[Interview] Blossoms talks Stockport Origins, New Music, and Moog Synths
Eager fans of Blossoms gathered at the Masquerade. I stood anxiously at the door tapping my feet to the infectious hook of "Honey Sweet."
Blossoms is an indie-pop group from Stockport, England. They have experienced massive success in the UK and are gaining traction in the US as they play major festivals like Lollapalooza. I suspect that we will soon consider ourselves lucky to have seen them play an intimate show.
By the time I finished my first beer, the LA-based opening act, Wilderado, had earned another fan. Their heartfelt, folksy style and energetic performance captivated me. I heard sweet melodic verses and cathartic chorus as well as superb vocals from frontman, Max Helmerich.
Blossoms walked on stage with nonchalant poise. They effortlessly began their first track to the gleeful shrieks of the young fans clustering near the front of the stage. During the show, lead singer Tom Ogden dedicated a song to a giggling fan who had recently experienced a break-up. They played songs from their first album like "Honey Sweet" and "Charlemagne" and left fans absolutely thrilled.
One fan commented after the show, "It was everything I hoped for and more!".
I was fortunate to spend some time with Tom Ogden (guitar, vocals), Joe Donovan (drums), and Myles Kellock (synths) of Blossoms talking about their tour, synths, and their origins.
What are your impressions of the US?
Tom: Good, we like it. It’s like weird 'cause we got quite a good following now in the UK and its pretty strange comin’ here. It’s like starting again.
Joe: It's like you do have tours in the UK but you're still at that level, like in that little van that you bought, just like a shit van you get, and now there’s a tour bus and stuff but we’re doing the same venues. We did these venues like three years ago. In the UK now we play like to 3,000 people on average. and then you come over here and it's like 50 people. But it's cool, it's nice, we got a good start here and I do suppose it does bring you back to reality.
Are there any salient differences between UK crowds and US crowds?
Tom: At the moment it’s hard to judge because we’re not at the same level. So in the UK, the crowds were like this, you know kinda quiet, and the odd people are having a bit of a dance and sing, on the whole, it was quite reserved, and people were making up their minds about it, but they’re still interacting and stuff. But now in the UK, when we play to a lot of people, beer goes flying everywhere, jumping on top of each other, it’s like mosh pits and all that kind of stuff. It took a while to get to that level in the UK, so in a way, who knows how it’ll be in a few years. When you get to that level in America, I still think, they’re not as intense as the UK.
At the moment it’s hard to say the difference because we’re at quite a different level. In the early days, it's quite similar to what it's like. Maybe in terms of festivals, Bonnaroo was very similar to a US festival, whereas Coachella wasn’t as much. It was more like celeb-based, and I guess a bit cooler.
Do you think your listenership in the US will end up looking different than in the UK?
Ultimately, probably. On the whole, I think it’s just people who are into the music we’ve been into. Our influences like classic British music, good melody. That’s kinda what we’re into. And like a gang of lads, like a group of mates. That's’ what we are. People have always liked that. Everything from like the Beatles to One Direction.
How long have you guys known each other? You're from the same neighborhood, right?
Joe: Yeah so, were like 12-years-old and we became mates then. And got into music as teenagers together; went to watch Oasis. I had a different band. They used to come to watch my old band, then Joe started a band with Charlie, who’s now in this band. I used to come and watch their band. And it kinda just came from that really. Just knowing friends of friends. Josh, the lead guitarist, Joe used to date his sister. So Josh is the younger brother of Joe’s ex-girlfriend. He was always a bit quirky and could play the guitar. We were like, "Oh he’s cool“ and when his band started doing shows, they did shows with my old band.
Tom: It’s quite a small little town really. And then you knew Myles…
Joe: Myles used to live on my road! We used to go to parties. Myles lived in a flat at the time. We used to go to parties at this flat. So yeah, we’ve known each other for years. Me and Joe the longest, and everyone for a couple years around the Stockport kinda friendship scene. I like that, Stockport friendship scene.
Did it take you long to hone in on your sound or was something you deliberated on?
Joe: Constantly evolving, I think the best bands constantly evolve. If you look at say, Arctic Monkeys, from that first album to that most recent album, it evolved, it's got that natural energy.
Tom: We’re obviously better now than we were when started. Right off, we knew we had something from the other bands we were in.
Myles: We listen to something we did when we were in the band for like 3-4 months. It sounds different to where we are now. But even back then we saw that the way forward was different.
Tom: Yeah, we knew 'cause we’ve been in other bands it did give us that advantage to know this was a bit different and everyone’s parts complemented the songs more and it was just more natural. It never felt forced.
Have you been working on new tracks?
Tom: We started demoing around Christmas time, and I was writing continually last year, and I’m always writing. So what I've been writing, we demoed a bit. And then we went in the studio at the start of May and did two tracks which will be on the second album, then we’re going back in on Wednesday when we get home. Straight into the studio to carry on.
Any timeline for when they next album is coming out?
Tom: Next year sometime, we don't have a date that we’re like regimented by. We need 12 great tracks, and we’ll be ready.
What was it like working with Chase and Status?
Tom: Cool, they’re natural. I’ve never done that before, co-written a song before.
I guess the songwriting process was a tad different.
Tom: They kinda brought this drum beat, it was just more of a time thing. We needed to have the right song, and it was right there. Luckily it started happening. It was a little different I suppose 'cause you have a couple brains in there, quite a lot of ideas. I think it didn’t sound different to us. Sounds quite like us.
Joe: It's more the production things than like the lyrics and everything like that.
What is the new direction for the next album?
Tom: There are no big new ideas, really. It’s an extension of how the latter of the songs sounded on the first album like "Charlemagne" and "Honeysweet." Bite into our synths a bit more. So it’s that fusion of guitars and synths. But in a way, we’re gonna be stripping things back a bit so there’s more room to breathe in a way.
Synths play a huge part in your music, the texture of the synths really comes through in a lot of your songs. What kind of tools or synths do you guys like to use?
Myles: When we first started the band, I just played Hammond organ, pipe organ, and like a Vox concert, like a Doorsy one, know what I mean? And from there we started recording songs in the studio.
Tom: James Skelly, he produced our album, and he substituted the organ sound...
Myles: With like a Moog or something, or like a Prophet. Just a few synths that were lying around. Whatever sounds good, there’s like six synths. You press that and think, oh that sounds good. use that. There’s not one specific thing
Myles: In the early days, we didn’t have access to that. So a song like "Charlemagne," I wrote it on literally a Casio keyboard I had since I was 12-years-old. It had like 100 inbuilt sounds, and one of them was a 12 string guitar but it didn’t sound like a 12 string guitar on this keyboard. So I wrote the riff, and I said to Myles, he could on his midi stuff on his computer he can make synth sounds which we then used live 'cause we couldn’t use that sound of that Casio. And I said, "Can you recreate something like it?" It sounds like steel drums, doesn't it?
Tom: Basically I sent it to Myles and that’s the sound he made in like 10 minutes.
Myles: And if you find something that sounds good, you don’t need to change it all. It's like the difference between analog and digital. Really no one gives a fuck. Ultimately analog does sound better, but if you’ve got if you’ve got a good sound with a digital synth just stick with that.
Tom: And then in the late songs, James Skelly, who produced our album, added a Prophet synth, so say I had the riff to the song, we would just play it and just go through 900 sounds on it, and you keep going and one jumps out at you.
Myles: There was once when we were making like an arp sound, like an arpeggiator. We were all twisting knobs to produce it. And then was like “I’m gonna go out for a cig” and I just walked and tripped over the power.
Joe: We had to go through it all again. It took ages.
What are the major challenges to doing a live set up with your synths
Myles: So you use analog synths in the studio. Say one song has got like three synth patches all from different keyboards. You can’t cant take all them vintage synths on tour with you. So basically you have to do is write down the preset when you come around to do it and literally record each not and put into a sampler.
Joe: And then he’ll have a midi keyboard which then assigns the keyboard he sampled to that. And each song has a different thing. We basically have a guy who’s now a tech for us, who did it for us.
Myles: I had made a rig myself on my old laptop. I used Ableton.
Joe: We used to use Ableton for live, but we don’t use it for live anymore because it’ll cut out.
Myles: I was using printer cables as midi cables. I was sending MIDI down USB. And I just don’t do that anymore. We’ve played live on telly, and I’ve pressed a keyboard and it won’t come out, and I did the whole song and stood there miming. If you’re into something like this, don’t send MIDI down USB.
This is definitely a band to keep an eye on. Their memorable style seems classic already. I'll be looking forward to catching them the next time they come to Atlanta!
Photos by Elyssa Velez for Bullet Music