Soul Purpose: An Interview With Blossoms About Their Christmas Single
Credit: Ewan Ogden (All Photos)
Humble is a word that often comes up when describing the Stockport-based band Blossoms. There is no doubt that their ongoing success over the years will have undoubtedly changed lots of things for the band; whether it’s playing at bigger venues, now having a rider that consists of more than French stubby’s, or recouping the £1 loss they made on their first-ever gig. You only have to watch the band's feature-length documentary Back To Stockport to know that in the midst of their tumultuous rise, most things have stayed the same, whether it’s their love of their hometown, their passion to constantly build on their music and live performances or, most importantly, their down to earth nature.
In anticipation of the band's Christmas double-single release, we headed down to Parr Street Studios, the recording facility where Blossoms have recorded all three of their number one albums to date. We spoke to frontman, Tom Ogden and Drummer, Joe Donovan about how they coped with lockdown, what it was like writing a Christmas song on the hottest day of the year, and the influence of rap and R&B melodies have on their music (who would have guessed?).
Nestled in the backstreets of Liverpool, the iconic recording complex Parr Street Studios is steeped in history and has been home to the likes of The Smiths, New Order, and The Stone Roses. It’s hard when I’m waiting to meet the band to not stare at the countless gold and platinum albums that compete for eye space on the wall, with far too many memorable albums and artists to mention.
The last time I saw the band was the night their third album ‘Foolish Loving Spaces’ went to number one. They played to a sold-out Leeds crowd that knew almost every word to the album, despite it being released just a week before the show. The night feels a million miles away from the new normal we find ourselves in, Tom admitting “I can’t believe that Leeds show was even this year, I feel like it’s unfinished business with the last album”. It was a night that saw the band reap the rewards of their latest album offering, an insanely infection effort that was underpinned by its driving melodies and swaying choruses, instantly loved by fans new and old, whilst cementing their already burgeoning reputation as one of the countries most cherished bands. The newly revised live show saw the band excel all expectation, playing some of their most euphoric shows to date, that captivated gig-goers into a frantic dervish of euphoria.
Reflecting on the tour, Joe says “It’s a tough one because Foolish Loving Spaces was coming off so well live, we felt like we’d nailed the live thing. We were having the most fun we'd ever hadon stage, we’re so gutted we couldn’t have played more shows.”, amid the disappointment, he reverts back to the memory of just how uncertain a time it was, “We knew it wouldn’t be long before the shows had to stop, the last few shows weren’t as enjoyable, it’s all anyone was thinking before and after the show.”
Despite the ensuing uncertainty of lockdown, the band was quick to make the most out of the situation with their ‘In Isolation’ cover videos that featured the likes of Miles Kane and The Coral, the series of covers saw the band perform from the confines of lockdown, putting a much-needed smile on the face of Blossoms fans, employing obscure items like a box of Stella as the drums. Tom recalls, “we weren’t even allowed to meet each other, so we did the isolation videos to keep things going and give something for people to enjoy, the process of recording it was fun.”
Lockdown was the longest the band had been apart in the seven years since their inception, “When you are in a band, you’re in a routine; write, record, tour, repeat. It’s the longest we’ve gone without a show for about seven years, at first everything felt a bit lost.” Tom, quickly shakes off any sense of feeling too negative about the situation, “With that said, it’s been nice to reflect on everything we’ve done; I feel like I never fully reflect, I’m always thinking about the next thing. It forced us to change the way we think.”
The band’s latest endeavor comes in the form of a double A-Side Christmas single, something the band previously held back on but now feel is the right time to do. “I think we held off on a Christmas tune as it can sometimes be associated with selling out, but with all the time we’ve had spare I don’t think anyone can say that now,” says Joe. It’s October when we talk, even then Christmas feels miles away, I can’t imagine how weird it felt when Tom wrote it in the summer, “Basically, I had this song which I wrote on a piano at home called ‘Super You’ and my girlfriend told me it sounded like a Christmas song, so I kept working on it and then over time changed it. Last year I had the idea to do it, it was one of them days where it’s too hot to go outside, so I just went for it.”
Both tracks have been warmly received and are accompanied by a beautifully curated video that the band collaborated with Edwin Burdis on. “I had a Christmas poem book and started picking out little parts for inspiration. The track ‘It’s Going To Be A Cold Winter’ is a sign of the times Christmas tune, if there ever was one, perfectly setting the scene of a dreary winter ahead, one that this year we’ve certainly all been fearing. “I was influenced by Christmas Wrapping, I liked setting myself the task of someone moaning about Christmas… I wrote it on the spot in the studio, not taking itself too seriously. Whereas ‘Soul Purpose’ is a bit more of a classic.”
Asides from the covers on ‘In Isolation’, the tracks will be the band’s first release since lockdown. The sonic synths, catchy vocals, and bouncy riffs have also been so perfectly suited for a live audience, I asked Tom how different the songwriting process has been during the lockdown. “I wouldn’t say the live audience is what drives the songwriting, the initial spark of the song has never come from that. I do think of it when recording in the studio, but not writing. For me, the writing is from a stream of consciousness, but if you force it it’s just overthought.”
This is the mentality of a songwriter and band who have firmly found their feet as a band by not succumbing to the pressure of finding their sound, delivering three number one albums that all explore a range of styles. Joe laughs when looking back at some of the comparisons the band has had over the years, “In the earlier days people used to compare us to Oasis, we like them but sound nothing like them… we’ve always taken pride in working on changing our sound, we’re influenced from everything we hear, even melodies from rap and R&B”. Tom recalls the influence that James Skelley had on the band in their early days “When we started to record stuff with James Skelley he thought we were influenced mainly by acts like The Doors and 13th Floor Elevator. When he asked what our influences were, I think we caught him by surprise when we said people like Oasis, The Smiths, and Arctic Monkeys and he helped us find our sound.”
The talk about the band’s early days feels like a fitting time to touch on the impact the pandemic has had on music, particularly upcoming bands. “It’s such a hard thing” admits Joe, “for a band who’ve just started out. Usually, in life, you have a choice, whereas these people don’t have a choice. It’s so tough though, for bands who would usually get all their money from touring and shows. We’re all in this situation, we’ve got to do as much as we can to help each other out.”
As the chat comes to a close, we touch on what’s ahead for the countries busiest band, with the ongoing uncertainty it’s a tough question to answer, however, Joe emphatically rises to the challenge “I’d take a gig anywhere, honestly if we got an email asking to play at any venue I’d just go for it”. Tom adds, “when it comes back, I think it’ll be better than ever”.
Blossoms ability to simultaneously take strides as a band with their sound and live performance, whilst being so simultaneously down to earth feels revolutionary.
You can get the double A-Side Album HERE.
All Photos are courtesy Ewan Ogden, special Thanks To Callum Walmsley