New Slang

1 August 2012 | 2:16 pm | Tyler McLoughlan

I think Jake first met Calvin working with Kylie [Minogue] actually… it was on Aphrodite – he co-produced a track

More Scissor Sisters More Scissor Sisters

Since the release of their eponymous 2004 debut, New York's Scissor Sisters have owned a sound few could mistake despite their stylistic promiscuity across club banging anthems, pop chart climbers, subdued ballads and camp-as-hell hits. Though the quintet may be hard to categorise, the title of their new record is a timely reminder of the outfit's inimitable ability to drag audiences into their weird and wonderful musical world, and pull a cast of high-profile guest writers and producers too.

“The record came together really organically I think,” says Scissor Sisters' founding multi-instrumentalist Scott Hoffman of their fourth long-player Magic Hour. “We got off the road with [2010 album] Night Work, and [frontman] Jake [Shears] and I as usual just wanted to pop into the studio. Jake and I just happened to get back in and started making some music. So we contacted some of our friends like Alex [Ridha] from Boys Noize who we wanted to work with, and just started kind of collaborating and making tracks and starting stuff. We kind of just collected a whole great group of people to try things out with – probably more collaborations than we've ever been used to but it was something that we wanted to try…” he says, adding that the album's long list of collaborators ranging from Azealia Banks to John Legend were collected along the way as the songs saw fit.  

“I think one thing kind of led to the next; we kind of decided, you know Alex is a friend of ours so lets try working with him a little bit. And it just kind of led us to one day in the studio with Alex, Diplo was in town and he said, 'Oh can my buddy Diplo come down?' and we said, 'Yeah sure, we love what he does' – so Diplo had a beginning of a song that he brought in and we took it and finished it. It just went from there. We had some great people around us kind of helping us get to the people we wanted to work with as well, so we went on a little journey with it.”

The Scissor Sisters' lead single journey saw them picking up the unmistakable production skills of Calvin Harris along the way, the result a neon synth-filled northern hemisphere summer hit Only The Horses.

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”I think Jake first met Calvin working with Kylie [Minogue] actually… it was on Aphrodite – he co-produced a track. Jake co-wrote one of the songs and it worked together. He knew Calvin and Only The Horses was a song we had around for a little while but we just couldn't quite nail the production. We really wanted it to sound big and epic and like a fun dance track and he was a name that we had in the rolodex, and we said, 'Listen, Calvin can fix this', and he did – we love what he did with it.”

Though Scissor Sisters have been dubbed the best pop group in the world by no less than U2's Bono, Hoffman is no stranger to a fanboy moment himself when it comes to Pharrell Williams who, at the suggestion of an assistant, wrote and produced Inevitable alongside the New Yorkers.

“…There's so many classic songs to me that he was behind. And everything from the production to the N.E.R.D stuff, to being aware of his involvement in the art world and culture – he's such a cool, across-the-board, interesting, smart guy. And that was one of the things where we just said we're absolutely not gonna turn down the chance to work with Pharrell – it was a great experience,” he says excitedly, though points to his inner circle for providing the best experiences across Magic Hour.

“We worked with some great people but my favourite moments are kind of when Jake and I and maybe another member of the band come up with something on our own… I'm most proud of just the album as a whole – I think it works all together as a whole…” Hoffman states, before outlining how each Scissor Sister album, though individually eclectic, comes to be a cohesive collection.

“We don't work like a lot of pop bands out there work; we don't ship our songs off to someone and say, 'Can you just make this?' and then it's just done. At the very worst we'll have to work with someone over the internet and you have to send ideas back and forth; well we'll send them our ideas but the usual case is that we're actually sitting in a room with them, we're on a computer that I know how to work, and co-producing and writing together. Our hands are all over this album...”

With a sly chuckle, Hoffman shares the inside story behind some of the characters that shape Magic Hour

“Yeah, our buddy Pickles,” he says, referencing the owner of the voicemail device used on Let's Have A Kiki and Ms Matronic's Magic Message. “It's actually our nickname for Sammy Jo who's our tour DJ and a really, really good friend. We always like giving shout outs to our friends and making them feel like everyone's kinda joining the party – we want everyone to learn the cast of characters around us… A lot of the characters aren't necessarily named but there'll be like a trashy pregnant teenager or like housewives that wanna hit the town or something like that. Jake especially is always filling these things with these strange characters…” Hoffman laughs.

But back to the matter of this kiki business.

“What is a kiki?” he says, drawing out the vowels. “A kiki is a party! A kiki is a party when you get together with your friends and you gossip and you have a fun little time and you know, it's probably more of an impromptu kind of party with just a few friends. It's probably where you end up at the end of a night once most of the people have left and you're stuck with your best friends,” he says, pretty much summing up Magic Hour as a whole. “It's definitely not a common term for parties in America but it's maybe a bit of a New York thing, or drag queen speak or something like that – it's a bit underground.”

Due to bring their flamboyant cast of characters and musical fantasies to Australia for a three-date run that includes the Opera House in September, Hoffman can't wait to share Magic Hour with audiences.

“We had rehearsals a couple of hours ago and its been going great. It's gonna be really, really fun – we're loving doing these new songs… And I just love going to Australia, it's such a pleasure for us. I've been going there since I was 20-years-old when I went and visited my brother and did a roadtrip down the east coast. I love it there – we have great shows there, they're such welcoming people when we come, we have just a great time…”