In Early 2009, Elly Jackson became something of a sensation, partly because of her trademark flame-red cowlick, but mostly for the string of slinky electro-pop hits she delivered as lead singer of the British Eighties throwback La Roux. While Ben Landmaid, Jackson’s producer and partner, has largely skirted the spotlight, shunning interviews and live performance, Jackson has positioned herself squarely in the glare. Her ghostly visage announced the group’s eponymous debut album as it does their latest work, Sidetracked, a carefully curated collection of La Roux’s influences, from the obvious (Tears for Fears) to the obscure (Hally & Kongo Band). Fans expecting a follow-up to their debut will have to wait. Sidetracked only features one proper new song from the band, a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb.” Here’s Jackson on covering the Stones and how awful it is to be pop star.
Eighties greats like Japan and Heaven 17 feature in your line-up. How did you manage to narrow down your choices for the album? I couldn’t! So essentially, it’s a list of mine and Ben’s favorite tracks, and they’re all on there for different reasons – some are songs we listened to while making the record, and others are songs we grew up to. The general production, sound, and attitude of Eighties pop has been the driving force for La Roux. We just wanted the compilation to be a snapshot of our musical tastes and influences.
I see you managed to sneak in a modern band with Coco Sumner’s outfit, I Blame Coco, although it’s been cleverly remixed to Eighties effect. I’m particularly proud of that remix. It’s the first I’ve ever done and I did it by myself. I think people assume I just write lyrics and sing over tracks that’ve been played and produced by Ben.
You’ve already been working your version of the Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb” at various live gigs. Why decide to put it on an album now? We played it live and it got a fantastic response from our fans, so I wanted to make a recording of it available. I wouldn’t feel comfortable releasing a cover as a single, so it’s great to be able to have it on Sidetracked. As with the Coco remix, this was something I did on my own and am really proud of.
What do the Rolling Stones lads think of your version? They probably bloody hate it! Honestly though, I have no idea. We’re not going to get in touch with Mick and say: ‘Hey Mick, look what we did to your song!”
You seem to never stop, what with endless tours and albums. What’s been the hardest part of your journey to success? Never being at home and never seeing my friends or family. You work constantly, it’s exhausting, and people have very little sympathy. You get a lot of “Yeah, how awful, you’re a pop star,” but I don’t think people understand how stressful it can be.