Beth Ditto is definitely feeling her Trenta-sized coffee (which she pronounces “Trawn-tay,” proof that, while you can take the girl out of Arkansas, you definitely can’t take Arkansas out of the girl). She bounded around the MTV Newsroom, proclaiming to no one in particular she’s “sweatin’ so much” and explaining the laundry list of names she weighed for Gossip’s upcoming album — Get a Job and Wrap being two particular favorites, the latter because she “loves Christmas and a good pun” — before finally settling on A Joyful Noise.
“It’s a Dolly Parton/ Queen Latifah movie, after all,” she explained.
Of course, A Joyful Noise is also much more than that — it’s Gossip’s first album in nearly three years, a shimmering selection of house-tinged tunes (produced by Brian Higgins, who’s done work for Kylie Minogue and Girls Aloud) that, depending on whom you ask, either represents the next logical step in the band’s 13-year career or a complete reimagining of their sound. Of course, if you ask Ditto about it, she doesn’t think it’s either, really.
“One time, I remember getting a Facebook post — I think it was actually MySpace, maybe even Friendster — from someone I knew in high school, and she was like, ‘You’ve really changed,’ ” she said. “And I was like, ‘Well, I hope to hell so.‘ But you think about that, and a lot of questions in interviews have been like, ‘Well, do you feel like that’s selling out?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, I never really sold in, so I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ ”
Then again, on Joyful Noise, Gossip are definitely embracing their shiny sides. “Move in the Right Direction” pumps like all of Kylie’s best tracks, “Into the Wild” struts on stiletto-heeled electro stabs, and first single “Perfect World” swirls on a starry bed of synths (and some downright disco backbeats). Call it evolution or call it reinvention — Ditto prefers to see it as the Gossip becoming all they can be.
“It was so nice, because after 13 years, you start out so bare-bones and so stripped-down, and you don’t have a lot of money, so being at this point, we had time, and people trusted us, because they see we’re not just really crazy,” she said. “We got to experiment a lot, and it was like a little Hit Factory; there was music everywhere in this ancient house, and everybody was working on pieces of music. You’d walk in and you’d hear it being filtered through all these different ideas, which is what I’ve learned, over the years, is what production is. I used to be really against it, because I didn’t understand it. And now that I do, it’s just like having a stylist or asking someone to paint your house. It’s their interpretation of your work.”
And though the sound may have morphed, the spirit remains the same. Just like they’ve always done, with Joyful Noise, Gossip are channeling the sexual politics — in this case, the openly gay ethos that charged disco and house music of the ’70s and ’80s, which they don’t see as all that different from the bracing, DIY aesthetic of the punk they’ve played for more than a decade now.
“We listened to a lot of house music, I would say. House and disco and all that was really radical when it was first coming out, and I feel a connection to that, for sure,” drummer Hannah Blilie said. “The whole ‘disco sucks’ thing? They were burning disco records in the middle of a stadium. They hated the style and they hated the people making it too. It’s a hidden hatred.”
“To me that was the most homophobic statement; it’s much easier to say, ‘I hate disco,’ rather than, ‘I hate f–s,’ ” Ditto added. “There’s always some kind of amazing connection in music. Like, country music, I feel really in touch about growing up in poverty and the struggle of that. House music, I really feel the need to break free and have a space of your own, where you can be really free and really crazy, and just like punk or hip hop, it’s about creating a space of your own. Safety zone. The safety dance.”
Are you excited for the Gossip’s new music? Let us know in the comments!