“I’m talking a lot,” Katy Goodman suddenly realises in the middle of our chat. Perhaps it’s the red wine that periodically passes her lips, but the red-haired Vivian Girl is on rare form throughout the interview, talking freely with Wears The Trousers about her blossoming solo career as La Sera as we sit backstage ahead of the latest in a long line of gigs in a long line of tours. 2011 has been a watershed year for Goodman, with the release of the first La Sera album on Valentine’s Day (followed just eight weeks later by a new Vivian Girls LP) and writing and recording the follow-up over the summer in Los Angeles with producer Rob Barbato of Darker My Love, not to mention the near-constant touring that filled in the gaps. There was a brief period of downtime in June when Katy allowed herself time to kick back and defuse from the rigours of touring, but then she was back in the studio to lay down the last vocals for the new album before taking off to Japan, Hong Kong and Thailand with Vivian Girls. And we thought our work ethic was hardcore…
In this context, it’s hard to imagine that La Sera had a somewhat accidental birth but what the self-titled debut represents is essentially a document of Katy’s first forays into songwriting, all penned over a two-week period while hemmed in between tours at her parents’ house in Ridgewood, New Jersey. Recently returned from the UK where she had spent a late night in Bristol with fellow Vivian Girls Cassie Ramone and Fiona Campbell and Girls frontman Christopher Owens (“Vivian Girls and Girls all staying in one place!” she laughs), Katy reveals that the inspiration for her first song ‘Never Come Around’ came from watching Chris and Girls’ touring guitarist John Anderson play The Everly Brothers’ ‘Dream’. “I tried to learn how to play it when I went home but it would never come around as the exact same chords. So I put a new spin on it, and it became a new song.”
Armed with her newly purchased guitar and a small practice amp, the songs began to pour out and it soon became apparent to Katy that not only were they worth sharing with the world but she had actually, casually, written an album. A series of Google chat conversations with filmmaker and sound engineer Brady Hall (the chap behind the videos for the Vivian Girls’ ‘When I’m Gone’ and ‘Moped Girls’) resulted in a trip to Seattle where her demos were re-recorded and configured into the rich, layered, retro-styled daydream-pop we hear on the finished album. “’Shredder’s choice’ is my motto, which just means to do whatever you want. There was a lot of shredder’s choice involved!” laughs Katy. “I basically let him do what he wanted with the production, and for the most part I loved everything that he did. He’s one of my oldest friends and I trust his opinions, on everything. I wouldn’t allow just anyone to produce the album.”
It was while on tour in Italy with Vivian Girls later in the summer of 2010 that Katy happened upon a suitable name for her bedroom project. “We were playing a show on the beach and this girl walked by with this really crazy looking tropical drink. It was red and had all this fruit in it, really delicious looking, so I went up to her and asked what it was. She replied, ‘La rosa della sera’, which means ‘the rose of the evening’, and I was like, ‘That’s a beautiful phrase. I have red hair. I’m like the rose of the evening.” She laughs. “Later I thought that was stupid but I still liked the phrase ‘la sera’. I like how it sounds. Also, I wrote all the songs for the album in the middle of the night, which I thought was very fitting. And my middle name is Sarah, but that’s coincidental!” Asked whether it has made her music more popular with Italians, she shrugs. “Yeah, they’re cool. I mean, it just means ‘the evening’ so they don’t get too stoked about it. Though in every town we play in Italy there’s always a restaurant called La Sera so they’ll be all like, ‘Wait, did you guys name yourselves after our restaurant?”
Listening to La Sera it’s easy to detect Katy’s love for classic pop from the ‘50s and ‘60s, a trait that she shares with the other Vivian Girls and their own side projects (The Babies, Coasting), but there’s one influence you might not pick up on from the dreamy, harmony-rich album, and that’s Karin Dreijer Andersson’s Fever Ray. As Katy explains, “The first song on the record, ‘Beating Heart’, is the only one I wrote with another band in mind. I read this one interview with Karin that made me think she was just the coolest person ever, and as I listened to her slow and creepy songs I decided I was going to try and write one of my own. So I admit it, I sat down with the direct intention of writing a song that sounded like Fever Ray. I mean, I don’t actually think my song sounds like Fever Ray at all, but I think you can tell it’s influenced by the same kind of mysterious darkness.”
With no release date in place for her second album [at time of writing, see below], Katy is naturally a little reluctant to give away too much about it just yet but asked if there are any common themes running through the songs she has no hesitation in admitting that, yes, they’re “about bad break-ups”. “The best way to get back at a guy is to write an album about him,” she laughs. “But yeah, I find it hard to write happy love songs. So many times I’ve tried and it just felt cheesy, but I think this new album will have one happy-sounding song about relationships. So it’s not like I can only write angry, mean songs about how much I hate dudes.” She adds, a little defensively. “Honestly, I don’t hate all dudes. I love… love.”
La Sera’s Sees The Light will be released on March 23 through Hardly Art.