Little Boots on Running Her Own Label and the Release of Her Album ‘Working Girl’
Victoria Christina Hesketh or Little Boots as she is now known began her path to electronic pop stardom at the age of six as a classically trained pianist. Going solo after fronting multiple groups in college, Little Boots began DJing and writing her own music, a venture which would eventually turn into her insanely popular 2009 debut album “Hands.” following the release of her second record, “Nocturnes” Hesketh made the decision to leave the major label she had signed with to instead head her own label and release her latest album “Working Girl” completely independently. Victoria took the time out of her release day to talk to Entertainment Voice about the new album, what it’s been like running her own record label and everything that goes into her live performances. P.S. It doesn’t involve pressing play on laptop.
You’re a classically trained musician, what attracted you to the electronic music scene and how did you first get into DJing?
It was kind of accidental, I’d always played piano, and when I went to college I became obsessed with boys and all the cool boys were in bands, so I wanted to be in a band. But, I played piano which wasn’t in any of the “cool bands” so I popped into a shop and bought a synthesizer. I really had no idea what it was, I thought it was just a keyboard with weird buttons on it, then I just got hooked by messing around with it. I had a stint with a band, I had a go on my own and got more and more into the electronic stuff as I went. Then, when I started actually getting DJ gigs I began going by the name Little Boots and really fell in love with electronic music even more and it started becoming a big part of what I was doing. Plus I’ve just always loved dance pop and electronic pop, so I guess that where all that comes from (laughs)!
How have you incorporated your classical skills into your current songwriting and production?
I definitely don’t try and over do it, but having that knowledge is great. You can’t break the rules unless you know and learn them first. If you haven’t learned how to play an instrument, how to read and write music, you don’t have those to go back to when you’re writing songs. I mean all a great pop song is something simple but done really, really well, I always try and bear that in mind, and not try and over complicate things too much. You know there’s no need to make something more “fiddly” just for the sake of it! But growing up with that background in mind has definitely made me a better songwriter I think.
Your 2009 debut album “Hands” came out on Atlantic records, but since the release of “Nocturnes” on 2013 you’ve been working under your own independent label, how has that switch affected your music and what are the best and most difficult parts of running your own label?
Its definitely had a huge influence, going from that big major label pop machine to starting my own label and business really. You learn very quickly how to be your own boss and how to run things properly. It’s definitely been much better. I love having creative control, being involved in every step of the process, having a really small team that I trust and like, it has been an amazing experienced. I have learned a lot being with a big label and being under that whole “pop game” management, but it made it so difficult to take any risks! If I had given “Working Girl” to Atlantic they probably would have passed out and dropped me on the spot, I don’t know how they would have taken a fantasy yuppies influenced album, you know?! It has been better for me creatively, it has been a lot of hard work, but it’s so rewarding. I love having the label, being able to release other artists on it, looking for other new artists to help them release, the industry has changed so much. Now you don’t need these major labels, some of the biggest bands out are independent now, it is an exciting time. It’s empowering in a way, the way technology is going you can just make music in your bedroom and put it out there yourself, you don’t need to go to a big label and get studio time and manufacturing and all that kind of stuff. Overall it has been wildly rewarding.
How did the writing and production process for “Working Girl” differ from your previous two albums? Judging from the cover the album is inspired by a yuppie executive aesthetic, is that what you were going for?
That’s definitely the aesthetic more so than the lyrical content, but it is inspired by my own experiences. The themes are universal, success, ambition, pressure and empowerment, there are tracks on there that everyone can relate to. As far as the process it felt different for me because it was written completely independently. So was “Nocturnes,” but still all those songs were written when I was still with my old label and I was writing songs as if I was turning in my homework, hoping to get a good grade. That constant feeling of having to write to please someone else wasn’t present here, which has been so liberating! I don’t think I would have written these songs, sounding the way they do any other way.
You’re starting to take “Working Girl” on the road, how do you approach creating a live visual production around your music? How important are engaging visuals to a live show?
I think for this album it’s more important than ever. “Working Girl” has such a distinct aesthetic and a theme to it that I really wanted to bring that to life in the live shows. I think our new show really tells the story of the album because of the visual element. All of the clips and videos used I put together and made myself, by hunting around the internet for you know 90’s Cover Girl makeup ads and clips from yuppie movies et cetera. So we put all that together and put on some badass bitch pantsuits and get to it!
So many people out there assume that if you’re an electronic artist you pretty much just go on stage and press play, how do you feel knowing that’s the stereotype around this genre?
Well I don’t really bring my piano on stage but I’ve got my synths, my thumper, my voice effects, I’ve got quite a few different things plus I’m singing! So it is a challenge to really do all those things at once and do them well and still out on a great performance. I feel like, I don’t know, some people have told me when you’re on stage you need to just be a performer, sing, look at the audience and hop around, forget about the rest. Believe me I hate those live shows where you love the band and you turn up and it’s like “beep” “beep” them behind the laptop, who wants to watch that?! You’ve got to get that live element across, get the visual side of actually physically playing, and there is a way to do that with a laptop, but it’s difficult.
Your sound is so complex and layered, how difficult is it to translate your sound from the studio to your live performances?
Totally. I’m not really very good at being a forward thinker in the studio – when I’m in there I really just do whatever I want when I’m writing songs, and then it’s like oh shit. I have to play this live! I definitely don’t do myself any favors. But, I have a great band that I work with and they understand what I’m trying to do. We’re actually changed the live show quite a lot with this album, we’re using laptops and all, but it feels somehow even more live now. It’s more exciting because we’re free to use more modular synthesizers, more analog, more hardware and actual stuff to play with on stage. But with electronic music, you can be like LCD Soundsystem or Hot Chip who play absolutely everything live, I really just think that the crowd wants an exciting audio and visual performance. They aren’t going to be there like “oh I don’t remember that thing being on the backing track” they just want to have a great time! It’s a really fun challenge to try and get the song to sound like it does on the album but unique in it’s own right. Because if it is going to just sound exactly like it does on the record, you might as well just go on stage and press play and walk off.
Little Boots new album “Working Girl” is available on iTunes now.