Turntable Interview: The Boy Least Likely To
The Boy Least Likely To reached a certain level of fame in the ’00s on the strength of their debut album The Best Party Ever and the singles “Paper Cuts” and “Be Gentle With Me” (the video for which featured a young Rashida Jones). They soon became the best known example of a genre of twee indie-pop called “cuddlecore” by some, a title that came as a surprise to the band’s singer Jof Owens, but more on that later. After a few years off, The Boy Least Likely To — Owens and Pete Hobbs — are back with a new album, The Great Perhaps, a project they funded with the help of fans via Pledge Music. The album showcases the band’s simple songwriting and emotional lyrics all set to a shyly pop beat fueled by whimsical drum machine rhythms and sly guitar hooks. Owens stopped by Turntable.fm for a chat about the new album, making music on their own schedule and, of course, Kylie Minogue. Yes, that’s the second interview in a row in which Kylie Minogue came up.
Melissa Locker started playing “Joan of Arc” by Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark
STEREOGUM: Hello! So what have The Boy Least Likely To been up to lately?
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: Well, we finished recording the album in January and then ever since then we’ve just been getting everything ready for that coming out.
STEREOGUM: Does it feel like you’ve been away for awhile?
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO started playing “Appalachian Mountain Station” by The Bicycles
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: It does. It always feels like we’ve been away for ages when we bring out an album because it takes so long for us to record them. Every time we put an album out it’s like we’re making “a comeback”
STEREOGUM: Do you think it takes your band longer than the average band to record an album?
Melissa Locker started playing “Everybody’s Talkin’” by Harry Nilsson
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: I think so. Other bands seem to have much less time between albums. I don’t know why it takes so long for us to record them either. It’s not like we have a massive sound or anything. With this album we just tried so many different things it ended up taking four times as long as it should have done, because we recorded three different versions of each song. Oh, nice song too.
STEREOGUM: Yeah Harry Nilsson is so fantastic. You recorded three different versions of each song? Like, a reggae version and a jazz version?
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO:
‘Everybody’s Talking’ and ‘Gentle on My Mind’ are my two favourite road songs, along with the theme from the littlest hobo.
STEREOGUM: The Shirley Temple movie?
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO started playing “Delta Dawn (Single Version)” by Tanya Tucker
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: Haha, no the show about a hobo dog. Well, maybe not 3 versions of every song, but most songs have been tried in different genres. There was a reggae moment. I went away for a few days and came back and Pete had transformed the song ‘lucky to be alive’ into something that sounded like chaka demus.
STEREOGUM: That would have really blown some minds if you came out with a reggae album.
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: It was terrible. He wouldn’t even play it to me properly. He knew he’d messed up.
STEREOGUM: Does that happen often? That you leave the studio and Pete takes the reins and leads things in a different direction?
Melissa Locker started playing “Lost Cause” by Beck
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: Yeah, and usually it’s a great thing that I come back to because he’s had time to sit and live with the song and take it somewhere unexpected, but sometimes. Sometimes it can go wrong. I do go into the studio but if I go in too often I annoy him, and it gets pretty boring after a while staring at the back of his head while he works out drum loops. I pop in once a week. Like Kylie.
STEREOGUM: Is that what Kylie does?
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: I imagine she does. haha. I don’t know. Oh, I love this Beck song so much. It’s off my favourite Beck album. Kylie might actually be quite hands on.
STEREOGUM: I like how you are making up rumors about Kylie Minogue. You’d better say something nice about her now: What is your favorite Kylie song?
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO started playing “Reunion” by Bobbie Gentry
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: I was just about to say how much I love kylie. I’ve been a huge big fan since “I Should Be So Lucky.” I should probably play some Kylie now, although I do prefer her early stuff obvs.
STEREOGUM: Obviously. Like the “Locomotion,” do you have kylie on your ipod? Or do you prefer her music on vinyl?
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: No, that was the only song that came out before “I should be so lucky” in the UK. I don’t like that one. I have all her first four albums on vinyl. and cd. and tape.
STEREOGUM: Next step: Kylie tattoo
Melissa Locker started playing “Wet And Rusting” by Menomena
STEREOGUM: So should we all listen for the Kylie influence on your new album?
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: I think that’s the least I can do after making up rumours about her. Was bobbie gentry even playing then?
STEREOGUM: I heard it!
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: There isn’t much Kylie in there sadly, but there’s definitely a more electronic pop influence. Early Depeche Mode, Giorgio Moroder, the Human League, that sort of thing. The next album will probably be influenced by Kylie. Early Kylie.
STEREOGUM: So we should look for it in about four years? ; )
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: Haha. maybe we might be really quick with the next one. now that we’ve got a direction.
STEREOGUM: True. How do you feel about the “cuddlecore” title that you were given back in the early ’00s?
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO started playing “Better the Devil You Know” by Kylie Minogue
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: I only found out about ‘cuddlecore’ a few weeks ago. I don’t think I really understand it. I thought we were just a tongue-in-cheek english indiepop group. Like the pooh sticks and talulah gosh and bmx bandits.
STEREOGUM: Do you consider yourself tongue-in-cheek?
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: I do think we are. We don’t take ourselves completely seriously. A lot of what we do we do because the idea of us doing it is quite funny.
STEREOGUM: I appreciate an artist who doesn’t take his product completely seriously
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: All the best pop music doesn’t take itself seriously. Oh god, I didn’t even say anything about you playing OMD. I blame OMD for a lot of pop music at the moment, people taking themselves too seriously.
STEREOGUM: But they don’t take themselves seriously at all! I just interviewed them. And they never thought they would play more than one gig.
Melissa Locker started playing “The Boy With the Arab Strap” by Belle and Sebastian
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: Really, what about all those historical pop songs? Maybe, they’ve got older and seen the funny side. I still blame them.
STEREOGUM: Ha! Well he said he never meant to be a musician and was a frustrated historian. Hence, historical pop. Their new album has a song for Helen of Troy
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: Haha!
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: I suppose so, but none of the bands who seem to be influenced by them seem to get the joke.
STEREOGUM: So what do you think is wrong with pop these days?
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: It takes itself too seriously.
STEREOGUM: How so?
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: Everyone wants to be seen as an “artist” making some great statement, but really it’s just pop music and it feels a bit like the pop bands these days are more like prog rock bands.
STEREOGUM: Really? Examples please. Like Katy Perry = Rush?
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO started playing “Here I Am” by Adam Green (feat. Binki Shapiro)
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: Bastille, everything everything, those sorts of bands. Even bobby gillespie seems to take himself seriously and he invented wearing anoraks in rock music!
STEREOGUM: Ha! I didn’t realize that was something that needed inventing.
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: I think bobby was the first. He would stand there trying to look like a macho rock star wearing an anorak. it was obviously a joke.
STEREOGUM: So if we laugh when listening to your album, is that okay?
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: Haha, yes, you can laugh at our record I suppose. Well, maybe not laugh, but smile knowingly.
STEREOGUM: Noted! So you worked with Pledge Music for this album. What drew you to that platform?
Melissa Locker started playing “Young Adult Friction” by The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: We’d been away for a few years and we thought people might have forgotten about us, so it seemed like a nice way to reintroduce ourselves to people over a few months. Instead of coming back and no one noticing. It’s been really fun doing the pledge music thing, but i do worry about going on about it all the time. It’ll be nice to talk about shops again.
STEREOGUM: So you were pleased with the process and the outcome?
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: It was a lot of fun and we got to hear from some really sweet fans who had some lovely stories about how they found each other and how they found us and we sold things to them.
STEREOGUM: Sounds pretty idyllic Is there a story behind your new album?
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO started playing “Check My Heart” by The Pastels
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: I knew I wanted to write about romantic love because I’d never really written about it before, but then as the songs came together it seemed to be as much about loneliness as it was about love. I think it’s about love and loneliness in the end. When I’m writing about love it often ends up being about loneliness. I’m interested in writing about things and people that don’t fit in. I’ve always written about those things. I was reading a lot of Carson Mccullers when I was writing it. I guess that was a big influence.
Melissa Locker started playing “Once In A Lifetime (LP Version)” by Talking Heads
STEREOGUM: Her books are so sad!
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: But kind of uplifting too, because she wants to believe in love so much.
STEREOGUM: True, that said, that sounds like a very serious topic for a guy who just told us to not take pop so seriously
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: Well, I write about serious things. They’re not joke songs. I just don’t take myself seriously. We’re not going to perform the songs in a museum, but the words are about serious things. Sadness, loneliness, happiness, love.
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO started playing “OMYGOD!” by Kate Nash
STEREOGUM: And how was it back being in the studio?
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: It was really nice. We’re great friends and have been for twenty years, so when we get together it’s always nice. Sometimes we need to be apart from each other or we drive each other crazy, and there’s only so long I can stare at the back of Pete’s head when he’s looking for a synth sound, but overall it was a lot of fun to make this record.
STEREOGUM: And it’s a lot of fun to listen to, as well. That’s all my questions! Thank you so much.
THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO: Oh, that’s sad. I was really enjoying it and I had Cults Percussion Ensemble and George Jones lined up to play too. Thank you so much for all the questions.
STEREOGUM: Oh sorry! And I promise to listen to George Jones on my own.
The Great Perhaps is out on iTunes now.