Two years after their spectacular rise, Scissor Sisters are about to re-enter planet pop’s atmosphere with a bang. Their sparkling new single, “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’,” is set to contradict its title and cause dancefloor mayhem from Brooklyn to Birmingham.
The song may sound like a party – but the lyrics, as the title suggests, are resolutely downbeat, telling the tale of someone who’d rather have a quiet evening in than go out and paint the town red.
“Here’s what happened,” begins Ana Matronic. “We were on tour for nearly two years, finishing in March 2005, though things only came to a complete stop after the V festival last August. During that time, most of our really big success happened while we were 3,000 miles away [in Britain]. When we finally came home to New York and tried to pick up the threads of our daily lives, it was like an astronaut re-entering the atmosphere from space. It had been so crazy and successful and amazing and colourful and fun – it had been like New Year’s Eve every night… but we needed about 365 New Year’s days to recover!”
Scissor Sisters are Jake Shears (lead vox), Ana Matronic (vox), Babydaddy (bass, guitar, banjo, keyboards, technical guru), Del Marquis (guitars) and Paddy Boom (drums). They formed in New York in 2001. Initially featuring on New York’s arty electroclash circuit, they signed a deal in the UK after Polydor picked up on their instantly memorable Pink-Floyd-as-Bee-Gees cover of “Comfortably Numb,” which stormed the Top Ten after its UK release in 2004.
Their debut album spawned a further four hits (including “Take Your Mama”), and was the biggest-selling album that year. It has gone on to sell more than 2.4 million copies in Britain alone. They have played to sold-out crowds across the globe including a jaw dropping set at Glastonbury and a triumphant headlining slot at the UK’s V festival in front of 75,000 people. They graced the front covers of everything from the NME to Mixmag (one of few bands to appeal equally to both rock and dance fans), were hailed as the band of the year by the Observer Music Monthly and, in 2005, triumphed at the Brits (the UK’s equivalent of the Grammy’s) winning Best International Group, Breakthrough Artist and Album – the first time a band had won all three International awards. They also delivered one of the ceremony’s most talked-about performances ever, sharing the stage with a bunch of wigged-out farmyard puppets, courtesy of the Jim Henson Creature Shop.
And then Scissor Sisters went home. Back to life, back to reality. Jake recalls it as the mother of all comedowns, which had a physical, as well as mental effect. “When you experience something like we’ve experienced, the constant performing, your body gets used to pumping huge amounts of adrenalin. I was still getting huge adrenalin rushes back at home, when I shouldn’t have been getting them. You’re trying to relax and suddenly you feel like you want to rip your skin off and fly away.”
As they began to turn their attention towards their sophomore album last summer, they were overwhelmed by the suddenly stifling weight of expectation and gnawing self-doubt. “The first time around we didn’t even realise we were making an album,” says Jake. “It wasn’t even our intention. We were just having fun, writing songs.” Now the stakes were higher, the pressure was on and, for the first time, they felt self-conscious, uncertain. “And because the first album was such an eclectic mix, we could have gone anywhere,” says Ana. “There were a lot of options – and sometimes you can have too many.”
The solution was “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’” – possibly the happiest-sounding song ever conceived about staying in and feeling miserable. “By singing about not feeling like dancing, it was the only way to write a dance song that was fun, but still came from an honest place,” concludes Jake.
“The song is also about being in love,” adds Ana. “There is a line that goes, ‘I’d rather be home with the one in bed till dawn” – and I think that sums up a lot about what it’s like to be constantly on tour away from the person you love.”
With Dancin’… in the bag, the cloud had lifted to reveal a silver lining – the ideas started to flow again. “It gave us renewed hope in ourselves,” says Jake. “There’s a lot of anxiety and self-censorship that happens when you’re dealing with this kind of pressure. But we realised that we’re special after all, and we’ve got something amazing going on. It was extremely liberating.”
Scissor Sisters began to hone their myriad influences and inspirations – including, in no particular order, James Bond theme tunes, early disco (Hamilton Bohannon, Creative Source, The Blackbyrds), funk and rare groove, Fleetwood Mac, Dr John, the city of New Orleans, bluegrass, Billy Joel, Goldfrapp, Roxy Music, and Paul
The end result is, as ever, wildly eclectic, brilliant, life-affirming pop. The overall sound? “It’s fuller,” says Del, “and thicker. And Jake [who, with Babydaddy, forms the band’s main songwriting axis] has gotten wordy as hell.”
The record is called, simply, ‘Ta-dah.’ “It came to me in the middle of recording, and it wouldn’t leave,” says Jake. “It was just there. I kept coming back to it. I think it’s got a lot of different meanings and layers. If you just look at the word ‘Ta-dah’ with no exclamation mark, no full-stop, it’s very abstract. There’s magic behind that word, illusion behind that word – you think of performance, showmanship. But ‘Ta-dah’ is also about expectations. Because this is a second album, there’s an aspect of presentation…
“‘Ta-dah.’ This is what we’ve done. This is what it is.”