Crowning Little Boots as the new queen of pop may have been jumping the gun just a bit. It didn’t quite turn out that way, but after a satisfying debut, she has put out several singles in recent months that are both daring and highly stimulating. So we wanted to sit down for a chat with her, just hours before her performance at the FIB.
About four years ago, the media tried to convince us that one Victoria Hesketh was going to be the new queen of pop. It got so out of hand that she managed to score the first place in the rather influential list, BBC Sound Of 2009. This was significant because she was chosen over similar artists such as Florence and the Machine, Lady Gaga and La Roux. In fact, in the British media, so given to creating conflict where there is none, they said that there was a certain amount of bad blood between Little Boots and Elly Jackson (La Roux). This is something that the small blond categorically denies ( “it’s complete nonsense”). Her debut album released that same year, “ Hands”, hit the mark for fans of synth pop with bursts of disco. It might not have been enough to win her the crown, but it is true that songs like “Earthquake” and “Stuck On Repeat” have raised spirits on many an evening.
All in all, the Little Boots effect has dissipated over recent years. So Victoria has decided to release a series of singles as an advance of her second album, which, she assures us, should be out in October. For the moment, feelings are positive. There’s a little of everything. “Headphones” follows in the line of the debut’s easy pop, so as not to lose old fans, but “Every Night I Say A Prayer” is a flaming ball of piano house with production by Andy Butler ( Hercules & Love Affair) and “Shake”, from its very title, suggests that you’re facing a dance bomb powerful enough to shake any dance floor. With these songs on the table, the follow-up to “Hands” looks to be very interesting; precisely why we wanted to sit down and chat with her a few hours before her performance at the Festival Internacional de Benicàssim. Even though she had just lost her mobile phone, she answered our questions with a fresh, friendly manner.
I know you must be bugged by this type of question, but we really need to know, when is your new album going to be released and what process are you in right now?
The album is nearly finished! It’s 98% complete, we just have to make the last little tweaks. It will come up later this year, I think around October in the UK, so I suppose it won’t be long after in the rest of the world.
You said earlier that your new record would be darker than the debut album, is it still going to be that way?
Maybe, but not in the way it was originally intended. I’ve been DJing a lot and this has influenced the sound of the album a lot. It’s for the dance floor and it feels like night-time, so it’s dark in that sense.
Your new singles are quite different from each other. “Headphones” is poppier and “Every Night I Say A Prayer” has a more disco feel. How did the collaboration with Andy Butler come up?
I’ve always been a fan of Hercules, I love them. He came to one of my gigs in San Francisco, and we started to chat and talk about working together. He came to London and we had a really cool time in the studio together. It was awesome. He’s a really cool and fun guy, we had some crazy times.
“Shake” is more like a BIG dance anthem. Are you trying to reach more people with these songs?
Well, I’ve always wanted to reach the biggest audience that I could. But, you know, DJing a lot and taking a lot of different influences from old disco, old-school house, new house, dance things… I just wanted to combine them all. There’re more pop moments in the record and there’re more dance moments. But I think they can all work together. It’s a pop/dance record, I guess. I do want to reach to more people, but I think it’s probably less commercial than the first album, I think it’s probably more authentic, although it’s still pop music.
What other producers are you working with on this new record?
Other than Andy, James from Simian Mobile Disco, with whom I did “Shake”, these guys from New York called The Knock, with whom I did “Headphones”, DFA’s Tim Goldsworthy… There’re quite a few different people involved.
Are there more songs with Andy Butler?
We’ve done a few songs. I think on the record there’re gonna be two. And maybe other songs we’ve done, we’ll do something else.
"I wanted to give music to people as soon as I could"
Why have you decided to release plenty of singles before you have even announced your second album?
Well, it’s been quite a long time since the first album. I think I really needed to get back in people’s faces and build it up again because it wasn’t like we could pick up where we left things. Also, I haven’t finished the second album, but I really wanted to get some music out. So I wanted to give music to people as soon as I could. And I think albums are becoming less important, music is changing so much now, the industry also. I don’t know— albums are not as important as they used to be and it’s quite sad, but it’s true.
Can we expect a guest artist like Phil Oakey, as happened with “Hands”?
No. Not at the moment. But who knows?
But wasn’t the record 98% complete?
There’s still a 2% left! [laughs] You never know what can happen. I could hit it off with Bernard from New Order tonight.
You should talk to him, he’s over there!
[laughs] Oh, I think he might have stolen my phone. No, I’m joking! There are no collaborations like that at the moment, but I haven’t written a song that could fit as a duet, so it didn’t happen.
You have also recently covered Chic. This one reminded us of the time you uploaded lots of piano songs. As you have been playing it since you were young, can we expect this instrument to be more prominent on future releases?
A lot of the songs start that way, on the piano, in this album, like the one I did with Andy Butler. But I don’t want to do this type of songs in the album; it just feels too stripped-back, it’s not what I really want. But it’s something I can always do. It can be quite confusing for people, because if you hear “Shake” when you’re out in a nightclub and then hear a piano version of it, it’s quite confusing. So I’ve been trying to not do it as much because I’m worried I will confuse people.
So you mean you play the piano in “ Every Night I Say A Prayer”?
In “Every Night I Say A Prayer” there’s a big piano riff that I play. There’s another song I did with Andy Butler called “All 4 You” that I posted a version of on Youtube that’s just piano. You know, in other songs that I record I play keyboards and piano, but it’s not the same arrangements.
Are you influenced by the whole piano house movement? This song has this feeling.
Exactly!!! I love cheesy Italian house piano music, but really bad.
It’s not that cheesy!
I know, I love it. But every time I get a piano song I make it sound shittier, make it sound really crap, like the worst piano in the world. [imitates the sound of the piano] But, yeah, definitely, because I have always played piano since I was a little girl. Then making more house-influenced music it really fits because I played piano.
You’re another of many artists to have switched from classical music to dance-oriented music. How does this happen?
It was a long process. I’ve been playing since I was very young. I guess I learned classically, and then I started playing around with jazz. And then when I was a teenager I discovered bands like Yes. I was listening to a lot of prog-rock at the time. I heard Yes used synthesizers and I was like: ‘Wow, what is this thing? I need to get one!’ Then I got into electronic music, and then that got me into dance music, then I started DJing more… You know, it’s like a long process over many years that make you go from one place to another. It’s not a quick change. And I still love classical music, I wish I could play it as well as I used to. [laughs]
What do you find so fascinating about the Tenori-on?
I think it looks cool. It’s a challenge to play it, at least in the way I do it. I always like to be challenged by things. It’s not widely available; it’s not as if everybody plays it. I’m attracted to it because it’s unique. But we are not using it as much now. I’ve got a new instrument that I’m learning to play. It’s Japanese as well, but it’s still a prototype, so it’s not for sale. It’s more 3D, you program it like this and it moves. I’m working on that at the moment. Right now I’m not playing Tenori-on because we did a lot of it. You know, it looks cool, but it’s more for the visual than for the music. There’re a lot of better ways to make that music.
There’s fierce competition in your genre, there are lots of female artists doing synth-pop music. Do you find it stimulating when you sit in the studio and begin working on new songs?
I used to have this question a lot and I think that now, in 2012, it’s not that relevant. There’re a lot of female artists out there and there’re a lot of male artists out there. There’re a lot of groups out there. And of course you always want to be better, but it’s not a competition. It’s not like we are trying to beat each other. We are not boxing or racing. Everybody is trying to do music and hoping they get inspired by each other. Especially, people want to put girls against each other as if it’s a girl-fight and it’s not a relevant thing right now.
So the whole thing with La Roux is just bullshit?
Yeah, of course, it’s complete nonsense.
Why did you decide to have some vogue dancing in “ Every Night I Say A Prayer”?
I got kind of really introduced in the early New York house scene in the 80s and the film “Paris Is Burning” which is where voguing comes from before Madonna, and I just got really interested in it after reading a book about house music and how it affected it. I just thought it would make a very cool video. I think it’s a really cool way of dancing and it feels as if it was born at the same time this music was born. So it really goes together.
What would you say inspires you most in terms of fashion?
I love fashion and I love to see what is going on in the fashion world, but I think it’s more important to have your own style and not get inspired by fashion and changing all your clothes every time fashion changes. I think this is important, but at the same time you have to have your own style but it is good that fashion is always changing and there are always new places to look for ideas.
You haven’t toured that much in the last couple of years. How has your life changed over the years?
I’ve been DJing a lot lately, but I’ve always done that, at least for the last five years. I never took it too seriously, and then when we stopped touring and I was writing, I started to DJ more because I wanted to be out because I was missing touring. So now it has gotten to a point that I’m DJing all the time in all the places of the world every week. So that’s something that has really changed my life. The last year has been crazy with all the DJing in Ibiza, Mexico… It’s been a huge deal for me. But it will never be as good for me as live shows. But yeah, it’s been a huge change. Doing the DJing, working on the record all the time and not doing things like this – promo, press– not having to wear my makeup, it’s kind of weird.
Any chance you will be releasing a DJ mix?
Yeah, I did a DJ mix last month. I’ve done three this year and they are all in my Soundcloud to download for free. And I’m going to do a new one for the end of the summer.
But I mean for a big series like DJ Kicks?
Ohhh…We were talking to somebody about doing one of the big ones, but I don’t know how it is going to turn out, so I can’t say much. But it’s something I would love to do.