Conversation: Little Boots

Published at Exclaim.ca

Little Boots

By Anupa Mistry

Victoria Hesketh, aka Little Boots, has dominated best-of lists this year, making Esquire’s “Brilliant Brits 2009” and named an artist to watch by Rolling Stone. But the 25-year-old singer-songwriter who hails from Blackpool, a northern British seaside city, remains unfazed by the hype: “I don’t really think about it,” she insists. Instead of speculating, Hesketh spends downtime from promoting her buoyant pop albums llluminations EP and the soon-to-be-released full-length Hands, creating mixtapes for fans and recording covers of quirky and beloved ’70s and ’80s pop gems.
Dead Disco was the band you were part of until the end of 2008 so you’ve experienced the solo thing and the band thing. Is working solo your preference? And what has each experience taught you?
Yes, definitely it’s my preference. Being in a band teaches you about democracy, and being solo teaches you about being in creative control.

You’ve said that your fondness for writing pop songs is what contributed to your leaving Dead Disco. What’s your definition of pop music?
Good songs that can connect with a lot of people. I don’t think that’s why I left my band, I guess I just think I’m more of a pop writer and it wasn’t really working with the more indie sound.

England has a tradition of producing great pop music. Why do you think that is?
I’m not sure, maybe because there’s such a rich musical history and a good tradition of great songwriters. There’s just that British eccentricity present in a lot of good music, which always gives it a bit of an edge.

Who are some of your inspirations?
I really love David Bowie, Gary Numan and Hot Chip.

Who would you consider your contemporaries?
Again, I like Hot Chip. Girls Aloud ― I don’t know how much they do in Canada but I like them ― and the Sugababes. I’m a big Britney fan too. I don’t know if I would say I’m her contemporary, but I like her!

A wider audience might try to compare you to certain other rising female singers. What sets you apart those musicians?
I don’t know. I don’t try to do anything to set myself apart. I don’t think about the comparisons too much to be honest. I think we’re all really different performers and do really different things ― we’re just grouped together because we’re all young girls. That’s kind of sexist. I think we all have different ideas of what’s exciting as well, so I don’t really think about it to be honest unless I’ve heard someone that I like. But I don’t really make a competition out of it.

I think it’s interesting that you make mixtapes and give them out at your shows. What do you put on them and how did you get into it?
Well the one I made (in August) starts off with a Beach Boys sample and then goes into a remix of “Walking on a Dream” by Empires of the Sun. Then I think it mixes into an old Italo disco track called “Precious Little Diamond” by Fox The Fox. The whole mixtape is about 45 minutes long so it’ll take me a while to tell you ever song, but I got into it when I started DJing. I wanted to make something to give away that reflected the kind of stuff I listened to and where my record comes from.

On the Illuminations EP you cover Freddie Mercury, and there are also some covers ― including Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” ― on your Youtube channel. Is it safe to say you’re a fan of covers?
I just like doing them. I think it helps you break the music down and understand what’s good, and it helps you be a better songwriter. I don’t really play many covers live, it’s more something I like to do at home.

You’re known for using the Tenori-on in your music and shows. Tell us about it.
The Tenori-on is made by Yamaha, and it’s basically a sequencer with lights. It’s got a 16x16 matrix of buttons that light up with you press them. You can build up blocks of layers and sounds with it, like on a computer, except it lights up. I was introduced to it because it was in studio I worked in. The sound is not particularly special, because you can assign any sound to it from a computer, but the fact that it’s so visual, and the physical experience, is so unique from any other instrument. That’s what makes it special.