Bloom are effectively a new version of an old Brighton band called The Beautiful Word. They decided to retire the old name a couple of years ago in order to reflect a major change in their sound and approach. This has all recently come to fruition as the revitalised group have just self-released their début album What Is Life? supported by a successful Kickstarter campaign and launched with a sold-out show at The Latest Music Bar. With a little bit of respite before they head off on a UK tour now seemed a great time to pose a few questions to front-women Emily and Megan to find out why they decided to change things up, what's new and what's next.
You've been playing in Brighton as The Beautiful Word for quite a long time – what prompted the re-boot and renaming?
Emily: We took some time off as I was in Florida for a bit and Megan obviously had surgery to deal with and recover from. Also, the sound had changed quite a lot over the many years we had been playing together. We started off very much in the folk category. We didn’t discover synths until a couple of years ago and look at us now!
Megan: Yeah, my voice died and I really went off the old material.
What made you chose the name Bloom?
E: We got on this kind of obsession about natural things, small microscopic life forms, and the wonder of life in all it’s micro/macro forms. When we were thinking of ideas for names they were mostly organic sounding; about life, or growth, stuff like that.
M: We considered Amoebas for a while too. I like amoebas because they are the farthest thing from the concept of bravado, they're the start of things.
How did you guys all meet originally?
E: I moved down from Scotland in late 2006 and met Megan at college. I think our first conversation was in the lift of the Concorde 2. We shared an interest in Kate Bush and strawberry laces.
M: That's all true! I met Scotty (bass), in HMV on 06/06/2006 and then we went to see The Omen and now he's in the band! Tom (guitar) I met volunteering doing music workshops in a youth club in Whitehawk. Gruff (drums) we met studying and is a good friend of a cellist we were going to work with but didn't in the end. We all met as teenagers and spent a few years living together in different places.
Is everyone in Bloom a former Beautiful Word player, or do you have some new blood in the ranks?
E: Technically we have all been part of TBW, but Tom was the most recent member and has been with us from 2012. It was really Tom’s influence on the band that made us turn a corner in the sound – he introduced us to the more Foals/Bombay Bicycle Club vibe that you hear in our music now.
What do you think are the main differences between the Bloom sound and your earlier work?
M: I think we’re just older now and that's made a massive difference. We write music that's closer to what we want to hear. We’re better at arranging music because we’ve been working on it for 10 years, but also we’re more confident in our own ideas and seek out approval from others less.
E: Synths. Less cheese in the lyrics. More existential crisis.
I'm loving the album – how long had you been working on it?
M: We've been working on these songs since just before the break two years ago. Then we spent two months designing the Kickstarter before launching it in February and obviously campaigning for that whole month. Once we finished that we were in pre-production until recording in May. There was another month mixing after that, so it took a long time. I loved doing every part of it.
E: Some of the songs we had been playing around with for a couple of years, but the newest songs were just honed down in the last few months. 'Letting Go' was a very last minute addition!
You ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the album, was that easy to set-up? Did it take a lot of leg work to raise the money?
E: We were blown away by the support we received from former TBW fans, new fans, friends and family. To be honest I wasn’t sure we would make our goal, but we did! Kickstarter and other pledging bases like that are amazing for DIY projects.
M: It felt like such a risk to spend so much time on it as if you don't hit your target you get nothing, but we needed money to record and we really needed the time and space to do it properly. I spent forever editing and re-editing the campaign video. I got weirdly obsessed and I've been weirdly obsessed since really. We were so happy when we made well over our target.
It's a very consistent album, it sounds great. Where did you record? What was that process like?
E: Consistent! That’s cool. We recorded at Church Road Studios with Julian Tardo (Fear of Men/Fujiya & Miyagi). We did a lot of pre-production and honed down the songs a lot before we got into the studio. The drums and bass were nailed so quickly – those guys are pro! But we got to fiddle around with mini glockenspiels, weird synthesisers, triangles and stuff after all the meat was down. Julian was amazing. He suggested stuff, but didn’t insist, and he put up with our relentless ideas in a very patient and well humoured way!
M: Yes! He let us do loads of weird stuff! He loved it all!
What's your writing process? Is there a main writer or do you collaborate or a combination of things?
E: We collaborate more these days, but the initial process for me is always writing something on my own and then showing it to the band to see if they like it. I’m a pretty anxious writer to be honest, which isn’t helpful to anyone really…
M: I don't write alone as much as I used to. I love arranging really. ‘Such a Shame’ and ‘Nothing’ started with Tom before we put lyrics to them. Most things are totally reworked in the room now.
I can sense there are a lot of influences at play, what were you mainly listening to around the time of making the album?
E: Dirty projectors. Lots of house music (sorry). Bjork (always). Depeche mode. Alt-J.
M: I love 80s electro so much. I like putting the sort of melancholic but super-pop melodies of electro to the live band sound. I love loads of voices on anything and the weird moments in Dirty Projectors music.
Do you all like the same music or listen to different things?
E: We like to think we’re individuals but we’re ALL PART OF THE SAME MACHINE.
M: Everyone is listening to different stuff although me and Em tend to get the same obsessions at the same time.
What are your lyrical themes on this album, it feels like there's some melancholia beneath the shiny melodies and upbeat grooves?
E: Jeeez. Yeh. Erm, I don’t know where to begin. It was easier in the TBW days when we just sung about coconut shampoo and making friends with insects.
M: It's all tied into the weirds we get around existence and nature and being in the universe. There are songs about feeling insignificant and useless and boring and wrong and trying to fit into places where we don't fit. I like to think it's an album for people that felt like they had more in common with moss and thunder than they did other people as a kid. There are songs about self-expression, designed to empower the invisible and powerless. A couple about love: classic.
So the album is out and you're doing a UK tour in October – what's next for Bloom after that? Any new material in the pipeline now?
E: So much new material! As part of our Kickstarter campaign, one of our incentives was a download of some of the demo's we’d been sending each other over the years. There are hundreds of these and we really had to whittle them down to something digestible. But, through this process we’ve realised we’ve got loads of material already waiting to go! And there’s more in the pipeline too, I can feel it.
M: I had to whittle down over 700 voice memos to make the demo's album. We’re releasing it on cassette actually, I’m quite proud of it! We’re hoping people will be interested in hearing the start of things and we have a thing about making ourselves vulnerable. I want to show that to people: our least polished things.
Have you got any advice for musicians who are just starting out? Is there anyhting you'd do differently if you knew then what you know now?
E: I caused myself a lot of stress worrying about what people thought about the way I looked when we used to play as TBW, worrying about what to wear and all that. Don’t get caught up in that rubbish. If you’re worried about selling stuff, the most attractive thing to a music customer is being genuine, being yourself. Write about what you know, wear what you want and, really, just play the music you want to play otherwise you won’t care about it and neither will anyone else.
M: Absolutely that. I think everyone needs to see things that are real and true at the moment. Work out exactly who you are and what you want and what you do and be that as much as you can. People that are 100% themselves come up with the best stuff.
If you could collaborate with any musician dead or alive who would you work with and why?
E: Ohmygod Bjork. Although, I don’t really feel worthy and would probably dissolve.
M: Bjork Bjork Bjork
Which three acts would make the ultimate line-up for a fantasty gig?
Dirty Projectors, Bjork, pre 1987 Depeche Mode.
Read our review of their launch show: brightonsfinest.com/html/index.php/8-reviews/1865-bloom-latest-music-bar-7th-october-2016
Read our review of What is Life? here: brightonsfinest.com/html/index.php/sitemap/12-music/1844-bloom-what-is-life