In the seven years since the release of their first LP, Disco Romance, fans of the winsome Swedish synth-pop/twee-disco duo Sally Shapiro, who’ve just released their third LP Somewhere Else, still haven’t given up hope that this might finally be the one that prompts an actual string of live dates. Sadly, it’s still not meant to be. The good news, however, is that we’ve got all these new gorgeously melancholy Sally Shapiro songs to listen to while we’re cultivating our disappointment. I reviewed the record today, calling “Starman” a standout crossover single in an album full of them. It’s a slowly budding flower of dancefloor sadness that ripples with gleaming synths pulled back from the edge of euphoria by the woebegone lyrics and vocal tone. Go listen to it now or we’re not friends anymore.
I spoke with Sally, whose English is a lot better than my Swedish, about her reluctance to tour, and her thoughts on maintaining an air of mystery, and keeping music strictly as a hobby.
When a new record comes out do you follow reactions, worry about it, stress out over it, or are you the type that once it’s out there, it’s out there, and you move on to the next thing?
I don’t follow so much, but Johan (Agebjörn, the other half of the duo), the guy that writes the songs, he follows it quite a lot. He drops things for me, ‘You should read this, look at this,’ and so on. He follows it quite a lot. [As for working on new material] No, we’re not at all. We have some ideas from this record that we were thinking maybe we should do something with, but we haven’t started on that. I don’t think we will either until the autumn. We have other stuff in our lives, we’re not living on this, so we can’t do much else at the same time.
What else do you do?
Well, I’ve decided not to talk about that. But it’s ordinary, it’s an ordinary, you know, work…
Tell us a little bit about how your writing with Johan works. Do you tend to write the tune first or the beat first?
Mostly, all of the songs are coming form Johan in the beginning, he’s the one making music. How we produce is mostly, I think, he most often starts with like a beat or something like that, and then goes on with melody. On this album it has been a lot of cooperation also, and it can be like Johan would make like all the things around except for the meldoy, then someone else puts down a melody, then we build around it. The lyrics often come in the end anyway. I wrote some of the lryics. Some of them we have some partners making.
When did you first start making music?
Well, I’ve not been doing it for very long. Like many people when I was a kid, we had music schools that most people go to, everybody in Sweden does that when theyre a kid. You have lots of singing in choirs and stuff like that, but nothing like professional, no bands more than on a hobby level before that. I never supposed that I would do it for laiving, and I’m not doing it for a living now, but I always wanted to be part of it in some way. After I finished the school that you have to go to, I don’t know what it’s called in English, then I went to a music school for a year, where I experimented with different instruments, different types of music. I always wanted to be part of it in some way but not professionally no.
Where did you grow up? What was the music scene like there when you were younger? Were there many clubs?
In the south of Sweden. Well, I grew up in quite a small town, and there was some clubs, not like you went to them a lot often, more like you were going to festivals, when you go away away for a week or weekend, and many bands, think it’s called a festival, more like we were going to that, going to Malmö, the biggest town in the south of Sweden, going to conerts. But you didn’t do that all week, because you weren’t allowed to! In the town I grew up in there wasn’t much, some but not much.
Do you like to dance? How are your moves?
I like it. I wouldn’t do it every weekend, I’m not that kind of…I like to go out sometimes. I’d rather go out to concerts or something that I really do want to go more than like, whatever… It has to be something special, I think for me.
There have been so many remixes of your songs over the years, is that something you enjoy hearing, or are you precious about your songs?
I think it’s kind of fun to just listen to what they’ve done, what they do. Sometimes I like them, sometims I don’t like them. I would not be honest if I say I liked everything, because I don’t. It’s nice to see what they can do, and what is possible to do with it, and how it becomes something quite different. It’s not like I really want people to do remixes, but I don’t mind either. I don’t care so much…
Do you have any favorites?
Yes, but I have to be honest, I don’t really know who has done them. I am like ‘This one, this is quite nice!’ I’m very bad in saying who it is though.
“The City’s Local Italo Disco DJ Has A Crush On Me” is a pretty hilarious title. Is there a story behind that, or is it just a funny title you came up with?
That’s just a funny thing. I shouldn’t say, it would be better if I didn’t say the story behind it.
I know people always talk about your reluctance to perform live. Is that something you’re warming up to at all?
Well, no I won’t play live. I’m not going to do that It’s a lot of reasons, but one reason is that I’m not really, I don’t really want that life, to travel around so much, and going to gigs and so on.
It’s no fun, right? Being in a band is the worst.
No I dont’ think it’s fun. Some people maybe do, but I don’t It doesn’t really, I don’t want to do that… and also I think, I like having it on a hobby level. I think if you, maybe not everybody, I think it’s very easy to think too much about what people think because you earn your living on it and it becomes such a big part of your life to do something that you want other people to like it because it becomes so much a part of you. I like, therefore, I honestly can’t say I like this. I think that if I would travel around and make my living on it, it would touch me more if people didn’t like it.
I think people would probably like it!
Yeah it would be nice if they did.
You’re very private. Is there something to be said for knowing less about artists now? Do you think knowing the everyday details of someone’s life, like we do with Rihanna or something, takes something away from their work?
A little. I think it can do that and that you can start to sympathize or not sympathize with the artist and that goes over in the music. You dont even see the music, you have your view of the artist in the music. That’s one reason. Also, I understand, I also want to know things about artists I like, but well, I like to have a private life, not to have everyone know about me.
It probably just makes people want to know more.
Maybe, it’s because it could be like that… I don’t think that’s the case. I’m not that big a deal.
Listen to tracks from Somewhere Else here.