IN CONVERSATION: Little Boots

IN CONVERSATION: Little Boots

Little Boots AKA Victoria Hesketh recently returned with her refreshing, nostalgic and hook laden new single ‘Landline’ via her own imprint On Repeat Records. This is the second single from her upcoming self-produced album set for release in spring 2022.

It is a return to her roots for Hesketh who reconnects with the synth pop sound of her early works, but brings with her a self reflection and a confidence brought by her experiences.  Not only that but she is currently in rehearsals for the much anticipated ABBA ‘Voyage’ concert, where she will be singing backing vocals, playing live keyboards and synthesisers. Add that to a raft of collaborations, DJ sets and EP releases. We find out just how she fits it all in!

‘Landline’
fondly casts an eye back to her youth and simpler times where gossip and sharing happened on phone lines, before social media existed. “It was kind of inspired by the 90s and my school friends and school boyfriends and I started thinking about that during the pandemic doing Zoom parties and Zoom quizzes. I did really feel like in the depths of nostalgia, people were reaching for nostalgia. The radio seemed to be playing old songs or anything comforting was calling out to us.” Hesketh shares about her glistening and warmly familiar floor filling new single:“Even in lockdown it did feel like a fundamental violation of our rights and nature as humans, to be able to go round a friend’s house and share things, especially music with people. I like that lyric “a telephone can take the place of a smile.”

“Now we take sharing for granted, but my mum always tells me we used to had to ring someone up and say we were meeting someone in the town centre at three o clock and if they weren’t there you didn’t go out with them!” she laughs.

“I’m not sure iPhone or tablets are going to have the same resonance, there’s something kind of romantic about telephone” She fondly explains, she has been asking for suggestions on twitter of Telephone related pop songs with “‘He’s on the Phone’ by Saint Etienne and ‘Hung Up’ by Madonna amongst her favourites. “The main feedback I got is that people with landlines are people in areas with bad mobile receptions. I got so many suggestions of good telephone lyrics and song titles.”

As well as her own shows and album release, Hesketh is part of one of the most anticipated reunions in musical history, as part of ABBA‘s live band so maybe her own shows might have to wait a bit. “I’ve got to play with this band called Abba seven nights a week from May, I am sure we will manage to, it will probably be a little bit later in the year and the timing has got to be figured out.”

“It was a bit of a mad one really. My friend James from the Klaxons was setting the ABBA live band up, I’ve known James for years since the nu-rave days really” Hesketh explains. “He knew I was an ABBA nut anyway and a pianist and I was one of the first people called and it was like “do you want to audition for ABBA?” I was like erm yes! I didn’t know if I wanted it or if I was going to get it because I do my own stuff and have done for a long time, but as soon as I got in a room with Benny and Bjorn and we were playing ‘Voulez-Vous’ it was just electricity and I was like I have to do this, every part of my body was singing with joy.”

“It’s been a journey since then and it will be getting more intense next year I’m really looking forward to it on so many levels really – it will be a really fun thing to do. We just did three weeks in Stockholm with Benny and Bjorn and the pandemic stalled everything, then there was an album squeezed out in-between, so we will be starting rehearsals again in February….”

Hesketh is a Grammy nominated songwriter, previously signed as an artist to Warner / Atlantic under her moniker Little Boots releasing three albums including a gold selling top 5 record in the UK, and two top 10 hits including the hit single ‘Remedy’ co-written with RedOne, and ‘New In Town’ with co-written Greg Kurstin.

Preceded by the spacey and ethereal self affirmations of ‘Silver Balloons‘, her new album is set to see the light of day next Spring, her fourth record is the first album that she has completely produced, written, and performed all by herself. It’s an almost coming of age record, which sees her return to her DIY disco roots that initially found her success, but with a knowing warmth, threaded with open hearted playful melodies and the songwriting chops she has developed over the last decade. “Its been written off and on for about two years, maybe a little bit more, I have stopped and started over various places and not really sat down and thought have I got a body work here.” She explains.

“There’s quite a lot of yearning there, it was written in the depths of lockdown, it’s an optimistic record, it’s quite warm and nostalgic, a sort of reminiscing. There’s a lot of things about getting older, a lot of people moving out of London, which is all I’ve known for the past god-knows how many years, and trying to think about how you be you as you enter the next phase of your life.”  Hesketh reflects “I don’t think I’m quite ready to be a wife and have kids in a terraced house in Walthamstow but then also pretending your 25 is a bit tragic as well!”  she laughs.

“There’s themes about growing up, there’s a lot of nostalgia. There’s ‘Back to Mine’ which is a song about parties in East London and songs like ‘Out Out’ which was just about when can we go out again, so it in some ways it was escapist in a positive way. I often get told I write icy records and I wanted to make something warmer. So its just getting back to classic songwriting. I put the piano at the centre of everything, in the studio you will get a beat going and improvising over the top. This time I just wanted to write chord structures and really good songs.” She remembers: “Obviously being in the studio with ABBA with Benny showing how he wrote songs was super inspiring, so I was just like I’ve got this song and I want to take it further and further. It was classic songwriting I want to get back to.” She explains, looking for a return to the heart of pop songwriting rather than any other kind of production. “There’s been so much dance music which is more about the producer, Calvin Harris and such like. I have a respect for what he does but its about the track, it’s not about a proper song with a narrative, a chorus line, and a singalong bit. I just wanted to get back to good old fashioned tunes, sounds can date – if your song has got good bones hopefully it will endure.”

“I’ve not released an album since 2015. I kind of stopped seeing the point. People were like ‘what have you been doing since then?’ I am like ‘I’ve not been sitting on my arse!’ I’ve released EPs, been co-writing, collaborations and DJ sets!” She laughs.

Never one to stand still, her recent collaborations include records with Boston Bun, Moonboots, Spinnin Records, RAC, John Dahlback, Michael Woods, Cyril Hahn, Sam Sparro and cuts with LIZ, Annie, and Tove Stryke. She also co-wrote the lead single for Jean-Michel Jarre’s Grammy nominated album, and underground dance hit ‘Meet Again’ with LP Giobbi, that explored her love of piano led house.

“Albums are a nostalgic thing as well, there’s not as much of a place for full length albums anymore. I do quite a lot of dance EPs, and its nice to do that but I knew that with this record I really wanted to be very very me and not trying to jump on any trends or try and be anything I am not, I write pop songs, I make them with keyboards, on bits lying around; that’s what I’ve always done.” She recalls.

“I’ve some how got the confidence to do that again. For a long time I felt a bit naff but I’ve come full circle and at peace with who I am as an artist in some ways.”

Talking about her new album she stresses the basis is the songs

There’s disco but I was listening to a lot of 70s song writers too. I love Carol King, Elton John the Bee Gees. I was just going back to songs, good songs really. I thought there’s a lot of disco around at the moment, Kylie, Jessie Ware, Sophie Elis Bextor are doing disco albums and with me its kind of a bit wonky, I’m not going in with super producers I am just in my brothers old bedroom at my Mum’s, messing around. I hope that’s what sets it apart really and hopefully makes it a bit genuine and a bit more real. “

“I’ve done millions of songwriting sessions for years, I was thinking about this recently but Major labels sign artists because they are quite good at something – quite good at writing songs with what they have or with a producer they’ve found and then they put them in a room with a hundred songwriters for eighteen months so after that process, its quite hard to go back to just writing yourself even if that’s what you have got discovered for in the first place!” She reveals, talking about the journey to rebuilding her confidence.

“A lot of being able to write and produce this record myself was getting my confidence back really, it’s like I had a bit of imposter syndrome really, it’s like it wasn’t a valid releasable song unless I’d written it in a dark room with two older men really, that is how most pop music is made. I had to get over that, I had to get over that I started out doing it myself, there was no option in lockdown anyway because nobody was doing sessions so it kind of forced me and gave me the push I needed to do it myself.”

A continued adopter of independent artist tools and innovation in music and technology, Little Boots has entered the decentralised music NFT space and is currently auctioning off a 1/1 mp3 of ‘Landline’, via Catalog marketplace. “I have just released one. They’re quite controversial still, it’s basically putting a song on the blockchain, it’s kind of like an mp3 but its got a digital certificate built into the file, I’ve always been interested in ways of empowering independent artists.” She explains.

“This could potentially unlock a whole world of transparency, power and income for independent artists, where you don’t need record labels or distributors or anything else.” She enthuses. “It was a big gamble I released it last week and I got hacked the same day by a crypto scammer so the whole option was compromised and we nearly lost all the money and some other hackers came to rescue it! It made me realise how wild west and scary this world is”.

I was just going into it like ‘oh I like tech and music this could be good!’ but I was like ‘wow what a stressful world this is still’. But the potential in this world is fascinating so I wanted to try something in this space, its early for music. How it will work for music remains to be seen but I wanted to see. It is quite exciting to be in on the early days. I think the potential is interesting and its exciting to be there in the early stages. I have a Patreon which has funded the whole album in that in the future we would just have fan communities.”

“With Spotify and Apple music we just pay a license fee to rent music at least we used to own MP3s I kind of get all the iTunes diehard people mourning, at least they owned those files, what do you own now? Nothing. You just rent music!” She exclaims. “Everyone’s saying we are in the myspace, space of this new world we are yet to see who will be the Uber or Facebook of web 3, as an artist you can upload your song on there and people can invest in it. Imagine you bought Rolling Stones ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’? Imagine in 100 years, even without the royalties attached to it, its like owning a Mona Lisa.”

“There’s a backlash as well which isn’t unjustified.” She concedes “But there could be a way of having a digital fan badge in your wallet, it could open up an exclusive or access. Its just a way of owning your own internet real estate really. Charli XCX fans might buy a coin and get shares in the profit of that. In the future you could have fans, like you could invest in a coin, or a crypto currency, this is like the next step.”

“My Patreon did so much for me in lockdown, it
was a bummer when all my shows got cancelled but now I don’t need to play shows all the time.”
She explains. “People say ‘oh NFTs is crypto blockchain it is terrible for the environment’ but I was taking three flights to do a DJ set in Jakarta prior to lockdown and I was feeling quite uncomfortable about the environmental impact of that.”

Technology will catch up. In the 80’s you needed these huge computers, now you can do so much just on an iPhone in a minute, so its early days and in the future it could be even more efficient. Look at Spotify that takes loads of power, look at vinyl that’s a dirty business as well.”

Recently she performed two dates to test out new material she hopes to be able to fit her own shows in around her schedule with ABBA next year. “I did a very grand tour, it started in Manchester and ended in London and they were the only warm up shows just to test the songs for the new album because I’ve not played for so long because of COVID they were just intimate and really nice, they were really lovely. It was a solo show, I usually tour with a band it was nice to just play myself and a piano and some synths and some of my hilarious anecdotes between things, it felt really nice, special.”

“I am doing bits and co-writing If I can free up some writing time, I am going to do a few dance collaborations. I have got the idea to do an ABBA covers EP in the style of the Drive soundtrack too.”
She reveals of her future plans. “The cool thing about Patreon or NFTs and stuff is if you have the idea for a project it doesn’t have to be a big album campaign. Its like I’ve got this idea to do an ABBA covers album, if people are into it online and you can get the money to fund it you can do it, you can open it up to being more creative and stuff. I am quite up for trying some fun projects like that. I will probably pick and chose a few more off the wall projects that are more agile and they are done and you can get them out, before you could only do singles and full length albums.” She explains.

“The burn on albums is so quick now, you feel like you have slaved away on it for two years because as soon as you have put it up on Spotify everyone has heard it and it’s ‘what’s next?’ and your like I’ve just put my heart, soul and every penny into this album over two years and I’ve just mortgaged my house to get it out!”

https://www.littlebootsmusic.co.uk/

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