BLOSSOMS interview – Evening Standard, 17 Feb 2017

With a nomination for Breakthrough Act at next week’s BRIT Awards and a debut album that’s soon to be a gold seller, the signs are that Blossoms are going to last longer than their namesakes.

 

The quintet from Stockport, aged between 19 and 25, are enjoying fully the first shoots of success, free of boredom or cynicism as they ping around the world for the first time in their lives. I catch up with them in Paris, where they’re playing a show in a black box of a club that’s part of a fire station by a canal. They’re only just back from Japan, South Korea and Russia. In the former, numerous fans turned up to the gig wearing face masks of affable keyboard player Myles Kellock. Someone gave him a pillow with his own face on it, which he now keeps in his bed. In the latter, they were mobbed in the street outside a radio station – “Proper One Direction shit,” as singer and songwriter Tom Ogden puts it.

 

“People like people who work hard,” says Ogden when attempting to explain how Blossoms managed to do what almost no one else can at the moment, and made a real success out of new indie guitar music by northern lads with no pretensions. Their self-titled debut album, a mix of strong melodies and mildly psychedelic keyboard fluourishes that owes a lot to Manchester heroes The Stone Roses, spent two weeks in the number one spot last summer. “We did 150 gigs last year – 43 flights and 45 festivals. No other band will have done as many as we did last year, definitely not.”

 

He reminisces about the highlights of the past 12 months in a scruffy backstage dressing room with drummer Joe Donovan, with whom he is engaged in no small bromance. The pair have matching shoulder length hair, tight white T-shirts, black jeans and an old key on a chain round their necks. Donovan’s sister gave him one, then he gave one to Ogden. It sounds like great tragedy would befall them if ever a key were to be misplaced. They’ve been friends since they met in secondary school aged 12, with Donovan taking on an early role as principal cheerleader for his pal’s musical abilities.

 

“I used to watch Tom when he was in another band, and shout at him because they were only rehearsing twice a month. I didn’t even learn the drums ‘til I was 18, so it sounds ridiculous, but in my head I knew what a band had to do,” he says. “I had this idea that Tom was a great songwriter, and if he got into it he could really do it.”

 

“I needed a kick up the arse,” admits the singer. “It was always in my school reports: ‘He could do really well if he just applied himself more.’ I’d do the bare minimum and get a C.”

 

When Blossoms first practised together, it was self-described control freak Donovan who pushed them onwards. “At the beginning, I said we need to do minimum four nights a week. But it wasn’t like, we need to have a number one album. I just want to be the best I can be.”

 

“And it didn’t take long for us all to get that attitude,” adds Ogden. “After the first rehearsal it felt different from other bands we’d been in. All of us gave up our jobs to do this.”

 

Their rise hasn’t come without moments to stop them in their tracks. The band Viola Beach were midway through supporting Blossoms on tour when their van crashed in Sweden, killing them all. That’s the kind of foundation-shaking blow that makes a young band appreciate every moment of its success. However, not much darkness has ended up in Blossoms’ music. Their best-known song, Charlemagne, is centred on an immediately catchy keyboard riff which is then matched in Ogden’s chorus. At the Paris concert, the singer finishes his acoustic ballad My Favourite Room with a little blast of Wham!’s Last Christmas. The fans, French though they mostly are, keep yelling about Stockport.

 

They are good at social media, and are relying on mobilising their online army to vote for them to beat grime giants Stormzy and Skepta to that BRIT Award (“They might have more followers online but we do have a really dedicated fanbase,” says Ogden) but they make much of having done all this the old fashioned way. They’ve gigged hard and kept the music accessible, following the template set by Oasis, and more recently Catfish and the Bottlemen: ambitious to reach as many people as possible, less ambitious musically.

 

“Oasis come from a similar area to us. Burnage is about six bus stops away from Stockport on the way to Manchester. We’ve grown up listening to their attitudes, what they say about there being no limit to where you could take it,” says Ogden. He and Donovan’s first gig was watching Oasis in Manchester’s Heaton Park, aged 16. Last summer they supported The Stone Roses at Manchester City’s football stadium. “So I’ve never understood wanting to be an underground band. I just want to write big choruses and be massive.”

 

“There’s more people who sit in economy class than business. We appeal to economy,” is how Donovan puts it. He’s on a mission to find the best spaghetti bolognese in every town Blossoms play. He’s not so interested in trying new things. If you want to be an otherworldly rock freak, you don’t name your band after your local pub.

 

We talk about the handful of other groups who are really succeeding right now, Macclesfield’s The 1975 being the obvious frontrunners. Their singer Matt Healy: now there’s a rock star. “He’d probably be like that if he were working at the Co-op. You need people like that. Whereas I like baked beans on toast,” says Ogden. “I just write good tunes. I just happen to be in this situation but I’m not going to be something that I’m not. Come back in a year and I might be wearing make-up, but I don’t think I will.”

 

“I don’t think I’d let you!” says his old friend. Why change a style that, like Oasis, Kasabian and Arctic Monkeys before them, has put them in the middle of that rewarding road where music fans and football fans meet and mingle, where the tunes are big and the beer flows freely? Blossoms are doing fine.

 

 

Blossoms perform on March 3 as part of Festival No.6 at Tate Britain, SW1 (020 7887 8888, tate.org.uk) and on March 23, Roundhouse, NW1 (0870 389 1846, roundhouse.org.uk)

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