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INTERVIEW: Stereolab On Their Le Guess Who? Curation
Patrick Clarke , October 19th, 2023 13:29

The band tell tQ all about their guest curation at this year's edition of the Utrecht festival, and also discuss why their show might feature nothing but Status Quo covers

One of the reasons Utrecht festival Le Guess Who? is so beloved to attendees is its employment of excellent guest curators, and this year's edition will be no different. For 2023, the festival welcomes Slauson Malone 1, Heba Kadry and Nala Sinephro to the role, as well as avant-pop heroes Stereolab.

Stereolab's curation, which sees each member of the band individually select personal favourites, includes hypnotic Chicago trio Bitchin Bajas, legendary dance punk outfit ESG, Moor Mother-led jazz quintet Irreversible Entanglements, James Holden, Tom Skinner, Yama Warashi, Memorials and more. The band themselves will also be peforming a highly-anticipated Sunday night headline set.

Taking place from November 9 to 12, the full line-up and more information about this year's edition of Le Guess Who? can be found here, with the likes of Bill Orcutt, Nihiloxica, Purling Hiss, Richard Dawson and W.I.T.C.H also set to perform.

To find out more about how Stereolab approached their curation, what to expect from the band's own performance, and what they have planned beyond the festival, tQ caught up with chief songwriters Tim Gane and Lætitia Sadier over email.

How did you come to be involved as guest curators for this edition of Le Guess Who?

Tim Gane: I was with friends in an Amsterdam bar after a Stereolab show at the Paradiso when a guy came up to me and said he was from Le Guess Who? festival and asked me if Stereolab would like to play it next year and maybe curate it as well. I said “sure”.

How did you go about selecting the artists you’ve curated?

TG: For my part (Laetitia and Andy also selected people to play), I just thought of all the bands, groups and individuals whose music I'd been listening to over the previous few years. It flowed pretty easily and there were a lot of them, enough for 10 festivals.

Can you take us through a few personal highlights of this year's lineup? Who are you looking forward to and why?

TG: As well as all the stuff going on now I also wanted to see if I could get some people to play that have meant a lot to me for 30, 40 years and so I was really pleased that Rhys Chatham could do it. I really wanted Nurse With Wound to do it too but Steve's not playing concerts at the moment so that's a shame.

Lætitia Sadier: I'm looking forward to seeing all the bands I've put forward such as Price Attack and Yama Waharashi. They are local London bands who make the underground scene exciting and relevant. I understand this is a festival for discovering new and exciting music, and indeed I am looking forward to being surprised!

What has your relationship with Le Guess Who? been like before this year?

TG: I've never been to it but I've heard of it of course. I thought it must be a weird festival, named after the band that sang American Woman.

LS: I played Le Guess Who? a few years ago with my trio at the time. We played in a white, rectangular gallery in the afternoon and thought it would be a difficult one, but it sounded brilliant and we had a great audience! Besides this when I say we are playing Le Guess Who?, people's faces light up; it is well known and has excellent rep.

When it comes to your own performance, what can we expect? Does your role as guest curators make it feel particularly special?

TG: Yes, it's exciting and a bit scary to be a curator of a festival – even though, to be fair, we are only curating one part of it and we'll be playing as well. People have been asking me for years why Stereolab never curated a festival like ATP or whatever and of course I suppose they didn't want us to do it. Stereolab always seemed a band that 'should' do it and now we are. As far as what we play, I don't know yet. We'll probably just make it up on the spot and play a Status Quo riff for an hour.

LS: Yes, play to the Status Quo lovers for a couple of hours… Well, curating a festival was always a fantasy of mine. Imagine being surrounded exclusively by bands you love! We curated a mini festival in London at the end of our tour last year. As a little practice for this one. While we are not the sole curators for this November affair, we are very honoured to have been asked and given the opportunity to realise a dream.

What's next for Stereolab beyond this current run of shows?

TG: A lot of stuff I'm sure, but I don't exactly know what yet. Whatever it is we'll have to fit it around other things though. Laetitia has an album out and a tour as well, I have a COA-M LP to finish, which is about nine hours long at the moment, so we'll have to whittle it down to eight. I want to put out some of the unreleased soundtracks that me and Sean O'Hagan recorded and that's the thing I'm working on at the moment.

LS: Thank you, Tim, for mentioning the release of my album in February next year! Rooting For Love will see the light of day on both Duophonic Super 45s and Drag City. I'll be touring the US solo and will hopefully tour Europe with my Source Ensemble. It would be splendid to play that lovely upstairs room at Paradiso, revisit Utrecht and Rotterdam, as well as the mythical Vera club. We'll see. Merci!

Le Guess Who? will take place from November 9 to 12, 2023. Find more information here.