Saturday, December 30, 2006

Regina Spektor interview

Check our more recent interview with Regina here.
Check the review of Regina's show at Sydney Opera House here.

If you read any review of Regina Spektor, you will inevitably stumble across the words ‘kooky’ and ‘quirky’. While it is true that the Russian-born singer does favour weird and wonderful lyrics and themes, and enjoys experimenting with all manner of sounds, she is also a songwriter of incredible quality (if anyone this year has written a song more beautiful than her new album’s standout ballad Samson, I have yet to hear it), which leads one to wonder if she gets frustrated with constantly being written off as an oddball. “That’s a really interesting question,” she says. “I used to get a lot more frustrated, but then I thought ‘it doesn’t matter’. To me, really standard things are quirky, everybody has their own taste.” She pauses for a moment’s thought, before continuing. “Maybe it’s because I’m female. The Beatles made I Am The Walrus and Bob Dylan sang about how ‘everybody must get stoned’. Lots of men have fun but when they do it people say they’re ‘being adventurous’ or ‘pushing the envelope’. Kate Bush and Bjork are described as kooky, whereas Trent Reznor isn’t.” It seems though, that Spektor isn’t the kind of person to ruminate on such matters, and she brushes it off by saying: “I don’t mind so much, it’s the only way some people can think to describe something different. I think I’m a pretty sane person. Maybe someday I’ll make a really serious album. And people will probably still call it quirky.”

Regina Spektor’s personality is as charming as her music. The flame-haired singer-songwriter speaks in the softest, sweetest New York accent, making her sound like a gangster’s moll from the 1930s. A one-time collaboration with her buddies The Strokes aside, the Australian public would be forgiven for not knowing a huge amount about Spektor. This is perhaps because she isn’t the biggest fan of doing interviews to promote herself. “I find it hard when someone clearly hasn’t listened to your music and is just reeling off things from your biography,” she admits. So when I tell her that I am something of a fan, the shy songstress is genuinely delighted, and instantly opens up about her latest album, Begin To Hope.

The album, which is her fourth collection of dreamy, fun and intriguing piano-based songs, has seen her take a different approach to piecing together her work. Previously, her long-players were rattled off in the space of just a few days, but for this recording, she holed herself up in a New York studio for two months to create an even more experimental record. “It was really wonderful. It felt great to have time to work on the songs. The big fear was that is was going to be something that was more fun to make than to listen to. Imagine someone is cooking, and they really enjoy the process of putting in lots of peppers and colours, but there is always the danger of overcooking it.”

The universal acclaim that Begin To Hope has received suggests that nothing was overcooked in Spektor’s kitchen, and she clearly enjoyed being able to spend time considering her work. “Some things are easy to scrap, some things are hard to scrap. It’s nice to be able to come back and listen to it fresh the next morning.” So, will she approach her next recording in this way or will it be a return to the old style of doing things? Well, neither, as it happens. “I’ll do it a third way. I always want to do different things. You never want to get stuck in a rut.”

On top of her beautiful albums, Spektor’s live show is an absolute treat, which perfectly combines fun and intimacy. “I love playing live very, very, very much. I’m also really fucking lucky though. The people who come to my shows are really cool to each other and cool to me.” Her tours have yet to take her to Australia, but there is the desire within her to visit soon. “I really want to. Hopefully in 2007. I’ve heard really great things about Australia from bands like The Strokes and Dresden Dolls and from crew members that I’ve worked with. Everyone who goes there seems to love it.”

One senses that, if the fanfare surrounding Begin To Hope is any guide, it won’t take Australia too long to fall in love with her as well.

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