Q: You're quite the musical gearhead. Do you shop eBay for your eclectic instruments?
A: Yes, and I just missed a really rad blue synth! Heartbreaking. We just built a laser harp, though, which is quite cool. When your hand cuts the beam, it makes a sound. When I play it, I wear this big silver cape and a skull mask covered in crystals and white gloves so that the laser can detect my hands. It looks really epic.
Q: What do you do when you're not dressing up like a superhero?
A: I just bought a place in London, and at the moment I'm doing a lot of gardening. I'm kind of a fluke gardener. I put things in pots and then things magically come out, which is what gardening is, I guess. It's very good for you—especially in London, which is a horrible, cold, concrete city. I can grow my own salad!
Q: So you're domestic?
A: Definitely. I used to be such a party animal. When I first moved to London a few years ago, I was a complete nightmare. When you're given the chance to go out every night, given as much alcohol as you want every night—you just can't do it. Now I just want to stay in and cook pies.
Q: When did you start performing?
A: I've been playing piano since I was 5. At first I wanted to be onstage singing and dancing, but then I realized I couldn't dance—that was a bit of a nightmare. I started songwriting when I was about 13. I was in loads of random bands at school and at university, and to earn pocket money I'd play jazz standards in hotels and at weddings.
Q: What was your go-to song to pump the crowd up?
A: I didn't want to liven it up! I like the slow, depressing ballads like "These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)," which Ella Fitzgerald sang pretty famously.
Q: Did you wear slinky cocktail dresses like Michelle Pfeiffer in The Fabulous Baker Boys?
A:Not really. No one looks at the piano player. You just sit in a corner and pound away. But I made loads of money.
Q: If you knew early on that you wanted to be a musician, why bother with university?
A: Some people leave school at 15 to go and be in a rock band, but that's not me. I've always done well academically—I love learning—and I didn't want to give that up. Although when things did start going well, I was like, "I didn't need all that education!"
Q: What did you learn about?
A: My focus was on cultural studies, which is a very postmodern critical analysis of the arts. With my music, I wanted to do songs that you can take on the surface as dumb pop music. But if you pick them apart, you see they've got all these dark and weird levels. The songs have secret messages. It's double-sided music!