Interview: Little Boots on creative control, staying ahead of the pop curve, and breaking into Daft Punk’s ‘boys club’

For the club-goer, the worlds of nightlife and business have always been at odds. You work all day, play at night, then face the harsh realities of your decision-making early the next morning. The sounds of the alarm clock, the brutish a.m. commute, and the various office-land noises are a far cry from the heavenly beat and dance floor bustle that lifted you up a mere few hours earlier. Rinse, cycle, repeat — until for many, the responsibility of the day time wins out.

Little Boots, the longtime electronic-pop project of songwriter, DJ, and On Repeat Records owner Victoria Hesketh, has this month merged those two worlds. In her third album Working Girl, out a few weeks ago, themes of business, hustle, and making it out on your own are intertwined with classic house and UK garage beats, straddling the line of underground dance and the increasingly mainstream sounds of alt-pop. The British-born Hesketh has always been ahead of the game when it came to her sophisticated brand of pop music; her late-2000s singles “Stuck On Repeat”, “New In Town”, and “Remedy” helped pave the way for today’s highly visible stars like Tove Lo and Charli XCX.

In many ways, there’s a consistent narrative in Hasketh helping pull these sounds from the nightclubs, establish them in the mainstream over the past few years, and the immediate need to be business-savvy about it in 2015. As word of Working Girl started to trickle out a few months ago, Hasketh said: “The album’s inspired by my journey from the beginning to the present, where I am essentially CEO of my own business and run an independent label. It’s also fun and empowering to turn the traditional associations of ‘working girl’ on their head.”

Empowerment is at the forefront of Working Girl, with songs like “Get Things Done,” “Business Pleasure,” and “Heroine” establishing that Hasketh is in full control of her music and place in the world. With Little Boots playing Great Scott in Allston tonight, we caught up with the renaissance woman by phone in London a few weeks ago to discuss the new LP, how her DJing helps shape her songwriting approach, and potentially breaking into Daft Punk’s “boys club.”

Michael Marotta: Congratulations on the release of Working Girl, we’re very excited to have a new Little Boots record. There’s a consistent ideology behind it; would you consider this a concept album?

Victoria Hesketh: I don’t, it’s not a concept album that has a real narrative to it, but it definity has a theme and maybe a character, definitely. Once I put the idea in my head of this working girl’s kind of world, I wrote within and around that. Some of it’s me and some of it’s character, some of it is just a set of ideas. It’s kind of a loose concept. but people seem to really connect to it, which is really cool.

Where did this whole theme come from?

I think it’s mostly inspired by my own journey of the last few years. At least in the UK, having early chart success and being very much in the pop major world, and to going full circle to becoming independent and starting my own label, releasing other artist’s music as well as my own. And just really taking back full control and learning how to be a business woman as well as an artist — it’s been a huge learning curve and a real journey.

And I didn’t really think that was something I could use as inspiration to write about, I didn’t think anyone would relate to it. But once I actually started doing it, you realize all these things about believing in yourself and — I dunno, certain things about it are relatable to everybody, in all situations. It’s quite an exciting time for women, there seems to be a lot of cool girls that are doing interesting things where ever I look, whether it’s music or comedy… there are exciting, strong female figures doing things and not playing by the rules and not doing things stereotypically. It’s an exciting time for the creative woman.

Do you feel like the pop world has caught up to your sound? Pop music in the mainstream has really evolved to a point that’s very similar to your work in the late-2000s. Have you taken any notice of that?

Its funny, I didn’t really. But somebody else just said that to me in an interview that I was ahead of things — or even too early, almost.

Yeah, you totally were.

I never really thought about it like that, that I was kind of ahead of the curve. So I guess I’m just plugged-in. I DJ, so I’m always looking for new DJ music, I’m always looking for new artists for my label. So I guess I’m plugged in and I guess that reflects what I’m producing on my own. And I’m involved in a scene that gets things quite early and then those things go on to blow up.

I guess on the last record [2013’s Nocturnes] I was making house songs and referencing all these Chicago house scenes, and now someone like Disclosure has come out and that sound is massive. So it’s like “oh yeah I was doing that ages ago” [laughs]. But you know, whatever. You just gotta be inspired by what’s around you and how you feel. You can’t start thinking about “Is this ahead or late?” — you just got to be in the moment, I guess.

How has being a DJ impacted your songwriting and production?

It’s definitely influences the production. Maybe not the songwriting so much, though I guess structurally DJing and things about dance music have taught me how those songs are structured and why they build up and how it works and how to engineer that. And how you engineer the crowd and build the song up from basic blocks. I’ve definitely learned a lot but I think I have a place in between dance and pop so I don’t want my record to be too much of a dance record… it just comes from me trying to walk that line between two worlds. And take things from both sides.

When researching for this interview, I noticed that it’s been six years since Hands came out, which is crazy. Can you believe that?

[laughs] I can’t believe I’m still doing this!

Is there any pressure as a songwriter to live up to “Remedy” or “Stuck on Repeat” or any past success?

Well you never want to repeat yourself. You don’t want to copy your own song or repeat what you’ve already done. You pretty much guarantee it’s not gonna work. I think you’re always looking to evolve, and to make something new. And you can’t look back. You never know what’s around the corner and you never know what is going to stick or what will be thrown at you. Even six years ago, the music scene is in a completely different place, I mean, the way records are being sold and how radio [operates], it’s almost unrecognizable, everything is changing always, and I think you have to focus on what you are making in the moment and you always want to make something new.

I’m just proud that it’s been six years and I’m on my third album. I’m grateful of my fans that have enabled me to be a musician and still make music in such a tough industry. Some artists are flash-in-the-pans, or they have a single and then nothing, or they get one album and that’s it. To be still here, running a label — very grateful.

And you’re about to bring the new music to North America, which is a treat for us.

Yeah, I toured the States early on, and have been between the UK and US quite a bit. The whole show is quite a different show, so I’m happy to get out there and try it out. Before, we had a fairly straight forward electronic band set up, and this time it’s got the Working Girl influence trying to make it more immersive. I’m looking forward to trying this out.

OK, last question: If you can collaborate with anyone in next couple of years, who would be?

It’s one of those questions that you always think of amazing answers when you’re not being interviewed. I tell you what, this would be a dream, but to collaborate with Daft Punk, I’m pretty sure I don’t think there are any female vocalists on any of their albums. Or of they are it’s so affected that it doesn’t sound like them, so: Daft Punk. Why are they a boys club? They should let the girls in.

LITTLE BOOTS + PRINZE GEORGE :: Friday, July 24 at Great Scott, 1222 Commonwealth Ave. in Allston, MA :: 9 p.m., 21-plus, $15 :: Advance tickets