Little Boots interview
Questions: Peter Robinson
Answers: Little Boots (obviously)
Right then Victoria. What do you think your fans would like to know from this interview?
I don’t know – I need to go on the forums and have a look.
Do you look on forums?
Not any more…
What was the moment you stopped? There’s that line from The Thick Of It – that looking yourself up on Google is like opening the door to a room where everybody thinks you're shit.
(Laughs) It was probably when someone said something mean and I thought ‘fuck off’. I’ll go on things if someone sends me a link but don’t sit at home looking up forums to see what people are saying about me. It’s interesting, though, the level of detail people will go into on forums, dissecting campaigns, and if you want that then the Popjustice forums seem to be the place to go.
It’s the details that make pop what it is, isn’t it. The attention to detail that sometimes goes unnoticed on a conscious level. Your own imagery is an example of that, isn’t it. Lots of triangles and things.
A theme! Yes. I’d like more attention to detail. Like the still from the ‘Womanizer’ video with ‘Product Placement Meeting – 3pm’ on the screen of Britney’s Blackberry. Or when you wrote about the Saturdays video with the phone number. Stuff like that.
Victoria, it’s time to do a difficult interview.
(Wails) OH WHY??!
Why wasn’t ‘New In Town’ released five months ago?
Because it wasn’t ready. We’d never planned to release it then – you don’t get a massive advance warning that you’ll be on these polls and it’s normal to have a three month lead for a single release. There was talk of rushing something out but I had a load of sessions booked for January, so it seemed odd to release a ‘big’ single before I’d done those sessions. There had been a plan to re-release ‘Stuck On Repeat’ before Christmas as a bigger tastemaker sort of single, but we sort of felt that if we had one shot we’d go really big with ‘New In Town’. To release ‘Stuck On Repeat’ as a tastemaker thing, as a sort of half single, would be a bit of a confusing message to send out.
And the sessions you had booked in were with people like RedOne, Dr Luke…
Yes, and some more time with Greg Kurstin, and some time with Biff. A lot was talked about and didn’t happen, like the Dr Luke sessions for example. At the end of last year people started thinking that what I was doing could be more than a half indie project that didn’t sell any records, so although we had the bulk of the album done by Christmas once my name started getting around more doors started to open.
Was RedOne an example of that?
I don’t know, actually… I don’t know how that session came about.
When you talk about ‘we’ who is ‘we’? Who’s Team Little Boots?
It’s the label, it’s management, and then there’s what’s become known as my Glam Squad, and then Nick who’s been my A&R since Dead Disco.
And that team has to have a common goal, of sorts, to ensure the whole thing doesn’t fall apart – so what was the goal of Little Boots?
I guess it’s success. The team’s goal, I suppose, is to sell records.
At what cost?
What do you mean?
One way that it happens sometimes with large labels or priority acts or whatever is that record sales are achieved through sacrificing an artist’s identity, for example.
I don’t even think that works, you know? Losing someone’s identity isn’t necessarily going to sell more records. But at the same time I know that it’s impossible for me to do everything that I did a year ago – I don’t have time. But it’s still all being done with me very much at the centre, and my label have been quite behind that.
One of the things that’s been quite difficult, I think, as the months have gone by, is that you’ve become a different sort of Little Boots to a succession of different types of fans, which leaves you at a point where the kind of Little Boots fan who thinks ‘Click’ should have been a single might not be able to understand the mentality of going off to LA with RedOne, trying to nail a song which is specifically designed to be a hit record.
Well, it’s not as if I was there sitting down going ‘let’s make a hit’…
But you weren’t working with RedOne in LA to come up with a b-side.
Well no, exactly. It was more a case that we specifically said that that we would put two days aside and make it fucking good. No pressure, then! (Laughs) Then you’ve got everyone knocking on the door going, ‘you’re the sound of 2009, we want to talk to you’. And I’m thinking, ‘what do they mean Sound Of 2009? What a ridiculous statement!’. And I’d just finished ‘Remedy’ at that point and I was a bit scared of it to start with. But my little brother, who’s 15 years old and lives in Blackpool and listens to donk music all day – well, ‘Remedy’ is his favourite song that he and his mates dance to. And when he told me that I was like, ‘brilliant. That’s the point’. Which is amazing!
Part of the reason people are surprised about your pop aspirations is because they didn’t believe you when even a year ago you were saying you wanted to make proper big pop music. And it’s easy not to believe people when they say that, so many indie artists come along and go…
‘I want to be a popstar…!’
Well, yes. They say that and in fact they don’t, and it’s just a buzzword they’ve lerned or been told to use, and they’re actually embarrassed by the idea of being a popstar in the true sense of being a popstar. And so when someone comes along who actually does want to record a song that, say, Rihanna might record, that’s why people are a bit confused as to how to take it.
Exactly. But that’s me! And I think it’s also important, to me at least, that even with a song like ‘Remedy’ which is a big pop moment I’m still in that song – it’s got me in it, and the lyrics are dark and weird. I’m not going to apologise for making a pop song seeing as making pop songs is what I said I wanted to do right at the start. It’s funny, I mean people say that ‘Stuck On Repeat’ is a Number One record, but I’ve never thought that it was.
Well it could be a hit single, but not in its current form.
Exactly, and if I changed it people would think I’d sold out. People also think ‘Meddle’ could be Number One! I don’t think that’s realistic. So a track like ‘Remedy’ comes out of the fact that it was always my ambition to do a song that sounded like those older sort of Little Boots songs, and like it was by the same artist, but which also sounded like it could do quite well. I got this weird sort of backwards pressure – when I questioned ‘Remedy’ in my head just after we made it that was because I was thinking about it from the point of view of all the people going, ‘oh, you’ve sold out’. But that’s one for the Popjustice forums to discuss, I suspect…
Well let’s move on to easier territory: whether you think the success of La Roux’s ‘In For The Kill’ has helped or hindered your career.
Honestly, if she didn’t exist I can’t see things being a million times different. Obviously it’s been useful for the media to have all their (jazz hands) ‘quirky girls’ features but, really, if you removed one of us there’d still be five of us left. If you took La Roux away, or Florence away, or me away, I don’t think that would really kill the story. But we don’t all go down the pub and have a pie and talk about synths together! I don’t call Elly up and go, ‘have you seen the latest PolySynths?’. I think there’s something in the zeitgeist and that there might have been an oversaturation of indie bands but music always does this – it’s what music’s built on – and I’m sure by this time next year we’ll all be, like, ‘oh God please don’t show me another wacky girl with a keyboard’. But I don’t like how people try to make it a rivalry because it’s not a competition, and La Roux has got brilliant songs.
But the charts are a competition, aren’t they? Isn’t that exactly what they are?
Yes, and they’re a good indication of how popular people and their songs are, too. But there’s also the idea that if you like one artist, that precludes you from liking another, which is another thing that pop music and pop fandom is built on. ‘I like this band and for reasons of fan loyalty I do not like their perceived rival’.
I think that’s kind of an old fashioned idea, it’s not like the 80s where you would pick Madonna or Cyndi Lauper and defend them to the death. I think that as long as everyone has good songs and is talented there’s room for everybody. There was room for Madonna and Cyndi Lauper just like last year there was room for Duffy and Adele.
Music is the winner.
It is, really. I know you’re taking the piss but if we’re being honest and not being silly about it, it is.
You must be gutted that La Roux had a Top 3 single before you though.
I’m not gutted at all…
I would be, particularly if the song I was only just releasing now was one I’d had knocking around for literally a year.
It’s not a race! (Pause) What?! Don’t look at me like you don’t believe me. It’s true! I’m not gutted. If you’d be gutted then that says something about you. STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT! The thing is, I might not even get a Top 40 hit. I might sink into oblivion!
But that’s not what you’re actually thinking, is it. You must be thinking you’ll do better than that.
I’ve got no fucking idea and I’m shit scared. Every day and every night.
Shall we move the topic on?
How good out of ten do you think your video is?
(Screams) This is like all my interview nightmares rolled into one! I don’t want to score it out of ten.
How about a grade, then, like an essay, from an A+ to a U.
I don’t want to give it a grade. It’s maybe not what I was expecting.
It is perhaps not representative of what made people fall in love with Little Boots.
Maybe there should be more space and unicorns in it. On the other hand, that might have been a bit ridiculous.
Do you think unicorns, if they existed, would go dogging, like in that scene in your video?
I don’t know, actually. I don’t know about that. I’m not sure if there are enough of them for dogging to be a likelihood. Unicorns are quite virginal aren’t they, so I don’t think they’d be into dogging. Basically – the video. I’m not a professional music video picker person and we went with an idea that worked well with the song, rather than one with ‘Little Boots world’. There were pitches that had me flying through space dressed in a disco ball and it just felt a bit obvious. I don’t know if it was the right decision but I just didn’t want to do something that was a cool, east London art student idea that was all about some clever visual trick.
We’re talking stop motion here aren’t we.
Yes. And there’s a lot of that. I wanted to do something ambitious and I wanted to do something big, so Jake was a good choice for that. I think if we’d had a week to shoot that video it could have been absolutely incredible but we had a day. Maybe it was too American. It felt to me like it went with the song. Whether it works or not is questionable…
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?
I once poked my brother’s eye with a fork.
Little Boots has an official website that you can take a look at.