Alison Goldfrapp will be the first to say 2010’s “Head First” wasn’t her band’s best work. A product of pressure from her label Mute’s then-parent EMI, the nine-track collection was a synth-coated ode to Olivia Newton-John-esque ’80s pop that failed to produce a hit as big as the singles from 2006 breakthrough “Supernature.”
“It wasn’t something we were particularly proud of — in hindsight, we were so rushed, and it would’ve been nice to take more time with it,” Goldfrapp says on the phone from her home in England.
Now that Mute is independent once again, Goldfrapp and production partner Will Gregory are prepping “Tales of Us” (Sept. 10), the band’s most conceptual record to date and the result of a two-year creative process. The project’s release will be accompanied by a series of short films-slash-music videos for five of the album’s 10 tracks, co-created by Goldfrapp and directed by Lisa Gunning, Goldfrapp’s romantic partner of several years. A complete film compiling the five clips is in the works for a potential theatrical release as well.
Goldfrapp cites Patricia Highsmith novels; films by David Lynch, Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni; and European music among the project’s chief inspirations. “I went back to the things that have always felt near to me and inspired me-my love of nature and cinema and fantasy noir fairytales,” Goldfrapp says. “I wanted to write an album where the lyrics weren’t about me, necessarily, but could enjoy immersing myself in these characters and setting that to music.”
Hypnotic ballad “Drew” was the first track released in July, accompanied by a pastoral black-and-white video directed by Gunning, but “Tales of Us” won’t have a proper single push behind it. “It’s a very album-focused strategy. The band sees it as a collection of stories,” Mute head of marketing and sales Nicole Blonder says. Peter Loraine, the band’s manager at Fascination Management, adds, “When you listen to the album as a whole, it works so well together that we didn’t go into this with the nagging feeling that so many other bands have, that we haven’t got the commercial single to take to radio.”
That extends to the touring strategy for “Tales of Us,” which kicked off July 17-18 at England’s Manchester International festival, where Goldfrapp performed the album in its entirety, temporarily shunning the dancier highlights of the band’s catalog like “Strict Machine” and “Ooh La La.” Loraine and Mute have confirmed a release event at the Beacon Theatre during New York Fashion Week in September, and are in advanced talks with potential partners that could pair well with Goldfrapp’s personal affinity for high fashion.
Though the album, film project and tour plans are fairly grand in concept, they’re “shoestring” in terms of budget, Goldfrapp says. That’s why she’s more open to the possibility of synch licensing than perhaps even the days of 2005 and 2006, when virtually every track from “Supernature” and a handful from 2004’s “Black Cherry” were licensed for commercials, TV and film. “Often it’s been the only way people get to hear our music,” she says. “Radio hasn’t ever really played our music much, and for me I love sometimes seeing visuals with our music. It can be great fun … And I’d love for our music to be in a film.”
The band previously contributed original scores to “My Summer of Love” and “Nowhere Boy,” but wouldn’t mind repurposing a track from “Tales of Us” in the right setting-a noir mystery, perhaps. “I’d love to have someone go, ‘That song would go so perfectly with this scene,'” Goldfrapp says. “That’s always nice.”