Dollars To Pounds: Fill Your Boots

September 24, 2008

Every Wednesday our UK columnist Sam Richards gives you the latest and greatest in British rock and pop.

Here I am (in the above photo) discussing how we should notate an alien dolphin noise with Victoria Hesketh after her first ever live gig as Little Boots in Brighton on Friday. We are not standing up properly, otherwise there’s no way you’d get us both in the picture because Victoria is as tiny as she is charming. This proved a problem for the venue, an otherwise Dollars To Pounds-endorsed new venture called New Hero, because it didn’t have a proper stage and I had to barge my way right to the front and peer over people just to see what Victoria was doing with her Tenori-on. But apart from a technical hitch that rather spoiled her elaborate entrance scene, I’m pleased to report that the gig was great and confirmed everything we’ve suspected about Little Boots and her glittering pop destiny.

Afterwards, Victoria generously told me all about her new tracks, interrupted only briefly by her keyboard player Chris who had cut his finger open when packing away the synths, requiring me to clean his wound like the school nurse.

Looks like they forgot to put the beer from your rider in the fridge…

I don’t even like beer. I did ask them for some vodka and they said ‘yes’ but then they disappeared. You see, when I DJ, I get snacks, I get spirits, I get posh hotels, the works. With the band, I get half the money, shit drinks and a million times more stress. This might be the first and last ever Little Boots gig!

So what was going on at the beginning there?

We had a whole plan. Lights come on, I come out in a hood, there’s smoke everywhere, and I start pressing the Tenori-on which goes ‘Whooo, whooo’ and then Chris starts making alien dolphin noises like ‘Weeeaaaaooooowowowow’ and then we have whispers, like ‘wispawispawispa’ and then the drums kick in and the lasers come on and I take my hood off and go into the song. That was the plan, anyway. God, I’m not even drunk and I’m making alien dolphin noises. Anyway, we started making the noises and set some smoke off and nothing worked and we started panicking so we had to sit on the stage while they fixed the PA.

OK, tell us about the first song, ‘Magical’.

That’s on my MySpace at the moment. The recorded version is produced by Heartbreak although I wrote it a while ago with Simon Lord from The Black Ghosts and Simian. It’s not as Italo as Heartbreak’s stuff and it’s weird when I see reviews saying that I’m part of some Italo revival. There are a couple of tracks which are influenced by that sound but it’s not really what I’m about. ‘Magical’ is a silly song about magic. We were listening to an album of disco songs that have the most ridiculous lyrics, like, <I>stupid<i/>. So I was like, let’s do some really silly, fantasy lyrics. What can we rhyme magical with? Erm, nothing, as it turned out. So the chorus goes ‘Everything is magical, When you’re near it’s magical, I can feel your touch in my dreams’. [much giggling follows]

So you prefer writing music to lyrics?

Yeah, I hate writing lyrics. I always do the music first and I don’t really look forward to doing the lyrics. But when I do, often I’ll give myself a little theme, like ‘Click’ is all about a relationship when you think you’ve clicked with somebody and then things start going wrong, and all the words are things that go together, and the rhythms are built up from clicky noises. I like it when things work on lots of different levels. ‘Stuck On Repeat’ is a metaphor for being stuck at home doing the same thing every day but it’s also a song about the process of songwriting and hooks, and musically it repeats itself too. I’m really hoping we can do something on the vinyl where it does a little loop and the needle won’t lift off the record. I’m a bit of a geek about those things. I did a song lost last week that was called ‘Perfect Symmetry’ – which I’m really annoyed about now because I found out the new Keane album’s called that, which is like gross – but lyrically it’s all about someone who you feel symmetrical to, like really on a par with, and musically the song is physically symmetrical.

Damn those Keane twerps.

I did like that ‘Crystal Ball’ song though. Actually, that was only really because I like crystals and it has the word crystal in the title. And first of all, instead of “Oh, crystal ball” I thought he was singing “Oh, Chris De Burgh.”

I’m presuming ‘Mathematics’ isn’t strictly about maths…

Well, no, it’s about a relationship. But it’s actually inspired by a Sylvia Plath poem called Love Is A Parallax. And the last line is “The simple sum of heart plus heart”. I thought that was really nice and it got me thinking about how everything comes down to numbers, even relationships. I wanted to get Fibonacci into it, you know that number sequence? I don’t really understand it, I was really bad at maths at school. I just wanted to use a fancy word.

What was the song you did second-last with all the snaking synth lines?

It’s called ‘New In Town’ and that one I did in LA with Greg Kurstin. It’s about being thrown into a new place and not really knowing anybody. A lot of the songs on the album come from moving to London to Blackpool six months ago and I literally didn’t know anybody. I had the worst Northern complex, I’d go in shops and think people were laughing at me, especially Brick Lane ones that sell old cowboy boots for £50.

‘Meddle’ looks like the one where you get to break open the percussion toybox.

It’s such a mental song, there’s about a hundred parts to it. Live, we’re pretty much doing it all without backing tracks, so we’re all working so hard on ‘Meddle’ just to keep it going. I play the stylophone in it, and synths, and jingle bells. I have a little playpen on the side and that’s got a MicroKorg, a glockenspiel, bells, a tambourine and a digi theremin. My vision for the live show was to bring everything out of the studio to show that my music’s not some weird, mysterious thing created on a computer, it’s actually as physical as playing a guitar. I think it’s so important that people can see something that’s connected to the sound that they’re hearing even if it’s just hitting a drum. The live show’s still in the experimental stages at the moment but I’m sure we’ll get there. There’s more visual stuff I want to make happen. I want to make a big impression. I don’t want it to be like a twee singer-songwriter thing or a boring DIY gig that people go home and forget.

How did it feel when people were singing along to ‘Stuck On Repeat’?

It was pretty amazing. I was so preoccupied with the technicalities for the rest of the gig so that was the only song I really enjoyed. It’s getting released properly in November and we’re actually going to do a video and a radio edit – call me crazy! – and all the people who liked it in the first place will be like “Ugh, it’s not as good now”. I don’t really care about this bubble of people on the internet, in London. I’m really glad that they like my stuff but if I stayed in that world I’d probably be over in six months. This whole project is all about me being myself, I’m going to be pop, I’m going to be stupid if I want. Ironically and randomly enough it’s ended up being considered a bit cool. But it’s all about songwriting. Good songs are good songs, however you dress them up.

Posted: September 24, 2008
Dollars To Pounds: Fill Your Boots