Little Boots on the Places That Inspired Her DIY Disco Album

Little Boots on the Places That Inspired Her DIY Disco Album

Seven years have passed since electro-pop artist, producer, songwriter and DJ Victoria Hesketh (better known as Little Boots) last put out an album, and there's good reason for that. Although she's no stranger to praise with her debut, Hands, reaching Top 5 on the UK album charts and netting her a BRIT Awards Critics' Choice nomination, as well as having worked with producers like Jean-Michel Jarre, LP Giobbi, Hot Chip's Joe Goddard and SONIKKU over the course of her career, Little Boots wanted to prove to herself that she could do it all by herself for her fourth studio album.

Taking a DIY approach to songwriting and production with the help and support of her fans through Patreon and Kickstarter, the result is Little Boots' new LP, Tomorrow's Yesterdays. An intimate, warm collection of disco tunes packed full of glitter-dusted nostalgia and tenderness, Little Boots' latest sees the artist covering everything from simple heartbreak to lockdown dreams of returning to the dancefloor. Full of bouncy synths, slinky grooves and bright vocals, Little Boots draws inspiration from artists of disco's golden age like ABBA, Le Chic and Fleetwood Mac, as well as more contemporary acts like Carly Rae Jepsen, DJ Koze and S Club 7.

"This album is a collection of songs that feel both nostalgic and future facing," Little Boots says of Tomorrow's Yesterdays. "There’s a lot of celebration and warm memories, songs for and about friends. It’s a soundtrack about embracing the ride and accepting that you may not always reach your planned destination but that’s ok. I feel more confident in myself both as an artist and on a personal level than ever before and I hope that comes through. I’m really proud of the production and being able to step up and take this on myself for the first time, It feels so good to reconnect with my original DIY disco sound but with experience and hindsight."

From Seattle to Belize, PAPER asked Little Boots to break down all the locations she visited throughout the making of Tomorrow's Yesterdays.

Hedgebrook Writers Retreat, Whidbey Island, Seattle

Some of the first tracks I wrote for the album were at a women’s writer’s retreat on a tiny island off the coast of Seattle. I’d been put forward by a journalist friend and was really excited to join a diverse group of female identifying musicians for such a unique experience. The retreat was founded in the '80s by Nancy Nordhoff as a place women could come to write and create without distraction; many famous books have come from it. The setting is stunning; I got the ferry over, and we were each given a tiny wooden cabin in a forest and taught how to make a fire in the stove (Nancy insisted every woman should know how to make a fire).

Our only requirement was to attend the communal dinner each night in the main house. I set up shop with my synthesizers and keyboards, and a huge snow storm set in. When we woke up in the morning, we were literally snowed in. It was so beautiful, and very magical and inspiring. I met some incredible musicians and read the journals of women in the cabin who had visited over the years. I came away with about eight or 10 song sketches. It's amazing how much you can get done when there are truly no distractions (or internet or phone signal).

Blackpool, North West England

I’ve mainly focused on EPs and collaborations for the last few years, but the idea of a full-length album had been brewing for some time. When the pandemic hit and I lost all my gigs and it was pretty much impossible to do sessions, it gave me no more excuses. I ended up retreating to my parents' house near Blackpool where I grew up for a good portion of lockdown. There was more space, and we could keep each other company and go for long walks in the cold but beautiful Lancashire countryside.

I dug out my old keyboard from the loft, ironically the same instrument I wrote many tracks for my debut album, Hands, on again back at my parents' in 2008. In many ways, it felt like coming full circle. In the middle of lockdown, everything seemed so uncertain and it was almost like writing from that place of zero expectations again; no one knew what the future held. I set up a little studio in my brother’s old bedroom and pulled up all the ideas I started at Hedgebrook, as well as starting some new things from scratch. Usually I work with several producers, but all sessions were off at this time so the idea of getting together was impossible and I wasn’t sold on Zoom sessions; it seemed like such an impersonal way to write a song.

So I had to dig deep and not only write, but also produce myself — something I’ve always dabbled in, but had imposter syndrome about. But the pandemic was the push I needed to take a final leap into producing myself. The one thing we had on our hands was time, so I had no excuses when I didn’t know how to do anything to not just teach myself. Blackpool is a funny place; it’s an old seaside town with a reputation for debauched nights out. It was funny being back for the longest time I had been as an adult and I got quite nostalgic about growing up there, so a lot of that color went into the record.

East London

Back in East London, in and out of various lockdowns, I set up another small home studio, but this time I was feeling more confident as a producer. I stuck post-it notes all over the walls of all the songs and where they were up to, from scratch ideas through to fully mixed. This was also around the same time I set up my Patreon channel, which has been an amazing and inspiring journey for me. Not only did my Patreons fund the whole record, which was extremely liberating and gave me the confidence to write from a place of no pressure, but they became an indispensable sounding board and community for me.

Every month I would do a livestream gig in the loosest sense of the word; it usually ended up us just chatting and people shouting out requests to me at the piano. But these sessions became something to look forward to and we kept each other going. When I wasn’t sure what direction to take on a song or if an idea was worth pursuing I would share it on my channel, and as the fans there know me so well their feedback was invaluable. Some of the tracks wouldn’t even have made it onto the album without them. It was a great experience being able to share the songwriting and production process as it went along, and now the album is finished I know we all feel a great sense of ownership and value from being there for the journey of it. I couldn’t have done it without them.

Placencia, Belize

In early 2021, I had an invite from a friend to be a founding member at a new remote working community in Belize on the Caribbean coast. At the time we were still officially in lockdown, so my first reaction was that it was madness, but things were so bleak in the UK at this point and it sounded like a really interesting concept and group of people so I took the plunge. The trip was literally life changing, and I ended up staying for the majority of the year and made some friends for life.

It obviously sounds too good to be true; everyone in January lockdown doom back at home, while we were making friends and hanging out on a beach in the Caribbean. But people worked really hard, many getting up at 4 or 5 AM and doing 10-hour days, and as someone used to working alone I found that really inspiring. I brought a mobile writing/recording setup with me and set up about finishing the final tracks for the record. I even built a makeshift vocal booth in one of the closets lining the wall with pillows. It was so hot and I couldn’t have the air on on as it would pick up the noise, so I recorded a lot of it in my bikini sweating in the closet. I remember finishing the production for "Landline" on the beach with my headphones looking out at the sea and knowing it was a song I was really proud of.

I think the thing that gave the album continuity was actually how it was made in all of these places. One of the common denominators is that I was always working with a simple makeshift setup that could be easily carried; often just a keyboard, sound card and microphone. I think this reconnected me with my DIY roots. When I started out, I always used lo-fi production and a lot of people picked that out as something they loved about my original sound. So it was nice to be put back in that situation, and it really makes you focus on the songs and the songwriting. The record is well-traveled, but I think it also always sounds like home.

Photography: Patrick Balls