"Goldfrapp" sounds more akin to a leprechaunâs favorite coffee concoction than the surname of Alison Goldfrapp, the leading lady of the eponymous British electro-pop duo. Indeed, it's her real name and a fitting one for a band that, several albums into their career, continues to sparkle. Goldfrapp and her right-hand man Will Gregory's just-released fifth album Head First, is a fantastical synth-laden romp brimming with sweeping surges of sound. It reels us in with Goldfrapp's rapturous vocals as she haunts and hypnotizes with âHunt,â threatens revenge with âRocket,â and falls in love on âDreaming,â a song that explodes with sultry singing, bleeps and boinks.
Goldfrapp and Gregory recently sat down with PAPERMAG to discuss short skirts, writing, and how a song leaking is something to smile about.
How would you describe Head First?
Alison Goldfrapp: Jubilant and celebratory. Big drums â the biggest drums weâve ever had. Thereâs a lot of âboomâ and reverb and arms in the air.
And why âHead First?â
AG:It was the title of one of the songs and it just felt right for the album. It summed up the overall feeling. Diving into the world with joy and no fear.
Your first single âRocketâ was leaked. Do you know how that happened?
Will Gregory: What happened was, in Australia, [iTunes], instead of putting it up on the Sunday, they put it up on the Thursday. So, it basically [entered] the world before its regular premier. Which is annoying, butâ¦
AG: It was also annoying to a lot of people on the message board. Which was really odd. People get really funny about things. So, I said, basically, 'Okay, everybody, keep calm.' It happens. It happens all the time nowadays. Itâs out of oneâs control. Canât really do anything about it. The last album got leaked.
WG: The whole album. In some ways we have to take a philosophical view about it. If your album doesnât get leakedâ¦
How cool can you be?
WG: [Laughs] I think itâs something you worry about until the album gets released. It is a worry because obviously you want it to be a moment that everythingâs been leading up to and 'ta-da!' Not a sort of damp squid.
How long were you working on Head First? I know your last album came out in 2008.
WG: We kind of started in February 2009. We took a month out for a film score in August. And then finished in November. We could have done with a bit more time, but sometimes rushing and not having the time to think it through [is good]. I think it is the quickest album weâve done.
And the film?
AG: Nowhere Boy. It's an English film directed by Sam Taylor Wood. Itâs a film about John Lennon as a boy.
Do you have a favorite track on the album?
WG: I like 'Voice Thing.' But, theyâre all favorites. Theyâve all got something that makes them to the end of the race. Because thereâs a few that didnât.
Were you listening to anything at the time that influenced the albumâs sound?
AG: Lots of things really inspired us. Pat Benatar. Van Halen. Whatâs his face? â¦Billy Joel! Suicide. Abba. Steve Reich.
Alison, youâre the primary lyricist, right? The writer?
AG: I write the lyrics, yes. Will certainly has an opinion and chips in. Funny thing with lyrics. Itâs such a personal thing. Iâd love it if Will would write the lyrics. I could be so lazy. Be quite nice to have a rest from them. But, I think itâs quite hard to sing someone elseâs words.
And Will, you kind of hide out.
WG: [Laughs] I used to be onstage and Iâm not anymore. Very often Iâm there, making sure we get through the rehearsals and the first few gigs. Then I might skip out. Thereâs other things to get on with. Itâs more efficient.
And when will you be back to tour the U.S.?
AG: Weâre doing a gig at the Hollywood Bowl in June, so weâll definitely be doing some gigs around that time. Where, Iâm not exactly sure.
Whatâs one of the more notable compliments youâve been paid?
WG: Madonna grabbed my hand once and said âYour album fuckinâ rocks!â or something like that. I quite liked that. Thereâs just so many [compliments] to choose from, thatâs the problem. [Laughs]
What about insults? Something thatâs offended you.
AG: Hereâs a big insult. Some journalist, camp as bloody Christmas, said to me, âDonât you think youâre a little old to be wearing short dresses?â
Did you deck him?
AG: I just said, âWell, you know, Tina Turner kept wearing short dresses and she looked hot. I didnât know there was an age limit for what length of hem one should wear.â Fucking hell, itâs so cheeky.
Did anything strange happen over the course of recording?
WG: The time the coffee cup fell down on the keyboard and played a brilliant riff. And that was it.
AG: Itâs fucking hard work and you have moments when it just feels like hell. And then something magic happens and it all makes it worthwhile.