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She's Goth The Look
Russian born, New York reared, Regina Spektor writes songs that seem to inhabit their own dark little world. No wonder she’s been compared to both Tori Amos and the anti-folk movement.
Ed Power, 02 Mar 2006
Regina Spektor has a reputation for kookiness and she is determined to live up to it. She floats into the room, artfully bedraggled, streaks of black eyeliner emphasising the disconcerting lustre of her gaze.
“Ohmygawd,” gasps Spektor, her New York twang offering just a hint of her Russian upbringing. "I love this place.”
She is referring to an elegantly surreal wing of Dublin’s Morrison Hotel, where the fixtures appear vaguely out of proportion and over which a nightmarish Pinocchio statue grotesquely looms.
The room reeks of gothic whimsy; it suggests Jasper Conran collaborating with HP Lovecraft. Spektor, whose weirdly morbid torch songs are in much the same vein, feels right at home.
“Wow,” she continues, gazing over the interviewer’s shoulder at Evil Pinocchio. “I am totally in love with all of this. It’s so...so dreamy.”
To listen to her, Spektor, who is squeaky and looks at least half a decade younger than her 25 years, might seem a precocious flake. Her conversation is scattershot; she employs overwrought metaphors and occasionally sounds as though she is quoting chunks of stream of consciousness prose.
Yet she is an artist with her eyes on the prize. Last year Spektor collaborated with The Strokes, with whom she has struck up a profitable friendship. And her songs – or at least the recent ones – aren’t nearly as far out as you may have been led to think.
True, Spektor started out in quirky hole-in-the-wall clubs on the Lower East Side, mingling with such bedroom beatniks as Jeffrey Lewis and Kimya Dawson. Outsiders dubbed their ditzy clique ‘anti-folk’; the music they made often felt like a cross between experimental comedy and acoustic rock.
But Spektor’s instincts, honed by classical training, are too restless and eclectic to be pigeonholed; her albums (in the US she is already on her fourth) incorporate Tori Amos-tinged piano bar melancholy, Weimar cabaret and jazz improvisation.
Growing up in a Bronx community of Russian ex-pats, Spektor says she soaked up New York’s rich jumble of ethnic influences. When she first arrived in the US with her family, she couldn't even speak English. Her parents, Russian-Jewish academics, had left their homeland in the first flush of Glasnost, fleeing the endemic anti-Semitism of the Soviet Union.