The lively songstress on covering Madonna, singing with Christina Aguilera, and ditching ballads for the dance floor.
Forget the emotional, empowering ballads — Sia Furler wants to dance, dammit. And she’s finally doing just that with her upcoming release, We Are Born, out this spring.
“I’m sick of going, ‘Yeah! Women!,'” says Sia, 34. “I started dating JD Samson from Le Tigre and suddenly I was listening to more up-tempo music and old dance music, like ESG and Gang of Four, and I thought, ‘Wow. This is fun.’ It was time for me to make a really shallow pop album.”
The dance-y sound is an all-new direction for the Aussie songstress, who became synonymous with down-tempo music as the coo behind electro-soul pioneers Zero 7, and later with her budding solo career, which peaked with 2008’s moody Some People Have Real Problems.
Speaking to SPIN from her New York City loft, Sia dishes on her upbeat sound, her love for Madonna, working on Christina Aguilera’s new album, and her collaborators on We Are Born: Strokes guitarist Nick Valensi and her two dogs, Lick Lick and Pantera.
Hey, Sia! I was just reading your Twitter and I understand you’re going to try to insert random words into this interview.
[Laughs] I totally blew my own cover! So much for sesquipedalian…
Tell us about you new album.
It’s all done! I’m finalizing a big record deal now. We Are Born will still be coming out on my record label, but it will be licensed by a major. It’s pretty exciting. I just need to sign off on the final negotiations then we can officially announce a release date.
I understand you did a Madonna cover….
Yes, “Oh Father.” I personalized the words to make sense to me.
Have you met Madonna before?
Never. But I grew up wearing fingerless gloves because of her. Then one day about three years ago she put one of my songs, a remix of “Breathe Me,” on her iTunes playlist. She said it was a great song to work out to. Then I got excited, because someone who was staying at my house was working for this jeans company and Madonna had asked for a bunch of their jeans. This girl was packaging the jeans at my house, so I slipped a note in one of the boxes for Madonna and said, “Hi, this is Sia. You put my song on your iTunes playlist and I wanted to say thanks. I love you.” And that’s the extent of our relationship.
Did she find the note?
I doubt it. But if she tried on the jeans I’ve come pretty close to her bum! [Laughs]
Tell us more about We Are Born.
We recorded it all in Los Angeles in the only studio that we could find that would let my dogs hang out. We recorded the whole album in less than two and a half weeks. I had the genius of Nick Valensi from the Strokes playing the guitar, and then the rest of my band, who are all geniuses. [A dog barks] That’s Pantera.
Pantera is credited with backing vocals on your last album. Is he making an appearance on the new album, too?
Of course. There’s always a little howl in the background. You’ve got to keep your ears peeled!
How many dogs do you own now?
Two. One has four legs; one has three. Lick Lick’s the shaggy one, and he has three legs. Pantera’s the black one. He had a lot of dandruff and some bald patches. He looked like he smoked one too many bong hits and was a total metalhead, so I called him Pantera. He was emaciated then, like he didn’t eat enough Doritos after a couple of bong hits. But I’ve nursed him back to health.
How do you know Nick Valensi?
[Strokes drummer] Fab [Moretti] and I were roommates in L.A. for a while, so I met Nick through Fab. I’m a fan of the Strokes, so my big fantasy was that one day I would get to sing with them. But then I realized maybe I could bring the Strokes to me! So that’s what I did. I asked Nick and he said yes. I was super excited. It was the best experience I’ve ever had recording an album — and Nick plays on the whole thing. It’s fucking dope. He’s so sick. He’s my guitar hero.
“You’ve Changed,” the first leak from the album, is super dance-y. Does the whole album have a similar feel?
Actually, yeah. It’s way more up-tempo. A lot of these songs I wrote like five years ago. And at the time a bunch of music industry advisors were like, “Don’t release this pop record because you’ll totally sabotage you’re career, blah de blah.” Then I got together with Zero 7 and started doing more down-tempo stuff, so I made another down-tempo solo record, Some People Have Real Problems, because that’s what I was listening to. I’m impressionable. But because of the success of Some People Have Real Problems, the music advisors said it would be okay to record some up-tempo music. So I did. And now everyone’s like splooging in their pants, saying, “This is the best record you’ve ever made. I haven’t heard a record this good since blah de blah.” I love all that smoke being blown up my ass. [Laughs]
Tell me about some of the songs specifically.
My favorite is “The Fight.” It’s my favorite one to do silly dancing to. The first single is called “Clap Your Hands,” which is obviously going to be a really deep song, as I’m sure the title infers [laughs]. It’s a song I’d write for a movie like Sex And The City. Seriously, I was trying to write a song that might get pitched for a girly movie. It’s fun to dance to. There’s “Bring Night,” which I’m going to make a great video for with a bunch of small blonde children. There was a cult in Australia and all of the children had blonde bobs. Someone sent it to me on Twitter and was like, “Holy shit! Check out all these mini Sias!” They’re so spooky. The “Bring Night” video is going to be like that Jack Nicholson movie with the kid riding down the big hallway on his bicycle…. Um…
Yeah! So it’s going to be like The Shining with these blonde kids waiting for nighttime, ’cause they’re really these little vampires. [Laughs] I’m just cashing in on the whole Twilight thing.
You helped Christina Aguilera with her new album, Bionic. Tell us about it.
She’s fucking crazy dope amazing. She’s a perfectionist and she totally scrambled my mind. When we were doing the vocal production, every take was sick. Then she’d ask, “What do you think of these five takes?” I’d be like, “Well, every single one of them is perfect and I have no idea what you’re talking about if you think one of them is not perfect.” She’s a mad scientist of singing.
You guys have the same birthday, right?
We do. Isn’t that weird? Oh, and Brad Pitt, too. Dude, don’t forget Brad Pitt.