Page last updated at 03:20 GMT, Friday, 9 January 2009

BBC Sound of 2009: Little Boots

By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News

Little Boots
Little Boots has been championed by dance act Hot Chip

Singer Little Boots has come top of the BBC Sound of 2009 list of the brightest new music stars, playing a space disco sound influenced by Kylie Minogue, David Bowie and Gary Numan.

The cover versions that Little Boots - aka Victoria Hesketh - has been posting on her YouTube channel over the past 12 months give a good insight into her musical world.

The first was a spine-tingling version of Joni Mitchell's River, followed by songs by Girls Aloud, The Human League, early 1990s pop star Haddaway, Wiley, Madonna and Estelle.

They were all recorded on a grainy camera in her home with Hesketh playing various keyboards in various states of dress, and many of them have the word "FUN" inserted into the song title.

Hesketh is clearly a shameless pop tart, indelibly marked by the chart hits of her childhood and the tacky Blackpool nightclubs of her youth.

But her tastes stretch beyond the cheese counter to true artists like Joni Mitchell, David Bowie and Kate Bush and electronic pioneers like Gary Numan and Giorgio Moroder.

Hesketh puts those together into songs that are cool as well as catchy, fit for charts and clubs alike, with shimmering tunes yielding meaningful lyrics.

The outcome sees Little Boots come across like a meeting between a British Kylie and a harder, shinier St Etienne.

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Watch Little Boots demonstrate her Tenori-on, a flashing Japanese sequencer

"There's room in popular culture to do things that are creative and not exactly straightforward," Hesketh says. "Just because something has got the possibility to appeal to a mainstream audience doesn't mean you've got to be bland.

"There are tons of credible pop artists. Look at David Bowie - he's a massive selling artist, and he's bloody weird, absolutely mad. Kate Bush - mad as a box of frogs."

Little Boots wants to convince people that great pop can break out of the manufactured mould.

"It doesn't have to be like that," she says. "I want to change people thinking that because it's a poppy thing that a record label's pressed a button on the giant songmaking computer and this popped out at the end."

Little Boots

Hesketh herself is no overnight creation, having spent most of her 24 years immersed in making music of some kind.

"I think I was born crying and it was a note," she laughs.

"The first memory I have of listening to music is Kylie Minogue and Blondie, which kind of makes a lot of sense now I guess. My babysitter used to write all the words out for me in coloured pens to Call Me and Sunday Girl, and I used to sing them."

There were the obligatory school orchestras and chapel choirs, a prog group and a jazz phase and even a Pop Idol audition.

That was when she was 17, and she got to the third round - but not as far as the TV cameras or Simon Cowell. "You just saw producers," she says. "They said no and then I cried and then went home."

I'm not embarrassed by my skeletons... I don't regret any of it
Victoria Hesketh

Around the same time, there was a "shocking", short-lived girl group and stints in Blues Brothers tribute bands at European theme parks.

"I'm not embarrassed by my skeletons," she says. "I've done loads of stuff like that and I think it's good for you. I don't regret any of it."

At university in Leeds, she was in almost-famous female synth-rock trio Dead Disco. But that did not work out and at the end of 2007, Hesketh went back to playing Joni Mitchell covers in her parents' garage.

"At that time I felt so directionless," she says. "I'd just left my band and I was a blank canvas, but sometimes that's good.

"I just went where the songs wanted to go and it was really liberating. I didn't worry about trying to be cool or alternative or anything, just go with what I wanted to do and what came naturally."

HAVE YOUR SAY
It's great to see yet more home grown talent! For a small island we punch well above our weight in the music industry
Peter H, UK

Her first song Stuck On Repeat - produced by Joe Goddard of electro-pop darlings Hot Chip - began circulating on blogs, her tunes were put on YouTube and MySpace, and word started to spread.

She hooked up with Dead Disco's old record label 679 and her love of synthesisers has chimed with a resurgence in electro-pop and boredom with bog-standard indie bands.

"I can't play guitar," she says. "I can't play anything else. I've been nerding out on Moogs since forever. It's a real thing. It's not because I've jumped on the bandwagon."

She has also been nerding out on a Japanese gadget called the Tenori-on, a flashing music box that she plays on stage and has now become her trademark instrument.

She is now finishing her album in Los Angeles for release later this year.

Little Boots will be in session on BBC 6 Music's George Lamb show on Friday between 1000 and 1300 GMT.

More than 130 leading UK-based music writers, editors and broadcasters took part in Sound of 2009. They named their three favourite new acts and their responses were used to compile the list. Find out more here.

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