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December 2020 / January 2021

Blossoms: "I guess it's more the sort of thing Alex Turner would write..."

Relationships can be a minefield, but Tom Ogden has put his to good use - as inspiration for Blossoms' new album. “It’s easier to write lyrics about things that are unfortunate," he explains.
Published: 11:01 pm, April 26, 2018
Blossoms: "I guess it's more the sort of thing Alex Turner would write..."
"It's about two relationships, I suppose," explains Tom Ogden over the phone. "One that I had written about on our first album and then continued to write about, and then a new relationship, one that's kind of - excuse the pun - blossoming."

The singer is talking about Blossoms' second album; there's a strong narrative in ‘Cool Like You', and he's happy to demystify it.

"If you look at the opening track, ‘There's a Reason Why (I Never Returned Your Calls)', that's the first song I wrote for this album. It's about the previous relationship, and also what a lot of that first album is about. The final song, ‘Love Talk', is about being in another relationship, one that's long-distance. It's kind of stuff from the last two years of my life."

A great deal has happened in the world of Blossoms during that time, so there was a healthy selection of material to help fuel this new record. A particular highlight for the band was receiving the news that their debut, ‘Blossoms', had been nominated for the 2017 Mercury Prize.

"I was at an airport, going on holiday, and I got a call letting me know. I was just like ‘Oh, get in!' It was really unexpected. I mean, we were dead proud of the album. I think we deserved to be nominated, but I'm quite pessimistic, so I never thought we'd get nods."

"pull" text="Lyrics can come from anything, movies, literature, as well as just personal experience

Pessimistic, or just a perfectionist? "Probably a bit of both. Even if we sell out a gig and it's raining on the day, I'll just think, ‘Nobody's gonna come'. Then the rest of the band will be like, ‘They've bought tickets, they're gonna come!'

"But yeah, [the nomination] hasn't moulded us in any way, hasn't made us think differently about the band. It's just made me appreciate that the album was acknowledged."

If making the shortlist for one of the UK's most distinguished music prizes hasn't affected the Stockport-born band, what has?

"It's a number of things; I don't think you can put it down to one. It's the musical heritage [of Manchester], which inspires band after band, and there's just like a humbleness to that. From personal experiences, and from meeting people like Ian Brown, Noel and Liam Gallagher, there's such a mixture. And then there's the backdrop, which is always a bit grey and rainy. It's a mixture of all those things, but mainly it's the music heritage."

The legacy of ‘Madchester' prevails, and for the band, their relationship with the city's illustrious musical past is an organic one.
"My mum and dad were at [The Stone Roses’ legendary 1990 concert] Spike Island; my mum was at Maine Road watching Oasis, she had also seen the Smiths. I just happened to grow up on it. My first gig was Oasis, and the rest is history, as they'd say."

While Tom and the band spent their childhoods admiring Manchester's heroes from afar, little did they realise that they'd be welcomed into the ranks themselves one day. Contemplating what it means to be a part of Manchester's music scene, Ogden explains: "It's like a close-knit family, they look after one and other. We played first with the Courteeners; then we supported The Stone Roses. So yeah, I think it's just like, Manchester as a city - it kind of takes to its bands, it really loves them. They just support the bands like they might a football team. It's crazy, but we're fortunate that we come from this neck of the woods, we seem to get a lot of support because of that."

Getting back to the subject of their new album, Tom confirms that there was no colossal learning curve in their approaches to the development of the first album and the second.

"The first bunch of songs for the first album were written, rehearsed, and then recorded as singles - and this was before we'd even got a record deal. So we already had them ones ready, all the singles up until 'Charlemagne'. We then went onto the second half of the album after all the singles had been done. I wrote songs pretty much whenever I was home from tour; then we'd go into the studio and just build the songs from there, so we had a taste of that process on the first album.

"In the end, we approached the second album in the same way as the first. I'd write in between touring, and over last summer we went into the studio and just built songs. It wasn't like we were doing a second album with any extra insight into writing songs, since a lot of the songs just evolved anyway, and we felt comfortable moving forward with those."

Lyrically, Blossoms are unafraid to dip into the obscure. Even ‘Charlemagne' is a unique one, and fans will be forgiven for assuming that the band is made up of ardent intellectuals, or at the very least, history buffs.

On ‘Unfaithful', which appears on the new album, Tom sings, "April is the cruellest month". All those English students out there should (hopefully) recognise this as a reference to T.S. Eliot's poem, ‘The Waste Land'. But how did this line end up featuring in a Blossoms song?

"I think with ‘April is the cruellest month', that was from one of my books I have with loads of quotes in. I look through a lot of quotes, and see if anything jumps out, and that was one of the ones that jumped out at me. I'm not like an avid reader or anything.

"‘Charlemagne' came from my brother actually, he was studying history at the time, and he heard me writing the song. He heard the bit, ‘Science came, a kingdom reigned', and he said, ‘Oh, have you heard of Charlemagne?' So I thought ‘Oh, I'll have that!' and I sneaked it into the song.

"I don't have to see the context of where the quotes come from; I like to take it to wherever I wanna take it to, add it to something I'm writing about. If it rolls off the tongue and has a bit of snappiness to it, I suppose.

"But some of the time the lyrics come down from my own experience, like from films. ‘I Can't Stand It', the first single on the new album, that's a reference inspired by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where he says ‘I'm booking myself for some amnesia'. It's about how you can't get over someone after the end of a relationship. Lyrics can come from anything, movies, literature, as well as just personal experience."

"pull" text="It's easier to write lyrics about things that are unfortunate

Since the album narrates what it's like to experience a deteriorating relationship in the first half, and then the embarkation of a new relationship in the second half, ‘Cool Like You' is difficult to pigeon-hole as either a melancholic or optimistic album. Tom does admit that writing songs that are about unfortunate circumstances comes more easily to him than the typically happier subjects, though.

"A couple of songs on there are still drawing upon a failing relationship, but I wasn't directly feeling like that at the time of writing, I just channelled it, I guess. I think it's easier to write honest lyrics about that subject, whereas if I wanna say I think someone's great, or ‘I really love ya', it's harder to put that into words without it sounding cringey.

"There's a track called ‘Between The Eyes', which is about the beginnings of a relationship with someone, and the excitement, but I tried to be a bit more clever with that one. There's this line that says, ‘You crept into my heart / There must've been a side door left unlocked'. I guess it's more the sort of thing Alex Turner would write, but that one did come out quite honest. On the whole, though, it's easier to write lyrics about things that are unfortunate, but I try to do both on this album. It's about a 60:40 split."

After the album's released, it's back to touring for the foreseeable future.

"I'm especially looking forward to seeing how the new stuff goes down; we haven't played any of this stuff live yet. It'll be great to do it in the next few months now."

Thinking about whether he prefers touring over writing and developing the music, Tom declares that it's a very tough choice to make.

"I'm torn because by the end of touring the first album for two years, we were gagging to get back into the studio. But now we've been off for a while, we can't wait to tour again, so it goes in waves.

"It's great being creative and writing songs, and in the studio, but once you've been off for a while, you're just ready to tour again. I couldn't really pick, you wouldn't have one without the other."

It's a schedule that doesn't offer much downtime.

"I'm just continuously writing," Tom explains. "Although, since the album's been finished, I've been writing a little bit less. I've still been writing songs though. I know some people don't write songs for months, but I'll tend to write at least two songs a month, so I've not had proper time off. I'm always writing, really."

In that case, there shouldn't be too long to wait for album number three, right?

Taken from the May issue of Dork - order a copy or subscribe below. Blossoms' album 'Cool Like You' is out now.

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