Artist Interview: Bloom
Brighton based synth pop outfit Bloom graced Melomania and played a brilliant lunchtime set with Richer Unsigned a couple of months ago. We sat down with the band to discuss their sound and the challenges they face as unsigned artists.
Hey guys! Let’s start at the beginning… How did you guys form?
Scotty - Mitosis and cytokinesis
Megan - We’ve all been mates for over a decade, lived in the same house for a while, had our own studio at one point and a rehearsal basement in another house we lived in. I moved in with Emily after knowing her for 3 months and we went on tour together not long after that.
Emily - Megan and I met at music college many many years ago and started writing together then. In those days it was very much a twee folk pop vibe - matching dresses, giving away sweets at gigs… there was still a mysterious pop angle to the songs but it was quite different then.
After seeing your set at the Richer Unsigned session, there’s a distinct power pop feel to your music. Who would you say are your biggest musical influences?
Emily - That’s awesome! We definitely draw inspiration from 80's pop I’d say, certainly in the spacey swooshy sounds and the general approach to big choruses (Belinda Carlisle’s biggest fan here). When we discovered Depeche Mode properly for the first time that was a big moment too, but there are of course some contemporaries that really stand out for me like Dirty Projectors and Bjork.
Megan - Dirty Projectors are huge, Bjork super important, then for me loads of single songs, I'm terrible at listening to albums. Songs that I force people to listen to when I'm drunk come from Austra, Nancy Nova (listen to her track ‘The Force’ and it will change the way you see space disco forever) The Pointer Sisters, Madonna, Jennifer Rush, Deerhoof, Disclosure, The Human League - I had an almost religious connection with the Men Without Hats song 'Safety Dance' and wouldn't leave it alone for about a year, that’s still going on. We had a big house music phase, that saw us sort of cranking the rhythm section up, leaving more space for it, then 80’s synth pop, I also got really obsessed with bassline and everything from the label ‘Off Me Nut’ I think because the rhythms are amazing and they don’t take themselves super serious, seriousness ruins the flow for me, there’s a lot of pressure in seriousness. One thing that has defined our sound is probably the harmony stuff. I joined a choir when I was 16 (total blag at the time because I couldn’t really read music well at all) and stayed with it for years which really transformed how I thought about and made music, Emily joined when she moved down, it was great because it didn't cost anything like lessons would have but we got to sing at big orchestral concerts and operas which taught us loads. When my voice was basically useless for a year a couple of years ago (I had to have throat surgery) I bought a harmony pedal so I could hit the notes I was writing, now I’m usually controlling at least 2 extra voices in a song either with my sample keyboard or with the pedals. Emily plays M’bira, has studied it and has been to Zimbabwe to play it, which I think had a big influence on our music, especially the rhythms.
"We definitely draw inspiration from 80's pop I’d say, certainly in the spacey swooshy sounds and the general approach to big choruses "
Hailing from Brighton, do you feel that such a creative and expressive city also has an influence on your music?
Emily - I can’t imagine us being a band outside of Brighton because that’s where it all began for us, and it’s allowed us to grow and change into what we are today. But I would say that having toured around a bit, there is a little bit of snobbery down here, and people are more likely to at least bob their heads or even dance further up north!
Megan - Yeah, we’re spoilt here. Everyone is in a band, everyone is making something, which is amazing, you’re a product of the culture you’re in, but yeah, we’re just another band! That does push us to stand out though which is great. A problem with bohemian cities is that it’s sort of the norm for a lot of people here to put life on hold to create things, loads of us are penny pinching a lot of the time - but in this sort of self-driven life a lot of people stagnate and get stuck. We just try and get on with it really.
We also had the pleasure of hearing some new music from you when you played in Melomania! How is the new material going down with fans?
Megan - It's new, which is great, great to know we’re always moving and still have ideas. We’re a four piece now, we used to have Tom on guitar, so things are different, all the feedback so far has been super positive which is great.
Emily - Yes it’s going down well! It’s a bit different from the last album as we are going even more down the spacey synth route but folks seem to dig it.
The music video for Such a Shame features videos from some of your fans. Where did the idea for this come from?
Emily - Megan can probably answer this one better than me as she had the idea for it in the first place, but if you look at our archive of music videos over the years they all have a DIY aesthetic. We figured getting our fans involved in the making of one of them would be an homage to that support that we’ve had over the years and it kind of makes us feel like we’re all in it together. Like all these issues that we’re dealing with and singing about are the same ones that everyone else is dealing with every day.
Megan - It's a song about someone that can’t allow themselves to be vulnerable and how hard it must be to never show your true face. We asked people to send in videos of their ‘facing the world’ routine, as those moments in the morning where you consider yourself and get ready to present yourself to the world are our most vulnerable. We make and cut our own videos, mainly because we’re unsigned and have no funding but through the process of learning how to do it, it's been amazing, it's great to be able to complete a vision from our own ideas.
Your tracks are getting some great exposure on featured playlists from places like British Airways and The Guardian. Do you feel that appearing on playlists like these is becoming a new norm for getting your music out there?
Emily - It seems like Spotify is definitely the way that people are discovering new music - it’s certainly the way I discover new bands by listening to curated weekly playlists that change regularly.
Megan - We made this album with Kickstarter pledgers and released it ourselves expecting not much more than good feedback from our small following and a couple of UK tours. To have The Quietus reviewing us and have people telling us they heard us in shops in Japan is pretty great to be honest. Getting on playlists can give bands without professional PR exposure. Getting on the Independent Music Monday playlist, being playlisted for H&M, Topshop etc means we get Shazamed… things like that have been pivotal for us.
Jamie - I’m not sure if it’s the norm but it’s great that we’re finding ourselves included on these playlists. It’s a good platform for us to be on as it’s exposing us to a wide variety of new listeners.
What do you think the biggest challenges unsigned artists are facing in the industry as they try to build a music career?
Scotty - Oversaturation, so many bands, hard to get people’s attention.
Megan - I’m not sure how useful the word ‘career’ is anymore for most artists making music. We have an amazingly loyal small following, we know the record means a lot to people, but that doesn't mean we can make a career from this the way the economy is now. Most people are listening on Spotify or YouTube where the money coming back to artists is almost nothing. However, people never give up on live music so there will always be a stream of income there, and most people that really love our music want something physical, so we design and sell T-shirts. We even put all our Garageband demos on cassettes and sold those.
There’s a lot about making music that be frustrating and tiring, especially being unsigned, being your own cheerleader is a very strange thing but you have to do certain things to give your music a chance to be heard. For any unsigned band there's still more chance than not that no one will know who the band is beyond a small circle, ever. That in no way means it's not worth doing. I learnt a while ago that we have to keep making music or we feel horrible. I guess the main point is if you love making music, just find a way to keep making music, the rest of it is just noise. If you’re making music for some imagined end-goal where you live in a mansion, and it’s all about the result, and you don’t really enjoy the process, then it’s probably not the life for you.
Jamie - I think trying to make yourself stand out from the crowd is pretty tough. Our sound has developed a lot over the past decade and I like to think we’re at the point now where we do have quite a unique sound.
What are your thoughts around the way people listen to music these days; Streaming services, the vinyl resurgence, hi–res music etc…
Megan - We made 100 two colour vinyl and sold them for £25 each and people actually bought them, and it was amazing. The record sounds amazing. The music having a physical weight implies the value I feel like it should have. We are on Spotify, you can’t stop the streaming machine, but it’s not ideal. It’s better than illegal downloading. As a business I think we’re still shifting to a sustainable digital music distribution model that won’t strangle artists.
Jamie - I personally love Streaming. It’s helped me to discover so much more music and I think it works well for our fans listening to us as well. Saying that, we got some vinyl of our last album pressed and they’ve been a big hit. I’m not sure if everyone has the ability to play them but sometimes it’s just a cool thing to have.
"I’m not sure how useful the word ‘career’ is anymore for most artists making music."
Do you have any new music recommendations for us? Who should we be listening to right now?
Lastly, what’s going on in the world of Bloom for the rest of the year?
Emily - Writing writing and more writing! We have loads of new songs in the pipeline and we just want to get out and test them on our audience to see how they go down. Then looking for a producer who might want to work with us to record the next album would be great.
Megan - The feedback we had for the last album has opened us up to more funding avenues for the recording, more parties are up for helping us, we might be able to pay for more than 10 days recording and mixing time, and it will most likely get released through a label this time. So yeah, super proud of the current release but excited to see what we can do with more recording time and resources. Can’t wait to see what happens next.
You can listen to Bloom’s first album ‘What Is Life’ right now on Spotify! Alternatively, head to their website here for band news.