While we’re fans of All Saints, we didn’t expect to become so hot, bothered and profusely sweaty over them.
Then again, we were interviewing the lovely ladies over the phone in the back of a car on a boiling summer’s day. 'Never Ever' (apologies, we couldn’t resist) again.
It has been 21 years (!) since Melanie Blatt, now 43, Shaznay Lewis, 42, and sisters Natalie, 45, and Nicole Appleton, 43, swaggered onto the pop scene.
Pitched as a grittier alternative to the Spice Girls, the band preferred baggy cargo pants and glowering poses over Union Jack dresses and peace signs.
Five UK number-one hits, a messy break-up and multiple children between them later, All Saints return with their fifth album, 'Testament', out now.
During an exclusive interview with Attitude, they reflect on their friendship, feuding and having the most fabulous time at Pride in London.
Earlier this month you took to the stage at G.A.Y for Pride in London and it looked like you were having a right hoot. What was the highlight?
Shaznay: When all the balloons came down and the confetti. We’re not normally a confetti band.
Natalie: One of the confetti pieces got stuck on our drummer’s nose and it was hilarious.
Does Pride season mean anything to you personally? Do you have any LGBT+ friends or family members?
Mel: Of course. From day dot, people that we work with in the business, our friends, yeah, we’re in it!
Have you ever experimented with your sexuality?
Tell us more!
S: Well, me and Mel, we’ve been going for many, many years [laughs].
Talking of years, can you believe there have been 21 of them since you first stormed the UK charts?
Nicole: We can drink in America now [laughs].
Nat: It’s gone so quickly. It’s weird to think that it was that long ago.
You’re back with new album 'Testament', which reunites you with super-producer William Orbit, the man behind your mega-hits 'Pure Shores' and 'Black Coffee'. How did that come about?
S: It was quite accidental. Nic and I bumped into William in Soho, we hung out and had a drink. He was congratulating us on our last album, [2016’s] 'Red Flag', and we said, “Look, if we go back into the studio, do you fancy making more music?” William up until this point had just been concentrating on art and hadn’t really been making music. He was really up for it. There was no pressure of trying to make music that was as good as 'Pure Shores' or 'Black Coffee'. It was lovely.
What was the mission statement when it came to making the album? Are there a set of specific themes or subject matters that tie the record together?
M: Not consciously, I don’t think. In general, the way Shaz writes it’s from her heart, her observations and her emotions. Love, life and living.
When 'Red Flag' came out, it was reported, Nicole, that the song was inspired by your divorce from Liam Gallagher. Can we expect more deep diving into your personal lives? Any Beyoncé/JAY-Z-style revelations?
M: No, there isn’t some massive narrative that we’re trying to convey. Shaz, specifically because she’s written the album, is a mother, so there’s all that experience, and that would be where’s she coming from.
Why do you think you’ve managed to endure in such a notoriously tough business? What has made you last?
M: Each other – oh, I thought you said laugh.
Nic: Each other [laughs]. And our really loyal fans.
You were billed as the Rolling Stones of girl bands. Do you think that was an accurate label at the time?
S: It’s a compliment, definitely, to be mentioned in the same sentence as them. But, look, they have another 30 years on us. If we’re still doing it in our 70s, I would be fucking amazed!
Can you remember the best party that you went to? This could trigger a potentially hazy trip down memory lane…
M: Our own parties at our own houses.
S: You go to other parties, and although it’s great because it’s a who’s who, a celeb-spotting event, you end up going your separate ways. We actually have the best time when we’re contained together and having a laugh.
Nat: The best times we had together was after a show on the tour bus or at the hotel bar.
How different do you think things would have been if you were starting out now in the era of social media and camera phones?
M: We always think about that. Fucking hell, if there had been camera phones back in the day, 20 years ago, we definitely would have had to resign or something.
Like any band, you’ve had rocky moments, notably splitting up in 2001. At any point did it feel like your friendship wouldn’t survive?
M: Definitely there were times. Being young, you quite often say, “Never again,” or that shit, then 20 years later you realise it was the most stupid thing to ever say. I think there was never any love lost, but hurt and personal things just got in the way of the bigger picture, which was being sisters and best mates.
How did the initial reunion back in 2016 happen? Who extended the proverbial olive branch?
M: Everybody was kind of still talking. I had moved to a different country, so I’d lost contact a bit. The girls called me in Ibiza, “Do you want to do it?”, and I said, “Yes,” and that was that.
Nat: It was very simple.
How tricky is it nowadays having to juggle making music and motherhood?
M: It’s definitely harder for Shaz and Nat because they have younger kids, but we have amazing families that help us out. And because we’re in control of what we’re doing, we work around our families and what we need to be doing in our parental world.
Do your kids consider you to be ‘cool mums’?
M: I’m not sure about that [laughs].
Nic: We’re still just mums at the end of the day.
Are there any songs among your catalogue of hits that you don’t feel as comfortable performing anymore?
S: There are a couple of songs that we don’t do, or that we mix up a bit to make them more palatable. It just feels like we’ve moved on from that era, maybe.
You rocked, and indeed still do rock cargo pants. Did music bosses ever try to shove you into typically ‘sexy’ clothes?
M: I think someone tried to put us in skirts once. But no one really told us what to do, looks-wise, to be honest. That was part of our appeal when we first got signed. They signed us for who we were and didn’t try to change us.
Who are you fans of, music-wise, at the moment?
M: We all have very different tastes. I’m into The Internet and Blonde.
Nic: Ariana Grande.
Nat: Queens of the Stone Age.
M: And Shaz likes Steps, they’re her favourite, she loves their new album.
There aren’t that many girl bands out there at the moment apart from Little Mix. Are you fans?
What advice do you have for aspiring pop stars? What pearls of wisdom would you like to pass on?
M: I don’t know about pearls of wisdom [laughs]. But maybe more so for women, it is just the way it’s been in history that it’s about divide and conquer, for some reason people like to pit women against each. So I’d just say, stick together and always put your bandmates first before anything else.
Nat: And communicate with each other. Don’t bring a third party in.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever been given by a fan?
Nat: We were on tour and a fan gave us a gift bag. We didn’t realise she’d put a live hamster in a cage inside. He became our beautiful tour pet, Caramel, who our producer ended up taking care of and looking after.
Who are your favourite gay divas?
All: Cher, Celina, Madonna!
Have you ever made any diva-ish demands? Like stamping your feet for a basket of lambs?
S: I wish we’d taken the opportunity to do that.
Nat: We just wanted somewhere to sit.
All Saints release new album 'Testament' today (July 20).