We talk to the English pop cadet about butts, her new EP 'Business Pleasure,' and how she found empowerment in not giving a shit.
Boots is back! It's been 18 months since her last album, the glittering disco of Nocturnes, which came a full four years after her debut Hands. It was a debut that launched her into the stratosphere, garnered her magazine covers, pre-emptive accolades, invites to award shows, and wild jet set opportunities, as well as an army of die hard fans. Hands was also a killer pop record with tunes like "New in Town," "Stuck on Repeat," "Earthquake," that crushed on the dancefloor, but touched the heart too. What happened when the world tours stopped and the pop-press tornado ceased to whirl was honestly documented in a piece for UK newspaper The Sunday Times, but can be summarized in part as a classic case of record label overspend and tunnel vision idiocy. The bigwigs wanted her to be the next Kylie or Gaga, and were disappointed when she didn't shift a million records. But what Victoria Hesketh is is Little Boots: a tech-nerdy, classically trained girl from Blackpool who sweats pop from every pore. A girl who wrote songs on synths in her east London bedroom, who covered Kid Cudi, Miley, Wiley, and Kate Bush in her PJs and uploaded these videos online; a girl whose debut record flew off the shelves to the tune of 250k, which given today's market, and even back in 2009, is no mean feat.
This is not to say that Boots' trajectory was determined entirely by the big bad major label system. By her own admission when she returned home to knuckle down to write, she was stumped: "I'd lost touch with who I was. I didn't know how to start again." Nocturnes came out in 2013 via her own imprint On Repeat Records, a boutique label which she is the head of, one that's also responsible for putting out singles by promising artists like Tom Aspaul and Camden Cox (who we adore). It's best danced to under the fractured light of a disco ball with dry ice billowing around you.
Below is "Taste It," her first single since then, and the lead from her forthcoming EP, Business Pleasure, out on December 1. Produced by Com Truise and Jas from Simian Mobile Disco, it's a song built on Boots' layered, airy vocals, bass, and beats. Hypnotic and minimalist, skittering and strange, lyrically it's a case of be careful what you wish for and "how we get addicted to things that are bad for us but you still go back, you still want more."
We grabbed Little Boots to find out more about this EP—a taster for her new, third album, out early next year—plus the meaning behind "power bitching," the relationship between creativity and surivival, and what's fueling her fire these days. Oh, and butts. Or bums, in her parlance, because obviously ass is absolutely top of the menu in 2014.
Noisey: I enjoyed your article where you talk very honestly and frankly about your experience in the music industry. I was curious about how these experiences have informed your new EP and forthcoming album?
Little Boots: With The Times thing, I was just very honest about my experiences going from dreaming of a pop star as a little girl to doing it and being Cinderella going to the ball, and then coming out the other side of this crazy journey I’ve been on. That article was one of the catalyst’s in this direction. I got this huge response from it, with people being really interested and people really relating to it. It gave me quite a lot of confidence. I guess it was a few things coming together at once, like I’m now the CEO of my own business and record label and I’ve had to learn how to be a business woman in the past two years as well as do the music stuff, which has kind of been a headfuck. It’s been equally inspiring, exciting, and liberating, and completely fucking terrifying. I also think this is a really exciting time for women and girls and there’s some really interesting people coming through talking about exciting about stuff.
Looking at this new press shot, it seems your style has changed a bit with this new EP.
I got obsessed with early 90s office yuppie style and power suits. Me and my friends who run my label and all my girlfriends who work in the music industry have this expression: “We’re power bitching, we’re power bitches”—but we use it in a positive way. And then I started taking it to the next level and buying big jackets with shoulder pads. Like we were on this tour where we’d watch Working Girl a lot. What started as a bit of a joke kind of tied into the response I got from The Times piece and the things I was going through.
The last album I wrote for a major label and I took years to make it and it was very considered and this whole chapter I feel kind of like a completely different artist. Like there’s a blank page and I can do whatever I want. I’m in this place where I’m not scared to be ridiculous. I’ve just been going into the studio and having fun, wearing ridiculous outfits and loads of lipstick.
I like this new look.
A lot of pinstripes going on! It’s there in the music as well—Business Pleasure. The music industry’s changed so much even since I started. It’s this whole relationship between creativity and survival. To be honest I just got bored of writing songs about love and being in clubs. Who wants to hear that any more times? I was like what else can I write about? This is what I’m going through, maybe it not that boring for other people.
You’ve said that you were inspired by 90s house music which you find to be more story based. What other topics are you exploring?
I’ve definitely drawn on my journey as inspiration, but a lot of it is about this hyperactive, high pressure, internet world and how we consume stuff. There’s constantly a million people saying things at the same time, but no one’s really saying anything. There’s this constant dialogue you can’t escape from, this constant judgment. It’s never-ending and I think some of that tension is in there.
Sometimes you just want to press pause.
Yeah! It’s exhausting, and some of it’s great for creativity and some of it hinders it. It’s definitely interesting. It’s intense. When I was talking about house music in that quote, I got really into Everything But The Girl, again, who I love, and there were some songs from that period that were dance tunes and house tunes that seemed to mean something and take me somewhere and tell me a story or put me in a place, rather than just talking nonsense. For me that’s how you make dance records personal because a lot of dance music isn’t. So I guess I’ve tried to put stories and characters in there, but they’re still dance songs a lot of them. And I’m just trying to work with interesting electronic artists and do things you wouldn’t expect.
How was it working with Com Truise?
It was remotely so I better stop my internet bashing now because that’s how it happened! That song’s pretty nuts to be honest. It’s as hyperactive as going on Twitter. When I listen to "Taste It" I feel like I’m on the internet, it’s so manic. When he sent me the track that’s what I thought of—all these conversations going on at once. I love him, his music’s amazing, and he’s not the kind of guy you’d think would be into a pop song. When I sent him what I’d done over it I was quite nervous, like, will he just think this is silly—me singing a load of melodic hooks about business over his cool beat. Is he going to burn my email! But he was really into it. I’m so pop and I know that about myself—I just accept it. Now I’m just like, "This is me now, this is what I do, if you don’t like it, get lost." And the number of people who don’t get lost is really exciting! I think it’s just having that confidence to be like, "This is who I am and this is what I do and I’m not going to apologize or compromise."
For a while I thought you had maybe given up on music. Like you had your label and you were putting out artists and maybe you were going to pursue songwriting for other people.
Yeah it had definitely crossed my mind. I love writing for other people and I’m doing it more and more, and I love running my label and finding artists, but I can’t stop writing my own songs. I just can’t seem to stop and when all these ideas started coming together it was the end of summer last year and it felt fresh, like I wasn’t just going over old ground. It felt exciting. The album’s almost done now so I’m just going to get it out there and see what happens. I’m sure I’ll do more writing and more label stuff, and I do really love it, but I’m not really very good at quitting or having spare time! I just invent new jobs. I’m terrible at relaxing.
Earlier in our chat you mentioned that you felt it was a great time for women and there were a lot of exciting girls coming out. Who are you referring to?
There’s so many! Tavi who does Rookie magazine. I watched her TED talk and I was like, "Woah, I want to be 15 again! I wish you were in my life when I was 15! This is fucking amazing!” Lorde blows my mind, but not just super young people, Lena Dunham, Caitlyn Moran I went to see the other month which I found super inspiring. I just feel like everywhere I look there’s women doing cool stuff and not apologizing or compromising and that’s really exciting. Whereas a few years ago The Pussycat Dolls were number one and I was like, "Oh my God feminism has gone back about 100 years. What happened to Shirley Manson and Gwen Stefani?"
There’s a flipside of that at the moment in that everyone can constantly analyze and judge and can say anything to anybody and there’s a dark side of that as well. But I do think there’s a lot of exciting women saying things and doing things. It’s a cool time.
Well it’s weird because there are all these awesome creative women and feminism is a word that’s been brought back into the public vernacular in a very real way in the past two years, but then you also have artists being more sexually explicit than they’ve ever been in pop music.
Exactly. To the point where I’m so desensitized to it! I watched the bum video ["Booty" by Jennifer Lopez ft. Iggy Azalea] and there were about a million bums in it. So much bottom! Iggy and JLo just spanking each other and by the end I was so desensitized to bums. It’s gonna be weird to not see a bum in a pop video. Maybe it’s going to two extremes. It’s surreal that feminism is getting trendy again. A couple years ago I couldn’t talk my friends into saying they were feminists and now its trendy, but hey, I don’t think it’s a bad thing.
From my perspective, coming from that major label thing where you were expected to look and be and act and behave a certain way, I now don’t feel like I have to do that and I also spot lots of other people not doing that. I just realized the people I like the best, the people who are the coolest are the ones who don’t give shit about what people think and as long as you try to do that, you’re probably going to be in best place!
Little Boots Tour Dates:
11/08 – Music Hall of Williamsburg – Brooklyn, NY
Business Pleasure is out on 12.1 via On Repeat Records.
Kim Taylor Bennett is Noisey's Style Editor and she's on Twitter.