Speaking to Elly Jackson, the flame-haired singer and focal point of UK duo La Roux, on the eve of her ascent into the realms of pop-stardom - that being the pinnacle reaches of the pop charts - is interesting in that it's an incredible achievement for an electro duo, who regardless of their enormous potential don't fit the mold of conventional chart-darlings, and also because Jackson doesn't see herself popstar yet.
"Yeah, it's very weird in a way. I never expected us to do well on the pop charts like we have done, but yeah, it's nice anyway," Elly says, referring to La Roux's two most recent singles, In For The Kill and Bulletproof, hitting number 2 and 1 on the UK pop charts. "When In For The Kill first entered the charts we were chuffed about it, but then it started to climb and it reached number 2, so we were sharing space with genuine pop stars," she explains from the back of La Roux's tour van. "I was just happy because it meant that people were listening to our music. That's the important thing."
But despite the double-act's runaway success La Roux aren't a flash in the pan, as Elly states emphatically. "A lot of people think that we've just kind of appeared over night, but that's not the case at all. We've been doing this for years. It took a couple of years of recording and writing together to find out what we liked and what we didn't like, and then last year we started taking that around to labels and people who wanted to work with. It's been a long time coming for us, so if people think we've just sprung up out of nowhere, they're wrong."
As Elly suggests, the La Roux project has been developing and gestating for a number of years before taking off. The singer explains that the years leading up to their self titled album were spent "struggling" with songs. "It started out very different to what you hear now. We were doing things in an organic kind of way. It wasn't strictly folk music, but there were a lot of acoustic instruments involved. I grew up listening to a lot of folk music so I guess that was a big influence at the time," she says fankly. "But our songs weren't working. It was difficult for us. Like, the songs were good, but there was just something that wasn't 100% right. So we took a break from things for a little while and I started listening to a lot of electronic music, a lot of synthpop and stuff. Ben ([Langmaid], the other side of La Roux) and I got together again and decided to try things out with some electronic sounds, and it just clicked. The songs finally made sense.”
La Roux by La Roux is out now. Hit the band’s website for a free download pack. - Dave Ruby Howe
Nikon took its cue from our celebrity-obsessed paparazzi culture to launch the brand's D700 model in Korea.
At a busy Seoul subway station, Nikon mounted a huge interactive, light-box billboard displaying life-like images of paparazzi. Huddled together as if at a premiere, the "paps" appear to be jostling and competing for the best celebrity snap. The celebrities in this case were the passersby, who automatically triggered a deluge of flashing camera lights as they walked past the billboard. The accidental superstars then followed the red carpet all the way out of the station and into a mall - directly into the store where they could purchase the new D700. Mission accomplished. - Lisa Evans
West Hollywood, California-based Clive Wilkinson Architects has completed many projects for California’s Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. The private college offers two-year fashion, graphics, interior design and entertainment education at four campuses Los Angeles, San Francisco, Orange County and San Diego.
Clive Wilkinson’s latest undertaking with the Institute was the 31,000-square-foot Sand Diego facility located on the third floor of a new, unremarkable office tower overlooking the Petco baseball park. Bold use of color defines the various functional areas of the campus, and makes dividing walls unnecessary. Glass walls are present in almost every space, which allows light to flow freely. These are all effective ways of creating openness and visual interest while avoiding the claustrophobic, square-box feel that could result, especially in the areas located farthest from the perimeter walls with windows.
Sand-tone flooring and hard, angular lines link everything together, and establish an edgy, free-flowing sense of vibrancy. Visually light-weight furniture paired with heavier blocks of seating and desks bring variety without looking pretentious. Everything seems a bit temporary, in the positive sense of the word. Softer, rounded treatments in the lounge area invite relaxation and rest.
The Cape Town and London-educated architect, Clive Wilkinson, established his office in Los Angeles in 1991. The company has since reaped awards in both interior design and architecture, completing commercial, residential and hospitality projects. One of the firm’s current assignments is the renovation of the 370,000-square-foot Nokia House in Helsinki, the headquarters of Nokia, due to be completed in 2010. - Tuija Seipell
Eclectic, electric, electrifying and energetic are words that describe the work of art director and designer Pedro Vilas-Boas. Stationed in Lisbon, the Portuguese-born Vilas Boas collaborates with a variety of complementing talent and comes up with fascinating web sites, online and offline projects, graphics, posters and even T-shirt designs for A-list clients such as Nokia and Carlsberg.
His work is characterized by a mix of contrast, electricity, motion and bold lines. The result is an effective blend of energy and punch. Lucky for his high-energy clients that Pedro Vilas-Boas chose this type of punch as his preferred medium, and did not fulfill his childhood dream of becoming a policeman. - Tuija Seipell
Patrick Tighe, principal of Santa Monica’s Tighe Architecture, may hate space-age references. But, here we go: Tighe’s work for Moving Picture Company’s (MPC) Los Angeles office IS space-agey. With its pod-like central spaces, curving ledges and white drywall expanses, it evokes memories of retro space movies.
But it all fits. The U.K-based MPC is in the business of computer animation, color-grading and digital effects, so you wouldn’t want color, hard edges or natural light to mess with that. MPC is known for its work on the past six James Bond films, Slumdog Millionaire and commercials.
In turn, Tighe’s residential and commercial work is characterized by roofs shooting out at angles, curves sweeping, horizontal planes slanting. Your eye follows these lines easily and accepts the direction. A goal that MPC is most likely familiar as well. - Tuija Seipell
Have fun with your pimples! That was likely the thinking of Gideon Amichay, Chief Creative Officer and partner at Shalmor Avnon Amichay/Y&R Interactive in Tel Aviv, Israel, when he created a campaign for Clearex acne treatment gel. A pimply-faced, 5-meter-tall climbing wall at Israel’s largest climbing center exposed 8,000 teenagers per month to the brand during their summer holidays. The agency’s online take on the same predicament earned it a perch on 2009 Cannes Cyber Lions shortlist. Teenagers entered their friends’ photos online and pimpled their faces liberally. The only way for the friend to remove the pimples? Use “online” Clearex, of course. This campaign gained over 2.7 million exposures and 25,000 active surfers in under 48 hours. - Tuija Seipell
How far will your need for speed take you? If you’re like many of us, dreams of sitting in the cockpit of any kind of aircraft rolling through the clouds are unlikely to ever happen... until now. The US Air Force has teamed up with Galpin Auto Sports and built the stealth-looking Dodge Challenger Vapor – part muscle car, part fighter jet – all military strategy.
The designers fitted the body of the car with jet enhancements that would even make Batman look twice. Special radar-blocking black paint covers the car, while a stealth exhaust allows it to run virtually silent. A roof-mounted camera detects any type of movement within a quarter mile. Biometric verification via the driver’s thumbprint gives access to the vehicle through gull wing doors.
All that’s left to do now is strap on one of the custom-designed helmets, climb inside the cockpit and take off. Once seated behind the wheel (or wheels, as there is a passenger-side steering wheel as well), the pilot and co-pilot can use an advanced computer-system complete with internet access, a GPS tracking system, exterior proximity sensors, as well as switch on a thermal vision projection on the windshield to track enemy forces through the darkness.
Jumping back to reality, only briefly, the USAF designed the Challenger as a recruitment tool for future cadets. The military planned a Super Car Tour and is visiting various high schools across the US, along with a handful of auto shows to entice young hopefuls into military service. - Andrew J Wiener
I hate the term ‘comeback’.” That’s Casey Spooner, one half of Fischerspooner, the iconic electro duo who’ve just released their third album (Entertainment) after a four-year gap in recording. “It’s not a comeback because we didn’t actually leave,” implores Casey. He’s right too. Fischerspooner haven’t been hiding after their last album, Odyssey, failed to ignite in the same way that electroclash touchstone #1 did, they’ve just been busy working on other facets of the Fischerspooner universe. “Releasing albums isn’t all we do, we’re performance artists so we could be working on stage shows, theatre pieces, ballets or installations.”
Yet for a duo that can work (successfully) in so many different creative arenas, there is something appealing about the musical side of Fischerspooner that lured Casey and creative partner Warren Fischer back for Entertainment. “I often wonder why we do it,” Casey remarks with a pause for contemplation. “This job can be terrible. I haven’t had a day off since the beginning of the year,” he moans. “But I think, in the end, Fischerspooner as a musical entity offers us a chance to incorporate a lot of different elements and open things up for collaborations. For us, it’s never just an album. There’s a stage show we’ve got to think about and with that comes choreography, costuming, design as well as art and image direction. We’re always thinking of new stuff to do and who we can do it with to make it work right.”
Whatever they’ve done in the last four years has worked, as Entertainment shows off a charismatic and invigorated Fischerspooner. One minute they’re swanning through some pulsating electro (The Best Revenge), the next it’s brooding dance music for androids (Money Can’t Dance) or fractured and futuristic pop (the stunning Danse en France). Entertainment is an album filled with unbridled imagination, but more importantly it’s an album that sees the realisation of all these ideas. “We worked really hard on this record, and we’re proud of it,” Casey says grinning. “I guess I don’t mind too much if people see it as a comeback. It just means that we’ve been through it all. First we were loved by everyone, then hated and now people are excited to hear from us again. I quite like that feeling.”
It’s good to have them back. – Dave Ruby Howe
It is fitting that the 70-year-old Frank Gehry ended up re-envisioning the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) for his native city of Toronto. As a boy, Gehry visited the AGO often, and the effect of those visits on him and his future career was important. Gehry has lived most of his life in the U.S., but the AGO remake allows Toronto to reap some of the benefits of his massive talent before it’s all too late.
One of Gehry’s early sources of career inspiration was the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto (1898-1976), known as the father of Scandinavian modernism. The influence of Aalto’s love of gently curving light-color wood, and his clean and airy architectural lines, can be sensed at the newly refurbished AGO. Whether or not Gehry thought of Aalto when he designed the spiraling plywood-faced staircase for the main entry hall is irrelevant, but the feel of the space is decidedly Aalto-esque. To those of us who love the work of both architects, the newly transfigured AGO is simply fabulous. - Tuija Seipell
If square wheels were even slightly workable, Danish designer Michael Ubbesen Jakobsen would have used them in his Bauhaus-inspired BauBike. The pared-down bicycle is designed around the geometric shape of the square, and its main raw materials are minimal: some metal and leather. The bike has the same astonishingly classy vibe as Marcel Lajos Breuer’s Wassily chair, a Bauhaus design icon Ubbesen Jakobsen most likely studied during his education at Southern Denmark’s respected design school in Kolding. From the small touches, such as the BauBike-embossed leather strips that wrap around the handlebars, and the gorgeous springs under the austere saddle, it is easy to see that Ubbesen Jakobsen is a meticulous designer, a serious tinkerer and, at least in the case of BauBike, an elegant minimalist not afraid to have some fun. So far this year, BauBike has appeared at the Salone in Milan and at the DMY International Design Festival in Berlin We are not yet clear when and how we can get our hands on one — equipped with the second saddle accessory — but we are hopeful it will be soon. - Tuija Seipell