Desire’s frontwoman and president of Italians Do It Better gives us a peek into her favorite deep cuts and go-to holiday party shopping list…
There are certain artists I’ve encountered in the wild who have this surreal ability to create full-body electrical currents that feel like more than just songs, they somehow unlock vaults of new ideas, untapped emotions — even a mental color spectrum that’s abruptly brighter in the wake of these sounds.
Desire, the electro pop trio consisting of lead singer Megan Louise, Johnny Jewel, and Nat Walker, has delivered exactly this multi-sensory experience on more than one occasion. First, in a darkened NYC theater as their track “Under Your Spell” swelled around Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan’s onscreen romance in Drive, a moment that stole my breath and left me searching for the soundtrack to play on constant rotation during evening walks, rooftop dates, and suddenly-cinematic bubble baths. Most recently, Desire’s updated release of “Tears From Heaven” has made its way into a similar romantic loop.
When Free People asked me to create a Cyber Monday-themed playlist I thought, “but who could make it even better?” and reached out to Megan in hopes that she’d be into collaborating on a fantasy mix. Immediately (and thankfully) game, we put together a combination of deep cuts from her fellow Italians Do It Better groups Glass Candy and Chromatics that mingle with fire power classics from New Order, Joy Division, and Paula Abdul.
But to really lock it down as one of my favorite editorial interactions of all time, Megan offers a window into her life as president of a cult record label and Chanel-sanctioned style muse. Below, an interview with Italo Disco’s modern dream girl:
Very dazzled by our playlist collab — I like the idea of a “Cyber Monday” mix because the whole phenomenon sounds like a track that I’d probably listen to — a promise of electro sounds. In what direction were you pulled when putting together songs?
I chose songs that help get me motivated at the top of the week. Whether it’s tracking the shipment of pallets of records or putting my make-up on to go for a business lunch, I like to have uplifting music playing through the house to help get me in the mood.
As we speak, you’re back in LA after a trip to Canada — what were you doing there, what are you up to, and where are you mainly living and working right now?
I work and live in Los Angeles, I moved from Montreal 6 years ago. I was in Montreal last week for M for Montreal, a music festival in Montreal that promotes independent music. As president of Italians Do It Better, they flew me out as a delegate for the festival and one of our artists, Tess Roby, performed live at the Fairmount Theater.
It’s not surprising that fashion’s elite are tapping your songs for their work — the synth pop, fuzzy-edged, emotional sounds kind of lend themselves to becoming a soundtrack to designer dreams. But was it hugely thrilling when Chanel used “Tears From Heaven” to open their Paris Fashion Week show this season?
It’s always the biggest honor and it is completely thrilling to see the new collections associated with a song we wrote. It’s exciting to see the models walking in time to your beat on the other side of the world.
Off the runway, “Tears from Heaven” has been on loop during my most important soundtrack of the day: vanity hour. I like a lot of synth when I’m putting on my makeup. Then I think of the noughties when everyone would blast dance jams in malls to get people pumped for a day of shopping. Are there genres or artists you gravitate towards during daily routines, or even when you’re making music?
I spend my days listening to Italians Do It Better records or upcoming releases on test pressings. When I listen to music on my own time, I would have to say that Madonna’s early 80s demos are high on my list.
Johnny and I have been taking our daughter to Hawaii every Christmas since she was born, and we only bring 1 CD for the car — a compilation we made of Madonna’s unreleased recordings before her debut album. It’s an official family tradition.
You have such a stylized, visually stunning look as a performer — sort of retrofuture Italo Disco glam — how do you describe your aesthetic? How does it extend into your real life?
I wear a uniform all day long; our label’s soft sweater designs and workout pants. At night when I go out, I love sensory overload. Trying new palettes of brightly colored eyeshadow, loud primary colored nails, big earrings, disco boots, and clashing patterned pants and tops.
When I’m not cruising for vintage eBay deals as I lull myself to sleep, the only item I’ve been seriously searching for and finally found was — they remind me of a similar style that I wore through the soles and have been trying to replace for a decade. Is there anything you’re on the hunt for to add to your collection?
This would be my go-to shopping list for holidays parties!
Your usual response when a new friend at a party asks what you do?
Dirty martinis & French fries for happy hour at Cafe Figaro in Los Angeles.
I don’t think I’m unique when I tell you that when I first heard Desire on the Drive soundtrack, I had an overwhelming feeling that my life would somehow never be the same. Was the sudden response to “Under Your Spell” overwhelming? Kind of magical?
“Under Your Spell” is a song about falling in love. Capturing a feeling like that on tape is harder than catching lightning in a bottle. It’s incredible to see so many people connect with it over the years. It remains the most popular song ever released on Italians Do It Better, and I am so touched by that.
The Italians Do It Better team seems mysteriously fluid with what they put out into the world, like Desire may create “Saturday,” but then we find it on Johnny Jewel’s album Windswept and Chromatics perform a version on Twin Peaks. What does a normal day look like when you’re working on a project together?
Chaos. You never know when Johnny is going to ask you to crack open a bottle of wine and come down into the studio to record.
A typical day will involve Johnny working on a film trailer, experimenting with a 1970s keyboard that just arrived from Tokyo, scoring a fashion spot, or writing lyrics upstairs at the piano.
Running our own record label means we get to chase all of our creative impulses with no real day to day structure. At any given moment, there are half a dozen different projects in the works. We drink a lot of coffee.
How can fans expect to see more of you — is touring something that will ever be on the docket for Desire?
Desire will be touring with Chromatics in 2019.
What was one of your favorite November moments, and what, in your future, are you feeling most excited about today?
My favorite moment of November was seeing Celine Dion performing live in Las Vegas. The French Canadian in me was in tears, screaming and singing all of her early 90s hits. Sooooo sick!
I’m super excited about recording a new batch of Desire songs before I leave for Tokyo in two weeks. I’m also hosting 25 friends and artists for Thanksgiving this Thursday. I love getting everyone together around a big table. It’s a tradition we’ve done every year since we moved to Los Angeles. I am so grateful for all the talented people in my life.
Megan photographed by Radka Leitmeritz.