In a conversation with Laetitia Sadier, the subject matter can easily veer from music to the current socio-political climate. The husky-voiced native of France — who first gained attention with the Moog-driven, prog-pop of Stereolab — speaks by phone from her tour van, “about 230 miles from Los Angeles.” It might not seem like the ideal time to delve into such heady territory as politics, but the subject looms large in her work, as it has since the days of her previous band.
These ideas begin with the name of the band on the new record, Find Me Finding You, released on Drag City. After putting out three albums under her own name, she credits the new one to the Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble.
“No one ever does anything completely alone. I thought that going under my own name all this time felt really absurd,” she says. “It’s true, I’m in the driver’s seat, yes. But really, all this music is the result of a lot of input. Nothing has changed, really, in how I do things for this album. But [the name choice] is about honoring the group and the collectivity, because anything that you hold in your hand, or any situation you have in your life, it’s the result of thousands of people’s effort.”
The idea of an ensemble goes back to what Sadier calls a “chief origin” that is needed, in light of the political landscape in the United States and post-Brexit Europe, where she lives. “I think that we are now in a situation, in a political place in the world, whereby we have to awaken and start finding solutions together. Not through politicians but through ourselves, reorganizing ourselves,” she says. “That has to be done together.”
Find Me Finding You opens with the line, “Power to the people,” the rallying call that originated in the United States, often connected to groups like the Black Panthers. “Reflectors” includes sentiments like, “Wars cannot overcome our troubles / Status, prestige, prominence, don’t mean a thing this time.” The album was recorded over a year ago, but the lyrics relate to current headlines. Sadier says that the current political landscape has roots dating back beyond recent events.
“All this was going on before Brexit, before Trump, this shit fire,” she explains. “A lot of people don’t have a political say. [Now] they’re expressing their frustration, and that’s understandable. When you treat people like shit and ignore them and infantilize them, at some point they’re going to bite. It’s a normal phenomenon.”
But while the situation might seem extreme, Sadier doesn’t believe it calls for radical reaction. “Maybe it’s a way of awakening, of realizing that violence, hatred, revenge is not a solution,” she says. “[That’s] not how we organize our life, or society. We have to think of other ways, think harder. And it’s not just [up to] intellectuals — people who already think about these things — [it’s] everybody! We’re all on the same boat here.”
The same idea goes for her music. While her ideas sound ripe for an Anti-Flag thrasher, Sadier continues to mine a vast set of laid-back influences, from lounge music to Brazilian pop to dreamy synthesizer soundscapes. “Undying Love for Humanity” launches the album with spritely percussion, clean guitar chords and a choir of six friends scatting in the background like a jazz group. Guest vocalist Alexis Taylor, of the band Hot Chip, joins her on “Love Captive” for a dreamy duet which essentially espouses free love, pondering: “How to avoid the trap / of an exclusivity contract.” One song later, in “Psychology Active,” Sadier states that “to feel good all the time is my priority.” Pleasure remains important during heavier times.
Sadier has her own unique approach to songwriting. “I basically collect musical ideas or lyrical ideas, as they come through,” Sadier says. “I throw them on a recorder. Then when it’s time to write a new album, I go to my little cupboard with the little bits and say, ‘Ooh, yeah, this one. I’m going to work on that one.’ And I also collect titles and images as well. Then I allocate everything.”
The new album was recorded in Brazil, France and Switzerland. While trio mates Emmanuel Mario (drums) and Xavi Munoz (bass) play on nearly all the tracks, an array of guests lend their influences to the set. Canadian songwriter Chris A. Cummings (who has recorded under the name Marker Starling) wrote and performed on “Deep Background.” Jeff Parker, of Tortoise, arranged several of the choir parts, which were originally written for strings. Rob Mazurek, of the Chicago Underground Duo, adds some muted cornet blasts to “Love Captive.” The far-flung recording sessions all result in a diverse but consistent album.
Sadier has a habit of ending albums on a mysterious note. The Trip’s final 29-second instrumental represented the idea of letting go of things that are transient. Silencio ended with an ambient recording made in a French church.
“Sacred Project” concludes Find Me Finding You by proclaiming, “No opposite of love / no opposite of life / no opposite of joy.” When asked for an explanation of this direct statement, Sadier laughs. “Sometimes I aim way above my head! And really, I throw things out there that I’m going to be working on in the future for the next album. I think it’s just a more philosophical point of view of objecting.”
In other words, it acts like a “to be continued” message in a film or program? “Right,” she says. “Nothing is ever concluded or finished.”