Need To Know: Sally Shapiro

10.7.2009

By Jason Lamphier

Sally Shapiro is anything but the frizzy-haired, ball-busting Long Island attorney her name evokes. In fact, Sally Shapiro isn't really a person at all, but rather an alias for the Swedish nu-disco act consisting of bashful, blonde songbird Sally (not her real name) and nimble producer Johan Agebj'rn. Their 2007 debut, Disco Romance, was an underground dance hit -- a collection of late-night, rain-drenched love-gone-wrong songs reminiscent of the forgotten Italo-disco tracks of the early '80s.

The pair remained shrouded in mystery for several months after the album came out, but Out was dogged enough to track them down last year upon the release of their Disco Romance remix albums, Remix Romance Vol. 1 and Remix Romance Vol. 2. (They granted us their first-ever in-person interview in the U.S. to run in print.) Now Sally Shapiro is back with My Guilty Pleasure, a follow-up album boasting Agebj'rn's token chilly keyboard riffs and Sally's gossamer vocals, but also a fair share of techno, house, and '90s pop influences. A certain bubbliness now offsets the brooding, but fans can rest assured that the wistful quality of the music is still intact. In fact, SS has amplified the passion this time, even tossing in a thunderstorm backdrop for their single 'Miracle." The song's gorgeous new video (above), directed by Will Joines, features pensive train rides, torn love letters, raindrop-covered windows, ominous skies, and a pervasive sense of isolation heightened by the fact that the lovers involved both wear headphones the entire time. It's the sort of grand-scale melodrama we gays love.

We recently caught up with the singer behind Sally Shapiro -- who still won't reveal her real name or what she does for a day job -- to talk about her new album, Swedish gay clubs, and her own guilty pleasure. And though she's a pretty private girl, she also divulged her most exciting news to date: that she's one of us.

Out: I hear you've moved.
Sally: Yes, I was in Gothenburg, and now I'm in Lund. It's close to Copenhagen in Denmark. It's another city.

Why the move?
I'm a small-town girl. I wanted to live in a little city, really. I like to be able to ride my bicycle everywhere in town. I couldn't do that in Gothenburg.

Let's talk about the new album. Why the title My Guilty Pleasure? It almost seems like it's referring to the music you and Johan create.
Yeah, it is. And when people have interviewed us, they have said that listening to our music is kind of a guilty pleasure for them. I think it is that kind of music -- a bit cheesy, but fun. People probably don't think they should like it, but they still like it.

How would you say My Guilty Pleasure is different from your debut, Disco Romance?
It takes its influences from other types of music, but I think you'll just notice that if you're really into this type of dance music [Italo disco]. If you're mostly a pop listener, you may not notice. The shorter tracks are maybe a little bit more poppy. I know Johan has been taking in some '90s stuff, some house.

In the single 'Miracle' we can hear crashing thunder. It seems very grand and theatrical.
Johan and I are both very fond of musicals and films, and Johan has been thinking about writing film music. So this was an attempt to make something a little more like film that would fit in a musical -- something more bombastic.

What's your favorite musical?
Oh, all musicals really. I like the concept of musicals. I like how you have the story and then suddenly the people just start to sing and dance. It never happens in reality. It's an old one, but I really like Singing in the Rain.

It's been a little over a year since we chatted. Then you said that Sally Shapiro, the character, is becoming more and more you, the woman behind the character. What is your relationship to Sally Shapiro now?
I feel Sally Shapiro is more our approach. But when I answer interview questions now, I am answering them as myself. When I answered questions in the beginning, it was as Sally Shapiro the character.

So much of Sally Shapiro's story has centered around the mystery of Sally Shapiro. Now that mystery has dissolved a bit -- you've lifted the curtain a bit. Do you think the music has to speak more for itself now?
An interesting question. No, I feel like the music has spoken for itself all along. This mystery just came along because I didn't want to be interviewed. I didn't want to be more personal. That was how it was [with the Italo-disco singers] in the '80s.

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