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The Goldfrapp Tales

Alison Goldfrapp tells us the stories behind the band’s most intimate album yet

From an obsessive mother in Mildred Pierce to a child’s sexual ambiguity in Kathleen Winters’ Annabel, the stories that influenced the songs on Tales of Us, the new album from beloved British electro-pop duo Goldfrapp, are anything but predictable—but anyone who’s followed the music of Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory has learned to expect the unexpected.

The songs on the group’s sixth album are a far cry from the disco-tinged dance tracks the group is known for. Instead, these songs are quieter, orchestral gems that gorgeously tell stories inspired by Goldfrapp’s own interests, from film to novels and beyond.

We caught up with the chanteuse to talk about writing songs, bringing the new album on the road and why her songs are set to become their very own films.

Rumor has it a lot of the songs on Tales of Us are based on movies. Is that the case?

I’ve always been very interested in cinema. It’s often influenced the visual side of my music and has always been an inspiration. I didn’t want to write another album [about] myself—I feel like I’ve done that with pretty much every album—and I just love going to the cinema. Any opportunity to escape into a cinema, I will take it. I love that escapism into film, into a narrative—getting completely lost in a book is the same kind of thing. That’s what I try to do when I’m writing songs, to make a world that takes you on journey and that you can get lost in.

The songs do seem to tell fully formed stories more than they address what could be seen as your personal feelings.

I was reading like a banshee and got really inspired by what I was reading. For instance Annabelle, about a child who’s born intersexed; I just got lost in the characters. I was reading books in which there was often a central female character so that kind of set that idea off. “Simone” was actually inspired by Mildred Pierce.

There’s a lot happening in Mildred Pierce.

I feel like you have this woman finding her daughter in bed with her lover. Some of the songs are complete fantasy, my own fantasy. “Alvar” for me was very much inspired by me being in Iceland. I created this character who waits for her lover to come home, but her lover is taken by the water. I deliberately wanted the focus to be on the character.

The songs on this album definitely feel more intimate than some of your previous work. Did you set out to make a different type of record?

I don’t like to think that I’m just repeating myself. This time I felt that it would be really nice to take out a lot of the sounds. On some albums we’ve been very busy with this big, bold sound and every space is filled with something. I felt it’d be nice to really strip it all back. This is the most minimal we’ve gone for sure.

How do you think that will affect your live show?

We come to live shows thinking about what the set list is going to be. We do spend quite a lot time kind of deciding what works where. Quite often we leave the sort of bigger, more up-tempo songs until the end so it escalates a bit. I do like to mix it up because I think it’s nice for the fans to hear old stuff that they really like.

And aren’t you kicking off the shows for this record with an orchestral performance?

I’m really, really excited about that. We’re going to be playing the album in its entirety with the Royal Northern College of Music string orchestra in a church. That will quite amazing.

There are going to short films made for some of the songs on the record, right?

I’m always making videos that I don’t like, so I thought I don’t want to do that again. I wanted to make videos that I feel would suit the songs. My partner Lisa Gunning is a film editor and she’s said, ‘Oh, I’ll do some videos for you.’ I was a bit nervous about it because sometimes working with your partner can be a little bit tricky, but actually it’s been quite fun. Our record company got really excited about what we were showing them, so we’re going to put all these little films together and hopefully it’s going to be shown, well it will be shown this year. Just another amazing, exciting thing happened.