IF YOU PAID $20 for an advance ticket to Gossip's upcoming show at the Crystal, the band is giving you $5 back. "I requested from the beginning for that show to be affordable," says Gossip drummer Hannah Blilie, who wanted keep advance ticket prices at $15. (Day-of-show prices will be $20.) "So yeah, it got knocked down to what it was supposed to be originally. I think it should be affordable for your hometown.
"There can't be a better place to come home to than Portland," she adds, avowing that the band still considers Portland their hometown. This is in spite of Gossip's globetrotting status and enormous following in Europe, which has taken the band to the heights of fame in the UK and turned singer Beth Ditto into an icon of music and style.
"It's been just an amazing, weird journey for all of us," says Blilie. "I don't know, we still feel really shocked by it in a lot of ways, but we're trying to seize the moment and do what we can with the attention that we've got—to speak out for queer issues and human-rights issues and talk about all the things that we've been talking about this whole time as a band."
With Gossip's new album, A Joyful Noise, Ditto, Blilie, and guitarist Nathan Howdeshell started writing material in their North Portland practice space, as they always have. They then embarked to London to do sessions with famed producer Mark Ronson, but after a few months of working together, they decided to scrap their work with Ronson. "It was mostly a scheduling thing," Blilie says. "He was just super busy, so it was hard for him to devote the time that we needed for it. He was touring, and writing a song for the Olympics, and doing all this shit, so it ended up falling apart a little bit. There's no hard feelings, really, but sometimes that happens, and I think the record totally turned out better for that."
The band returned to Portland and started over with another well-known British producer, Brian Higgins, who co-wrote Cher's "Believe" and has produced acts like Kylie Minogue and Pet Shop Boys. "He's a cool guy. We were coming from different worlds and different approaches a little bit"—Blilie mentions the time they played him the Zombies' classic "Time of the Season," a song he'd never heard before—"but he really liked the songs and he understood what we were trying to do with them, so it was a good working relationship with him."
They finished tracking A Joyful Noise back in London, and the result is a mature, measured album that reflects the group's recent listening habits ('80s and '90s house music for Blilie; ABBA, Paul Simon, and country music for Ditto). What it discards in terms of Gossip's previously jagged dance-punk sound, it makes up for with intelligent, almost sage-like songwriting, and a global, across-the-aisle accessibility that characterizes much of the best and most successful pop music.
"Beth is a very outspoken frontwoman, and she's always going to speak her mind," says Blilie of where the band is now. "And the cool thing now is that she has more of a platform to do so. She's not talking to the same 200 people at a punk show—which was great and fine, and we did that for a long time, but it's like, if you get that opportunity to speak to a lot of people, you gotta do it."