My heart feels dead inside / Its cold and hard and petrified / Lock the doors and close your eyes / Were going for a ride.
Not exactly lyrics youd expect from the bright-as-sunshine Scissor Sisters. But get ready: Their new album, Ta-Dah, is laced with them. You see, after the phenomenal success of their self-titled debut album, the Sisters were spent, beat, wipedand more than a little cranky.
I could throw you in a lake / And feed you poisoned birthday cake / I could bury you alive / But you might crawl out with a knife (and kill me).
Wow. Looks like the queer stylings of this good-time party band have turned a few shades darker. What happened?
A lot: Just over two years ago Scissor Sisters were playing small clubs in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., and it was all a lark. Since then theyve conquered dance floors and concert halls everywhere, in the process becoming international pop stars with all the attendant hoopla: collaborating with Kylie, jetting to Eltons wedding, being showered with praise from Ibiza to Coachella. Their album went to number 1 in the United Kingdom and spawned five top-20 singles. In the last two years theyve received two Grammy nominations, one for their cover of Comfortably Numb and the other for I Believe in You, which they wrote for Kylie. Bam, bam, bamfame, glamour, riches. Pretty heady stuff for a band with three openly gay membersa configuration that has never before occurred in the history of pop music. But then they were expected to do it all over again. And thats what happened.
We were worried, says Babydaddy. We felt all this pressure to be that fun, happy, disco, electronic dance bandbut we didnt feel in the mood to make that kind of music.
We had to be so careful, says Jake, his voice tinged with trepidation. Theres that second album clich about bands writing about how terrible hotel rooms areand wed just spent a year and a half in terrible hotel rooms.
Although the entire band collaborates on the songs, Jake and Babydaddy experienced the brunt of the burden. Were the nucleus of the group, says Babydaddy. We hang out in the studio waiting for inspiration, and then the others come around and add to it. But we had to figure out how to write music again after being on the road for so long.
Everyone stood around staring at each other for months and months, and then Jakes body revolted. Wed been touring for so long that I was still getting adrenaline rushes, which felt like panic attacks. Add to that the anxiety of having a really enormous task of writing our second album. It felt like my stomach was falling out. The combination was toxic: Jake slid into depression, scaring those around him who were used to Jake as their superpeppy serotonin-saturated ringleader. Papers in the United Kingdom, where the bands success was most pronounced, recently splashed headlines suggesting that Jake had been suicidal during this period.
I wasnt suicidal, he says. It was just a really tough period.
To say the least. He and Babydaddy bounced around the world looking for inspiration, hiding away in friends houses, driving the people around them a little crazy with their intensity. And right when most of the tracks were completed and the Sisters seemed to be out of the woods, Jakes best friend, Mary, for whom he wrote the song Mary, passed away suddenly after complications from surgery. Theyd met on a phone chat line when Jake was 15 and Mary was 21, bonding over a shared fascination with junk culture.
She looked out for me. I was somehow getting into gay bars, and she would drive an hour to wait in the parking lot until I was ready to go home.
The two spoke on the phone every day until she died, but Mary never felt confident about their friendship. Shed struggled with obesity for a long time and didnt understand why someone she thought was living a fabulous life would want to be her friend. I wrote the song to reassure her. Her death was devastating to Jake as she is the first person he has ever lost.
Somehow, says Babydaddy, we found moments of forgetting and something positive in the struggle. Those moments made this album. He marvels that early reviews have described the album as a dancey party album because the process wasnt a party. A lot of it was finding the light at the end of the tunnel. The result of all that pressure is a pop diamond.
For more exclusive dish on Scissors Sisters and their new album, Ta-Dah, pick up a copy of the October issue of Out.