Gigslutz interview: Samatha Foley meets DOLLS

DOLLS’ inimitable sound and style have drawn intrigue from international artists including New Order, Bloc Party, The Killers, The Deftones, Broken Social Scene, Naughty By Nature, Billy Talent, Angie Bowie, Die Mannequin and FrankMusik. Her last project (released two singles, You Say (it was supposed to be)  and All The Little Things charting nationally within Top 20 video/radio for same) before touring Canada supporting Warner artist Flo Rida. We sent Samantha Foley along for a quick chin wag

Dolls on Flo Rida

The Flo Rida thing was fun at first, we were having a wicked time performing for thousands of people, but being on the road is hard. Performing for an amped-up crowd was an incredible experience I’m so grateful for but it has it’s quirks, 500 people just took a picture of my crotch.  “That’s reality… Go with it!” There are worse things than being on tour with Flo Rida, but honestly I was a bit spent when I flew back for the MMVA’s.  There may have been a slight webisode where I got trashed in the airport in Halifax, threw a pile of money at someone, took a handful of pills and showed up in sunglasses to a delayed (because of me) flight full of irate passengers who were really impressed when I asked which seat I’d die FIRST in.

Dolls on stolen songs

I’d written all my demos using a non-pro keyboard, beat loops and a faux-gold mic I played into my Motorola RAZR, which was super labour-intensive, but demonstrates how much it was ‘mine’ before anyone else was involved. I will never forget the email I got from the exploitative dynamic duo operating as my production team/management where they listed every single one of my songs and said they owned all of them outright, songs they’d just heard the names of, not contributed to or paid for. That was two years’ worth of work, so at the time it was pretty devastating, not to mention the fact that I’d had fans repeatedly asking me for the album, which my management then tried to ransom back to me at $2,000 per song. I just wanted to bail and start something new, which is how I got into producing stuff that eventually became DOLLS.

Dolls on Fashion

I definitely feel fashion and music are means of expressing myself as an artist, but I wouldn’t say they go hand in hand for everyone. I’ve seen some performers rock up to the stage like they’ve rolled out in something off the Floordrobe, which I don’t get. The whole “it’s not about the image, it’s about the music, man,” vibe is a bit lacking in effort for my tastes. I’d worked in fashion, but I was in the studio whenever possible, so it was really more a case of the opportunity to, go be a pop star. I still consume fashion like it’s my job, anyway. Someone should really start paying me for it.

Dolls on her music

I have a very pop sound and writing style, but the themes are often darker or dirtier than your average Britney or Kylie song. I usually describe it as ‘where Madonna meets Nine Inch Nails.’ It’s very inspired by retro eighties stuff.

Dolls on names

Dolls has multiple definitions, from describing something pretty and glammed-up to 1960’s slang for prescription drugs, it works for me. Also, it’s plural despite the fact that its only me making the music, so it’s as much a nod to the mix of light/darkness in the music as it is to the fact that I’m known to be a bit multiple personality, which is something I’ve played with in the imagery for the project.

Dolls on stage outfits

I vamp it up wherever possible, and I’m often in completely inappropriate levels of sequins, fur and patent leather for daily life, so when I’m in onstage it’s obviously intensified. I’ve had loads of custom pieces designed such as clear plastic gauntlet gloves and matching waist-cincher. It’s extremely rare for me to perform an impromptu set in just any old thing, unless the audience is the most attractive prince in all the land, in which case I’m happy to perform in whatever he deems most apropos.

Dolls on women in the music industry

I think it’s sadly still hard to be a woman in any industry. We have to prove ourselves harder in order to be considered for top positions and often have to take a lot of shit along the way. Like lower wages for the same job as a man, casual everyday sexism and beyond that, the societal expectation that a successful woman will not only excel in her career and make millions, but will maintain it without sacrificing a husband and family in a perfectly-kept house. The music industry is not for the feint of heart, and I have had several conversations with other female artists during which we’ve come to the conclusion that although we are doing what we love and have incredible experiences onstage, with other artists, fans and even entourages, we wouldn’t wish the bad days on our worst enemies. The coked-up promoters copping a feel, other musicians wanting to collaborate when they actually think, collaborate’ means have sex with you and who disappear when you blow them off, nonstop scrutiny over your appearance. Also, when any artist is adamant about maintaining their artistic integrity they’re seen as a problem to a record label, but as a woman, you’re doubly treated as though despite your talent or ownership over your own material you are completely interchangeable for any of the hundreds of thousands of people who would eagerly swap you places for a lesser deal; your “look” and “sound” is no longer your expression, but something to be deliberated by suits who treat you as a product rather than a person, and even less as an artist.  More often than not, that is the experience of women in music. I wish it weren’t the case, and if you sell enough, things change, but that’s pretty much how it is.

Dolls on duets

Impossible to pick just one, I’d love to work with Trent Reznor, though. Peaches, Peter Hook, Alex Metric and Little Boots would be cool too.

Dolls on the future

I’m releasing two videos for Secret Sulk, working on some collaborations with a handful of international artists and playing shows in the UK before I drop the album, which is waiting in the wings.  Pay attention – I have lots to say, and it’ll be catchy.

Samantha Foley