Bossy Love on honesty, hype and their live show

Quietly, steadily, Bossy Love have become the most talked-about band in Scotland. We talk to Amandah Wilkinson and John Baillie Jr to find out where they plan to go from here.

Feature by Tom Johnson | 14 Apr 2016

Anyone who follows emerging music hopes to stumble upon something in its infancy so great that one day they’ll be able to tell their grandchildren, ‘I was there!’ with a rueful smile and a honeyed glaze of the eye. We jest, of course, but stories like this pepper the history of music; from the ‘I’ve seen the future of rock and roll!’ review of an early Springsteen gig to the Sex Pistols' fabled ’76 show in Manchester which inspired the formation of Joy Division, The Smiths, The Fall and The Buzzcocks.

We've no idea what Glasgow’s Bossy Love will go on to achieve but it’s true that the response to their live shows over the past few months has been nothing short of cultish. Delivering a hybrid of outlandish pop music there's really no one else like them – in Scotland or beyond. Led by Amandah Wilkinson’s powerhouse performance (previously frontwoman for mid-noughties starlets Operator Please) the duo is completed by John Baillie Jnr, who Scot-rock fans might well remember from the much-missed Dananananaykroyd – adding his trademark frenetic drumming and production skills to the sublime mix. 

Long-term – and initially long-distance – friends, Bossy Love took shape when Amandah sent some of her songs to John for a little added spice. He did his thing, she loved it, and then she moved to London where the pair continued playing around with the handful of songs she had under her belt. “It felt like synergy, as soon as we started working together,” Amandah tells The Skinny, as we sit down with the duo fresh from the release of sparkling new single Want Some. “I would work all week in London then jump straight on a Megabus to Glasgow, spend the weekend working on songs, then jump back on the bus straight to work for the Monday morning. It was pretty crazy. Finally moving here was a realisation that I could do whatever I want.”

Buoyed by the move and a shared love for pop music’s more esoteric corners, the project advanced as they honed their craft as a songwriting pair. “I didn’t have any friends who were into that type of music,” says John. “We both love Prince, but we love a certain side of him that others don’t… the super weird, horny B-sides! But more than that, I think our skills are just so complementary," he adds. "Amandah called it synergy and it’s absolutely that; we’re able to come up with stuff that neither of us could ever do without the other.” Something Amandah strongly agrees with: “A lot of my songwriting was very industrial and I always craved warmth; John’s production brought that straight away.”

That live show, which is currently winning them such hearty praise, was a far more pared back affair in the beginning. “We still didn’t know what it was at that point,” Amandah admits. “We knew the songs felt good, and sounded great, but we just didn’t know. We got a residency in Edinburgh and John would DJ and drop some of our songs into the set, or we would play bootlegs and I would sing over the top.” John interjects: “There was a great reaction to it in the room, but we didn’t do anything outside of that. We didn’t push it at all.”

Setting the tone for the understated way they've gathered pace since, the band also quietly put their debut ‘mixtape’ online with zero PR or fanfare. “The idea was always to go against this hype thing," says John, "where you put everything you have in to releasing one track online, and then you play a show, and then you choose a label, and then you go, ‘Fuck! How do we make an album?!’ – we just weren’t interested in that level of seduction...or dishonesty.”

"We just do what feels right and put it all out there”

The band still talk staunchly about this kind of self-preservation and it’s plainly obvious that it’s a map they intend to follow precisely. “Obviously both of us have done the rounds,” jokes Amandah. “We believe that the best way to be transparent and honest is to just let songs go. I’m not scared about not being able to write more songs; it’s all channelled from somewhere else. So we just do what feels right and put it all out there.”

John summarises their simplistic goal as songwriters: "I think we both yearn for a level of honesty that isn’t always there. The way some people put themselves across is so full of layers and we just couldn’t do that without our insides curdling."

It’s refreshing to hear a band on the cusp of something special speak so candidly about not playing ‘the game’, but history tells us that such ideals become harder to adhere to the more popular an artist becomes. “I just really feel like it would be so much work to keep up some sort of imagery,” says Amandah. “It can’t work like that. We can’t do that. I would feel very uncomfortable being anyone else but me because this project, specifically, is all about connection – a real connection.”

“We’ve built this thing so slowly that the people we’ve ended up with on our team are the people that get us," adds John. "You can tell from a mile away the difference between someone who gets it and someone who feels like they have to tell us what we’re doing wrong. And there have been many.” 

Bossy Love on playing live

Bossy Love are remarkably astute at what they do. The relationship between John, Amandah, and live compatriot Ollie, is a joy to watch; vibrant instrumentals are the perfect backdrop for Wilkinson’s wonderfully brash lead performance. A genuine star; she sings, dances, and dictates, from start to exuberant, sweaty finish. “You definitely feel that energy, and it pours back into you,” Amandah says of the crowd reactions they’ve had thus far. “We had no idea it was going to be that way though, it was just like, 'cool, this works,' but it's been really amazing.”

Perhaps the one hurdle they might have to confront is whether or how to inform their studio recordings with this developing instrumental live show. “We’ve had a talk about this. I believe the two are different entities, I don’t think you have to be the same live as you are on record; they can definitely exist in their own worlds.”

“They are two completely different processes," agrees John. "The live thing is us, as musicians, interpreting these recordings we’ve done, which themselves are these weird projects where we try and capture a specific mood. I wouldn’t say that we’re against shifting it, but we won’t try and shoe-horn it in.”

Theirs has been a very measured and considered journey thus far. Yet these past few months have shown a change of pace: more press, certainly, but also a couple of flashy single releases, bigger shows, and a handful of interviews. “We’ve just taken on management,” John tells us, “so things should pick up again now that we have someone working that side of things for us. We seem to have lots of cool people that like us, and that’s really nice, but our goals are still to just make more songs and play more shows, it’s as simple and boring as that.” 

This reserved outlook doesn’t mean they’re against this whole thing taking off, however. “Oh of course, totally,” Amandah responds, when asked if they’re open to the idea of sustained success; a subject John is quick to expand upon. “A lot of our decisions aren’t made to prevent success. We’re just trying to make sure everything is sustainable; to make sure we can afford to tour, record ourselves, and we think that will make whatever happens easier to deal with. It also makes this whole thing less of a gamble, and way more fun.”

“Making music is a total outlet for me," stresses Amandah in sum. "I don’t write with anything – or anyone – else in mind, it’s all just a totally therapeutic thing. In fact all I’ve ever wanted to do was make something that sounded like Missy Elliott!”

Bossy Love's new single Want Some is out now; Bossy Love play Glasgow Nice 'n' Sleazy on 14 May, Edinburgh Hidden Door festival on 27 May, and Summerhall on 13 Aug