After holing themselves up in a studio with Stuart Price for 2010’s lean, mean Night Work, the Scissor Sisters return this week with their fourth and most diverse album to date, Magic Hour.
The grab bag of styles — anthemic electropop, chintzy ballads, even one ill-advised tropical excursion — came thanks to a new, more relaxed method of recording for the New York outfit.
“There were a lot of friends around whenever we were recording. Usually that makes me really cagey, but this time around it really loosened me up and the whole process was really stress-free,” the band’s magnetic frontman Jake Shears told the Star Observer.
“I had to stop caring about everything and make the sort of fun music I could play to my friends at a house party.
“I wanted this album to be the reaction and response to Night Work, in the same way that our first two albums [were]. Night Work is a dead-of-night record, and this feels like the morning after.”
Magic Hour’s house party feel is strengthened by its bounty of unlikely collaborators: dance and hip-hop heads Pharrell and Diplo respectively contribute two of the album’s best ballads, while soul crooner John Legend co-wrote jaunty opener Baby Come Home.
Shears had previously admitted to ‘tension’ during his writing session with Pharrell, the man responsible for many of the biggest R&B and hip-hop hits of the past 15 years.
“I was intimidated. He’s such a beautiful, sweet, quiet guy, and I’m just Chatty Kathy. We created our song [Inevitable] from scratch in a couple of hours, and I think it’s one of the best songs we’ve ever done.
“What was so sweet was that he loved it so much. I’d hear from different people a month later that they’d been at a party with Pharrell and he’d been raving about the song,” he gushed.
The song that best encapsulates the album’s party vibe — indeed, it seems to sum up the Scissor Sisters as a whole — is Let’s Have A Kiki. Steeped in the language of the New York queer scene that gave birth to the band, it details the sort of after-hours house party you can only have when no club will let your tired, trashed arse in the door.
“I had a professor once in college who said the most important stuff you’ll ever write is about your own life and times. That always stuck with me, and this song is a great example of it — we wrote in our own language about the people around us.
“There aren’t too many people in the world who knew what a kiki was — I guess that’s probably going to change,” Shears chuckled.
The song’s also a perfect showcase for the band’s inimitable secret weapon, Ana Matronic. If you haven’t yet seen the Scissor Sisters live, you’d be forgiven for underestimating her value to the group.
Shears is undoubtedly the stronger singer, but as the band’s chief songwriter, is he conscious of allowing Matronic her moments to shine on record?
“Absolutely. There would be no Scissor Sisters if there weren’t Ana Matronic. If she hung up her hat tomorrow the band would be done.
“We all do stuff none of the others can do, and I have no way to connect with an audience in the way she can — it’s just not in me. I don’t have that special thing that she’s got, and I wouldn’t want to be out there on stage without her.”
Given Matronic married her longtime partner Seth Kirby in 2010, she’s also that rarest of gems — a straight woman who doesn’t lose touch with her gay friends (and, in this case, bandmates) when she settles down.
“Of course not. She’s a total anti-establishment punk who’s a self-proclaimed witch. Ana’s really hardcore. She makes me look properly suburban, and that is no mean feat.”
The band heralded the release of Night Work with a hilarious and star-studded series of YouTube videos, Scissor Sisters News, featuring endorsements from celeb friends including Juliette Lewis and even a septuagenarian Jane Fonda extolling the virtues of a Scissor Sisters aerobics workout.
This time around, they’ve enlisted the help of Queens of the Stone Age frontman (and ginger sex god) Josh Homme for a brilliantly bad spoof infomercial.
“I’ve been stalking him for years. I got phone numbers, I tracked him down, and we’ve been hanging out,” Shears admitted.
“It’s fun to surprise people too. People assume with me that I just listen to Steps and Girls Aloud, when in reality I’m a big Nine Inch Nails and Queens of the Stone Age fan.”
Surely there’s room in the world for both Girls Aloud and Queens of the Stone Age.
“You’re right. I do love a little Girls Aloud.”
Almost as funny as the video itself are the multitude of YouTube comments underneath from deluded QOTSA fanboys, angry that their heavy metal idol is endorsing a ‘gay’ band.
“Oh please, his brother and best friend are total fags! He’s got a gay brother and they’re amazing together, they love each other so much. His brother’s very handsome.”
Perhaps the Sisters’ most noted celeb friendship is the special bond Shears has with our own Kylie Minogue. Given that two of the songs he and fellow band member Babydaddy penned for her — I Believe In You and Everything I Know — are among her very best, is it too much to ask for a Results (Liza Minnelli’s genius 1989 collaboration with the Pet Shop Boys)-style album some time soon?
“Everything I Know is one of my favourite songs I’ve ever written. I still get chills when I listen to it. Hopefully there’ll be many more. There’s enough material that we could do a whole album’s worth of stuff.
“We just wrote a song together a couple of weeks ago, and Babydaddy and I have a whole hard drive full of stuff we’ve done with Kylie.”
INFO: Magic Hour (Universal) out now.