An Interview by Alexander Laurence
is a two person band consisting of Lisa O'Neill on vocals
and Emma Anderson on guitar. They have been together for
about four years on a number of different labels. Lisa,
who has sung with various artists like Kid Loco, was introduced
to Emma by a mutual friend. Emma had been looking for a
singer to work with since her former band Lush had disbanded
in 1996. A shimmering future was born.
Lisa hooked them up with technical wizard Mark Van Hoen
(Locust/Mojave 3) and they made a demo of four songs including
the irresistible hit "Feels Like Summer." Emma's
old friends Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde of the Cocteau
Twins were the first to hear the results and agreed to put
out a single on their own Bella Union label. Soon they were
being offered gigs and a live band was needed.
In fall 2001, The Joy of Sing-Sing was released
on Alan McGee's Poptones label followed by a tour of America
in early 2002. Soon after, they were signed to Manifesto
Records, and The Joy of Sing-Sing saw American release.
I spoke to Emma Anderson for a few minutes before their
soundcheck on their most recent tour.
AL: This is your second
tour this year. How has the reaction been?
Emma: The reaction has been really good. We are playing
with Venus Hum on the whole tour. They are really good.
They are an American group. They are very electronic. It's
just two guys with laptops and mixers and a girl singing.
AL: How did you get involved with Alan McGee and Poptones?
Emma: I have known Alan McGee for fourteen years now. We
actually made the record for a different label. We parted
with that label. We got the album back. We just needed someone
to release it. So I sent it to Alan and he liked it. He
is someone who I've known for a long time.
AL: What where you doing for the four years?
Emma: We have been putting out singles and going from label
to label. We had a lot of crap to deal with. I am not going
to lie. We left the Santuary label and had to sign contacts
all over again and it took so long. The record was released
finally in England late last year, and on Manifesto it's
been out two months here.
AL: How do you write songs in the band? Did you write material
before you joined forces?
Emma: We had written some songs but not a lot. I wrote
"You Don't Know" before I had met Lisa. She wrote
"I Can See You" before she had met me. Some of
the songs that we co-wrote like "Tegan" and "I'll
Be" have different writing processes behind them. I
write songs on guitar. I usually get a melody first then
put some chords around that.
AL: Many of the songs are about relationships?
Emma; Some of them. Not all of them. Lisa writes about
that a lot especially when she is angry or frustrated with
somebody. That helps her write a song.
AL: I saw the video for "Feel Like Summer." It's
a song about an end of a relationship. The song sounds summery
but the video is all very bleak with you two walking around
at the beach.
Emma: Yeah. We actually released the video when we released
the first single about four years ago. It's like an old
video now. We are probably less fat in it.
AL: What is the song "Command" about?
Emma: Lisa wrote that one. It is about her boyfriend who
is quite a reserved English guy, not very demonstrative
with his emotions. That is about her frustration with that.
That feeling of "If I could command you to say wonderful
things I would."
AL: You had an incident with Lush and Elvis Herselvis in
San Francisco? Elvis Herselvis is this well-known Bay Area
lesbian Elvis impersonator.
Emma: It was Chris' birthday treat. It was a funny thing
because there was a mixup. We were trying to get an Elvis
lookalike to do a tribute. Two people went separately not
knowing what the other was up to. One person got a normal
male impersonator. The other got Elvis Herselvis. Both turned
up that night. But they came on together and it was quite
AL: There's a lot of feeling of John Barry, sixties french
pop music in Sing-Sing?
Emma: I love John Barry. I quite like Françoise
Hardy. Have you heard Margot Guryan? I think she's American
actually. She's like breathy, sixties female pop singer.
The guy who designed our album turned me on to Margot Guryan.
AL: What do your parents think about you doing music?
Emma: Both of my parents are dead actually. They were quite
a lot older than me, even when I was born. They couldn't
get their heads around what I was doing. They were from
an early age. My dad was an army guard. They came around
to it. My mom saw me on Top of The Pops and they eventually
realized what I was doing all these years. They didn't have
AL: Are you playing at CMJ this year?
Emma: Yeah. We played it two years ago. Then we are doing
it again this year. It was good. We played with Lupine Howl
and Freeheat so it was a heavy bill. This time we are playing
at Bowery Ballroom with The Music. It should be good.
AL: What should people expected when they come to see Sing-Sing?
Emma: Christmas lights and white clothes. That's what we
wear onstage because we have funny projections. We might
not bring the projections with us to New York.
AL: Do you have some new songs since the record?
Emma: We have a few. We are rotating them.
AL: Have you read any books recently?
Emma: I have read a book for a while which is really bad.
I should read more but I haven't had any time.
AL: Do you have any hobbies?
Emma: Nothing weird. Just travel and cooking.