Interview With Elle & The Pocket Belles  (10 Questions to…)

Phenomenal, incredibly talented, with extraordinary vocal skills and enchanting voices, beautiful women – we are of course talking about Elle & The Pocket Belles. I’m sure you’ve heard of this band of five lovely British women, who released their fantastic album ‘What’s a Girl to Do…’ in February this year. I had the pleasure of interviewing Elle, who told me about the formation process of the band and the stages of work on the aforementioned album and singles, among other things. It is with great pleasure that I present to you an interview with Elle & The Pocket Belles, and I guarantee that from this article you will learn a lot of very interesting information about this band that you never knew before!

01. LadyDot: Hey, Elle! I am incredibly pleased to be able to interview you. I’m sure it’s not just me, but also our readers who are curious to know how the band Elle & The Pocket Belles came about. Did you know each other before, did you meet by chance, or did you form the band by holding a casting call? Finding five such incredibly talented women with perfectly complementary voices is certainly a challenge!

Elle (Elle & The Pocket Belles): Hi LadyDot! I’m very excited to talk to you about Elle & The Pocket Belles. Ok so initially I wanted to form a band as a side project (a function band) to earn some money after graduating, alongside auditioning for Musical Theatre and Theatre shows… you always have to have a side hustle! All of us have a background in Musical Theatre… which is clearly where some of our dramatic flares come from haha! It’s also a key feature that has helped us create the right blend and sound together- as we’ve all trained in very similar ways, and performed in ensembles.
It definitely hasn’t been the typical band formation. If you are an OG fan, or have known about us for a while (…we’ve been going since 2011!) then you will have spotted a few line up changes over the years. Because life happens- Belles have moved away; gone through career changes; had children and gone on maternity leave. Big shout out to all the amazingly talented women who have been a ”Pocket Belle” over the years and contributed to the band.

Taking it right back to the start, I met Philippa in High School; we studied music and performing arts together and our friendship flourished. We’ve been performing together and collaborating in some capacity ever since. So when I wanted to create this band I immediately knew I wanted her to be involved. I met Michaela at Drama School in London, (alongside another girl who was an original member) so I knew first hand their talent haha! The name ”pocket belles” came from how we would laugh about our height difference – the belles (…and Philippa in fact) are all 5’2” and I am 5’11”.
An inside joke turned into our branding USP haha! We were introduced to Cat through mutual friends, and she immediately fitted into the fold. (A little fact about Cat… she is pitch perfect so she keeps us all in check!) Then I put out a casting call to find more fabulously talented 5’2’’ ladies… which is how Chloe and Joanna came to be Pocket Belles!

02. LadyDot:  Did you feel from the beginning that Electro Swing was the musical genre that fascinated you the most and this was the atmosphere in which you wanted to create your songs? Or did you think of something completely different, maybe you wanted to do classic swing at first? What do you like most about Electro Swing?

Elle (Elle & The Pocket Belles): No, not at all… I only discovered the genre in 2013 when we met Mista Trick and started collaborating with him. I then discovered and fell in love with Bart & Baker- which ultimately led to us collaborating and performing with them at White Mink and Boomtown in 2014 and 2015!
I am so glad we delved into the Electro Swing world; for us it’s the perfect mix of Vintage/Swing with contemporary sounds (electronic beat and pop edge).

Back in the beginning days we started out singing classic Jazz and Swing… specifically inspired by the 40s wartime music and styling. We worked really hard on the group’s vocal harmonies and blended sound. Even singing in unison, as five individuals, it takes time and practice to blend… singing the vowels/words the same, the phrasing and timing, coming off together seamlessly. Then we started to take inspiration from other eras- 20,30s,50s,60s… as well as contemporary pop influences (girl bands, solo artists), and keeping the influence of our ingrained theatrical background (musicality and storytelling elements). It’s all played a part and led us to this new sound.

03. LadyDot: Your first song, ‘Swingin’ Together’, was released in 2015. It’s wonderfully swinging, kept in the classic 1940s style, incredibly rhythmic and full of your fantastic vocals. Anyway, the remixes of this song are equally great! And then… you suddenly disappeared and didn’t release a new single, ‘Drive’, until 2021. Why did this happen? Or have you concentrated on touring?

Elle (Elle & The Pocket Belles): Thank you for that wonderful review of Swingin’ Together. Big Shout out to Ragtime Records – as this was our first big break. On the release front I guess we did disappear… but we were hard at work gigging on the festival and event scenes, earning a living for many years (sadly covid hit as well). We were also working on more original material during these years. Some of the songs on our album we have actually had up our sleeve for a while. We even packaged together a Vintage Swing album a while back, which also included some of our unique covers that we perform Live. But there was something holding me back, I didn’t think it was quite ready yet, and we didn’t have backing or support from the right people yet. I was starting to lose faith a bit, and with covid hitting our industry and livelihood hard… BUT then we got the breakthrough we had waited for and wanted for so long, and which I felt we deserved after years of working hard… Through our longstanding collaboration with Mista Trick, we ended up featuring on several of his tracks for his album You; which led to us joining the Freshly Squeezed Family! Hooray! We then got to work, re-produced our work and wrote new songs with our amazing creative team; having the backing of Freshly Squeezed Records was perfect support and the boost I had been searching for.

04. LadyDot: In 2023, you made your big comeback. And in a totally big way, as you released the total banger ‘See You Later’, which by the end of March 2024 already has almost 400,000 plays on Spotify, and your colourful and creative music video – over 400,000 views on YouTube – huge congratulations! What do you think made this song such a hit? How long did you work on it and who helped you produce this fantastic song?

Elle (Elle & The Pocket Belles): Thanks! I’m literally beaming reading what you wrote there. It has been SO exciting. We’ve been wanting this for so many years…to finally have our songs out there with an official music video is a dream come true. It sounds cheesy but its true; we have been blown away by the response and the success of this first single! So I want to say again a massive thank you to everyone who has supported it and listened to it.

Hmm what made this a hit…? I guess that’s the big question all musicians want to know the answer to… Why are some songs a hit and some aren’t? For me I think the production plays a big part in its success- I think the production is incredible. There’s so many layers to it – all the ad libs, BVs, harmonies, and the instrumentation – massive shout out to Joe Rodwell and Richard Hale who produced this track. I think another reason might be that people connected to the story/the lyrics. Everyone has been through at least one breakup in their life I imagine. We all love how sassy the song is, so I think people connect to that as well. It feels so good and empowering to perform this song.

The video shoot was a pinch me moment… We’d never shot in an actual film studio before (all of our previous videos had been Live performance footage, or filmed in a recording studio/rehearsal room) so to be on a proper ” set” was really exciting. The director Benji Cooper did a phenomenal job- the way he captured us and edited it together. I’m so happy with the final result. It really captures us- as a group of friends messing around, having fun- how we truly are with each other. For example the paint fight was real- that wasn’t planned. It just started after I accidently caught Chloe’s leg with my roller… and then that became a big moment in the music video because luckily Benji just carried on filming haha! (check out the BTS video on YouTube).

05. LadyDot: Let’s now move on to questions about your excellent, perfect album ‘What’s a Girl to Do…’, which you released in February this year on Freshly Squeezed Music. How long did it take to produce this album? Did you encounter any unforeseen twists and turns along the way? Who supported you during the making of this album?

Elle (Elle & The Pocket Belles): As I mentioned before some of the songs on the album we had already; they were maybe 85% finished and then we re-structured parts of the songs, and re-produced them. So it’s hard to put a definitive time frame on it… but pretty much the whole of 2023 was focused on the album, the single releases and videos. Some songs were written specifically for the album- for example 100, Midnight Dancer, and Old Fashioned. We actually wrote the Chorus and Verse 1 of Old Fashioned in the last hour of a studio session together- me, Joe and Philippa. It just flowed. Other songs took much longer… Philippa and I would stew over lyrics or melody, passing multiple edits back and forth. I personally always find Verse 2 of a song tricky to write- to match it to verse 1, but take it on a journey and develop the idea. Then taking into consideration the time it took to record all the vocals and live instruments AND many more hours and hours and hours of editing and production work from Joe and Rich. They were troopers and I can’t thank them enough.

06. LadyDot: As singles to promote the album ‘What’s a Girl to Do…’ you have already chosen the previously mentioned ‘See You Later’, ‘Never Wanna Say Goodbye’, ‘100’, ‘Dancing with the Devil’ and ‘Get Down Tonight’. Was the choice of these singles obvious, or did you consider releasing completely different songs as singles? Or did you record more songs that ultimately didn’t make it onto the album, just waiting for the right time to release them?

Elle (Elle & The Pocket Belles): Yes it was a clear choice for these songs to be the singles, in that order… after See You Later we wanted to show a slightly softer side after the sassy start, so Never Wanna Say Goodbye was the perfect choice. Then it was summertime and so 100 was the perfect end of summer song, and then Autumn and halloween time came and so it was the perfect time to release Dancing With The Devil. Then before the album dropped the final official single to be released was Get Down Tonight- which was our very first original song- so for me it was really important to release this one as a legacy track. We have performed Get Down Tonight at every single one of our gigs! It will have sounded different over the years as our sound evolved and we re-produced it; maybe you saw us performing with our Vintage Swing band, or a cappella, or with Mista Trick- but we would have heard it! It is our defining track- and I still love performing it all these years later.

Yes we did have a few more songs that we were considering putting on the album. It was hard to make the decision to cut them (and hard to even cut verses/bridges from songs) – especially ones that have been recorded and produced as it can feel like wasted creative time that you spent on them. But looking at the album now with the 10 tracks, we made the right call. We are all so proud of the album.

07. LadyDot: Probably not only me, as well as our readers, would be interested to know if Elle & The Pocket Belles is your only musical project? Perhaps each of you also contributes to other bands?

Elle (Elle & The Pocket Belles): Yes… so we are still collaborating with the mighty Mista Trick and I tour with his band Mista Trick Collective. I am looking at a busy summer ahead which is exciting. I love the festival season.

08. LadyDot: Okay, surely you have a whole host of other passions besides music or something you do in your spare time. Can you tell us briefly about that?

Elle (Elle & The Pocket Belles): Hahaha I’m not sure any of us would say we have that much spare time in our lives right now… some of us are parents – so most of our time outside of work is taken up with children, and some of the Belles are busy working their other jobs when we’re not performing or recording. The hustle is real! Haha. We have an Actors’ Agent and a Singing Teacher among us, which comes in very handy.
We are really lucky to work within our passions… we made our hobby our job! Haha. We also get to work AND have fun together. But yes aside from work/performing we all like to go out, see shows- theatre, comedy, gigs; we all take an interest in our health and wellbeing- fitness, yoga, dance classes, walking our dogs haha!

09. LadyDot: I know that touring is very important to you. I found out that you have performed at Glastonbury, Latitude, Wilderness, Boomtown, Shambala and Swingamajig festivals, among others. That’s really impressive! I’m sure you have a whole host of memories and fantastic experiences from each of these events, but please tell me, are any of these performances the most memorable for you? What do you like best about performing live?

Elle (Elle & The Pocket Belles): Oh wow, yeah we have so many amazing memories and incredible stages that we have had the chance to perform on. The most stand out memories for me are from Glastonbury Festival… it’s such an iconic festival- everytime we get to go to Glasto on an artist pass it’s amazing. The first time performing on the Glade Stage back in 2014 was a pinch me moment – I looked out at the crowd and also the whole festival scene beyond and couldn’t quite believe I was standing there on that stage. We were also being filmed live and then projected onto screens behind us on stage, which was a first for us.
We did Glasto again in 2015, 2017 and 2022. A great memory from 2017 was when we opened Croissant Neuf on Thursday night, and the tent doors opened and people just flooded in, they had been waiting, and the tent was packed in seconds. Some people had come to hear us for a second time that day!

Back in 2015 we performed at Latitude Festival on The Waterfront Stage; which was really cool- performing on a floating stage, in the sunshine (amazing weather that year for the festival) enjoying the beautiful scenery surrounding us, and also performing to an audience in all directions. There were people behind us, in front and across from us on the other side of the lake, and to the sides on the bridge. We hadn’t planned for it- so we had to quickly adapt the show and add more movement, and keep changing our positions.

My favourite thing about performing Live is the adrenaline buzz I get from it- we all do. Also the energy and love and support that we give to each other on stage and off is very fulfilling. We honestly just have so much fun together. Also no two shows are the same… that’s another great thing about our job. We get to experience a range of different places, different venues, different stages, different events, different audiences. It keeps it fresh and exciting.

10. LadyDot: I always end with this question: what are your plans for the near future? What else would you like to do? Maybe you’re planning a tour, or maybe you’re going to surprise us, your huge fans, with something?

Elle (Elle & The Pocket Belles): One particular gig we are very excited for this summer is our return to Twinwood Festival… with our brand new Electro Swing show!
And we will of course be performing at Goodwood Revival in September- which is our favourite annual event (we have been performing there every year since 2012)
We are working on some more collaborations which will hopefully lead to some more single releases. We want to travel more- and get some international dates in the diary. And then yes we do have a surprise for our fans coming out soon… it’s been hinted at but we can’t reveal a date just yet. So stay tuned!

Elle xxx

Interview by LadyDot; Date: 2024-04-29


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