Just before these Olympics, the Scissor Sisters headlined the American stage at The River Of Music, a festival showcasing acts from around the world at various points on the River Thames. It’s the sort of honour they could never actually receive in America.
“Absolutely not,” laughs multi-instrumentalist Babydaddy, who founded the group with frontman and fellow New Yorker Jake Shears in 2000. “No, we would not be picked in America. It'd be LMFAO and Katy Perry, something like that. But I'm very, very happy to say the UK seems to hold on to at least a little bit of their great taste in music. We’re perceived very differently in the UK than we are in the US. Not that the perception is bad, but we're still seen as kind of a 'cool band' in the US, maybe even a little bit alternative.
In the UK, however — and Australia, for that matter — they’re household names; genuine pop megastars used to being greeted with open arms by rapturous festival audiences (much like they were on January’s Summadayze tour). Babydaddy has his theories as to how this schism came about.
“We were originally signed to a label over in the UK,” he explains, “and I think that was because there's just a different passion there for pop songs and classic songwriting and things that are kind of flamboyant and different. I mean, there are a million reasons. But we did get signed over in the UK first, and coming over to Australia was a natural leap, because there's a big cultural exchange program going on between you guys... we do understand that when we come to the UK, music is everything. There's that festival culture, and people listen to national radio stations that play music. These are things we don't have in the US, or that we didn't have as much ten years ago.”
Having said that, of course, Scissor Sisters are still a quintessential New York band. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine them having the same kind of success from any other base. “'Success'?” Babydaddy cocks an eyebrow. “I don't know. I can't really speak to that, because it's all a bit of a gamble anyway. But in terms of who we are, and the kind of band we are, we are a New York band. We come from a very specific history. It's a city of people who have an idea or a dream and they have a stage to get up on and make it real.” Further to that surprisingly Springsteen-esque sentiment, Scissor Sisters have been making their dreams real for 12 years now. The latest record they’ve willed to life is ‘Magic Hour’, a Josh Homme-approved stew of beat-driven future pop. If the LP has a concept, it’s the complete abandonment of cohesiveness.
“In a way,” Babydaddy says, “what we set out to do was to not be too concerned about whether everything fit together... we went back to this idea that we're not going to worry about that and we're just going to write what we want to write. I think that's the truest thing the Scissor Sisters can do. For some reason, we can get away with it... our fans expect that, and that's where we're lucky.”
The album was released earlier this year to rave reviews — a far cry from the confused reaction of some reviewers to their self-titled debut. “I don't even know if they have caught on in the end,” Babydaddy says of those early critics.
“This album was very well reviewed, it's true, but there are plenty of people who don't like or respect what we do. “We worked with a great producer on this album in Amanda Ghost, and she told me that getting perfect reviews means your album's not going to sell. We should thank the gods that we always have critics and people who don't enjoy what we do, because I think that makes what we're doing boundary-pushing. That's what keeps people talking about us.”
‘Magic Hour’ is out now. Scissor Sisters play The Arena on Tuesday September 25.