In The Works: Ballet School

Inside the band’s Berlin studio sessions…

Having surfaced in 2013, buoyed by a seal of approval from Grimes and driven onwards by a deal with Bella Union, Ballet School made an immediate and lasting impression with their track ‘Heartbeat Overdrive’. A sort of dream-pop meets R&B hybrid, the track scored fans aplenty – not least of all Summer Camp who, when reviewing the track for Clash, wrote: “I LOVE IT ALL.”

Since then, the Berlin-based trio of Rosie Blair, Louis McGuire and Michel Collet has focused on the creation of a debut album, titled ‘The Dew Lasts An Hour’ – and it’s been coming along just fine, as Rosie explains in this insight into its recording.

Ballet School play Clash’s stage at The Great Escape 2014, at Coalition on May 8th. Details. Click the photo to scroll through behind-the-scenes shots from the album’s recording.

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‘Heartbeat Overdrive’

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Making The Record

“We are based in Berlin. The audacity of making a pop record on a shoestring budget in Berlin is something I have noticed a bit, I guess, but such are the times. Berlin is a place where you can really live above the standard dictated by your means in other cities like London New York or Los Angeles, where all the real pop music gets made. 

“We have a good little crew over here, and we're trying to make it happen for all of us on a major level. We are managed by Jonas Verwijnen, who runs Kaiku Studios. He also manages the rapper Dena. Every band needs that first person that believes in them, and Jonas is that person for us.

“Our album was made between Kaiku Studios, k2 studios in Lichtenberg and at home on our laptops. We all did bits and pieces of everything, but on the whole me and Michel wrote the songs, and Louis and Jonas produced.  

“The bulk of the writing was done in a year, but there are a couple of tracks on the record that I wrote years ago. This is the usual first album vibe, but I really tried to write and use as much new material as possible and we continued to write up until the studio recording date, because I always notice that my song cycles have difference moods and themes so it feels better to keep them separate.

“This does mean we have a bunch of songs that aren’t on the record, but we will share some more as bonus tracks.”

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The Title

‘The Dew Lasts An Hour’ is a statement about the transience and fragility of youth. It’s something I could imagine Blanche DuBois saying, or maybe even Quentin Crisp. I have a very camp side to me, because you know that’s a survival technique for women, and anyone with even a shadow of the fabulous about them. Like, we can’t fight physically, but we can end you verbally. I really love glamour, but only as part of the notion that charm is 50% illusion.

“The artists that I think are the most interesting are the conflicted ones. The ones that have the guts to show bone, the contradictions – the ones who don't have it all figured out. Because, for me, the greatness of the art comes from the struggle to reconcile opposing drives. There’s something stoic about people who just keep trying. I always think about the Allen Ginsberg quote about a young Patti Smith: ‘How will she deal with suffering? What will happen when she becomes the mythical hag we all turn out to be?’ This is a key question in life. I love survivors.

“The album is about innocence on the cusp of experience. When you’ve lived a little and you begin to understand what true character is – that’s grace. I hate the trend of people presenting themselves tougher than they really are. If it’s all front, then there’s nothing there to hold on to when you need it. Like, how many books have you read? How many dead bodies have you seen? Don’t act tough if you are not tough.

“I don’t think girls should be ashamed of softness and gentleness. I’m a feminist who is really obsessed with protecting and elevating the ephemeral world of girls. We shouldn’t have to discard that to be respected. That’s why the band is called Ballet School, because when you watch a dancer on the stage you see this delicate, silent thing. But inside every muscle is burning, and there’s a physiological power there that is beyond the capabilities of most people.

“Sometimes the most quiet, gentle people are actually the really strong ones. I saw this in my mother. The ability to endure. That’s grace. That’s what I aspire to.”

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‘Crush’

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The Future For This Record

“This is our first record. I think the point of being in a band and making music is to make the music that you want to hear yourself. I love pop and I love singing and writing. Recently, there’s a lot of artists out there all making really great music on their own terms. Sky FerrieraBlood OrangeKindness, even Lana Del Rey – that’s the stuff I feel our music fits with.

“I really admire the producers working in this area, and I guess I want to align myself with those people, because I really want to write for other artists. So Ariel Rechtshaid, Dev Hynes, Mark Ronson and Sia Furler are all people I just worship. Then there’s Grimes, who for me is really a hero and a very important artist because her autonomy was totally accepted as a part of her public persona. No woman has ever gotten such respect before.

“My dream for the band is to make the music that I love on my own terms and define what I do for myself. Because you know, there are no rules in this business right now.”

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‘The Dew Lasts An Hour’ will released by Bella Union this summer. Find Ballet School online here, and see them live – in addition to their performance on Clash’s stage at The Great Escape, details here – as follows…

May
2nd – Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds
3rd – Zanzibar, Liverpool
4th – School of Art, Glasgow
6th – The Social, London
7th – Birthdays, London (free entry)
8th – Coalition, Brighton (Clash stage at The Great Escape)

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