It's safe to say that, like many former nerdy teen emo children, I'm big on music. My CD collection back home consists of well over 400 albums. I lost count of how many gigs I've attended, oh, say, three years ago, and can wax lyrical for literally days about the benefits of an eclectic taste that encompasses all the recognised greats as well as scowled-upon genres like metalcore, nu-rave (LOL) and Italo-Euro disco.
However, in this Spotify-saturated era, it's now kind of rare for a band to smack me full force in the chops and scream "LISTEN TO MY ALBUM. MY ALBUM. NOW. TODAY. EVERY DAY. FOREVEEER" in my face. (I'm talking metaphorically, of course. If a band actually stormed up to me and threatened to mash my mush in if I didn't listen to their demo, I'd call the Polizei, and their agent, post-haste. But I digress).These days, I tend to float by on a song-to-song basis, relying on old faithfuls to get me through the good times and the bad, discovering new 'hmm, that ain't bad' tracks and lamenting the sad fact that British indie all went a bit downhill after Joe Lean And The Jing Jang Sodding Jong regularly started making NME headlines. That was a fair while ago now. It still hurts.
But then, Ballet School came along, and their hazy, new-wave pop stylings just made sense to me. As someone who still firmly believes that Madonna's self-titled debut is still one of the best albums of all time, Ballet School's 80's beats and frontwoman Rosie Blair's urgently belted vocals were everything I'd been looking for in my official New Favourite Band, and more. I interviewed them last September (and almost cacked myself with glee when I was given the assignment) and discovered that, along with being one of the best new bands to come out of Berlin this century, they're also a proper laugh riot. Plus, Rosie and I share a predisposition to overuse profanity and deep-seated appreciation of Queen Madge's early body of work. That alone would have been enough to secure their place in my heart forevermore.
Rosie, guitarist Michel, and drummer Louis come from Ireland, Brazil and England respectively, but joined forces in Berlin and sallied forth with the good ship Ballet School based on little more than dedication to their craft and a mutual appreciation of the Cocteau Twins.
"We had a proper Berlin period," said Rosie. "The band started here, most of our material was written here, and our records were produced here. Everything was here. And so many bands and artists I look up to were here, Iggy, Bowie, Lou Reed, Eric Clapton, U2. We didn’t come here to get a fresh perspective, we came here because we knew that you could immerse yourself in your art. Michel and I lived together, I was working in a bar, and he was committed to being a full time artist, just playing and getting better and better at guitar, busking in U-Bahn stations until his amp ran out of power. You can do that here."
They busked, they wrote, they scrimped and saved and gigged, until their now-manager Jonas Verwijnen attended one of their gigs and immediately signed them up to his Kaiku roster. From there on, they started working on their debut album, The Dew Lasts An Hour, not an easy task considering they already had about two and a half albums worth of material to choose from before deciding on the final track listing.
"We did the record on a shoestring budget," laughed Rosie. "People told us ‘this is a pop record, it’s so polished’ and we were like ‘do you have any idea what a polished record is?’ This is not a polished record, like, this record tracked in three days, live, this is cracked plug-ins. It sounds polished because the fucking writing is good, because it has a good chorus, because it’s pop music."
Damn fine pop music at that. When it dropped last September, critics were divided between pure joy and utter confusion. How could something that lifted inspiration so heavily from the 1980's - the decade that taste forgot - sound so sweet? Listeners, however, lapped it up. In just under a year, the band have stormed the U.S, trekked around Europe, and released a blurry, deconstructed cover of Madonna's Justify My Love, complete with a video featuring a curvy chain-smoking goth. In music industry lingo, Ballet School are the Next Big Thing, but Rosie doesn't see it that way.
"I still feel like no one fucking knows who we are! I feel like we’re the tiniest band on the planet." she said. This should not be the case. Go listen to Ballet School right the hell now. You won't regret it.