Little Boots is back on the scene and, with her new single Headphones, she’s taking herself in a new direction and I think we're about to fall in love with her all over again. Here, Victoria Hesketh gives an insight into the years that followed her debut album Hands and how it paved the way for her upcoming sophomore album.
After an embarrassing start and asking a couple of questions that would best suit a pre-school classroom, the interview with Little Boots got under way. From early beginnings right through to Headphones and her upcoming LP, Little Boots, the moniker of Victoria Hesketh, took me through DJing, disastrous live performances and how to dance on your own like a pro.
We kick thinks off talking about the performance of hers that I saw at Leeds university, when it was the final night of the Hands tour (her debut album) and things didn’t go as smoothly as she had hoped…
I know we were so hung over from partying the night before and I remember waking up on the bus and there were three extra people on the bus who I didn’t even know. I remember that there were quite a few technical issues in that gig. It was a bit of a bit of a nightmare. We even had to go off and come on again… wow.
Well, it happens to the best of us. Referring back to your performances, amongst the technical issues, you were using experimental music equipment –the Tenori, light play and the stylophone etc – Is this something that still interests you and have been using in the creation of your new record?
Yes, but these things aren’t recording instruments, they are very much a visual aid to playing electronic sound and so they are not used in the studio at all, no. They are lot easier ways to play music than setting up lasers. I am always interested in the live show and how to make it visual because there is nothing worse for me then going to see an electronic act that I love and it just being two guys stood behind computers, you know? Nobody wants to watch that. Then music is what’s important at the end of the day but, nobody wants to watch that. So, I find it really challenging to make electronic visual for the stage, so, I am always looking out for new stuff. I have been working with some students from Tokyo university who have created an amazing new kind of instrument that is 3D, it moves and has rays of light… it’s pretty crazy.
So, your record collection is vast and is highlighted by 80s electronic artists through to punk… according to the sources I’ve been sifting through, that is. What’s been getting most of your attention at the moment?
It’s changing all the time cause it’s so great discovering new. I’ve been listening to Bronski Beat, which is obviously an artist that I have loved for a long time and it’s now that I am discovering new things about it, even though I’ve listened to it a thousand times. That’s the sign of a great song, that you can listen to it and still find something new in it even if you’ve listened to it on repeat. Things I always go back to will be things like Bowie and Kate Bush. It also depends on what I am currently working on and the research that I am doing.
Which brings me nicely to your current single ‘Headphones’. An amazing piece of electronic pop, which channels early house records and disco. Talk me through the song.
It’s kind of a ridiculous concept but it’s inspired by the music in clubs at the moment. I hate it. And, if you want to go out with your mates and they’re not into disco or they don’t want to hear rare b-sides or something, you can’t be anti-social, you have to go out with them. So it’s just a really silly idea that I dreamed up about smuggling your iPod in, which isn’t to be taken to seriously. It’s a comment on the music scene at the minute and the current ‘in the club’ music movement that’s kind of become the generic form of dance music and it’s kind of sad.
The radio at the moment just seems to be very derivative. For somebody who has made dance music from the start and is a lover of dance music, too, it can feel like there is nothing exciting going on and it makes me a bit sad.
Well, luckily we have you. Again, with ‘Headphones’; the accompanying video is wonderful. It looks at the personas that people think of when listening to music and, in this case, revealing a sense of release and self-expression that they desire to have. The video also shows you touching upon future-retroism.
Yeh, for me, at the moment, it feels like everybody is trying so hard. All female pop artists, after Lady Gaga, seem to be in this crazy competition. Who can be the craziest person, wear the most outrageous stage outfit. For me, my style icons are often people who seem really effortless in style, like Debbie Harry will rock up in a t-shirt and look amazing. For me also, it’s a reaction against everything. As things get more and more over the top, I find myself wanting to try something more simple and, in music, my mantra is focused on doing the simplest thing is in fact sometimes the hardest thing. Like, writing the simplest pop song is actually one of the hardest things. So, I guess that this is also reflected in the visuals and keeping it simple to create something strong, then that feels like a good place for me, right now.
‘Shake’ was the first taste of new material that we got regarding audio, some months ago, and it was ‘Every Night I say a Prayer’, which was accompanied by a music video. At what point during the creation of the new record did you feel that ‘Every Night I say a Prayer’ was the one that would be your ‘comeback’?
Kinda like a week after I wrote it. Well, this album has been a long journey in the build up to it. We put ‘Shake’ out and then in the search for the next song to things building, there were a few options knocking around but then I ended hooking up with Andy Butler from Hercules and the Love Affair and we got in the studio. We had a great time and this track came out as the result and I was like ‘that’s the one’. It was exciting and felt like the right thing to be putting out.
As well as putting a new record together, you’ve also turned your hand to DJing. Do you think it’s a natural step for a lover and writer of dance music to dabble with DJing.
Yes. I think so. Since working with Andy Butler, I’ve found myself nerding out on early house music and he’s got an encyclopaedic knowledge of it and all these amazing rare records. He’s just awesome, I love him. Then there was James Ward who I did ‘Shake’ with. I also wanted to work with people who were very much up and coming on the scene to adding that edginess to the pop sweetness that I bring from the melody.
From Hands to the new record What do you feel like you’re putting into this album that wasn’t necessarily there before?
I think I’ve been more relaxed in my approach to it because there was so much pressure on the last record and pressure to be commercial, whereas this time around I was confident enough to be what I want and what I enjoy and what I am happy with. That’s the major thing for me on the new record, having the faith in myself and to do what I want. There is a quite a nod to 80s synth-pop going on on the ‘Hands’ record that isn’t going on as much. It’s still very much an electronic album but because I have been DJing so much over the last year and all over the world, it’s had a huge influence, seeing what people react to and having to stay on top all the time with new disco and house records. I think that really fed into it.
When did you start DJing?
I actually started when I first moved to London and I had no clue what I was doing and I was completely broke, Djing at The Old Blue Last, in Shoreditch. I would DJ for about 6 hours for £50 and a drink. I just learnt on the job and it was last year when we released ‘Shake’ I did a big DJ tour based on that and took it more seriously. I’ve come to learn that the more you put into it the more you get out of it and the more I treat it is a musical outlet, the more satisfaction I get out of it.
Are you comfortable playing your own records?
I play the remixes. I am a huge fan of a lot of the remixes because I am really involved in finding people to remix them and try stuff out. It’s nice to be involved from the start and find someone who you want to do a remix and then get it back and be able to DJ it.
And what about yourself doing remixes?
I’ve started doing them again actually. I did try some back in the day but it was when I wasn’t as good at programming so they were slightly poor. I’ve just finished an edit of headphones actually which is up for listening and I’m working on a few things as well.
Her current single Headphones is out now on Elektra Records
Interviewed and written by Ben Taylor