Stockport-born-and-raised band Blossoms released their latest album Foolish Loving Spaces this January and were a few shows into its UK tour before the coronavirus pandemic knocked the world into a standstill. The indie-pop five-piece remained undeterred, bringing the positive, upbeat vibes of their latest album into the quarantine period and finding creative ways to share their music with fans. Metropolis spoke with songwriter and vocalist Tom Ogden (via Skype, of course, while chilling in our respective living rooms in Tokyo and Manchester) about the band’s new album, potential of online music and homemade “Blossoms in Isolation” YouTube series.
Metropolis: You guys have been very active and creative during this quarantine time, making your YouTube “Blossoms in Isolation” videos. How has that been going?
Tom Ogden: We’ve been trying to keep busy as a band making covers of songs and editing them. It’s been really fun and something different for fans to watch. I’ve always been into making films and editing, so we just utilized what we were good at. We’ve made music videos ourselves before and it was the perfect opportunity to put our skills into play. I’ve been writing a lot of songs as well because I’ve got a lot of time at home.
M: The drummer, Joe, was using so many things to play with in those videos, like a vegetable peeler, forks and even a spray can. Is that a creative choice or does he not have a drum kit at home?
TO: [Laughs] Yeah. Everyone must be thinking he must have a drum kit at his house, but he really doesn’t have a drum kit at his house. He only has a snare drum so for everything else he had to be creative — he’s used a Stella box, a shoe box…
M: How did you choose which songs you’re going to cover?
TO: We put a Tweet out asking people what they’d like us to cover, but I also just pick a song and see what the rest of the band thinks. We have a discussion on our group chat. Sometimes we say no but most of the time we agree straight away and just crack on with it.
M: For your cover of Tame Impala, you collaborated with Miles Kane from The Last Shadow Puppets. How did that come about?
TO: Yeah, we’ve played with Miles and The Last Shadow Puppets before and seen them at festivals and done shows together. He reached out to our bass player Charlie on Instagram when we did the Beatles cover. He said he loved it and would be up for doing a song with us. We were already going to do the Tame Impala one so we just asked him if he wanted to jump on it with us and get involved. That was really cool.
M: Even before the coronavirus pandemic, you guys were really proactive about social media and having an online presence, making videos and your podcast, “Pubcast.”
TO: In the early days we were definitely conscious of it and we wanted to have a real presence online. We thought it was coming to the forefront of how people promote themselves. We put a lot of our personality into it, videos of ourselves and all that kind of stuff. When you’re touring it’s quite easy to become relaxed about it and you forget to post. There have been times where we’ve not been as active as we should have been, but in times like this with the lockdown you can be more active and put out more content because we’re not busy on the road or recording or showing stuff.
M: I know you make videos when you’re touring too. Did you make one when you came to Japan?
TO: Yes, I recorded some stuff in Japan on a Super 8 camera, which is like an old 1970s film camera which is really cool. It’s got a lot of character and is really vintage. I put that together when we went to China and Thailand as a bit of a tour diary. We’ve always filmed.
I think Tokyo was our favorite place. We were a bit fussy with the food but as a place we loved it [laughs]. We went to Tokyo even before we had a record deal I think, back in 2015. We have really fond memories and Tokyo and New York city are our all-time favorite places to go.
M: Traveling is no longer an option now, and even your UK tour was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. How was the start of the tour going though, being able to show the songs from the new album, Foolish Loving Spaces, live?
TO: It was amazing, a great tour. It was probably the most fun we’ve had as a band performing live because we had extra session musicians, we had some backing singers at a few shows. We felt we’d really stepped it up in terms of the live shows and the new songs are so much fun to play live. Obviously we were gutted it had to get cut short, but it was the right thing to do and we’ll resume the shows when things are back to normal.
M: I was watching a video of you live last year at Reading Festival, it feels so surreal seeing such large crowds gathered together. You were supposed to be at Glastonbury this year for its 50th anniversary, but that was canceled too.
TO: I definitely miss it. It’s hard to imagine watching clips back and you see crowds of people and you’re like “Oh, you need to stay two meters away from people.” [Laughs] You remember it hasn’t always been like this has it? You get used to it though, I suppose.
M: Has it affected your songwriting?
TO: I’ve always written songs on my own, so I’m not missing anything. I tend to not really be political in my songwriting. I know political isn’t the right word. I get influenced by lots of things, books and music and things.
We record with our producer James Kelly and he always sends me stuff to read. There was a book called “Coney Island of the Mind” which is really cool. I was influenced a lot by that. You’ve always got to challenge yourself as a songwriter to come up with new materials. You’re not always feeling necessarily inspired by what’s going on in your own life. You’ve got to find things to inspire you. I’m always looking for things that I can turn into songs.
M: What inspired you for your latest album?
TO: A lot of the songs are about being in love, actually, which is a nice change from the heartbreak I’ve written about in the past, which I always found easier to write about in terms of lyrics. I’ve been in a relationship for four years now and things have been going great. I wanted to get that into some songs and I… well, reckon I did quite a good job of it [laughs]. So I’d describe this album as a celebration of love.
M: The album does feel more playful and more influenced by the 70s, 80s and 90s than before, but it still feels like Blossoms. How did you try to challenge yourself with this album?
TO: The songs like “Your Girlfriend” and “If You Think This is Real Life,” they were really inspired by The Talking Heads, and lyrically I wanted to do something different and tell a story. It wasn’t from my own experience but I just created something in my head and forced myself to do really narrative-based lyrics, which I ended up having a lot of fun doing. I didn’t quite give myself ‘rules,’ but I had an idea of how I wanted the song to go and I was reading blogs online about guys who were in love with their friends’ girlfriends and stuff like that. Things were jumping out of the page at me. I used that to inspire me — and it sounds cliche — but three albums in you do listen to different things and you do improve as a songwriter, and as a band you feel more confident. That all happens with time.
M: Even as people you change and your circumstances change.
TO: Exactly, you’ve got to embrace it and go with it and it inevitably bleeds into yourself as a songwriter.
You’re not always feeling necessarily inspired by what’s going on in your own life. You’ve got to find things to inspire you. I’m always looking for things that I can turn into songs.
M: You’re the songwriter bringing all the initial ideas to the band. How did the other members respond to your new ideas?
TO: They loved it. They were really supportive and on board straight away. I suppose that’s why you work together as a band though isn’t it, because your influences and likes are similar.
M: And the gospel element you introduced in this album was a surprise for me to hear.
TO: Yeah, in “The Keeper.” That was the last song I wrote for the album but when I was writing it I immediately had the idea of adding gospel singers in. We then applied it to some of the other songs. We’d already demoed them but we spoke to our producer, James Kelly, and he said we could use them on a couple of the other songs too, which added a greater depth to the other songs.
M: You mentioned you’ve been writing lately, do you have an idea of where you’re going after this for the next album?
TO: Yeah, to an extent. We’ve recorded one song for it and it sounds great, but I might write more that take on a bit of a different vibe. Things like that are always evolving until you’ve finished the album. Your initial idea can always change a little bit from that, but we’ve got a clear vision we’re excited about. The album will probably be out next year.
M: And finally, we’ve been asking different artists about what music they’ve been listening to during the lockdown.
TO: Dogrel by Fontaines D.C. I love that album. It’s something I got into this quarantine time.