Seltmann Speaks Up
Ask Sally Seltmann about her new record, Heart That's Pounding, and she'll bring up the Apple iPod, her baby, and harrowing Aussie flick 'Wolf Creek' as influences.
You might not know her name, but if you've been caught in the cross-hairs of Apple's viral marketing campaigns, then you probably know her work. Seltmann's song '1234', initially discarded by herself but soon picked up and recorded by Canadian indie darling Feist, took the world by storm after it was featured on a 2007 iPod ad - a chapter in her life that, even three years on, still seems surreal to Seltmann.
'I'm on the same label as Feist, and I went over and toured with her all over Canada,' Seltmann recounts over the phone. 'At the end of the tour, I asked if she wanted to sing a song I'd written. We went on the tour bus and recorded it onto her laptop. I never expected her to even record it, but it became the lead single from her album and then got picked up on the iPod ad.'
It's the kind of overnight success that most musicians only ever dream of, but it'd be wrong to dismiss Sally Seltmann as a one-trick pony. Cutting her teeth in youthful rock and powerpop groups, Seltmann struck out on her own, moving to Melbourne and donning the moniker New Buffalo - a moniker she has only recently dropped, making her latest release the first under her own name.
'It was really annoying, trying to explain to people that New Buffalo was a solo project and not a band. I like change, and it just felt like the right time to me,' Seltmann says of the recent move. It's clear that she doesn't regret the decision.
'It does feel quite new, this music. It's more uplifting and full-sounding; so it made sense for me to change my name now, if I was ever going to.'
For Heart That's Pounding, Seltmann worked with film score composer Francois Tetaz, probably best known for his work on the gruesome Wolf Creek. An uplifting pop singer and a horror movie composer might seem strange bedfellows, but in this case, it worked.
'When he [Tetaz] does film scores, he will have the scene up in front of him, he'll constantly be using the music to enhance the emotion on-screen - we spent a lot of time during pre-production talking about the lyrics and how we wanted the song to feel. It worked really well.'
A quick spin of Heart That's Pounding, even if this is your first taste of Seltmann's discography, will probably trigger some sense of familiarity. Yes, that's Pitchfork Media's favourite Brisbane act, The Middle East, popping up at the end of 'Five Stars'; and yes, that's Architecture In Helsinki's Gus Franklin and Cameron Bird helping out on 'Dark Blue Angels'. But it is the album's title track that Seltmann seems most eager to discuss, citing broody nineties TV show Twin Peaks as a major influence on the song.
'I'm always influenced by non-musical things. I've always loved Twin Peaks; it comes across as this sweet little town with this sweet little girl, but there's all this darkness underneath. I can really relate to that.'
'I wrote it ['Heart That's Pounding'] as this desperate love song. But I googled 'Heart That's Pounding' and it came up with anxiety websites, men who lie awake at night with their hearts pounding and think that it's their girlfriends' faults. So this normal love song started becoming darker and more complicated; and that's how I see Twin Peaks. David Lynch creates this world where everything seems normal and happy, but really there are all these darker things underneath.'
But more than anything else, the sultry siren cites the littlest member of her inner circle as the biggest influence on the album - her new baby.
'My pregnancy definitely influenced the feel of the album,' Seltmann gushes as she talks about the baby born to her and husband Darren Seltmann; you might know him from Aussie band The Avalanches.
'I feel really happy and excited, and that's what made me want to have such an uplifting feel to the songs. The pre-production was in the middle of the pregnancy; that's when you have the classic feelings a woman has during her pregnancy - just feeling amazing every day. I was in the studio, feeling really great, listening to heaps of cheesy pop songs; those feelings shaped the style of album I wanted to make.'
Even after releasing more music in a few short years than most acts would release in a lifetime, undertaking several huge tours of the USA and Canada, and playing alongside industry heavyweights including Feist, Broken Social Scene and Air, it seems inevitable that Sally Seltmann will be forever linked with '1234' and that iPod commercial. What does she think about that?
'I don't mind if that's always written next to my name - it always used to be 'Sally Seltmann - married to Darren Seltmann of The Avalanches', which was about my personal life; but this is about something that I've achieved through my work.'
'If people say it til the day I die I don't really care about it.'
Written by Josh Butler.
Heart That's Pounding is out now on Shock Records.
FRIDAY JULY 9 - The Zoo, Brisbane www.oztix.com.au
SATURDAY JULY 10 - The Corner Hotel, Melbourne www.cornerhotel.com
SATURDAY JULY 17 - The Rosemount Hotel, Perth www.heatseeker.com.au
FRIDAY JULY 23 - Oxford Art Factory, Sydney www.moshtix.com.au
SATURDAY JULY 24 - Heritage Hotel, Bulli www.oztix.com.au