Stockport’s finest exports tell us all about their banger-packed second album.
It’s the 13th of February and a calming scroll of “indie” Twitter suddenly gets a shock when a tweet pops up from Blossoms frontman Tom Ogden reading: “Hello my backstabbing former bandmate @JoeDonovan92 I never said littlest man in indie i said biggest dickhead in indie.” This is quickly followed by Joe’s retort: “Fuck off Billy Bigtime. It’s wasn’t me who asked his mum to buy him a special leather glove to eat pasties with after he burnt his thumb on a @GreggsOfficial steak bake. Gimp.” and for a moment the future of the English synth-rock quintet is a mystery.
As it all turns out, there is nothing to fear and this is, in fact, all an elaborate stunt leading up to the release of Blossoms’ sophomore record Cool Like You. Erasing any pasty related insults as soon as it dropped earlier this year, the album shimmers with 80s influences and the kind of instantly catchy lyrics that make Blossoms – made up of Tom, Joe, Charlie Salt, Josh Dewhurst and Miles Kellock – such an endearing and beloved band.
Sitting down with Tom and Joe, we chat all about their brand new record, get the inside scoop on the relationships that inspired it, discuss fan proposals at gigs and find out just how many people actually fell for that steak bake dig…
Your self-titled debut came out in 2016, what’s life been like since then?
Joe: A lot of touring. We took it round the world. Nothing that exciting… well it’s been very exciting, just intense! Until we had a bit of time off recently, we didn’t really have time to reflect on it.
Tom: We played the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, toured the world, and then I wrote a second album in-between!
When did you start working on the new record?
T: Before the first album had even come out. But it wasn’t in our heads like “oh, we’re writing for a second album,” it was just writing for the future. We finished the first album in January 2016 and it came out in August 2016 and I just kept writing straight after we finished the first one. So the opening track of the first album, “There’s A Reason Why (I Never Returned Your Calls)”, was written in January 2016, so I kind of just built songs up in-between tours.
So thematically, is it fairly similar to your first?
T: The first one was like three and a half years worth of songs and us evolving as a band, so we had like the evolution of a song called “Blow”, which is more guitar-y, and then we had “Charlemagne”, which is more poppy and what we’ve become known for and what we evolved into naturally through finding out keyboard sounds. I was writing more on the keyboard and then we kind of just went down that avenue, invested more in synths and tried something to get you in a different zone and to make the album tie together as one. That’s why it sounds like it’s from the same world because it kinda was in a way. It seems more of an album than the first one, if you know what I mean?
And what would you say the new record is about?
J: Tom’s love life.
T: I usually always write about my relationships. It’s kind of an album of two halves lyrically because I continued writing after the first album so I was still writing about my break-up and what I was writing about in songs like “Honey Sweet”. There’s some songs about that, and then there’s some songs about the break-up but not necessarily what I was feeling at that time. I took inspiration from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, one of my favourite films.
How did that work?
T: Well I was watching the film and some things they were saying I was like “oh, that would make a good lyric.” So certain lyrics in “I Can’t Stand It” are influenced by the film and I thought it was another angle on heartbreak, trying to physically erase someone from your brain. But at the time I wrote it, I wasn’t heartbroken, but I can channel into that stuff.
Does it not bring up any bad memories going into those times?
J: I suppose it’s different because we’re playing it to a crowd of people who are singing it and loving it. You think about it as a gig rather than how you feel at the time. You always joke and turn to me…
T: Yeah, when we play “My Favourite Room” I always turn to Joe and pretend I’m crying and dead upset. But they take a life of their own and the personal meaning for me is gone.
J: I suppose it’s turning something dead negative into something positive, which is the best thing you can do in a break up. When I think about my past break-ups I’m like that was fucking shit, whereas Tom goes “that was fucking shit, but I got a mint album out of it.”
T: And the other half of the new album is lyrically about my new relationship and all the positives from that. But I find it harder to write lyrics about being happy. It’s harder to write “I love you” and “I think you’re great” without it being cringey.
How do you tackle that then?
T: You’ve just got to make it a bit clever. There’s a song on this album called “Love Talk” and the lyric is “you gave me that love talk, it only made me feel worse.” That’s a positive song!
J: Doesn’t sound like it, does it?
T: It’s a long distance love song that one. Like when you’re talking to someone and you’re like “ah, I miss you.” But yeah, you kind of have to think about it a bit more whereas when you’re sad you can kind of just say “there’s a reason why I never return your calls” but you can’t have a song called “I think you’re great”, that’s a shit song title isn’t it? There’s a song called “Between The Eyes” which I think lyrically is the best song on the album which says “you crept into my heart, there must have been a side door left unlocked” which is another way of saying “oh fucking hell, wasn’t expecting to start seeing you.” I’ve tried to glamorise it.
How are you feeling now it’s out?
T: Absolutely buzzing mate. We finished it last summer so it feels like we’ve been living with these songs for a while now and we’ve not been able to play it live. We supported Noel Gallagher and we started playing a couple to get into it.
J: I think it’s a weird feeling. Because it’s our second album and playing new tunes to such a big volume of people, because obviously when you release your first album you’re building up your crowds, whereas playing a new album we don’t really know how they’re going to react. We’ve got some songs on the new album that we’re not going to play live at first, but then we’re like “what if they do really well and loads of people start talking about them?” I can’t explain it, it’s gonna be weird.
T: A lot of people have said it’s bangers from start to finish, which is what we think. That’s what we aim to do.
What’s the reception been like so far?
T: Everyone loves it! You’re always going to have the odd person that doesn’t like you but no one likes everyone do they? I think with your first album you have a lot more critics because you’re coming from nothing so more people are like “I don’t like them” whereas now if people have already made their mind up. People who are talking about it now and giving you attention, nine times out of 10 it’s because they like you. People who’ve said they don’t like you have already said it.
Yeah, if they didn’t like the first one they probably won’t like the second. Or maybe they will? Would you say it’s massively different?
T: Not massively, but it’s definitely an extension and an evolution. It sounds more mature and more upbeat, which will be great live. No one goes massively different on the second album and I don’t think you should really. You’ve got to cement a bit of stability.
J: We released the first one like a year and a half ago, so we’ve only had a year! To evolve it takes a bit longer.
T: We’ve evolved from when we started the band like five years ago. Our early songs, people used to say sounded more psychedelic.
J: That’s just because we were skint and couldn’t afford good keyboards. We had this organ and even when you played huge pop records on it, they still sounded psychedelic.
T: When we started recording more and more with James Skelly from The Coral, he introduced us to this world of these 80s sounding synths. It sounds more modern too, we didn’t want to sound like throwaway old, you wanna sound current.
J: At the moment we’re just doing what we feel happy with. We’ve never really concentrated on what other people are doing, we’ve just done what we wanna do. Even with this record, we never had the label being like “this has to be done at this date etc.” We were just like “we’re going in, Tom’s written some tunes, it’ll be done when it’s done.” It’s dead chilled and dead relaxed.
Did you lose that chill when you were nominated for the Mercury Prize? Was there any pressure after that?
T: Well we found out we were nominated in July…
J: You messaged everyone didn’t you?
T: Some people didn’t even reply! I knew it was a big thing, it’s a prestigious one.
J: Everyone was buzzing, but we never had it in our heads so it wasn’t a goal, whereas Glastonbury and the Pyramid Stage was. It was more just like “fuck, that’s brilliant.” It happened and it was great but if it doesn’t happen again, we’re not gonna sit here and cry about it.
T: Once we got nominated, I felt no pressure in songwriting. Those people who nominated liked us!
J: Next year they might all fucking hate us.
T: You’ve just got to be true to yourself, that’s what we think. I just like writing melodic pop tunes.
What are you hoping for people to take away from the new record?
J: That it’s fucking mint.
T: I just want people to take it into their life and love it the way I’ve loved the albums I’ve grown up listening to and inspire them to start bands, or if they’re feeling shit about something think that it’ll be alright, do what songs are meant to do and let you escape from shit you’re worrying about or make you think about stuff.
J: I love looking back on when certain albums came out and remembering that time around it. My favourite album, you don’t really keep it to yourself do you? I’m one of them annoying people who’s like “oh, you should listen to this album” and I love when people love it and everyone’s just buzzing off it. You want it to create loads of good memories with your mates.
T: Soundtrack peoples lives.
J: It’s more than just music then. Even when you hear stories of fans who met at our gigs and now they’re really close mates.
T: There’s this couple who met at a gig of ours and then got tickets to see us at Liverpool and they broke up because they went to two different unis, but it was never a messy break up, then they came to the gig six months later. Then when we played “Honey Sweet” they said it sparked something again that they’d lost and then he proposed to her at Glastonbury and now they’re getting married!
J: I love stuff like that! That’s what I want people to think about when they think about our album. There’s loads of bands that can make great albums but it’s stories like that which make it a bit different. That’s my favourite thing I think. Someone did that “What Blossoms mean to you” thing…
T: Yeah, they made a little book and got fans around the world to write in it and send it to us.
So, how many fans did you freak out when you did your little PR stunt?
T: Shit. Loads.
J: Yeah, that was the backlash. Me and Tom were texting each other and maybe it’s like that Northern thing of taking the piss? We thought it was funny and knew that it would never happen, but on the opposite side we were like shit, okay we need to make sure people don’t think this is serious. So that’s when I did the tweet about Greggs.
T: We never wanted to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes…
So you didn’t have anyone crying down the hotline you set up?
J: I think we did actually!
T: Like 2000 people rung it, but they must have known it was a laugh by then! We’d already made that documentary at this point and we knew we had it ready to go and it was funny and something different. We thought to generate more buzz we might as well have this fake argument.
J: We always wanted to do something like that to lead up to it.
T: Yeah, I’m really into making films. We filmed it and I edited it, which is why we think it works because it was totally our idea.
J: It worked well! It was a bit more fun than deleting everything on social media… It was just funny, we enjoyed it!
Finally, what’s happening next for Blossoms?
T: Festivals! We’ve got TRNSMT and Isle of Wight. We’re headlining a small festival which is the first one we’ve ever headlined. We’re not doing shitloads, but probably eight or nine… Well, that’s still quite a lot.
J: Year before we did 43!
T: We’re doing Europe and then we want to go back to America and then another UK tour! And then keep writing songs for what will be the third album!