This understated and unusually pure approach to songwriting is paying off prettily for the petite Brit electro-popper who, before her debut album was even released last year, was critically cleaning up. Little Boots (Victoria Hesketh to her mates) topped the BBC Sound of 2009 Poll, received a BRIT Critics Choice nomination, and was tipped as an “Artist to Watch” by Rolling Stone. Given all this, it was no surprise when her full-length bow, Hands, hit No. 5 on the U.K. charts when it was released over there last June. With the album getting an American release earlier this month, Little Boots is in the midst of her first full U.S. tour (she took a 5-stop stateside jaunt last fall), which arrives at Pomona’s Glass House on Friday.
Though success in America is a Holy Grail to many Brit musicians, Little Boots (so-named for her dainty feet) takes it—and apparently everything else—in her stride. “I’m not trying to see it as ‘breaking America’ . . . I’m just going to do some shows and have some fun really. I’m quite relaxed about the whole thing, but it is exciting. It’s very, very different [in the U.S.] . . . obviously it’s a smaller fanbase at the minute, but the fans are really, really dedicated and enthusiastic, which is nice.”
Yet Little Boots’ take-it-as-it-comes manner belies a quietly steely integrity and earnest work ethic. She was doing quite nicely fronting hotly-tipped electro-indie outfit Dead Disco when she walked away, mid-album, simply because the songs in her head didn’t suit the band’s sound. And though solo glory wasn’t necessarily at the top of her agenda, it came quickly: she only left Dead Disco in August 2007 and by the following year was recording Hands in Los Angeles with former DD producer Greg Kurstin.
Little Boots’ rapid rise—she’s still only 25—was in part propelled by her posting numerous bedroom recordings of her performing cover tunes (everything from Wham! and The Human League to Girls Aloud and Miley Cyrus) on YouTube and MySpace, which soon became little viral sensations. “It really was an accident, honestly,” she explains, with a whiff of exasperation. “It was a joke that me and my friend did one night when we were bored . . . We just did it to be stupid, literally. It wasn’t designed at all . . . I think you can see it’s really genuine—a record label couldn’t mastermind that.”
However casually intended, Little Boots’ YouTube vids certainly show that she’s a deft pianist (playing since age 5) and vocalist (a veteran of jazz orchestras and trios), who charmingly sings in her native northeastern English accent. Her own creations on Hands fuse her love of early ’80s synth pioneers like Depeche Mode and Gary Numan; semi-detached/dreamy Kate Bush-like vocals; and rave-ready, tooth-loosening beats ‘n’ bass. Throughout, there’s that glossy, pure-pop sensibility that seems to be a permanent fixture on the British charts—Little Boots really could be Kylie Minogue gone all credible.
Having played a whirlwind of major festivals last summer (33 in all, including the U.K.’s Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds; Japan’s Summersonic; and Roskilde in Denmark), Little Boots should be utterly at home during her Coachella slot next month. But first there are club and theater dates to tackle.
“I like the intimacy of club shows and there are certain things that you can do at your own show that you can’t do at festivals,” she concludes. “We have a live band and, depending on how much money we have and how big of a show it is, we have loads of lasers—so that’s really cool.”
That “cool” light show is perhaps as close as Little Boots ever comes to being even remotely pretentious—which just might be what’s lifted her above and beyond the over-saturated electro-pop landscape.
Little Boots w/Dragonette, Class Actress at The Glass House, 200 W. Second St., Pomona, (909) 865-3802; www.theglasshouse.us, www.myspace.com/littleboots. Fri, March 12. Doors 7PM. $15.