Page last updated at 08:26 GMT, Monday, 5 January 2009

BBC Sound of 2009: La Roux


Watch clips of La Roux's music video as singer Elly Jackson explains why she wants to bring back the 1980s.

By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News

The BBC's Sound of 2009 list has gathered some of the best new music by asking critics and broadcasters to name their favourite up-and-coming artists.

Colourful London synth duo La Roux kick off the coverage at number five on the list.

One act from the top five will be revealed every day until Friday, when the winner will be announced.

"We don't listen to anything apart from '80s music," explains Elly Jackson, the synth-loving, crazy-haired, pop-obsessed rising star who is determined to take us back to the future.

La Roux singer Elly Jackson
I want to see people who aren't afraid to look a bit mad and have crazy hair - what happened to all the crazy hair?
Elly Jackson

She is the face and voice of La Roux, whose manifesto involves ridding the charts of boring indie bands, contrived girl groups and too-cool dance acts.

At 20, Jackson was not even born until the end of the 1980s. But the massive melodies, outlandish outfits, strong personalities and Technicolor creativity have convinced her that current pop music has lost its way and it is time to turn back the clock.

"We're trying to make pop music like it used to be in the '80s," says Jackson, who was born and bred in Brixton. "It was so epic in the '80s and no-one makes epic otherworldly pop music any more.

"There's an endless amount of stuff to find in the '80s. I can't seem to move on to modern music because there's so much stuff from the '80s that I'm still discovering."

Jackson and production partner Ben Langmaid have been meticulously been working their way through the back catalogues of acts like The Eurythmics, Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, Heaven 17, Prince and Blancmange.

"Music doesn't feel honest any more," she continues. "That music feels really free. Really experimental and free and it's so contrived now."

Her love of the decade's decadence crosses over into image and style, and Elly wants to stand out like a true '80s star, borrowing bits from the dressing up boxes of Bananarama, Annie Lennox and Boy George.

'Big and epic'

In the video for their debut single Quicksand, she perches on the rim of a giant margarita cocktail as her wedge of red hair blows in the breeze on a pastel Martian beach.

"There's a lot of people who look like they could be anyone in pop," she says. "I want to see people who aren't afraid to look a bit mad and have crazy hair. There's no-one with crazy hair any more! What happened to all the crazy hair?

Watch the full video for La Roux's debut single Quicksand

"Everyone just looks like the girl next door now in pop music, which I don't think is right. Surely it should all be about entertainment and being theatrical and big and epic."

Jackson began moulding her grand ambition after being put in touch with Langmaid, a veteran of the British music scene, by a mutual acquaintance.

Langmaid's best friend at school was Faithless mastermind and Dido's brother Rollo Armstrong, and in the mid-1990s they grazed the top 40 as house duo Huff & Puff.

Langmaid introduced Armstrong to his future Faithless bandmates, was signed to Armstrong's label under the alias Atomic, and was part of another dance Huff & Herb.

He then started writing songs for middle-of-the-road rockers Kubb, who were on the BBC's Sound of 2006 list. As it turned out, they weren't the sound of 2006.

So he turned his attention to working with Jackson, first under the name Automan, then becoming La Roux, which means "red-haired one" in French.

'Ridiculously emotional'

"It was musically love at first sight," says Jackson. "We're very similar people. We just want to make massive pop tunes."

Jackson and Langmaid are both "ridiculously emotional people" who can regularly be found on the floor in floods of tears, the singer says.

I think guitar music has had its day, for now anyway... I think it's definitely time for some serious synth action
Elly Jackson

"Then we channel our most depressing moments into what should be big happy moments in music. Without the therapeutic process of putting those hard times into music, we'd both be dead. Literally."

So what do they get emotional about? "It's always about love isn't it? Come on," Jackson retorts. "My vulnerable emotions are all to do with love.

"I'm a really vulnerable person actually, but what I like about the music is that it all sounds quite defiant. It sounds kinda powerful, and that's what gets me out of situations.

"You imagine singing it on stage to that one person that it's about, and saying really, really honest things. I get an adrenalin rush from being really honest and saying things you shouldn't quite say."

Jackson and Langmaid have been working together for three years, starting out as an acoustic guitar-based outfit before deciding they were bored of that sound, scrapping their work and reinventing themselves as retro revivalists.

"I think guitar music has had its day, for now anyway, unless it gets reinvented in some way," says Jackson. "I think it's definitely time for some serious synth action."

More than 130 leading UK-based music writers, editors and broadcasters took part in Sound of 2009. They named their three favourite new acts and their responses were used to compile the list. Find out more here.

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