It seems to be a very long time since the music scene has been graced by a girl band not formed on the X Factor or one of its lookalikes, so when we got wind of new four-piece unperfect, we couldn't wait to hear what they had to offer. Knowing that they were working with the Brian Higgins-fronted Xenomania only served to increase the excitement, given they were behind most of Sugababes' and Girls Aloud's hits.
The name unperfect represents the group's mantra of not wanting to be seen as the ultimate, perfect-looking women. "We all have our flaws, and we are a bit rough cut."
Debut single, the retro-modern Gots To Give The Girl, with its soulful snap of 90s R&B, arrived on January 25th and we were immediately hooked. We spoke to Siobhan, Soipan, Chloe and Tiah while they were in LA to get to know them a little better.
The reaction to your debut single has been quite something in a short space of time. How does it feel to finally have it out in the open, and has the love it has been getting exceeded expectations?
Tiah: It’s a relief to have it out in the open finally.
Siobhan: It’s exciting as well. I didn’t expect it to have the reception it has because I’ve never heard anything like it, so I didn’t know if that would be a good thing or a bad thing.
Chloe: It hasn’t exceeded my expectations, I knew people would like it. There’s a piece of cheese for every biscuit.
Soipan: Are we the cheese or the biscuit???
How has it been working with Brian Higgins? With seven videos already recorded, the folk at Xenomania obviously have huge faith in you. How has their support benefited you as a group?
Siobhan: It’s made me more confident. Working with Xenomania has helped me grow into an artist, which, I don’t know if I was before. I was more of just a singer.
Tiah: They have a lot of faith in us, which is really nice.
Soipan: Yeah, it’s very reassuring. And it’s a cycle too - because they trust us, we trust them and that pulls the wheels around. It’s a good loop to be stuck in.
Siobhan: They’ve worked with such high profile artists too, it’s flattering that they believe in us.
Gots To Give The Girl has been described by The Guardian as having “a lot wrong” with it on paper, but on repeat listens it “tickles the hem of genius.” How intentional are you being in releasing slow-burning pop music, which isn’t quite the norm?
Tiah: Absolutely intentional. Full stop.
As an Irish website, we always like to ask acts what Irish artists they’re loving at the moment, if any?
Tiah: Niall Horan!
Chloe: Yeah, Niall from One Direction.
Soipan: I really enjoy Hozier.
Siobhan: I’ve been listening to The Pogues a lot recently because I want to play one of their songs at my wedding.
Soipan: And Samantha Mumba is coming back! Loved her back in the day.
What is the ultimate aim for unperfect? World domination aside.
Siobhan: I think we all want to be writing music and performing music full time. Not just writing for the band, but for other artists as well. We all want to be in a financial position where we can leave our day jobs.
Chloe: Secure the bag! And have our faces on condoms.
Tiah: I personally wouldn’t buy “unperfect” condoms.
Siobhan is a Kent-born singer-songwriter, who loves listening to Etta James while working her office job. Who says you can't be a pop star and still do a 9-5? We can't imagine it'll last much longer though.
She's half-Irish as you may have guessed from the name, which, of course, means we're only too happy to claim her as one of our own.
Have you handed in your notice at the office job yet?
No, not yet. I’m waiting for fame!
Since The Saturdays have been on a prolonged hiatus since 2015, there hasn’t been a popular girl band with an Irish member in it. You’re half Irish. What does your Irishness mean to you and how has it influenced your music?
Growing up, I used to listen to a lot of Irish folk music with my dad, which is when I got into songwriting. It’s the Irish side of my family who can sing too.
Can you tell us more about your Irish roots? We love claiming anyone we can as Irish over here!
The Irish side of my family is from Carrick-on-Shannon and my granddad is from Donegal. My nan owns a farm out there but the last time we went over to visit was years ago - I was only 5.
I remember I complained a lot that the farm smelled like cow poo hahaha!
We hear you’re big on Etta James. How has her music inspired your work with unperfect? Who else in the pop world has inspired you to get to where you are now?
I started listening to Etta James when I went to college. I just loved her vocals and listening to her pushed me to strengthen my own voice. I actually sang Somethings Gotta Hold On Me at my Xenomania audition.
I also love Britney Spears, I used to try to sing exactly like her when I was younger.
I went straight from school doing music into college doing music right up until I got a full-time job, so for me, it’s always been about listening to people who are better than me and learning from them.
You have seven videos ready to go, which song (if you can name them) is your favourite and why?
Champagne is my favourite. We all got a bit drunk on the video shoot because apparently Soi doesn’t know how to pour a small glass of champagne, so we had a lot of fun doing it.
While not being entirely au fait with pouring champagne, Soipan has tasted a lot of success already in her life.
She juggles being a bonafide pop stat with running her own style company, The Style Cycle, while also taking care of her son.
So many people have dreams of being a pop star but don’t have the determination, or sometimes self-confidence, to pursue it. You waited for seven hours in the rain at Xenomania auditions because you were so sure of yourself. What advice would you give to a young person with pop ambitions?
It was less about my confidence and more that I had the right advice going in, which was 'never say no to an opportunity'.
The Xenomania auditions were my first opportunity in music when I finished school to showcase myself, and if I hadn’t waited all that time I would have been turning that opportunity down.
You also have to use your intuition a bit - just because something seems like an opportunity doesn’t mean it’s actually going to benefit you.
What pop star, or member of a group, do you relate to most, or most want to emulate? Why?
I’m always impressed by Posh Spice. She’s done it all: she’s been a pop star, she’s built an empire, her children love her to death and she’s maintained a marriage.
I’d love to have that same balance of work and family. She’s so busy, but she uses her time so effectively.
Of the seven songs you’ve made videos for so far, which is your favourite?
I really love ‘Jaded’ and my twin sister wrote the second verse, so there’s a personal connection to it too.
Tiah, a self-confessed Destiny's Child stan, has been in the music industry since she was 14, but has still managed to study for her degree in biomedical science and also somehow squeeze in time for netball.
Are you in charge of the pre-match music on your netball team? What’s the go-to song to get everyone pumped up? I assume Gots To Give The Girl will be taking the prime slot from now on?
I’m actually not in charge! There’s a lot of different music taste between us on the team, so we have to compromise. We play a lot of high tempo stuff to get us fired up, and like, big chart hits.
Someone put Gots To Give The Girl on from the way back from our last match and everyone was like “Tiah! It’s your song!”
As someone who was already working with Brian Higgins before meeting the rest of the girls in the group, why was it important to you to continue your biomedical science studies? With the music industry being so volatile, is it important that anyone with dreams of breaking into it has a plan B?
Music, netball and my degree are all my plan A - at the moment I can juggle everything, but hopefully, music will start to take off this year and I can give it my full focus.
I’ve done music for a while - I was actually in another duo which was going really well, but then she left and joined another group which knocked my confidence a bit, so I held back and concentrated on other things like school and sport.
But Brian really believed in me still and pushed me to keep coming back to the studio, and then I met the girls and here we are!
Considering you “can’t fault” any of Destiny’s Child songs, I’ve got a feeling I know who the answer to this might be, but who inspired you most to pursue a career in pop?
Obviously Destiny’s Child, but Alicia Keys is also an important artist for me. I love everything she stands for. She’s always made amazing music and I can relate to her a lot.
She’s a big fan of no makeup which I like because I don’t wear makeup very often and I think it’s great that she’s comfortable in herself that way.
Which of unperfect’s songs am I going to be singing at karaoke in a year’s time?
Definitely So Lonely - it’s slow, but it will make such a good karaoke song.
Chloe, meanwhile, is a part-time model, who has been working with Brian Higgins for a while, having being introduced by another singer-songwriter.
How different is the pop world to your other adventures in the modelling industry? Which do you prefer?
It’s very different. Being in the pop world requires more creative input from me, whereas with modelling you’re more of a blank canvas and they turn you into something else. I prefer music because I can be myself, but I do enjoy both.
A big part of unperfect’s mantra is the sense of being yourself and embracing your flaws. As someone who has worked in the modelling industry, where the idea of perfection is one that so many people aspire to, it’s something I imagine you feel very strongly about.
The modelling industry has expanded a lot recently. In the past, it used to be that you had to look a very certain way or you weren’t getting in, but now I do feel it’s a bit more diverse. There’s more variety of ethnicity, shapes and sizes, people with disabilities. A lot more models are represented.
But in certain areas of modelling, it’s still a bit like you can’t get a spot - even though people get spots! Being in unperfect is about saying “yeah, it’s alright to have a couple of flaws” and that’s a good message to send to men, women, boys, girls, anyone and everyone.
In an ideal world where unperfect become the biggest girl band in the world, which pop star do you thank for inspiring you during your inevitable Grammy speech?
Lady Gaga has always stood out for me. I love pretty much everything she’s ever released. And the fact that she’s so different - she sent a message to people, regardless of sexuality, gender, or how you look, that you’re good enough. I think that’s what she’s about. And she’s also just a wicked performer - everything she does is really cool.
The reaction to Gots To Give The Girl has been immense, but what other song are you most excited for us to hear? Why?
A tie between Champagne and Jaded. There’s a lot of good memories attached to Jaded because we all had so much fun making the video and I just love the song. As a dancer though, Champagne is the kind of music I listen to when I’m choreographing or teaching - it’s really upbeat and fun, I can’t wait to release it.