Entertainment & Arts

BBC Sound of 2016: Blossoms

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Media captionBlossoms have come fourth in the BBC Music Sound Of 2016 list

Guitar pop band Blossoms, who are hoping to become Greater Manchester's latest musical heroes, have come fourth on the BBC Sound of 2016 list, which highlights the hottest new acts for the new year.

The five members, who were all born in the same Stockport hospital, formed in 2013 and have honed their sound by rehearsing in their bassist's granddad's scaffolding yard.

They say they are influenced by the Arctic Monkeys, Abba and Oasis - and singer Tom Ogden sees similarities between themselves and other bands from Manchester: "We're working-class, five lads just doing it because we love doing it."

Their tuneful indie also recalls The La's and Teenage Fanclub, and is all delivered with a hint of The Doors' psychedelic stupor.

Image copyright Laura Harvey
Image caption The band named themselves after Stockport pub The Blossoms

In the beginning

The five prodigies were welcomed into the world at Stepping Hill Hospital between 1991 and '97, and later met each other at school and teenage parties.

"We all live within a two-mile radius of each other," Tom says. "I don't think many people these days in bands are that close and born in the same hospital. It's quite a nice little story."

Ogden and drummer Joe Donovan have been best friends since meeting at the age of 13 on a school trip to Alton Towers for pupils with 100% attendance records. "We must've been fairly good boys," the singer admits.

Tom, Joe and bassist Charlie Salt got together when their own teenage bands fizzled out. Donovan's sister's ex-boyfriend Josh Dewhurst was known to be a hot guitarist, so they roped him in too.

And they knew Myles Kellock from parties in his flat above a curry house. "We said we needed a keyboard player and he nominated himself," Tom recalls.

Image caption Blossoms: "We fully believe we're good enough"

"He had a broken wrist at the time. He said, 'I can do keyboards', but he couldn't. He was one of them people who could play a bit of bass, a bit of drums, he knew a C chord, and he just kind of blagged it and joined the band."

They named the new band after local pub The Blossoms - but they dropped the The. "We didn't want that," Ogden says. "We thought it sounded a bit old. Like all the old bands from the '60s."

Grand Theft Auto's musical influence

"I've been brought up on classic pop songwriting and big choruses," says Tom, who writes and sings. "Oasis were the first band I fell in love with and still are my favourite band. The Beatles, obviously. And then you've got Abba."

Hours playing video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City - released in 2002 but set in 1986 - also helped his musical education. "That's got a really good soundtrack, so that was feeding me.

"It's things like Japanese Boy by Aneka and Call Me by Blondie, The Human League, all that stuff. The kind of tunes you put on if you're going for a drink and make you feel good. And catchy. I don't think there's anything wrong with catchy."

Image caption Blossoms' debut album is being produced by The Coral singer James Skelly

The saviours of rock?

Blossoms are the only guitar group on the Sound of 2016 list. So, in an era when inspirational new rock bands are as rare as white tigers, are Blossoms the saviours of rock 'n' roll?

They try not to play up to the stereotype of arrogant upstarts, explaining that they are "flattered" to be on the list but that there are "probably a lot of other bands out there and maybe, if you like, they could and should be" on it.

But beneath the surface, there is a confidence and determination. "I thoroughly believe we can go on and have thousands of people singing our songs back," Tom says after warming to the theme.

"I think our songs fit well in that kind of euphoria. That self belief is there. We fully believe we're good enough and we feel we deserve to be on that list."

There aren't necessarily fewer guitar bands around than before, they believe - but there are fewer good ones.

"Because of how instant everything is with the internet, there is probably more bands, but probably more average bands who kind of pollute it to the point where it's harder to find the diamonds amongst it. I'm not saying we're diamonds but…"

'We are for real'

Tom has always watched the support acts when Blossoms have played live over the last couple of years, and tips Liverpool's The Vryll Society as another band to watch. "They are one of two or three who have blown me away," he says. "That's not a massive ratio."

He considers why more bands do not rise to the top. "Because everything's so instant, people are living lives through Instagram and giving off this false feeling. Like people in bands taking selfies and putting pictures up of themselves saying, 'Just about to do some songwriting'.

"If you stop taking pictures of yourself and actually focus on some writing, you might get something done.

"Or they have 'singer-songwriter' in their bio, but they're not, they're just in a band in the local area. I would never put anything like that on mine, but I'm actually doing something.

"I think there's a lot of pretenders out there and maybe that's why it's harder to get out. When it's real, it's real. You can spot the fakers, I think. I think we are real."

Building a career in scaffolding yard

They are so down-to-earth, in fact, that their songs have been crafted and polished in the humble surroundings of the Stockport scaffolding yard owned by Charlie's granddad, where the band have made a rehearsal room in a corner of the warehouse.

"We just let loose and we can stay there as late as we want, and there is a charm in it," Tom says. "It's a really cool place. It must have helped our sound somehow, rehearsing there, to be able to be that creative. All the men who work there are all dead sound and up for a laugh."

"They look at us funny sometimes with the long hair and skinny jeans," Joe adds. "But they're used to it now."

Sharing space in the warehouse is the tunnel that once led to the pitch at Manchester City's old Maine Road stadium. "Yeah it's in there in the corner," says Tom, a big City fan. "But we don't run through it when we go to rehearse, like [ex-City hero] Shaun Goater."

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