a bit cheaper and tinnier sounding!