Little Boots Goes Fully Independent on Her Third Album, ‘Working Girl’
"I've come full circle and there's no boundaries or rules I can break," the British singer says
For years, Little Boots has chased total independence. Following a stifling creative relationship with her record label (they wanted the British Lady Gaga, she didn’t), the U.K. singer abandoned her deal with Atlantic Records midway through the making of her second LP, 2013’s Nocturnes. Now, Little Boots controls her own image and output — a perk of forming her own label, On Repeat Records, on which she’ll release her upcoming third album, Working Girl (in conjunction with Dim Mak in North America).
“I kind of got that feeling back like when you first start out,” she says over the phone from London. “I’ve come full circle and there’s no boundaries or rules I can break. It’s quite exciting and liberating.”
Born Victoria Hesketh, Little Boots has released two full length albums, both of which presented boundary-pushing ideas of what modern pop and dance music could be. Hands, released in 2009, preceded the wave of festival-tent EDM that eventually engulfed Top 40; follow-up Nocturnes repurposed fast-paced thumping melodies from electronica’s past, presaging present-day dance’s streak of ’90s-informed nostalgia. Working Girl feels like her most comprehensive self-portrait to date, a series of keyboard-pounding, strobing songs built around a common theme — what it’s like to be a woman in the workforce, as its title suggests — that Hesketh made totally on her own terms.
That’s not to say the freedom wasn’t a bit daunting at first. Fully untethered from a corporate contract for the first time, Little Boots remembers the initial fears that drove her to dig deep on her new album.
“I think I’ve really learned to trust myself,” the 31-year-old says. “It’s a thing that I maybe didn’t do before. When you’re independent you have to really run everything. You can’t decide for other people, you can’t let someone else get on with his job and then blame him if it goes wrong.”
With total autonomy, the singer maintains that her mission remains the same: bridging the gap between accessibility and avant-garde. “I want to make up the most poppy music in the most weird way I can, so I’m just constantly trying to marry these two worlds of pop and rock,” she says. “You’re in this iffy place the minute you start making records thinking about pleasing others. That’s your downfall, that means something’s going wrong.] I’ve really learned to ignore all that outside noise.”
Little Boots does acknowledge, though, that while she’s going it alone now, she didn’t actually create Working Girl by herself. The album sports production from New York synth-wave artist Com Truise and suddenly in-demand Grammy winner Ariel Rechtshaid, their chime-heavy melodies providing billowing support for her controlled, breathy sighs. “I’m not very good at working on my own,” she says with a chuckle. “I need people, I need sounding boards. Go and look up all the best pop songs, all your favorite pop songs. I bet you there’ll be one in one hundred that was written by one person. Very few people absolutely do the whole entire things themselves, because you go crazy. You’ve got no cheerleader, no person who’s going to throw out the rubbish.”
Working Girl is undeniably a dance record — there are synthesizers ripped straight from the Depeche Mode’s finest moments, staggering hooks, C+C floor-filling drum machines, and truncated, stuttering xylophones all throughout its 13 tracks — and Little Boots admits that pulling all of the tracks together to tell a story proved difficult. “It’s all over the place, but it’s just reflective of me as a person,” she says. “I had this idea for a character of the working girl, and a world revolving for her or around her or about her. Sometimes it was me, and sometimes it wasn’t really, and I think maybe that got the songs to hang together production-wise. It’s quite a big job really.”
Achieving that harmony involved slotting in songs from a collection that Little Boots had been sitting on for years, waiting for the right moment to make them public. “My drawer of songs must have about 500 songs in it. Ariel found ‘Better in the Morning’ in there and said, ‘Oh you can’t be left in the drawer. Fix that.’ I had to fight for it to get it to the right place.”
“That’s why someone else is really so important,” she says. “[It’s good that there’s] someone going, ‘No, the idea’s not there.’ So much of what I see as confidence is ingrained — like, [you think] you’re stupid and then someone else is telling you it’s not dumb… It’s important for me to get that validation to give me the confidence to keep going, and keep going independently.”