Wow, herinner je je 2009 nog? Het was het jaar dat Michael Jackson overleed en iemand in een Suzuki Swift tegen de Naald aanreed. En het was het jaar van de electro-pop diva’s zoals La Roux, Ladyhawke en Lady Gaga die met hun 4/4 anthems de hitlijsten en clubs domineerden.
Enter Victoria Hesketh, beter bekend als Little Boots, de Britse zangeres die het schopte tot de BBC lijst Sound of 2009 voordat er ook maar een album was verschenen, al snel daarna de top10 bereikte en haar label verliet om de controle over haar muziek terug te krijgen. De afgelopen vier jaar spendeerde ze in clubs op zoek naar exotische dancegeluiden. In mei komt haar nieuwe album Nocturnes uit via haar eigen label On Repeat Records. Ezra Marcus van Noisey US sprak met haar. Lees het interview hieronder in het Engels.
Noisey: Could you take me through how you started out as Little Boots, and how your sound has changed from your debut album Hands to Nocturnes?
Little Boots: From the start a lot of it was happy accidents, but the first track I put out that got a really good reaction was "Stuck On Repeat," which is a song I did with Joe [Goddard] from Hot Chip. That got quite a lot of attention and a lot of people got involved with the project. The first single came out and I began collaborating with people like RedOne, a very different thing from working in Joe Goddard's bedroom compared to being in some crazy studio in LA. It's been this crazy journey and I don't regret any of it, but with this album I've just been trying to get back to the kind of music that I Iove, the people that really inspire me and the kind of thing I started out on. That got taken away from me a bit, I lost my way a bit because of a lot of pressure on the project and a lot of people being involved. This album has been a chance for me to find myself, find the way I want to go and make an album I can be proud of, that represents me as an artist.
You've mentioned that you want your new album to exemplify a return to "classic pop songwriting"—what are some examples of the kind of songwriting you want to return to?
Yeah, people like ABBA, and The Beach Boys, and the BeeGees, they write pop songs that are smart and catchy but still a bit weird. That's the kind of thing I love and I really think that's not very cool at the moment. Catchy, melodic songs have become really uncool. I love, just classic, melodic pop songwriting, and I just try to offset that in the production, make it sonically representative of the kind of music that I love. A lot of it is about balancing that pop songwriting urge and the kind of sound palette that we're using, balancing out the pop songs with more experimental sounds, until you get to that happy medium.
In terms of production, you're working with several left-field house producers, including Tim Goldsworthy of DFA. Did they seek you out or vice versa?
Tim Goldsworthy produced the whole record, our agents put us in touch and I met with him, but to be honest I was amazed that he was up for it. Now that I know him I kind of get it, but at the time, I mean, this is the guy who started DFA, and I was making these cheesy pop songs. I was just happy that he could see the songs' potential. I needed someone to come help me get this vision, cause on the last record the main thing I wasn't happy with was that it was inconsistent—I did this song with RedOne and then there's a song with Hot Chip, so it was really important to me to get this album coherent and clear, you know, have a really direct sound. I'm really happy that worked out with Tim. There's quite a few other producers involved in the writing, people like Andy from Hercules And Love Affair, who came to one of my gigs in San Francisco and we got chatting, and next time he was in London we had some crazy nights and wrote some songs on big hangovers [laughs]. All the people that have ended up being on the record are people that came together very naturally and people that seem to get what it's about, which is the way I like to do it, rather than when they just want to stick you in a studio in LA with four or five song writers and make a hook. I've been put through that, and to me it just doesn't work in the greatest way.
What songs are stuck in you head right now?
Actually I really like AlunaGeorge, they make really sticky songs, and I really like Jessie Ware, I think she's got really good pop songs with that good balance of pop and that kind of unusual stuff going on. I've always got my DJ playlist going on in my head.
Speaking of DJing, you've been at it extensively for the past few years. Do you think that's had an influence on the sound of the new album?
Yea, totally, I mean I've always been DJing but I started taking it a lot more seriously and it started being a lot more rewarding. It's a real way for me to get out of the vacuum and do something interactive and play records I like, and see how people react to them. I've really learned a lot about dance music, what songs work when and where and why, and it's actually been really helpful. That will definitely come into the album, you know, getting really back into dance music and getting really nerdy about it.
How do you structure your DJ sets?
I try to keep to one set but as soon as you get there you can never predict the crowd. It's a very different concept from playing a show, so I more just try and hoard tons of music, and then I've got tons of options with me. I play a lot of old disco, a lot of deep house, and I'll throw some remixes in there as well.
You grew up in Blackpool**. W**hat was the clubbing experience there like? Was it a large part of your youth?
Well, I'm very small, so I couldn't even get in clubs right after my friends, which was really embarrassing. A lot of fake IDs going on. Blackpool is known for clubbing but really kind of nasty clubbing, a lot of stag and hen parties, and a lot of cheap places to go and get wasted and do stupid stuff. It's kind of like a crappy Vegas. Growing up with that is quite weird because you grow up in the presence of entertainment, but it has this great escapism for everybody else. They come to here to throw up and have sex and be crazy, and they go away and it's all still there. It's a really two-sided town. It's interesting to see it's effect on me as a person, and the writing ideas of my songs—I love things that seem shiny and fun but then have a dark side underneath. Lots of good pop music for me is like a cheery pop song where you look at the lyrics and they're really dark or sad, you know, something weird going on. I think a lot of that comes from being from there, this crazy place, but kind of sad as well…it's an interesting place, I think Vice did a documentary about it.
Do you feel that sense of darkness in "Motorway"?
Yeah, totally. That song is really about me leaving Blackpool. When I was a teenager I couldn't wait to be able to drive so I could drive out of the town. It was one of those things you dream about, the magical place called London, and these shiny lights and all your problems being solved there. Of course once you get there you just get a whole other bunch of problems, but definitely as a teenager I was always looking out, always looking towards where I was going next. I spent a lot of nights seeing gigs and driving back, nearly falling asleep driving around 3 in the morning on grim Yorkshire motorways. It's this escapist idea. I really wanted to get that night time drive-y feeling, where you feel like you're in motion, that feeling of movement. I feel like I should do different versions, like a freeway version for America, Autobahn for Germany [laughs].
What do you think of the state of dance music in 2013?
I think dance music is weird cause there's all this EDM stuff that's just getting bigger and bigger. When we were in Vegas some of those club gigs were just crazy, that whole scene. We get booked for a lot of those EDM festivals and the kids are nuts. It's weird seeing how much it's blown up in America, so now it just feels like everything on the radio is so reductive, stuck in a rut of songs trying to sound like other songs that are trying to sound like themselves. I think it's going to have to have a limit at some point. But I think theres actually a lot of interesting stuff coming through in the more underground dancefloor scene, a lot of UK deep house and nu-disco. It will be interesting to see what of the more underground dance styles cross through commercially. I find the radio dance-pop of the minute really dull and really uninventive, and that's why I just really want to try and make a pop dance record that tries to include some stories and some kind of sonic vision. It's funny though, I've got a real guilty pleasure, for like, well, I fucking love some Calvin Harris stuff. I think We Found Love is an amazing pop song, so I'm torn because I think there are moments of brilliance like that, and some things that are quite reductive. It's kind of a weird time.
It feels like what you are doing with your new album is trying to introduce more of a sense of atmosphere back into electronic pop music?
Yeah, the title Nocturnes is really quite relevant because it's a night time kind of feel, with a lot of different night time moods. It's not all really atmospheric stuff, theres some upbeat fun stuff, there's some three-in-the-morning-tears stuff, but it does feel like a very night time album. I'm really into the collective idea of escaping into the night, and all the stories and ideas that come with that. A lot of the lyrics in a way are nothing lyrics, but if you look past the face of them there is weird stuff going on. I always try to make things seem simple then if you want to go there you can read something else into them. That's what all my favorite songwriters do.
What would your dream performance look like?
I would totally get the most weird, technological, creative people around. I just had a meeting with someone that makes LED dresses, and I'd just make the craziest show with the most visual representation of the music that you could imagine. Whatever the music is doing, something on stage is doing it, whether it's light boxes or the clothes are lighting up. I have a whole reputation for kinda gadgety visual instruments, you know, playing my japanese instrument and laser harp, so I'm just trying to see how many things I can do and try to make the most technologically interesting show. I don't want it to be a pop show, I want it to be a show that's all about the music. Electronic music is pretty hard to make visual sometimes, I mean, if you're rocking out with guitars it's pretty obvious what you're doing but [with live electronic music] for all you know they could have just been texting. You can't always see what they're doing, so for me it's all about making electronic music physical.
Follow Ezra Marcus on Twitter - @tryna_functi0n