Sweet Soubrette - Live Wire
Photo by Emily Raw
New York City’s Sweet Soubrette is a ukulele-powered indie rock band with dark, poetic lyrics, songs that tell stories, and lush instrumentation. Sweet Soubrette’s edgy love songs explore troubled romance, works of literature, and the mysteries of existence, featuring the songwriting, vocals and ukulele of Ellia Bisker and a talented backing band.
In this exclusive weekly series for Feminist Wednesday, Ellia talks about some of Sweet Soubrette’s songs that take on themes relating to the modern female experience. Each song is paired with an image of Ellia by Brooklyn-based photographer Emily Raw. The two artists have been working together on various photo and video projects since 2007.
“Live Wire” from Sweet Soubrette’s most recent album, “Burning City”, is delivered in the second person, but it isn’t clear if the singer is talking to someone else or herself. The song plays with the theme of electricity as a metaphor for female sexuality: a unique combination of power, pleasure and danger. Whoever is being addressed here, it comes across as a warning, or possibly as an accusation: “Is this your idea of fun?” There is a tension at work; on the one hand the singer is obviously enjoying what she’s feeling, but at the same time there is something frightening about desire, especially when it has no specific object.
The idea of female sexuality as the kind of power that gets out of control is an ancient one, far older than electricity, and it’s easy to internalize. When I wrote this I was preoccupied by the idea of sexual energy building like an electrical charge when there’s nowhere to put it emotionally. I wanted to put that feeling into words and give that point of view a voice.
The recordings on “Burning City” reflect Sweet Soubrette’s live sound in an eight-piece lineup that features strings, horns, bass and drums. “Live Wire” uses that instrumentation with a minimal approach to embody impulses that are restrained just under the surface. However, a couple of months ago we ran a remix contest for “Live Wire”and some other album tracks, and remix artists from around the world took this song in some exciting alternate directions. Only one remix artist out of more than two dozen submissions was a woman.