Stooshe on making a second first impression: "There was a moment where we felt like we’d lost everything"

Three years after their last single, we talk to the trio about finding their feet with a new sound and look.

Three years ago (almost to the day), Stooshe released their debut album - and then mysteriously vanished from the pop scene.

The album - called London With The Lights On - reached a very respectable Number 8 on the Official Albums Chart, and included the hits Love Me, Slip and, of course, Black Heart. So what happened? 

Having recently re-emerged from the pop wilderness armed with a pair of new tracks in Lock Down and new single Let It Go, we caught up with Karis, Courtney and Alexandra to find out what they've been up to... 

Hello Stooshe! It's been a fair while since we heard from you - where have you been?

Karis: We’ve been away for quite a while – we’ve taken our sweet time! It’s been three years since our last single, but we’ve honestly been working so hard during that time - there’s been no time to sit around doing nothing. We managed ourselves for one of those three years, we’ve completely changed teams, we’ve scrapped an album, filmed a couple of music videos in a couple of months… it’s been busy.

You released your new single Let It Go not long ago and you've been popping into radio stations across the UK to play it. What's the response been like?

Alexandra: People seem to be liking it and catching on to the song, we think. We tend to slip it in to the middle of our set…

Slip? Is that a reference Courtney?

Alexandra: Oh yeah! [Laughs] Oh my god, I didn’t even think about that.  

Let It Go couldn't be further from the '60s girl group Motown vibe you had going before. Is this new song where your sound is going now?

Karis: We’re still experimenting at this stage. We’ve still carried on the pop vibe of our debut album, but our new music has more of an R&B vibe to it. The strong melodies and vocals are still there – and of course the banter and fun personalities are still in there. We’re talking at the moment about doing interludes on the album. We just want to take our time and get it right – there’s no point rushing after three years, is there?

You released your debut album three years ago, and then seemed to disappear. What happened? We know you parted ways with your label Warner, which must have been a difficult period...

Alexandra: It was mixed emotions. We knew we were drifting apart from our label and management [because] as much as we did like the Motown vibe, we wanted to express ourselves as three young women. We came to a mutual understanding that while we were so grateful for what they’d done for us, we wanted to go it alone. It was a scary thing to do, but we wanted to independently create our new album and hone in on exactly what we want to put out there. Second albums are a big deal, aren’t they? A lot of people get it wrong.

They certainly are. So after parting ways with Warner and your manangement, was it a case of going back to the drawing board and starting over?

Courtney: It was solely us three, which was a big test in itself – to stick together and want to continue doing this. We learnt to manage ourselves, so now we know the business side of this industry, which has been a great learning experience. We loved being at Warner, but a lot of stuff is handed to you on a plate when you're on a major. We have to work ten times harder than before, but if you succeed, the reward feels even better because it was us that did it.

Karis: I mean, it’d nice to have a £3 million budget, but now we know more about finances and how to get the most of out it. Before, we’d spent £2 million on a music video and get three separate cars to the same place… it was mad.

Did you consider packing it all in at any point? Major label dramas can be unpleasant...

Karis: When you’re being told that you can’t eat chips and you can only eat greens or crackers and tomatoes for dinner, you want to tell them to f**k off. What was hard is that we split with our label and management, and it was our management who put us together, so there was a moment where we felt like we’d lost everything in our career. That’s why this album is going to be a big representation of friendship, loyalty and sticking together no matter what.

You've previously said you were unhappy with the image your label were portraying you as. In your early days, you released some great tracks like F**k Me and Betty Woz Gone which were quite loud and funny, and after that you became... 

Courtney: Caricatures? We were younger then, but yes, we were characters. They were extensions of who we are, but it was probably taken a bit far by the end. I remember we’d have to wear our video outfits to every press and radio thing we did. That’s why we became at loggerheads because we didn’t feel like we could be ourselves, and it was all about wearing stripes and patterns for days. We’ve had a couple of years to grow up, and we’ve learnt how to take control of our creative style.

Now you’re having to create a second first impression, which is never easy. What's the plan?

Karis: It’s exactly that. Obviously we’re back and we've already released an album, but it’s like we’re a new band again - but then we’ve already got the pressure of having a good initial run. We’re trying to win people over with a new look and a new sound. It's definitely a massive challenge, but then if you like our old sound, you can always go and listen to the first album!

Black Heart charted four years ago last month. Can we all agree that song is still amazing?

Karis: We still love that song! We know it’s going to get the crowd going, and it’s fun to sing and see people get into it. That song means a lot to a lot of people.

How's work on the new album going? 

Alexandra: It’s funny – when a producer plays us a track, we can come up with melodies all day when it comes to ‘90s R&B because that’s what we all listened to growing up. Aaliyah, Destiny’s Child, Missy Elliot, TLC… and even more recent acts like Bryson Tiller and Drake.

We’ve worked with some amazing people. Carla Marie (Williams), who co-wrote Beyonce’s Freedom and Naughty Boy’s Runnin’, an up-and-coming artist called Jada who’s practically a fourth member of the group, Anne-Marie co-wrote a song. And there’s a collaboration with Beanie Man! We’ve got a few things up our sleeve…

As you said, you're releasing this album independently, meaning you each have to put in a lot of the behind the scenes work yourselves. Do each of you take control of certain areas?

Courtney: I don’t do anything – I have to be honest! [Everyone laughs] It’s not intentional, I swear. We have new management now, so they take care of a lot of it now.

Karis: I’m more creative, so I tend to work on that side of things, like advertisement or social media.

Alexandra: I’m rubbish at that stuff, but I’ll probably be the one emailing an accountant every now and then.

Courtney: …Whereas if I email the accountant it’ll all be wrong anyway, so what’s the point?!

All: If you want something doing right, do it yourself!

Stooshe's new single Let It Go is out now. Click here to listen to the song on Spotify.

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