The UK’s favourite synth-pop princess Little Boots on Jamie Cullum, Phil Oakey and “that horrible little child off X-Factor.”
For anyone who has been living under a rock for the last year, a quick skip through the Little Boots phenomenon so far… Classically trained pianist Victoria Hesketh grew up in Blackpool. The 25-year-old cut her teeth singing jazz at wedding receptions, jamming in a punk band that only covered Blink-182 songs, plucking a harp in a prog-rock outfit and, dressed as a Blues Brother, performing “Gimme Some Lovin’” to Belgian tourists. Early flirtations with fame include a failed bid for Pop Idol at the age of 16 – “I sang Nina Simone’s “Birds Flying High” to a producer in a hotel room, he said no, I cried and went home”; and as a former member of the almost-ran indie band Dead Disco. Her best friend started calling her Little Boots after seeing the film Caligula – the Roman Emperor’s name is Latin for Little Boots; “I guess because I’m pretty small and wear boots a lot!” In February 2008 she started appearing on YouTube – sat in pyjamas on her bed with a keyboard – doing cover versions of everything from Girls Aloud to Joni Mitchell. Within a year she’d appeared on Later… With Jools Holland, signed to EMI, topped the BBC’s Sound of 2009 poll and, most recently, narrowly missed out on the Critics’ Choice Award at the BRITs. With her debut album due out this summer, it’s odds-on that the best is yet to come…
Describe your music in five words?
Electronic. Melodic. Escapist. Kinda Disturbing. Futuristic. Is that five?
What was the first record you bought?
Take That was the first album I bought out of my own pocket. Pretty good. I don’t have it anymore. It was on cassette. The first record I was bought was Kylie Minogue Locomotion.
What was the best Blackpool nightclub from your teen years?
There were only two vaguely alternative clubs. One was a goth club, which I didn’t go to. The other was kind of indie. It was called Jokes and I loved it. I used to go every bloody weekend. They used to play Stevie Wonder and Led Zeppelin and stuff like that. I bet I’d still love it now.
What’s your favourite YouTube cover you’ve done?
I really like the one of Wiley’s “Wearin’ My Rolex.” It was a challenge from a friend who didn’t think I’d do it. It’s really funny, I sing it wrong because I thought it was ‘babble’ not ‘bubble’ – it makes me sound southern. I had a bad cold that day anyway. I started doing them as a joke but people just started emailing requests and it snowballed. I’d like to do one of “Bizarre Love Triangle” by Depeche Mode. Is it Depeche Mode? No, New Order. I might do that next when I have time.
Worst gig to date?
As Little Boots? One I did in Newcastle – nobody turned up. I guess doing things like The Blues Brothers in a Belgian theme park is pretty up there. But that was character building. It was a 30-piece big band and we’d do a medley – everyone wearing shades. I had some very embarrassing dance moves… I hope there isn’t any video evidence out there! But if you can get up in front of a bunch of tourists in a stupid outfit and do that, then you can get up in front of anybody.
What was your thesis on Jamie Cullum all about?
I didn’t write a whole thesis on him. I mentioned him in it. It was to do with how he covers someone like Radiohead in what’s supposed to be a jazz style. Jazz is supposed to be about improvisation and spontaneity… he just comodifies those elements and turns it into this packaged version of jazz. That was my point really.
Which artist would you most like to collaborate with?
Phil Oakey from The Human League. I’m a massive fan – they’re great. Their record Dare is just brilliant.
Singer you’d most like to hit?
That’s a bitchy one… Eoghan Quigg, that horrible little child off X-Factor. He’s like a man-boy with a baby-face grafted on. But I wouldn’t want to actually physically hurt him because his big stupid squidgy face would look at me and I’d feel bad. But I’d like to stop him singing.
Without music where would you be?
Gardening. I’ve got a garden in London now! I’m not really into flowers. I love growing vegetables. I like the whole process from seed to edible produce. It’s like you grow this thing and it becomes a part of you.
If you could teach the world to sing… which song would it be?
“Mirrorman” by The Human League. That’s my answer today… it’ll change tomorrow.
Photography: Jon Bergman
Words: Will Alderwick
A full version of this article first appeared in Wonderland #18, Apr/May 2009