As public figures, musicians can wield a considerable amount of power, often using it to further political and social causes. Laetitia Sadier has long been part of this movement, and with a recently released solo album and an upcoming North American tour, it doesn’t look like she’ll be stopping anytime soon.
Like those who have come before, she chooses to promote anti-capitalist and anti-inequality messages through her music. For much of her career, Sadier’s political inclinations have formed the backbone of much of her work, a tendency that preceded her musical history.
Sadier was born in France, May 1968, during the time of the student strikes in Paris. “I’ve always been in a state of rebellion towards the system. It’s just that now it’s becoming clearer and clearer that the system is not working,” she said. “That’s why this is a good time to start talking about it.”
Those who may be unfamiliar with Sadier need only look back two decades to the heyday of Stereolab. Formed in the early ‘90s, Stereolab was part of the time’s emerging rock phenomenon, but with a decidedly more experimental sound than many of its peers. Blending krautrock, jazz and dreamy electronic beats, their broad adoption of genres earned them comparisons to groups as diverse as Neu! and My Bloody Valentine. At the heart of the band were Sadier and then-boyfriend Tim Gane.
A French native, Sadier brought soft, dreamy vocals and politically conscious lyrics to Stereolab’s music. Though many maintain that Sadier’s later projects retain much of her former band’s early influences, her five non-Stereolab albums have allowed her to develop a more organic sound, softening and romanticizing where Stereolab bristled. Her latest release, Silencio is especially striking in its musical exploration, fusing mellow beats with electric guitar and jazzy drums to create a unique blend of lounge rock.
As Sadier readily admits, “I knew there was a timing to these things […] as long as Stereolab existed I wouldn’t be free to explore my own creative side. I couldn’t write any songs in Stereolab so I ended up creating my own space.”
This involved collaborating with new musicians, which culminated in the creation of Monade in 1996.
“Monade was really my growing up years. My boyfriend at the time told me to stop hiding behind Monade and just become Laetitia Sadier.”
Following the announcement of Stereolab’s indefinite hiatus in 2009, Sadier decided to pursue recording on her own, releasing her first solo record The Trip in 2010. Finally, Sadier had a platform all her own, with which to explore her thoughts and feelings about the “state of affairs” of the world.
“We’re spiritual and creative beings. We’re not just here to be exploited and to consume. I feel we need to fight so that we don’t have to live in a world like this.”
Though this anti-capitalist bend permeated much of her collaborative efforts, Silencio puts it front and centre, acting as the driving force behind the very existence of the album.
“I don’t see it as a duty or a mission [to spread my message], but I feel quite strongly about these things, and to me art should be made with what you feel strongly about,” she explained. “I wouldn’t make an album just for the sake of making an album. That’s not how I work. I feel propelled by something that I can’t quite explain.”
This urge to create also came with a more collaborative approach to the creative process.
“Life has provided [me] with the right people each time, and I’ve learned to trust and share the process, rather than to want to do and play everything myself,” said Sadier.
This collaborative effort also extends to her live performances, including her upcoming Montreal show.
“I am going to be playing with a trio, something which has long been my dream,” she revealed. “I think it’s going to be really good.”
In the meantime Sadier continues to speak her mind and to urge others to do the same.
“Be aware of what the forces at work are,” urged Sadier. “Organize, get together, and discuss as to how a better society can emerge out of all this.”
Laetitia Sadier plays The Ukrainian Federation with Cate Le Bon and Orca Team on Sept. 19 at 7 p.m.