It might be the British comeback of the year (so far): ALL SAINTS are back. It’s been 18 years since their debut All Saints and three years since their last reunion that came through a joint tour with the BACKSTREET BOYS. But this is it: The final reunion that actually made the band – who famously split over a jacket at a photoshoot – record the first full length album since 2006. As the first single One Strike already promised, this isn’t a lukewarm comeback, but an indeed feisty one that easily makes you forget that Nicole, Melanie, Shaznay and Nat aren’t twenty something anymore, but forty something.
Listening to the album, you can certainly feel that ALL SAINTS aren’t ever growing old. That’s what Melanie Blatt tells me on the phone on our interview date on International Women’s Day. Melanie has been in the original formation All Saints 126.96.36.199 that started in 1993 with songwriter Shaznay Lewis and Simone Rainford (who left the group in 1995 and died in 2013) in London’s neighborhood Ladbroke Grove. With adding the Canadian expats and sisters Nicole and Natalie Appleton to the band’s line-up in 1995 and shortening their name, the band got their long-awaited record deal with London Records. The rest is history with millions of sold records and a redefinition of the term ‘girl power’ – including cargo pants of course!
19 years after their debut All Saints, their fourth record Red Flags marks the second year after Nicole Appleton’s dramatic divorce from Liam Gallagher. But talking to Melanie on the phone proves that their reunion isn’t bittersweet, but just sweet. And proves that ALL SAINTS are and always were the much rowdier and cooler version of SPICE GIRLS. Which is a fact that they probably wouldn’t like to hear considering that they never actually liked the title ‘girl power’.
Mature but far from being ‘old’
What does girl power mean to you?
Melanie Blatt: Girl power wasn’t really a thing, I’m not into catch phrases. We were four girls, we wanted to be on stage. There was no agenda, a big message we wanted to portray. Four girls, best friends, and one of us happened to write amazing songs (laughs). That’s our band, we didn’t thing about anything than that.
It’s a clicheé to ask but the record does appeal very young for women your age. How old did you feel while making the album?
MB: I dunno (laughs). We feel more rounded and accomplished as humans. ALL SAINTS has definitely matured, we don’t feel old.
And what’s the difference between being a girl back in the 90s and today?
MB: Well there’s loads. After twenty years you learn a lot, see a lot and give a lot. The person you were twenty years ago is very different, you’re more mature, you see it more relaxed.
Considering that girls became women makes it actually way more to ridiculous to brand All Saints with the ‘girl band’ stamp. But as with everything it seems that the band doesn’t really get bothered with people fixing them to fixed genres or hypes.
What do you think of the title ‘girl band’ – back then and now, feeling grown up and matured?
MB: People can call us whatever the fuck they want – I really don’t care. I don’t think we are a girl band and I don’t think we ever were a proper girl band. We like to call it a band these days. But it doesn’t really matter what you call us unless you like our album.
It feels like there aren’t that many great British all-female bands around any more. What do you think has changed within the industry?
MB: There are lots of good bands but I think that kids want different things these days.
Back in the 90s it felt like people liked the gang mentality. I dunno. It was what it was.
A lot of bands emerged through casting shows like The X Factor after your heyday. You’ve been in the jury of The X Factor in New Zealand – Seriously: What do you think about this hype?
MB: I’m all for anything and anyway that people choose to make music. I don’t it matters how you make success or how you archieve yourself a name as long as your intention is true and you do whatever you want.
And what other young artists inspire you as band?
Sounds pretty liberal and moderate, if you ask me. 15 years ago, ALL SAINTS were far from that sort of attitude. Or any attitude at all – the band split over a fight on a combat jacket during a fashion shooting. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. During their first reunion in 2006, Natalie stated in an interview with The Guardian that they would have ‘split over a cigarette’.
Then, 2006 marked their comeback with the third album Studio 1 which only made it onto Number 40 of the British album charts. While the self-titled debut album (featuring songs such as Never Ever) selling over three million and the second album Saints And Sinners (featuring the still quite strong Black Coffee) selling over one million, the third only sold around 60000 copies. Back in 2008 they got back again to announce a fourth album, that didn’t get made since they didn’t find a label to release it on. Red Flag now marks the promised fourth album and the band sincerely swears that it was just made for entertainment reasons, not financial ones.
What does girl power mean to you?
MB: It wasn’t really a thing, I’m not into catch phrases. We were four girls, we wanted to be on stage. There was no agenda, a big message we wanted to portray. Four girls, best friends, and one of us happened to write amazing songs (laughs). That’s our band, we didn’t thing about anything than that.
Melanie Blatt: ‘I always said whatever the fuck I want to’
And is there still any dream left you’d like to fulfill yourself with ‘Red Flags’?
MB: Not really, thats why we we’re so excited about this whole project. There’s no real goal, we archived a lot of things. Now it’s just about enjoying ourselves, seeing the fans, going on tour and being happy with ourselves.
Is there any advice you would give young girls starting out a band now?
MB: Just do it, if music is your prime agenda. If you want to do something else: Don’t bother.
Do you want to tell the tabloids anything?
MB: I always said whatever the fuck I want to (laughs). That’s all. I don’t need to add anything.
From the 90s, from Nicole Appletons relationships with Robbie Williams and Liam Gallagher onto their split and 2008’s Big Brother: Celebrity Hijack with Nicole and Natalie Appleton (yes, this really happened), ALL SAINTS were often more in the headlines than in the radios. But now, being all matured and grown up, Natalie, Melanie, Nicole and Shaznay seem to be in a clean state, which each other, their music and the tabloids. Good for them – and hopefully the success of their record and their tour through the UK too.