Ballet School // Interview

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“I feel like the UK really needs a band. A pop band. Fabulousness. Accessibility.”

Forgive the overuse of italics, but Rosie Blair enthuses a lot. Across our intermittently-glitchy Skype connection, it quickly becomes clear that her default setting is “emphatic”, peppering her assertions with manic laughter and expansive hand gestures, and becoming equally animated discussing Miley Cyrus’ tongue as she is Robert Smith’s songwriting.

It’s not surprising then that the Belfast-born singer confesses to being “defined by fandom”, though a religious upbringing in an LP-free household meant music was scarce initially. “Something about me was always drawn to music so I’d sit listening to the radio, getting really excited about everything from iconic acts like The Smiths to 80s cheese like ‘Waiting For A Star To Fall’.”

Her passion led her to follow a producer-friend to Berlin, before a chance encounter on the U-Bahn altered her course forever. Travelling home from a bar shift at 6am, she stumbled upon “this gorgeous boy” busking on the platform: Japanese-Brazilian guitarist Michel Collet. Blair approached him, they bonded over The Cocteau Twins and – with the addition of Louis McGuire on drums – together they formed Ballet School in 2011.

As Blair explains, the quest to craft catchy melodies is their prime motivation: “I just love the mechanics and the discipline of pop music. When you set yourself the task of writing something that contains hooks and observes certain structures, it’s hugely pleasing when you get it right.” And on ‘Boys Again’ they do just that: this is buoyant, big-hearted, 80s-influenced pop, which finds them referencing the elemental, new-wave guitar textures of The Cure on ‘Yoai’ and recreating the endorphin rush of first love with manic yelps on ‘Heartbeat Overdrive’.

Recording sessions have already begun for their debut album, so what can we expect? “Songs you can dance to and songs you can relate to. I self-identify as a feminist, so I’m fascinated by the female experience, and the ephemeral world of girls; that moment of being on the precipice of innocence and experience.” And sonically? “It’s sounding quite… sexy. We’re taking the best of live guitar music and melding it with really-fucking-great pop hooks.”

They’re not phased by the prospect of pursuing a pop career on an indie imprint, either: “The [music] industry model is so flawed that there are no rules anymore. Look at Grimes: she’s at the interface of commercial pop and the purest of underground music. She’s a shape-shifter, like Julia in ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, bringing a new set of ethics to the mainstream. We want our music to make everyone feel fucking good, until it reaches critical mass and kicks off. Because, really, it’s so much fun to be a fan of pop music, isn’t it?” Yes, yes it is.

Gem Samways

Buy: Ballet School – Boys Again