British fivesome Blossoms will release their third album Foolish Loving Spaces this Friday and their first on a U.S. Label. The tight-knit band of friends from Stockport, Greater Manchester— have been playing together since 2014 and touring increasingly the last couple of years. They’ve scored a number 1 album in the UK, been nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize and since toured with their musical heroes Noel Gallagher and Alex Turner. In the U.S., they sold out their tour in 2017, and appeared at Coachella and Lollapalooza last year so they are well poised to further build on their American fanbase with the release of Foolish Loving Spaces. The video for their latest single “The Keeper” was shot in New York.
Known for their big singalong synth-pop choruses and earworm melodies on favorites such as “Charlemagne,” “Honey Sweet” and “There’s A Reason Why (I Never Returned Your Calls),” the band are equally loved for their Northern charm and humor. Get a healthy dose of this with their Blossoms podcast or what they’ve lovingly-termed pubcast—as it’s recorded in the local watering-hole where the band got their name. On it, they poke fun at themselves with segments like “Favorite Youtube Negative Comments” where frontman, Tom Ogden will read then deconstruct biting comments, prompting fits of laughter from the others in the band. While most artists might ignore or get upset at these comments, Blossoms magnanimously give these haters kudos for well-crafted criticisms.
After recording two albums in Liverpool with UK producers James Skelly (The Corral) and Rich Turvey; having their sights on America; and Ogden’s natural inclination to push himself as a songwriter—it was inevitable that they’d consider working with other producers and going further a field to explore a new sound.
We call them in Stockport on the eve of their album’s launch, and find them busy autographing their new album for fans. As the others sign on, Ogden takes some time out to tell us what brought them back to recording in Liverpool and sheds light on some of the American influences on this album. We also talk about the evolution in his songwriting and why they decided to launch their pubcast. And after touring the globe from Japan to China and Mexico, they prove that when it comes to food; you can take the boys out of Stockport but you can’t take Stockport out of the boys!
How did the Talking Heads documentary Stop Making Sense come to influence the songs on Foolish Loving Spaces?
I’ve never got into Talking Heads in depth, just “Once In A Lifetime.” I never got into “This Must Be the Place,” “Burning Down The House” and all them tunes—but last Summer I did and just thought ‘this is great!’ I really enjoyed the vibe and then became obsessed with it. You know when your kind of fall in love with a band? That’s what I did and it just ended up subliminally bleeding into the songwriting. It kind of just happened. I don’t know, it’s like pop-songs but with a kind of weird element to it, isn’t it? It’s hard to put your finger on it. It’s quirky. The percussion and the female backing singers that’s what we took from it. The songs “Your Girlfriend” and “If you Think This Is Real Life” are heavily influenced from it.
You can definitely hear that on “If You Think This Is Real Life” – there’s percussions that sound like the steel drums.
Yes, that’s the vibe, live percussions.
Apart from Stop Making Sense, you also spent the Summer you were writing, listening to The Joshua Tree and Screamadelica. Was it mostly the music that was on the stereo soundtracking what you guys were up to – or were you actually going ‘hey with this song can we capture a vibe from Screamadelica like “Loaded?”
I got Sonos rigged up in my house. So I’d just blast the tunes and I could hear it when I went into any room. I listened to Joshua Tree and I think that bled into the arena-filling chorus like in “The Keeper”—that’s what we had in mind, and for “Falling For Someone.” Once we went to demo it, we were like let’s put some backing singers on it like Screamadelica – you know what I mean? It was a combination of drawing directly from the sound of those records and then a reference to something that I had listened to already growing up.
The front half of the album is filled with these big choruses that you guys do so well and then about 2/3rd s into it, after “Oh No I Think I’m In Love”— which is like a Kylie Minogue-Stock Aitken Waterman song circa 1988 — it suddenly takes on a different mood with “Romance Eh.” The closing track “Like Gravity” is almost downbeat. Was that intentional?
I think “Oh No I Think I’m In Love” is the most pop sound on the album. We demoed 25 songs and were originally going to do 3 small albums because the songs were all different kinds of moods. Then we decided to just do 1 album so we had to pick from the 25 which ones fitted together as an album; so that’s why there’s like you said 2 halves in there. But we also didn’t want them all to have the same mood. When we lined the songs up we just picked it in a way that it flowed right—so that was our thinking behind it.
My favorites are actually “Romance Eh” and “My Vacant Days.”
There’s a maturity to those two songs thematically and in the way that they’re written.
Yes, I felt that going into it. I didn’t want to just write about ‘being in love, being out of love.’ “My Vacant Days” is basically just when you’re at home and observing things, I like that sentiment. And there’s a line about “calling your mother and talking about the weather”—you can’t get more normal than that but I really liked that in a song.
There’s that melancholy of once you get off the high of being on tour. I imagine when you’re on tour sometimes you miss home, then you get home and everyone has moved on with their lives a little, like people are getting married...
That’s exactly right!
What about “Romance Eh” what’s the story behind that?
It was about a friend of ours and his relationship. I had that song title first—often I’ll have the title before I have the song—and I had “Romance Eh” which is such a Northern way of saying ‘we’ve all been there…we know how sad it is…but we all still go there, over and over again.’ That’s just about somebody who thinks they want to break up and then it’s ok again, romance eh, that’s what it’s about. We’ve all been there. It’s a bit like “Blown Rose,” there’s a scouse feel to it, a Liverpool feel to it. And it’s written on a guitar.
So much that is sometimes written about Blossoms is about that battle between guitar band and electronic music but it’s not that straight forward, you guys use a lot of synthesizers too?
I think it’s 50/50 between the guitar and keyboards. When I write a song it’s usually on a stool at the piano, with a guitar. And I go between the two, there’s no real rules.
Can you tell me a bit about the title for “My Swimming Brain” – what does it mean? And I wasn’t really clear with “Sunday Was A Friend of Mine” too.
My swimming brain means your head’s all over the place. You’re doing something, it’s a bit messy – you know when you first get with someone, and you’re holding back a little, because you’ve learnt from past experiences? That’s what the song is about, a new relationship. “Sunday Was A Friend of Mine,” that’s also taken from another failed relationship. When I was not in a relationship or just gone through a break up, Sundays used to make me depressed. So, it was like I used to have you on Sundays but now I don’t, and Sundays makes me feel depressed. That was just taken from past experiences not how I felt at the time I wrote the song, I just channeled it. I already had that title so I just thought I could probably used that line. I was listening to The Strokes when I wrote that.
Oh which song?
“You Only Live Once,” you’ll probably hear a bit of that if you listen to the song again.
Is it harder or easier for you to write personal lyrics? There’s a clarity to a song like “There’s A Reason Why (I didn’t Call You)” and also “Your Girlfriend” which makes me think it must be based on real experiences.
That’s 100 percent true for “There’s A Reason Why” that’s based on my experience with an ex-girlfriend. “Your Girlfriend” is not my experience because that would have meant that I fancied one of my friend’s girlfriend which isn’t the case. I just thought it was a quirky angle on a pop song. Because I had written so many songs about being in love, being out of love and I was like ‘what’s another take on the traditional love songs?’ I was listening to a lot of Talking Heads and they have a song “Girlfriend Is Better” and I wanted to get the word girlfriend into a song so all of them things were in my mind. So I googled “I’m in love with my friend’s girlfriend” and lo and behold there’s a blog where this guy talks about being in love with a friend’s girlfriend. And he talks about “We rent a place and she comes round to stay” and I was like alright that’s going into the song. Me just challenging myself to write differently.
“My Swimming Brain” and “Sunday Was A Friend of Mine” has more shade? Maybe you were writing it but also still protecting yourself so it’s couched with metaphors that you don’t get easily.
There’s a mixture of it all on this album. “My Swimming Brain” is like you said filled with imagery that may not make it as clear. Then you have “The Keeper” that’s totally wearing your heart on your sleeve. On the really positive love songs I always try to put a bit of a spin on it, with a bit of humor. Like “The Keeper” it’s “let’s spend this life as one, until we’re bones,”—until we die, it’s a little bit dark but I quite like that because it’s also romantic.
So this is your third album working with producer James Skelly and Rich Turvey at Parr Street Studios. Did you consider working with any other producer and now that you’ve done this Blossoms trilogy would you consider it in the near future?
We were always open on this album to working with other producers. James Skelly said to us, he thought we should go work with someone else. We almost went to Nashville, but then we weren’t sure who we were working with, and the time schedule was quite tight and it would have cost a lot of money. Then we also got a single out last Summer – we were always going to work on another single with James and Rich, and we did “Your Girlfriend” and it went so well and sounded so different. And we thought we don’t really need to go to Nashville to find this new sound anyway…
Whose idea was it to start a podcast or Pubcast?
I think it was Joel, our drummer, in between Cool Like You and starting on Foolish Loving Spaces, we wanted to still communicate with fans and put stuff out there. We’ve always made a lot of films and tour diaries but pubcast was a way to put stuff out there without actually releasing music. It bridges the gap a bit.
You guys just love hanging out with each other all the time. Did you all brainstorm the format and different segments?
We kind of thought we wanted to give each band member a different segment and we included things that we say to each other like “It’s Not Hard, Is It?” We say that all the time. And we
thought the best way is to put your own humor and experience into things, and people seem to like that. Like “Joe’s Bullshit” he’s always making up stuff and we said you can have a section where we figure out if it’s a lie. It all came about pretty quickly, we made all the jingles for each section in about 5 minutes. It wasn’t over thought.
Who is Grandpa John? Is he someone’s real grandfather?
Yes, Grand-dad John is Charlie’s grand-dad. He’s like Fagin in Oliver Twist but a lot nicer. He’s a funny, funny guy.
Playing all over the world in a band with your mates must have been like a dream come true in the beginning. It’s been about 6 years now, and almost three albums in – how has the experience changed?
I’m more open to trying new foods. (laughter breaks out in the background)
Not just spaghetti Bolognese which I know you love?
Yeah. We still love spaghetti bolognese. (laughter) We’ve tried a few different foods but we’re not too adventurous. Not much has changed to be honest. It’s kind of the way it always was really. We’ve got a few more people around us nowadays who will help us set up the gear so we can go explore a city—that’s the main difference.
You’ve got more help now?
Yeah, we’ve got more help on the road.
And you all have girlfriends?
All of us who have girlfriends, we got our girlfriends during the period where we were really busy so we’ve not known any different. Everyone’s really supportive and they come to all our shows. Sometimes, they’ll come to the festivals. So not much has changed there.
In terms of food, what have you since tried and liked?
Prawns. (laughter) And Tacos. (Someone yells humus) Humus is fucking foul. I’m not into that.
So you’re definitely not adventurous when it comes to new foods?
Not particularly. But I’m not the most fussy in the band. That’s probably Josh. When we went to Mexico, Josh just lived on Oreo’s. (more laughter) There’s a lot of fear of food in the band. And sometimes when we’re away, we will pack Beans in our bags.
Seriously. Ok it’s not too bad. In Europe, it’s not too bad. In Japan, Charlie and that like sushi but I don’t. So in Japan, we’ll go to an Italian. (laughter) But a little bit of ramen is not bad.
Ok on that note, thanks for speaking to us today and I hope you’re almost done with the signatures.
We’ve only got 1,500 more to go. (laughs)