Going solo could have been the smartest move made thus far by Victoria Hesketh. Better known by her stage name Little Boots, this electronic pop princess took home the coveted title of BBC’s Sound of 2009 earlier this year – beating White Lies, Empire of the Sun, Lady Gaga and other hopefuls. Armed with synths, a Tenori-on and a sexyily innocent voice, she’s out to prove that pop music can be more than just the fluff that your little sister listens to. And with her recently released debut album Hands, she’s doing it one catchy chorus at the time…
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How did you get the name Little Boots?
The name Little Boots comes from the Roman emperor Caligula which is Latin for Little Boots. My friend saw the film and started calling it me so it’s an old nickname really that just suited me and I just stole it. But he was this really crazy emperor, he like made his horse a member of the government and so I just liked the history of the story as well.
How were you discovered?
I guess I’ve been playing music my whole life but I was in a band previously to this – an indie band that was signed to an indie label and when I left the band then after doing some demos and stuff, the label just decided to keep me on. And at the same time the label merged with a bigger label which was Atlantic, which is who I’m signed to now. So both things happened around the same time, we both kind of grew together and I wanted to do something more commercial and they joined with a bigger label as well. They kept me on and supported me the whole way through, even when I didn’t know where to go with it or what to do. So they just stuck with me and it all seems to have fallen into place now really.
Is 2009 the year of the female solo artist?
There’s obviously a lot of female artists out this year, but I don’t particularly think that they have all that much in common or that it’s some kind of movement or anything like that. I mean, there’s been strong female artists for the last few years… everyone like Lily Allen to Adele. There’s been a lot of strong British artists and when people say there’s been some kind of movement, it’s frustrating because a lot of the artists like me, Florence and the Machine and Ladyhawke are all really very different but just the fact that we’re all girls and maybe do things a bit differently or on our own terms seems to make people think there’s some movement going on. Where as if you have like a bunch of guys who all play the guitar you wouldn’t dream of saying there was a movement so that’s kind of a little bit frustrating. But I can understand people want to make parallels and stuff. And generally it’s great that there are a lot of strong female artists and the phase of faceless shallow girl popstars seems to be passing. I think it’s ultimately a good thing because people who play their own instruments, write their own songs and have their own ideas are much better role models and just more interesting really.
Who are your biggest influences?
I’ve got a lot of different musical influences, I guess because I’ve played since I was so young and I’ve trained classically and done Jazz and been in all these different kinds of bands. But I guess the people that inspire me the most are acts like Kate Bush, David Bowie and Elton John … they’re like great popstars but they’re also great characters. They’re just very imaginative and they’re like a whole little world of an artist so it’s not just like a person or a voice, it’s this whole little universe that you can get led into. I really love how much character there is in those records and how much of a sense you can get of them and their ideas. That’s the kind of thing that really inspires me, great songwriting like Brian Wilson, the Beatles and the Bee Gees, just really good, classic, great choruses and songwriting. It’s something that I always aim for, but then, I guess Sonic Youth because I’m really into synthesisers and I’ve been listening to a lot of Italo disco and that European late 70s sounds as well. And I guess lyrically I just get inspired by everything around me. I find it quite hard to fake it but I don’t really, I try not to do things too – I quite like working from little concepts with lyrics so I’ll get like a little idea or a word or a phrase and then just work from the centre outwards and just expand it onto as many levels as I can. But I just get inspired by everything around me and travelling around and being in London, Blackpool and Hollywood and all these places – they’re all so different and just kind of take all that in really.
How did you start making music?
I started making music when I was about 4, I started playing piano and trained classically through all my youth. And then when I was a teenager I started playing in bands more and I got into quite a lot of Jazz and started playing in hotel lobbies and piano bars and stuff like that, kind of singing for my supper. But I was in a lot of punk bands and prog bands and all sorts of different bands as well and then when I was about 17 I got my first synthesiser and that’s when I first started getting into synths. That obsession’s grown and grown with me and then it all just kind of led to now really.
How important is the DIY aspect of your music?
Well the YouTube covers started out as a joke between me and my friend. I’ve always been interested in covers because I think that when you cover a song, you break it down and see how it works and it helps you ultimately as a songwriter. But I started filming them just as this joke with my friend and then we got a really big reaction so I just kept doing them. I like the idea that they’re just so raw, I never practice them and they’re full of mistakes and I’m just in my pyjamas in my room … it’s just so frustrating that I have less time to do it now. I guess the thing with being DIY is really important to me because I have all my own ideas and I want to make sure that things happen the way I want them to. But I think DIY doesn’t for me at all mean you’ve got to do it all lo-fi, it’s kind of the opposite, it’s like there’s no reason you can’t have big ideas just because you’re doing it yourself. So I always try and be ambitious and do things as big scale as possible or as epic as possible – like I’d rather try and do something epic and fail then just do somethingÂ lo-fi and so, it’s the idea of being DIY but not being lo-fi really is central to it.
What can we expect from the album?
The album is nearly finished so I’m getting more of an idea of it now. I think it’s going to be quite a pop album which to me is a good thing but quite varied as well because I don’t really think about genres so when I’m writing I just go with the character of the song and where it wants to go … I wouldn’t really want to make just a dance album or just a pop album. It’s got to be a lot more colourful then that for me, kind of like those early Madonna records that are like so many different ideas and types of song but they all somehow tie together from her character and her ideas.
What isÂ a Tenori-on?
The Tenori-on is a sequencer that was made by Yamaha, it was invented by a guy from Japan. It’s basically a grid of lights 16 by 16 which are buttons and so every time you press a button it makes a sound and it works on a loop … I really like it because it’s such a visual interface – we use it a lot on the live show or I use it for little acoustics or videos I make. It’s just really great because you can connect the sound that you’re hearing with the lights that you’re seeing. So it’s just this real visual connection which I think for live is so important, especially for electronic music which can be quite faceless sometimes and people think it comes straight out of a computer. I think for live I just really want to get across that electronic music is just as exciting as seeing someone playing a guitar solo so it’s a really great thing to do that with.