Blossoms frontman Tom Ogden: We love making music but don't go round thinking that we're great
Ahead of their Belfast gig supporting Kasabian later this month, Blossoms frontman Tom Ogden tells Joe Nerssessian why they're modest about their success, despite making the Mercury Prize shortlist.
When they took to the stage at Reading and Leeds Festivals last year, indie-pop group Blossoms had just released their first studio album.
Twelve months on from their blistering performances at the joint festivals, the Stockport five-piece's eponymous debut is on the Mercury Prize shortlist and they are just weeks away from a return to Reading and Leeds - this time on the main stage behind one of their biggest idols, Liam Gallagher.
They will also be sharing the stage at Custom House Square in Belfast with Kasabian on Tuesday, August 22, in what promises to be one of hottest tickets in town this summer.
But the boys are not resting on their laurels. Progress on their second album is well under way, with 10 tracks already recorded, reveals frontman Tom Ogden, who is taking a quick break outside Liverpool's Parr Street Studios.
"If you'd have told us this time last year we'd have nearly finished recording our second album, we wouldn't have believed you," he says in a quiet, Mancunian tone. "But when you're in a creative place, things move fast."
With something close to 150 live performances last year, including around 50 festivals, it's hard to believe Ogden found time to write any new material.
"We didn't have a lot of time off, but when you're on the road and get pockets of space, the songs are just ready to fall out," the 24-year-old explains, adding that the high volume of gigs gave the band the impetus to create new music so they wouldn't grow bored of performing the same songs over and over again.
Extra motivation came with the arrival of some new equipment. As a youngster, the first instrument Ogden learned to play was the keyboard. Despite Myles Kellock taking on synth in the band, he continues to write songs around them.
"We got a couple of vintage Eighties synths and keyboards and a couple of reissued ones as well," he says. "It gives us a new sound and gets us to a corner we wouldn't have got to with just a guitar."
Like their first album, the sophomore effort is being produced by The Coral's James Skelly, and Ogden offers some intriguing comparisons when asked about its content.
"It sounds better than the first - we're evolving as a band, and myself as a songwriter," he says.
"The words are better and have more depth. Also, towards the end of the last album, we entered a more synthy world, so we've continued down that corridor and took another little turn-off.
"It's more upbeat, like New Order meets Kylie Minogue in places. It's a bit of Fleetwood Mac, like Tango In the Night or Go Your Own Way, and a bit of a Kate Bushy kind of thing.
"War On Drugs is there a little bit and Arcade Fire has cropped up, but this is all in the production, not the songwriting.
"I can't really not write songs like that and I've always approached writing in a similar way... classic pop songwriting.
"And other moments, it just purely sounds like Blossoms. It's always going to be hooky and melodic."
Skelly's support has been crucial for the band. In 2014 - after just a year together - his label, Skeleton Records, signed Blossoms before they moved to Virgin, and he has worked as their producer since.
Earlier this year, an article on Skelly in NME described how he was launching a northern musical empire at Parr Street.
Presented with the phrase, Ogden laughs and clearly doesn't think of it in such strategic, grand terms.
"Northern alliance?" he says, repeating the question. "I dunno, I guess you've just got a load of bands doing good things at the moment and it started with us."
Strategic or not, it's not long ago that bands emerging from Greater Manchester were taking on the world, and Ogden sees that as inspiration rather than a suffocating pressure.
"We've been embraced by it and have a dedicated following in the area," he says.
"We just played Castlefield Bowl (8,000 capacity venue in Manchester) and it was amazing. That's just off our first album.
"I think if we'd come from any other part of the country, we wouldn't have got that. I suppose there is pressure there because it's a high standard of bands coming from there, but if you're confident and you believe in yourself, there's no reason why you can't stand up next to them bands."
Ogden's determined answer ends abruptly as he's interrupted by a bird relieving itself inches from his head.
Laughing it off, he continues: "We've always wanted to be a big band and on big stages.
"We take it very seriously in terms of we want to do this for the rest of our lives and we love making music, but just because we're on the main stage, we don't walk round thinking that we're great.
"We don't take ourselves too seriously in that sense, but we see us as headliners one day."
Less than two weeks later, Blossoms are included on this year's Mercury Prize shortlist alongside the likes of Alt-J, The xx, Ed Sheeran and Stormzy.
Ogden was at the airport when he was told, about to embark on his first holiday in five years.
Although grateful for the recognition, he repeats his message from 10 days earlier that the band are determined to keep moving forward. "It'll be a bit of a bookmark for where we started all those years ago, writing songs in our bedroom," he says down the phone.
"It's great for that chapter to end with a nice little nod for best album of the year, but we don't dwell on it and it won't be the focal point for the rest of the summer.
"We're excited about the second album, and it's another thing that adds on to a great couple of years.
"We've got to keep the standard high and stay in people's minds and not just drop off and be forgotten
"But we've got our heads screwed on. We want to keep making great music for a long time and keep with it."
Blossoms will support Kasabian at Custom House Square, Belfast on Tuesday, August 22, 6pm. Tickets cost from £36.75 from www1.ticketmaster.co.uk. They will perform on the main stage at Reading and Leeds Festivals which take place between August 25 and 27