‘It’s definitely not a throwback record,’ Colette says of When the Music’s Loud, the long-awaited album released in late August on her Candy Talk label. This much is clear: at a time when everyone is trying to sound like the fashionable heroes of a lost era, the Chicago dance/pop icon has dared to take the radical course of sounding more and more like, well… herself.
You’ve been in Chicago a lot this summer. Was it for the album?
No. I’m back in LA now, but I did some pretty extensive touring this summer. I was on a plane nearly every day last week and physically it can be really tough on you.
I think you played here at least four or five times in the last few months. A couple of people asked me for the dirt on if you had moved back.
Yeah, my friends were complaining. “You’re here again?!”
SuperJane is celebrating our 16th anniversary, so we had a party at SmartBar and then a show at West Fest. I knew about those in advance, but then I was booked twice for the Lunch Break series, which came together really quickly. Then I got to play at Boom Boom Room for Diz’s birthday! I was very lucky to get to spend so much time in Chicago this summer.
I was listening to the new album earlier today. Strangely, the first thing that occurred to me was a total record nerd cliché, but one I think is true: There aren’t many albums made like this anymore.
It’s actually my first time making an album like this too. It’s different from my previous two albums which were collaborations with many different producers and songwriters. Tim K and I wrote this entire album together – and later collaborated with different producers on some of the tracks. When you’re working with the same people for a long time, songwriting comes more naturally. We got into a really good groove. We’d get together and talk about music for hours before we even started writing. That’s a smart way to write, I think. It puts everyone in a really good headspace. Our best material came together at the very end of writing this album.
For example, which songs were produced at the end?
“When the Music’s Loud” –
The title track?
Yes. That was the third to last song that we wrote. It came together very fast – two days and it was done. “Physically” was a different story. That song took over eight months. We’d work on it, put it away, bring it back and work on it again. “Oasis” was the second to last song that we wrote and “Worked Up” was the last.
Were there any that you worked on during this eternity that you were writing and recording but eventually had to put a bullet in them?
Oh yeah. There were a couple of songs that were 80% done that didn’t make it any further. When you get that uneasy feeling about a tune and it isn’t working the way you want it to, you have to trust that it’s best to walk away from it.
Your previous album was on OM, when that label was still the most muscular marketing machine that dance music has ever known. And this time you’ve gone on your own.
It wasn’t until about six months ago, maybe around February, that I made the decision to release it on my own. I played it for a few people and got some great feedback, but they talked about wanting to break it up into pieces or put more work into parts of it and I didn’t agree with either option.
And that was when you decided to use a crowdsourcing campaign?
I’d heard about PledgeMusic and the thing I liked about it is that it’s designed specifically for musicians. I knew it’d be a lot of work, but I was really a believer in this record.
It’s not just about an artist going their own way for purely artistic reasons. With the way the industry is, labels are having difficulty surviving. A label can’t go on the road to gig, and there are only so many t-shirts you can sell before you’re a clothing company rather than a record label.
An artist can start an album from scratch on Pledge, but I did a shorter campaign of just 30 days – the album was written, but there were still some things that needed to be done in terms of mixing, mastering and production. The pledge campaign wound up just going over – we raised 112% of our goal – and with the packages we had, from mixtapes to the Viper Room party, I think everyone was happy with how it turned out.
So walk us through When The Music’s Loud.
I’m really excited that it’s finally coming out. It’s musically diverse, and for me, I don’t like to put myself in a box and limit what I play. As a DJ I’m always dabbling in different sounds and I wanted the album to reflect that. There are a lot of textures from a lot of different subgenres on the album, from early ’90s House to ’80s pop music, which has always been my base for writing. I wanted to combine those two influences while still maintaining a modern sound. It’s definitely not a throwback record, though we did have some 808s, 909s and vocoders sprinkled throughout.
Yeah! When I was a 8, my best friend’s parents were in a band and they had a vocoder. I thought it was the greatest thing! It’s present on the album here and there.
When The Music’s Loud is also the first record I’ve made that’s purely electronic. There are no live instruments on it at all.
Lyrically, how does it compare to your earlier albums?
I would say there are fewer breakup songs. We concentrated more on stories of friendship. I’ve been in music for a long time now and have had the same group of friends for just as long. The song “Best of Days” comes from the idea of focusing on the good times we’re having right now, not just all the fun we had in the past at the old loft parties on Milwaukee or Paulina. Life is always changing and the best of everything is still happening.
Like with SuperJane: it’s been 16 years and part of it feels like time hasn’t passed at all. Some of us have kids now and some of us have moved outside of Chicago, but our friendships feel the same as they did in 1997. These songs celebrate those relationships and how they’ve endured.
When I heard you mention it, I could tell you were excited to have this big show coming up at the Viper Room out in LA. Is it too soon to promote that?
It’s coming up on October 17th! The Viper Room doesn’t have many dance events, so for me it’s special for that reason alone. I remember going to see Louie Vega there twelve years ago and it was such a fun experience. When people go to the Viper Room for the first time, they’re surprised that it’s not this gigantic club. It’s a really intimate space and it has such a great energy. So it should be a good night! Mark Farina will be doing a Mushroom Jazz set which doesn’t happen that often in LA, and it’ll be the one time that I perform all of the songs off the album.
So to sound like an ’80s music industry snake, what’s the first single?
The first single is “Hotwire”. I thought we were going to release it a year ago, so I’ve been playing Sonny Fodera’s remix in my sets for a hot minute now. People were asking me about the release date almost every day on Facebook for awhile! I’m also really excited that we were able to license a sample from Adonis’ “No Way Back” for the original mix. “No Way Back” is still one of my favorite tracks. Sonny Fodera also has a deeper dub that he produced plus Golf Clap did an amazing remix as well. The single after that will be “Physically”.
Releasing this album on my own is comparable to the first time I drove by myself just after getting my license – exciting, slightly terrifying and very freeing.
When The Music’s Loud was released on August 27 2013 by Candy Talk and is available everywhere. The remixes for “Hotwire” by Sonny Fodera & Golf Clap were released this week and are available from traxsource.