To call Sally Shapiro “mysterious” is a bit of an understatement. The Swedish electro-pop singer refuses to divulge her real name or age, has never performed live, and insists that we conduct our interview via Instant Messenger. (She blames her infamous timidity and unconfident grasp of English for this decision.) Sally also exclusively collaborates with producer Johan Agebjörn, who has effortlessly carved her icy vocals and bubbly demeanor into perfect slabs of sophisticated Europop.
A childhood fan of Swedish pop artists like Lena Philipson and Lili & Sussie, Shapiro jumped at the opportunity to begin a musical project when Agebjörn approached her. “Johan told me that I had an ‘Italo-disco’ voice, although I wasn’t familiar with the term back then,” she admits.
“Johan ‘discovered’ me when we sere singing Christmas carols together,” she explains. “It was just for fun. It was in December and we had a nice, funny time in front of the piano.” Even across the cold 1s and 0s of the internet, one can feel the warmth and creative intimacy between the pair. Shapiro is surprisingly candid about their musical relationship: She provides the themes and he puts them into words and music. “For ‘Find My Soul,’ I wanted him to write about how it is to have a boyfriend that doesn’t understand you,” Shapiro informs. “I also pointed out that the album should be disco. [Otherwise] a lot of the music would have [had a] house or electro touch.”
The record in question, Disco Romance (Paper Bag), was originally intended as just a single, entitled “I’ll Be by Your Side.” “We were shocked by the positive response we got. We only expected a handful of Italo-disco nerds to like it,” says Shapiro. The album, Shapiro’s first, pays homage to Italo acts of the past while keeping in line with the current Europop-influenced artists such as Lindstrøm and Michael Mayer. Just about every track combines heavy synths and processed dance beats with Shapiro’s sexy-sweet vocals and lyrics, conjuring a dreamy soundscapes akin to twilight raves on Scandinavian fjords.
“I like the sound of cool electronic bands with girl vocals, like Ladytron [and] Chicks on Speed.” says Shapiro who is also strongly influenced by sultry French ’90s pop star Mylène Farmer. “She is great! My favorite!” she exclaims. “Mylène has a huge influence on me. I often listen to her before I record to get into the right mood.” Surely, someone is doing the same with Disco Romance right now.