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SISU, a Los Angeles band fronted by singer and multi instrumentalist, Sandra Vu (Dum Dum Girls, Dirty Beaches, The Raveonettes) continues to solidify their sound by incorporating hard and soft elements in their music. Vu’s ability to write and produce crafted the band’s dark, dreamy synth sound. The band recently released their debut LP entitled Blood Tears. The album was so outstanding, in fact, that they have been named mxdwn’s Best New Artist of 2013. Last year, the ladies of TEEN took the title. SISU recently performed alongside Machinedrum and Soft Metals at the Red Bull Sound Select monthly showcase at the Troubadour. Before their performance, mxdwn had the chance to speak with Sandra Vu about the debut album, Jeremy Jay and Dum Dum Girls.
Photos by Marisa Rose Ficara
This is the band’s debut album. What are your hopes for the new album?
Sandra Vu: I was honestly just thankful that it got released at all because of the scheduling. Just being completed with it and pushing it out is a relief. You don’t really know what to expect. I just want to make more music after. If this helps me in some way by making myself more available or giving me a bigger budget, that would be great.
It’s been a few years since the band has released new music. Blood Tears is the band’s first full-length album. What was the reasoning behind the long wait?
That was entirely because I play in Dum Dum Girls and that schedule was at the time very grueling. We were touring for about seven months straight and it was very difficult to plan a release with a very patchy and unpredictable schedule.
Did you want to achieve a certain sound while recording Blood Tears?
One thing about the record (and the band) is that I didn’t really want to limit the sound by saying, “this is the kind of band we are going to be.” In my opinion, the record is varied. Every song sound different from one another. That’s kind of what the idea behind the album was. We want to still have a similar theme and sound aesthetic throughout the record, while keeping each song different as possible.
What were some of your inspirations behind this album?
Each song on the album was influenced by different experiences. This wasn’t a concept album were the songs came from one influence. There are things that tie songs to one another. It’s a personal record, so it’s just about relationships of mine. I guess that would be the main inspiration behind the album.
Was this inspired by a specific relationship? Or various relationships?
Various relationships, yeah. I guess the main theme is breaking down and rebuilding. It is about the pain and struggle behind relationships and how it can turn into a positive thing.
I wanted to talk about one of the songs on the album, “Shotgun Running.” This song sounds completely different from the rest of the songs on the album. Can you explain the recording process for this track? What were your inspirations behind this particular song?
That song was all synths. There are no guitars on it at all. I just wanted something light, atmospheric and surreal. When I was putting it together, I didn’t feel like it needed anything else. I didn’t want to put live drums or guitar. The track just floats and that’s what I wanted it to do. It floats to me. I think I was inspired from a Jeremy Jay song. It was this one sound that was in the song, but it doesn’t sound like that song.
Speaking of inspirations, what are some of your musical inspirations? I know you mentioned Jeremy Jay.
I have a lot of them. Cocteau Twins, I love. DJ Shadow kind of more mood wise. It’s weird to mention My Bloody Valentine sometimes because people expect it to be more shoe-gaze or something. So, it’s kind of like a secondary reference, but they are one of my favorite bands. Siouxsie Sioux…It’s kind of a mixed bag.
Where does “SISU” come from?
My friend was helping me choose a name and he thought he was making up a word. It turns out after googling it; it means “perseverance” in Finnish. That is obviously a really cool meaning. Finland really identifies with its meaning. It’s like what “freedom” means in the United States. It felt like it was a lot of responsibility to take this name on, but I just like how it looked spelled out. I thought about changing the spelling, but I decided to keep it as is. It’s an awesome word that we respectfully adopted.
Aside from music, what do you enjoy doing?
Honestly, I’ve been working so hard on this project; I don’t know what else I do. I hang out with my buddies. I watch a lot of TV shows. I’m watching Boardwalk Empire right now. It’s all encompassing right now. Especially this week, I’ve been so stressed out. We are going to Europe next week and it’s been insane.
What’s your favorite part of performing live?
The fact that you feel so vulnerable up on stage-– it’s scary. In a way, I do like that because it’s like a weird challenge for me. I am trying to get better at it and trying to do. I obviously love performing. I don’t know what about exactly. Performing stuff that you create is really personal. To have people connect to it, that’s probably the best thing. That’s pretty awesome.
Will you be focusing on the new album for a while?
Yes. I am supposed to be writing right now and I am writing. Next year I will be writing a lot and hopefully we will be releasing another record, but for right now, we will be focusing on this album.
I know that Dum Dum Girls will also announce a new album. Will you be working on this release as well?
Yes, I am going to be working my hardest to promote both albums. Dum Dum Girls album will be released at the end of January.
What should Dum Dum Girl fans be expecting with this new release?
There was a video released for “Lost Boys and Girls Club.” The album would be more along to that song. To me it’s a bit more eighties. It’s kind of more pop along the way Madonna is more pop. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it’s more along those lines. But of course, it’s also very guitar driven.
You mentioned a tour in Europe-– what is next for SISU?
We are going to be touring Europe for about a week. It’s just Jules and I performing as a duo. After that we just have plans to tour more until the next record comes out. We are still in the building stages. I am really excited.