The American indie rocker band Gossip, with their stylish lead singer Beth Ditto, have been constantly climbing the ladder of international superstardom since their 2006 breakthrough.
Having sold more than a million albums worldwide since the release of their 2009 CD “music For Men,” they have come out with a more alternative sound on their newest album, “A Joyful Noise,” released internationally in May by Columbia Records.
Although critics describe Gossip’s music as a mixture of post-punk, indie-rock and dance-punk, “A Joyful Noise,” the fifth studio album by the three-member band, features a sound that is much closer to the legendary disco era with their upbeat songs and lead singer Beth Ditto’s soulful vocals.
The band, in which Ditto is joined by Brace Paine on guitar and Hannah Blilie on drums, worked with famous British producer Brian Higgins (who previously collaborated with such acts as the Pet Shop Boys, Kylie Minogue and Sophie Ellis-Bextor) on this disco-flavored new set.
As its title indicates, “A Joyful Noise” -- released this month in Turkey by Sony Music -- offers a happy sound through its combination of powerful melodies and lyrics. In a recent interview with Today’s Zaman, lead singer Beth Ditto spoke about the new album and Gossip.
Critics prefer a lengthy description of Gossip’s sound, but what if we just said “alternative disco”?
That works, too! I think people include punk [in the description] because of our history as a punk band and our punk influences, but some of what we’re doing now definitely leans more toward disco. As a band, we don’t set out to make a certain kind of record; we go into the studio and what comes out is often just as much a surprise to us as it is to anyone else. During the making of this record, I was listening to a lot of ABBA. And Loretta Lynn. And I think it really shows. There are songs like “Casualties of War” [on the new album] that are more disco-country.
What do you refer to with the title “A Joyful Noise”?
Music! The album has a lot of sad songs about heartbreak, but I think it’s ultimately really a happy record. It’s about getting people up and dancing together. It turns out there’s also a Whoopi Goldberg/Dolly Parton movie by the same name, and I love them!
Your new album has a lovely disco feel; was it the choice of your producer, Brian Higgins?
The disco-synth sound was already there before we began work with Brian. With the exception of two songs, all the tracks were written before we went into the studio with him. He helped us make adjustments to tempo and key that the songs needed to have a finished feel; they were like puzzle pieces that weren’t fitting together right and he knew exactly what they needed.
“Move in the Right Direction” was one of the tracks I wrote with Brian. It was a really great process, similar to working with Simian Mobile Disco on my solo EP. We really just clicked in the studio.
“Move in the Right Direction” feels like it is aimed at encouraging people to cast heartbreak away and find new loves; can we say this song is a beautiful descendant of the legendary disco hit “I Will Survive”?
Well, I would be very honored if you thought that! I want people to come away from this record with the feeling that life is too short to be hateful, that we can make space for optimism and new love.
It seems you care about lyrics as much as melodies.
Yes, definitely. I think that’s what works so well about punk music. The lyrics are defiant, hopeful, strong, angry -- powerful emotions that make people want to move, make people want to feel something as a group.
You are one of the amazing stars of the music scene with your soulful vocals and playful personality. How do you describe your role in the success of Gossip?
I think we all make our own vital contributions to the band; it wouldn’t exist without any of the three of us, let alone the incredible musicians who play with us live, and our supportive staff and label friends. I think because I’m loud and talk a lot that gets a lot of press, but we always say, “Gossip is a band!”
You are also a powerful role model for young people. Don’t you think that young people still need some encouragement in music for self-expression?
Of course! Young people look to music for a place to belong, for some kind of reflection of how they see themselves or who they want to be. That’s why they need role models who give them permission to be fabulous as whoever they are -- whatever size, whatever gender. Gossip has been honored to be able to be involved with Portland’s Rock and Roll Camp for Girls, a project that actively encourages young girls to participate in music and find their voices. I think programs like this are absolutely vital.
Can we say that “Heavy Cross” was Gossip’s first major international breakthrough? And why does that song attract people?
We thought “Standing In The Way of Control” was the big breakthrough, but “Heavy Cross” ended up being a lot crazier than that. I personally love the drums on “Heavy Cross,” the way they build tension, and I think people really respond to the release of the chorus. That song is really fun to play live; I always say it’s better to see us live than listen to the records.
Who are your idols when it comes to the disco era?
Well, in case you haven’t noticed, ABBA, Donna Summer, Chic, Debbie Harry, Giorgio Moroder…
You performed your first single, “Perfect World,” live at the Cannes Film Festival with Sacha Baron Cohen; any more famous fans of Gossip?
That was so much fun! … I don’t know about any other famous fans -- people come to our shows but I have no idea if they’re fans. I love the opportunity to play for people I admire, but I feel like all our fans are equally important.
So what’s next for Gossip?
Touring, touring, touring, touring! And much love and respect from Gossip to Turkey.