Little Boots

We caught up with Victoria Hesketh at Bestival, to discuss her debut album, Pop Idol and the benefits of being a sex-crazed dictator.

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Posted 16th September 2009 in Features & Reviews, Little Boots | By Paul Leake
Little Boots

We caught up with Little Boots (aka Victoria Hesketh) on her tourbus at Bestival to discuss her debut album 'Hands', Pop Idol and the benefits of being a sex-crazed dictator.

Now, I might be reading too much into this... but there’s an historic figure with the name Little Boots. Is your name taken from that?
Not really [laughs], it's a nickname from my best friend 'cause I’ve got little feet, but she had just seen the film, so that was why it came about. But I'd never seen it and I'm not a sex-crazed dictator... Well, maybe on Fridays. [laughs]

I was going to say, if music ever doesn’t work out for you, at least you can go into tyranny.
Exactly. [laughs]

I found out quite recently that you auditioned for Pop Idol when you were 16. How significant was that initial setback?
It was really insignificant and, like, everyone asks me about it. To be honest, I went to, like, a hundred auditions when I was a teenager. I just wanted to make music and meet people and try to get contacts in the music industry to try and get to what I'm doing now, so it was just one day of my life. It wasn't a big deal. I was a bit, like, "ugh... I didn’t get through!" But it was never a big deal; it wasn't like I had dreams of winning it or anything. I just wanted to meet some people and get a foot in the door.

Do you feel lucky not to have been selected now?
Um... I just kinda think that it would have been the wrong thing for me. It's not my thing. I was just young and trying things. I think it's much better to be proactive and out there trying things.

You've received a lot of critical acclaim with your debut album. But with the advent of the internet, it seems that any artist is never far away from criticism. How important is that criticism to you?
There's not many people that I trust for criticism, so... You know, most people on the internet, there's, like, ten year old kids and, like, middle America, who'll log onto YouTube and say that you're fat and ugly and can't sing for shit. And it's just, you know... I mean, I take criticism from my colleagues and friends and, you know, people who are close to me... and people who are talented. It's stupid to let that affect...

How do you feel about comparisons to other artists, like Kylie Minogue? They don't seem accurate to who you are.
I think, just like, any comparisons always just feel a bit lazy. And obviously, Kylie... we're both small, we're both blonde, we both make pop music. I mean, you know, I’m a great fan of Kylie, I think she's a great popstar. But as far as the similarities, they aren't that... But that's some journalists for you. Yeah, it feels like it's a case of male reviewers with very little to say. Kylie's a great popstar, so I don't really mind it. But we're completely different, you know. It is similar with all the female comparisons at the moment, it was just, like, "oh, there's all these new artists and new girls". I mean, it's just a nice feature to write if they can put five girls in a set and say there’s a new movement.

Did you set out to break down the barriers of conventional pop music with your album?
Not really, I just wanted to... I love pop music, and it's a real, genuine love affair with it, you know, and I like a lot of music you might not call pop. I just don't see why you can't make great pop songs and make a song really interesting and, like you say, full and textured. And I tried to make the album as varied as I could, production-wise. I just don't see why I'd be put off by those things.

One of the things I like is the fact that you never shy away from being cerebral, whether in terms of lyrical or stylistic choices. For example, the allusions to Sylvia Plath are fantastic.
But not many people know that, so it kind of works. There are lots of little things like that... the way I am, I want it to work as an album that everyone can enjoy. You can take it on the very surface and take it as a fun dance-pop album about love and not go any deeper, but then, if you wanna, you can go as deep as you want. If you're a pop lover for the right reasons, you can go as deep as that or deeper still. But I wanted it to work for everybody. That's what great about pop music, you can make something that connects to so many people.

What do you feel have been the biggest influences on your musical style?
I guess moving to London and when I started DJing and getting caught in the whole disco thing, that had an effect on me when I was writing. I think I just love great songwriters, you know, like Brian Wilson, Elton John, The Bee Gees. I'm a huge Kate Bush fan. And a lot of 80s pop, I guess - Gary Numan, The Human League.

You worked on 'Symmetry' with Phil Oakey - how did that come about?
Just very simply. I'd kind of written the song and thought it should be a duet, so I asked [laughs]... and he said yes [laughs]. It's actually not a very exciting story! It shows that if you don't ask, you don't get.

His voice still sounds incredible.
Oh, it's fantastic! And we played it live with him, as well, and it's still absolutely... it's just great.

Your voices blend very well together.
I kind of knew. I had a hunch that if we worked together, 'cause I think my voice doesn't go with everyone's voice, it's quite difficult. I just knew it would work.

Going back to your album, when it was released, it did very well, and then it suffered from competition in the charts. Was that worrying at first?
I mean, when it first had a steep drop, it was like, oooooh. I realised it was a fanbase record at that point, as all the fans had gone and bought it and were very loyal. [laughs] And then that kind of dropped off. But now, I think, if you look at albums over the last... since it was released, it's still in the iTunes top 20. You see that it's hung around, where a lot of "other ones" have dropped out and it's still in there and still selling. It just went gold. Even if you suffer a little at first, it's quite scary and hard, but the fact that it's hung in there when I've seen so many albums just bomb and drop out, I'm really pleased that it's keeping it consistent and people are still buying it.

I heard that you had some classical training when you were younger. How has that influenced you?
Yeah, it was classical piano. Well, it just means that I can sit at a piano and play anything I want. [laughs] It's just having that understanding of music, you know? I've been playing since I was five years old and having that theoretical understanding really helps me. As soon as I get an idea in my head, it just comes out. I can just speak music; I don't need to go through thoughts, it just comes straight out. I know it's not for everybody, but for me, I'm just so glad that I did that when I was young. It's so freeing.

Your ability to write catchy hooks and choruses is unmatched by anyone else considered to be in the 'electro-pop' genre. What's your process in writing songs like that?
It's always different, really. Sometimes, I just sit at a piano and write on my own, or a lot of songs on the album I did with Greg Kurstin, and we'd just sit in the studio, riffing and making music together and I'd start singing over the top, then take it home and work on it more and bring it back. Occasionally, I'll just write over tracks that they send me, but I prefer to start in the studio from scratch.

What's been your highlight of 2009, so far?
Hmmm, I shouldn't say my holiday, should I? I don't know! There's been a lot. I had a great, great time in Japan. Glastonbury was really special, Reading and Leeds were full of really, really great moments. It was great doing stuff like the Jonathan Ross Show. There have been some really iconic moments for me.

So, what's next for you after Bestival?
We go on tour tomorrow to America, Australia and Japan on this kind of mini world tour. So, that's a big thing. And then, when we come back, we've got a UK tour in October and December, which we're really excited about. We've got lots of plans to make it really special, really visual, really exciting. And then, there's the European tour inbetween. So, I'm literally touring all up to Christmas. And then I'll be spending a lot of time in the States next year.