Little Boots, aka Victoria Hesketh, is an authentic electronic pop proposition.
As a solo artist, she started out by posting YouTube videos of Hot Chip covers she’d made on quirky handheld kit. Soon after, she was spotted by Atlantic Records, who helped turn the budding songwriter into a top five artist.
Victoria already had connections with super-producer Greg Kurstin (Lily Allen) from her time fronting Leeds electro-punk trio Dead Disco, so picked up the thread with him for her debut album Hands (2009).
A whirlwind two years followed, which saw Victoria touring the world, performing live on Later… with Jools Holland and working with some of the biggest name songwriters and producers in the business today.
Her songs have since appeared in teen drama Skins, various Hollywood flicks and a lucrative commercial for Victoria’s Secret.
Parting ways with Atlantic and starting her own label, Victoria has since released an acclaimed second album, Nocturnes.
It was produced by Simian Mobile Disco’s James Ford and DFA’s Tim Goldsworthy.
We caught up with her for our Women & Machines feature to learn more about her musical past, present and future.
What is your earliest memory of electronic music or sound?
Not sure if I can remember the first sound I ever heard! But I remember listening to Blondie with my baby sitter when I was pretty young and doing the dance (badly) for Kylie’s Locomotion in the playground. Also watching early Top of the Pops and recreating the performances in my bedroom mirror.
What first got you into making music?
I started playing piano around aged five. I’d been to ballet classes and proved to be pretty rubbish as I was more interested in the old man that played the piano in the corner for us than pretending to be a butterfly. I went from there and started writing songs in my early teens, learned other instruments and starting messing with electronic stuff, joined various bands as I got older and finally going solo.
I remember you used to post videos of yourself making tunes in your bedroom. How has your relationship with technology changed since the very early days?
It’s pretty similar to be honest, I still like things that are lo-fi and tactile, I like things that feel instantaneous and are often visual, I still struggle to use computer soft synths and recording software I always prefer things I can mess around with in the real world. However I appreciate people who have skills where I don’t and think there’s some amazing opportunities opened up by music technology these days that you can be really creative with.
What was the journey like from bedroom studio to the professional studio and the world of international songwriters?
I still work in my home studio all the time but its good to be versatile and I’m honoured to have worked with so many talented producers and songwriters, you can get cabin fever quickly writing alone so I always like finding people who get me, to bounce off and throw ideas around with. Getting sent around the pop circuit that all new major label artists seem to get sent on can be pretty daunting at first, but these days I usually know within the first five minutes of meeting someone if I’m going to be able to write with them or not.
How have you been able to maintain control of your sound along the way?
It was difficult at first as I was under a lot of pressure and was still fairly naive about the industry, but as I’ve grown up I know when to stand my ground and when to compromise, I think that’s a really important skill in the studio. Knowing you’re not always right, but trusting your gut and pushing something through when you know you are!
How did you cope with all the hype around your first album?
I didn’t really have time to cope I just had to get on with it. Looking back it was kind of a strange time, but music as an industry is all about longevity and that’s was I focus on now.
Why did you decide to turn to analogue for Nocturnes?
It felt like getting back to my roots, that’s where I came from and even though it was very DIY my early videos were really pretty analogue, and some of my earliest tracks that people fell in love with were also produced that way. Also there’s so much scope for digital production these days and everything is auto tuned and beat snapped within an inch of its life, so I think its more challenging to work with analogue gear and bizarrely having a machine that drifts in and out of tune and can be fairly unpredictable can put the human touch back in electronic music.
What was the inspiration behind the album?
There wasn’t really one thing, I suppose constantly touring and DJing and becoming a bit of a night owl gave it the nocturnal theme, just drawing all these different songs I’d been writing over the last few years and the journey I’ve been on and trying to tie all that together was at the heart of it really.
What do you enjoy most about your collaborations?
I used to beat myself up about not being able to write well alone often, but as I’ve become good friends with some incredibly talented writers and producers who have been doing this a lot longer than I have I’ve realised its not a problem in fact its really very normal! You need to have a sound board and people to bounce off, I get excited that I may come up with something I would never come up with on my own.
You DJ regularly – how has the dance floor influenced your music?
It’s definitely given me an awareness of how dance music is structured and how it has evolved, its history and where it came from really fascinated me whilst I was producing the last record. But at the end of the day DJing for me really is just a lot of fun, like going to a party where you get to pick all the tunes.
Are there any female producers or songwriters that have inspired you along the way? If so, how important have they been for you?
It’s very important, it’s still such a shame there are so few female producers as role models that it’s not surprising more girls aren’t entering that side of the industry. I am a huge Kate Bush fan; I love how involved she got with the studio side as well as the performance.
Cathy Dennis is still my number one female pop writer. I’m in awe of her melodies. I think it’s great there are some female producers coming through at last like Maya Jane Cole who is really talented and has such a fresh sound. I just wish there were a few more, apart from Maya I’m still yet to work with a female producer!
How was SXSW this year?
It was kind of stressful as I did this crazy of one woman tech show which I’d never done before, but it’s good to keep challenging yourself and it certainly did. Other than that the only thing I saw that really wowed me was Little Dragon who were amazing live, I heard Sophie was killing it everywhere also but unfortunately missed him but his live show is really unique so I’m not surprised. Other than that I was trying to scout new acts for my label but it feels like most people who play SXSW now are too far on already to find anything truly new.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on my new album which I’m thinking of doing as two EPs, I’ve got about half done so far and am going to LA next month to work on it some more but its really coming together and feels quite different from anything I’ve done before, I feel a lot braver about taking risks!
I’m running my record label and we are preparing our next few artist’s releases as well as doing a radio show. I’ve also been writing for lots of other artists from pop to dance top lines which I’m really enjoying so hopefully some of those will begin to surface soon.