Little Boots follows her pop instincts
Little Boots is Little Boots because it beats the alternative. “My real name is pretty rubbish,” admits the singer born Victoria Hesketh. But adopting the nickname her friends gave her in honor of her tiny feet wasn’t just about establishing a more musical moniker for Hesketh to perform under. It’s about forging a new identity.
“It’s quite nice that it’s slightly distant from me, because it consumes you so much doing this,” says Hesketh of going by Little Boots. “It’s quite nice to have this name that exists outside of you. It’s like it’s admitting that it’s kind of a group of ideas and a project, rather than just one person. It’s the superhuman version of me. It’s like when I change into my superhero.”
The transformation isn’t only in name. Hesketh gets a superpowered rush from performing, which she describes as “where you just feel like you’re on fire and you’re flying all at the same time.” She’ll make her Boston-area debut at the Sinclair on Sunday, two days ahead of the release of sophomore album “Nocturnes,” a kicky collection of electronic dance-pop that sounds like Ellie Goulding vying for Kylie Minogue’s pop-princess crown.
Little Boots’ origin story extends back to northern England, where her interest in music became clear at an early age. “My mum’s got recordings of me singing when I was, like, 2 years old, and I started playing piano when I was 5,” she says. “I can’t really remember not doing it, so it’s always been something that I’ve just done.”
Flash-forward two decades, past an unsuccessful audition for “Pop Idol” as a teen — “I didn’t really know anything about the music industry or how things worked and where to send a demo to, so it just seemed like a natural thing to do,” she says — and the dissolution of Dead Disco, an up-and-coming band that seemed unenthusiastic about her songs. When Little Boots’ debut, “Hands,” came out in 2009, it went gold in her native United Kingdom and spawned two top 20 singles and a BRIT Awards nomination.
And then Hesketh left her label, leading to an almost four-year gap between albums. To fill it, she released two singles in advance of “Nocturnes.” Well in advance, in fact: “Every Night I Say a Prayer” and “Shake” both predate the new album by a year or more.
But she doesn’t betray any concern that such long lead times would make either the singles or the album obsolete by the time it came out. “There’s no rules anymore. The whole industry’s kind of changed,” says Hesketh. “I always intended for those songs to be on the record. It’s just that I was getting so frustrated with the delay of the album that I really wanted to release something so that I could share with people what I’d been up to and give them some taste of the new sound.”
Ironically, neither of the two singles that heralded that new sound were produced by the man who ended up working on the lion’s share of “Nocturnes.” DFA Records cofounder Tim Goldsworthy (who has recorded bands such as Hercules & Love Affair, Cut Copy, and the Rapture) found himself drawn not to the sounds that Little Boots was trying to capture but to the songs underneath.
“What I find super-refreshing about it is, what she’s trying to achieve is something quite classic, rather than a lot of modern pop music, which is really loud and kind of makes me feel very middle-aged and I can hear my parents’ voices coming out of my mouth, going, ‘Well, that’s just noise,’ ” says Goldsworthy. “It’s nice to work with somebody who appreciates the golden age of pop writing. Which is fantastic to work with. And easy. It makes things a lot easier.”
Pop instincts notwithstanding, Little Boots still maintains a bit of the sonic restlessness that’s part and parcel of making dance music. Of her interest in instruments like the Tenori-on, a hand-held sequencer resembling the hybrid offspring of an iPad and a Lite-Brite, she says, “I like things that are very tactile and are kind of smaller and almost like toys.”
She’s also picked up DJing in the last few years, and while that can have obvious benefits for a musician who wants to know what’s making people dance, Hesketh also sees it as something of a social release valve: “It was my way to get out of the recording bubble.” Even so, it’s a sideline, secondary to her own music.
“The live show is completely me, these are my songs,” she says. “I’m putting it out there, and I hope to reach people who get it and who respond to it. So my live show is much more intense. You give a lot more in a live show, you feel like you give everything. It’s a lot more rewarding. I mean, I really enjoy DJing, but it could never rival doing the live shows to me. That’s always my number one kind of performance, you know?”