Santigold: “Why does a club banger have to have stupid lyrics?”
In 2008 Brooklyn based Santi White dropped her debut album; a genre-blending, mish-mash of tunes Santogold was an intelligent pop record, laced with acerbic lyrics and danceable beats. White’s sense of adventure paid off and her inspired creation had her crowned Queen of the Dancefloor.
Four years on and Santi is back with that big, bad album number two. Written after a trip to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro Master of My Make-Believe features a who’s who of musical guests – Q-Tip, Dave Sitek, Boys Noize, Buraka Som Sistema and Karen O among them.
FasterLouder sat down for a chat with Santigold to find out why the record was such a long time coming, what she was thinking about perched atop Africa’s largest mountain and how to say something insightful when creating a ‘club banger.’
Your new record is out this week. I was reading that it was a hard one to make.
That’s true. The first album was hard to make too – they’re not easy!
There’s a lot that goes into making a record, and I think this process was completely different from the first one. The first one was really difficult and challenging too, but I guess I didn’t expect this one to be that way because I already knew what to expect. I was like ‘Okay, I know how to do this! I know who I’m going to work with, and what it will be like.’
That was the problem. You can’t approach the making of art with expectations. You have to let each process stand on its own. As soon as I let go of those expectations, everything was okay. It was nice to start working with different people, and put some fresh energy into recording. As soon as I knocked down the wall of expectations, I could then go back and work with the people I had collaborated with previously.
Also different on this record was that I was at the helm. Before, [former producer] John Hill was my partner through it – I worked with a lot of different producers but he was my constant partner through everything. This time the only constant was me. I had to depend a lot more on myself and have a lot more confidence in my own vision. That was challenging, and that was where a lot of growth happened for me as a person and as a producer.
Was it a case of avoiding the sophomore slump? There are a lot of artists who have struggled with what to say after they’ve said everything on their first record.
I know, but I think it’s really easy to call it the sophomore slump. The first record was equally challenging, but in a different way. There’s that pressure that everyone talks about – of living up to your first album – but I didn’t feel that. It was completely different: the challenge of making a new body of work. I was very shielded from everybody else’s expectations. It was a case of living up to my own expectations of evolving as an artist and making sure that it was at that next level.
“I think it’s really too easy to call it the sophomore slump”
I assume that you would have had to spend some time working out what you really wanted to say, then.
Exactly! I think that’s what happens [with all artists], and especially with me because I toured the first record for two years. I went straight from touring to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, and then I flew straight from Africa to the studio with [producer] Switch. There wasn’t a moment of downtime, so there wasn’t any time to process what I’ve learned or what I’ve done over the last three years.
To jump straight into trying to create something without thinking about what I’d learned, it doesn’t really work like that. You need a minute. That’s what was challenging – during the process of making the record, I had to synthesise what I had learned and who I was as a person. I was trying to write lyrics before I had made it to the other side of the experience. So I had to, like, give myself a moment to decompress and hear the noise inside my head. That’s our own fault as humans – that we expect so much, and that we constantly think we have it all figured out. It’s hard.