Blossoms are making hit singles - but the charts haven't noticed
Blossoms frontman Tom Ogden knows his way around a chorus.
Along the way, they've been nominated for a Mercury Prize and a Brit Award. Last summer, they played a homecoming show at Edgeley Park Stadium, selling out every ticket in under an hour.
Yet they've never so much as tickled the top 40. Their highest charting single, I Can't Stand It, peaked at number 77 and lasted just two weeks in the top 100.
"It's just the way music is at the moment," observes drummer Joe Donovan. "Bands just aren't the thing."
"Not once have we ever had a discussion about a single going into the Top 40. It's not even on the radar."
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The biggest obstacle in their way comes from streaming services, which favour solo pop artists and US hip-hop over the indie vibes of Blossoms. No matter how catchy their melodies get, they're absent from heavily-subscribed playlists like "Today's Hits" and "Pure Motivation", which can propel a single into the charts.
"It's a weird thing. The Top 40's an anomaly," says Ogden, arguing that hit singles aren't all they're cracked up to be.
"Charlemagne only got to number 98 but it's really well-known," he says.
"There are other artists who get loads of top 10 singles but their album only sneaks into the Top 20, like Liam Payne. He only got to number 17 - and he was in One Direction!"
This week, Blossoms are up against a different Directioner in the album charts, with their third record, Foolish Loving Spaces, currently about 8,000 copies ahead of Louis Tomlinson's debut, Walls in the race for number one.
It's earned the band the best reviews of their career. The Guardian revelled in its "delightful" and "marvellously uncool" pop melodies. The NME called it "memorable and joyful". And Clash magazine lapped up the "glorious, ambitious and fulfilling" similarities to acts like Abba, Fleetwood Mac and The Bee Gees.
As you can tell, Ogden was in a happy place when he started writing the album over Christmas 2018. He'd recently moved in with his girlfriend - the "keeper" of the song title - and started renovating their house.
Because the building was "in bits", he'd go back to his parents' house every time he had a spare moment to make music in the back room where he'd written Blossoms' first two albums.
But the situation was far from ideal. "It wasn't like I could wake up and pick up a guitar," when inspiration struck, he recalls. "I didn't even have a guitar in my house.
"So I was like, 'The first room we need to get done is my room to write tunes in - otherwise I can't really do my job."
Once the work was done, Ogden bought an upright piano and wrote almost 25 songs, becoming so prolific that Blossoms initially considered releasing three mini-albums in 2020.
Inspired by three albums he'd been listening to during the renovation work (Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense, U2's The Joshua Tree and Primal Scream's Screamadelica) his songs became more ambitious, both lyrically and musically.
As a result, you'll hear the band playing slide guitar with a bottle of insect repellent and bashing the hubcaps of a Subaru ("it sounds like a triangle"), while Ogden has started writing characters and stories instead of relying on his own life experiences.
Best friend's girl
That's most apparent on the single Your Girlfriend, a painfully realistic portrayal of a man who falls for his room-mate's girlfriend: "I wish she'd come over today," he sighs wistfully in the chorus.
He found inspiration online after googling the phrase "I love my friend's girlfriend", and reading a blog by someone facing that exact situation.
After that, "it just started writing itself," says the singer.
Some of the details from that blog seeped into the lyrics. The protagonist can't escape his friend's sex life because "the walls are paper thin"; and resolves to move out, only to find he "can't 'cause we've just signed a lease".
Ogden adds one final, fictional twist: "I heard they got engaged today," he sings over the song's last chord.
Initially, he wasn't sure about presenting it to the band - and not just because he worried they'd think it was written about one of their girlfriends.
"I remember you saying: 'I've done this and it's a bit weird,'" Donovan reminds him. "It's almost like you'd come up with the idea for a film."
Despite his reservations, the band were enthusiastic and encouraged him to finish the song.
"And the more we listened to it, we were like, 'Damn, it's great," says Ogden. Instead of holding it back and recording it in Nashville, as had been the plan, they jumped into the studio with long-term collaborator James Skelly from The Coral, and rushed the single out for last summer's festival season.
The reception encouraged them to ditch the Nashville sessions and build on Your Girlfriend's upbeat, rhythmic sound in the more familiar surroundings of Liverpool's Parr Street Studios. But as their confidence grew, they decided to keep portions of the demo recordings intact.
"The piano on The Keeper is the one from my room," says Ogden. "Just an upright piano, not too fancy.
"We went into Parr Street Studios and they've got the grand piano that Chris Martin wrote The Scientist on, but it just didn't sound as good.
"So we were like, 'Put the one from the demo in,' and it just had something.
"That saved us an hour."
Although Foolish Loving Spaces was only released six days ago, Ogden's purple patch continued and Blossoms are already working on their fourth album.
"Luckily, I've not hit a dry spot," says the singer. "It'll happen one day, inevitably, but if you can get four albums out, then you can take a bit of a break, I reckon."
Not that the band have any time off before the end of the year, with their first arena tour coming this spring, followed by a clutch of stadium dates supporting The Killers.
Ogden has even written a song, God-Sized Problem, with Brandon Flowers in mind, which could crop up on the next record. And even if it doesn't, says Donovan, they've got a "killer tune" held in reserve.
"It's one of the best songs we've ever done," he enthuses. "And Tom wasn't even going to show it to us!
"If that dry patch ever comes around, I'm just going to rob his phone and scroll through the voice memos and be like, 'No that is a tune.'"