Flowered up

Being in a band beats serving vegetables in a hotel for Blossoms’ Tom Ogden. But being a working-class group from Stockport makes it easier for fans to relate to them, says the singer

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Stockport quintet Blossoms have had a busy three years since they first started rehearsing together in the scaffolding yard owned by bassist Charlie Salt’s grandfather. At the start of 2014 their fanbase totalled 200 people. Fast forward two years and the band, made up of Salt, singer Tom Ogden, guitarist Josh Dewhurst, drummer Joe Donovan and keyboard player Myles Kellock, have had their eponymous debut album co-produced by The Coral’s James Skelly and spent two weeks at number one following its release in August.

The band, who were all born in Stockport’s Stepping Hill Hospital, have reportedly won the approval of their idols Ian Brown and Johnny Marr and have enjoyed a rapid rise to success, which frontman Ogden, 23, says is down to a combination of being “genuine” and having “songs that connect with people”.

“We’re coming from a real place and we’re not trying to be pretentious or something we’re not,” says Ogden, who also writes the band’s lyrics and melodies. “We’re honest. We’re just five working-class lads and when that comes along and it’s genuine it connects with people, because they can see a bit of themselves in it.”

Blossoms were the only guitar-based band to feature in the BBC Sound of 2016 shortlist and one of only two of the list’s 15 acts to come from the north – along with Ripon’s Billie Marten.

The band’s northern identity is something they are keen to hold on to. At a recent gig in London’s O2 Forum in Kentish Town, Blossoms were cheered on to the stage by chants of “Stockport” from a sell-out crowd. Later in the evening Ogden jokingly listed his home town’s landmarks, chief among them a 24-hour Tesco, and gig-goers were able to purchase “I <3 Stockport” t-shirts from the official merchandise stand.

“Making number one was just the cherry on the top but true success lies in longevity.”

“Stockport isn’t necessarily in the sound, lyrically or anything like that, but we’ve rehearsed in Stockport, we grew up in Stockport, so it’s subconsciously bred into us all as people,” says Ogden. “It’s that northern thing of it always being a bit grey. It’s melancholy but it’s uplifting so it breathes into the sound of the songs. We’re not singing about the viaduct or anything like that but it’s definitely there somewhere within the sound and some of our influences.”

Ogden cites the band’s most important influences as Manchester favourites The Smiths, Oasis and The Stone Roses, as well as Sheffield’s Arctic Monkeys, and believes the region’s success in producing musical talent is down to music fans’ affection for “no frills” personalities.

“I’m not sure what it is about it [the area]. You couldn’t put it down to one thing. Maybe it’s that real thing. They’re not doing it because they wanted a career in music – they’re doing it because there’s nowt else to do and they’re drawing from a real background and they’re real genuine people. People like that, sometimes they don’t want frills – they just want a bit of normality.

“We’re definitely a working-class band. We’ve all done jobs before. Me, Joe and Myles used to work in a hotel serving vegetables so we know there’s far worse things we could be doing and we appreciate every minute of it.

“The album went to number one and that blew our minds a little bit. We never really focused on any of that side of it. We just wanted people to like it, come to the gigs and sing the songs and it mean something to them. Making number one was just the cherry on the top, but true success lies in longevity so we don’t feel like we’ve made it. We’re taking everything as it comes and focusing on having longevity in this career.”

Alongside their more conventional indie rock influences, Blossoms also cite Abba, The Human League, Duran Duran and American funk band The Whispers as bands who have helped shape the synth-pop sound that is most prominent on tracks Charlemagne and Honey Sweet.

“A lot of stuff that was on the Grand Theft Auto: Vice City soundtrack has bled into our sound. There are a lot of great tunes on there,” says Ogden. “Blondie, I think, fuse it well. It’s guitar and synth; that’s where we feel we fit in – we fuse the two together.”

Earlier this year Blossoms became embroiled in a Twitter row with Sleaford Mods frontman Jason Williamson, who derided the band as “boardroom kiss arse blue tick wankers”, “a wank mess” and “catalogue band bollocks”.

Blossoms retaliated, responding with a series of tweets referring to “pension day” and comparing Williamson, 45, to comedy character Steptoe.

The spat was relished by dozens of news websites and on social media, and some reviewers echoed Williamson’s sentiments when Blossoms released their debut album.

Referring to the Twitter row, The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis wrote: “The root issue seemed to be that Williamson is old enough to remember a time when the music Blossoms make wouldn’t have been heralded as alternative, but as exactly the kind of music that alternative music was supposed to provide the alternative to.”

But Petridis did offer his subjects some redemption further down in his review, writing: “What Blossoms lacks in edge or depth, it makes up for in well-turned melodies and the odd deft production touch – even those inclined to the boardroom-kiss-arse-blue-tick-wankers response might be forced to admit that Blown Rose or Getaway have superior, radio-friendly tunes.”

And radio-friendly tunes are exactly what Blossoms set out to achieve when they penned their debut album. Ogden says: “In the early days we used to have a keyboard that was more a Hammond organ sound, which immediately harks back to the 1960s. So people used to associate us with that and we didn’t really want to be associated with that as such. We wanted to be a current band and get on the radio and be popular.

“Having that older sound limits you, so we worked with James Skelly from The Coral and he was keen to help us evolve into a more synthy sound. We love pop music and we wanted to get into that realm, but when you’re first starting out you don’t really know much about stuff like that, so because we were guided in that direction we evolved quicker. We soon changed the organ sounds for more synthy and 1980s sounds, and that gelled together a lot better.”

The group are currently touring, with dates lined up in Toronto, San Francisco, New York and across Europe, but Ogden says the band will return to Stockport to work on their second album.

“I’ve been writing every time I’ve been home and bits and bobs on the road. We’re not based in London. We’re still living at home in Stockport. We’re away that much that our suitcases are always packed. We live on a tour bus really.

“I’ve never stopped writing. I already have a few songs. Every now and then when we get a few days spare I show the rest of the lads and we build it. The next album will have evolved a little bit more but it will be more down the route of Charlemagne and Honey Sweet. A lot
of songs will be continued to be written on the back of those songs, but there are no rules.”

Blossoms play Manchester’s Albert Hall 2 and 3 December 

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