Stereolab singer to talk and perform at University of Sussex

French singer Laetitia Sadier, best known as the frontwoman of the alternative band Stereolab, will talk and perform at the University of Sussex next month.

Interspersed with performances from a back catalogue spanning nearly three decades, Ms Sadier will discuss the ways in which her work has been influenced by American culture.

The one-off event is being held to launch the University’s new Americans in Paris research network, which is exploring why Paris drew Americans from across the literary, arts, business and political spheres throughout the 20th century. 

Dr Daniel Kane, Director of the Sussex Centre for American Studies, is leading the research network. He says: “Laetitia Sadier is one of the most celebrated singers of rock’s recent history and will be a fascinating first speaker for this project.”

Stereolab are considered by many to be one of the most forward-thinking, fiercely independent and original groups of the 1990s and 2000s, with many of their albums underground hits. But it is the band’s fascination with the Surrealist and Situationist cultural and political movements in the United States that has drawn the attention of Dr Kane.

Born in Paris and now living in London, Ms Sadier’s lyrics for Stereolab and later solo projects are peppered with references to United States counter-cultural figures, such as the avant-garde composer John Cage and experimental film-maker Stan Brakhage.

Musically, however, Stereolab embraced American sounds, alluding to the Beach Boys and covering songs by surf-pop groups.

Dr Kane adds: “She is politically on the hard left and that seems to me an interesting tension. On the one hand, being really into American culture and Americanness and having American sounds define Stereolab and, on the other hand, having a commitment to an ideology that’s counter to the United States. It’s almost subversive.

“The way her lyrics are communicated through this bubblegum sound, through this pop sheen, a really surface-oriented sound, it’s a curious thing.

“She makes leftist politics pretty and tender and sweet and poppy and danceable. That seem to simultaneously promote leftist politics and undermine it, by suggesting that these are facile, easy ideas that we can consume, nod our heads to.

“She creates a tension there between sound and word that I think is really interesting.”

In choosing Ms Sadier as the special guest for the first Americans in Paris event, Dr Kane decided against the orthodox approach of inviting an academic. He says: “I just wanted to go outside of the usual route of getting a ‘famous’ academic to give an academic talk to a bunch of academics and students.

“Laetitia is a cultural worker, an intellectual and a politically committed person, who has a really complicated relationship with the United States. I can’t think of anybody better as our first guest.”


Notes for editors

University of Sussex Media Relations contacts: James Hakner (01273 877966) and Jacqui Bealing (01273 877437) –

‘United States Culture Through The Laetitia Sadier Prism’ will take place from 6-8pm on Monday 26 October at the Asa Briggs 1 lecture theatre in the Arts A building at the University of Sussex.

Students, staff and members of the public are invited; the event is free but online booking is required.

The Americans in Paris research network is funded by the University of Sussex International Research Partnerships and Network Fund.

Partners in the project include the Musée Franco-Américain in Blérancourt, the Karla Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture in Chicago and Stanford University in California

By: James Hakner
Last updated: Monday, 28 September 2015