So you think you know Natalie and Nicole Appleton. Of course you do. For four years, as half of All Saints, they bombarded charts all over the world with classy pop songs, built a fanbase that bridged generations and sent sales of combat trousers through the roof. They helped make girl groups cool again, became fashion icons without flashing more than their belly buttons and sold six million albums into the bargain.
What you don’t know about Natalie and Nicole is that their career didn’t end with All Saints. When the band imploded almost two years ago, the sisters saw it as a new start, rather than a sad ending. Instead of basking in the glory of their late, great pop group, they got straight back down to the business of making music. The result is their new band, Appleton, and their forthcoming album ‘Everything’s Eventual’ that proves there’s a lot more to learn about Natalie and Nicole.
Out of the public eye and under their own steam, Nicole and Natalie Appleton have been busy writing and recording the sort of songs they’d like to listen to themselves. That means no covers, no samples and nothing that doesn’t give off, as they put it, “a good vibe”.
You’ll hear contributions from Madonna producer Marius De Vries, Cornwall-based newcomer Gareth Young and a man called Carston from a Danish dance band. You’ll hear gorgeous, grown-up pop songs, raunchy rockers, dreamy, Pure Shores-type tunes, two electronic tracks, one sparse ballad and a very strange song Nat describes as “like the Andrews Sisters-meets-hip hop”. The one thing they all have in common is Appleton. And what they’ll definitely do is surprise you.
Work on ‘Everything’s Eventual’ started almost the day All Saints ended. “From the moment we signed that piece of paper saying All Saints was over, things began to fall into place,” recalls Nic. “Nat and I had decided to form a duo a while before that, but we had no definite plans or direction. Then out of the blue, we got a demo from a guy we’d never heard of called Gareth Young. The song was called ‘Fantasy’ and we loved it so much we just had to record it. We took the train down to Cornwall – a seven hour trip – and worked with Gareth in his home studio. There was no politics, no pressure, no egos and no-one telling us what we could and couldn’t do. It was just fun and the song sounded great.”
“Once we’d done ‘Fantasy’, our own songs started to flow,” adds Nat. “Believe it or not, we’ve both always written, we just weren’t allowed to record our stuff in All Saints because that wasn’t our job. When we started recording ‘Aloud’ we were sent backing tracks but we ended up writing a lot of the album ourselves. Half of the songs are ours, half are from other people. But we had an input every step of the way, from the lyrics to the music right down to the mixing.”
Not even the cynics could claim not to hear Natalie and Nicole’s stamp on the songs. They’ve brought bits of All Saints to the album, some classic rock and a touch of techno that probably comes from the Liams in their lives and lyrics that couldn’t have been written by anyone else.
‘The Day Before’ describes their ideal day off, ‘5AM’ is a ballad sung solely by Natalie and ‘All Grown Up’ is one of Nicole’s songs set to a backing track by musician Mike Rowe. ‘Waiting For Your Love’ is the pair’s stab at pure pop, ‘Hallelujah’ is about sibling rivalry and ‘MWA’ is the insane song with beats and classical bits that they call their Andrews Sisters moment.
“The first single was ‘Fantasy’ because that’s where we started, that’s what kicked it all off,” says Nic. “We were nervous when we recorded it – it was the first song we’d ever done on our own – and we were nervous about putting it out. And it was amazing when the single went to #2. It’s a great feeling because this is what we’ve always wanted to do. We’ve worked our asses off and we know we’ve done the very best that we could.”
These days, the Appletons refer to All Saints as “a stepping stone”. Comparisons will be made, of course, but Appleton is a completely different kettle of fish.
“This feels much more real,” says Nat. “Like a band is supposed to. We’ve got our own musicians, not just some hired hands who play for everyone else. We’ve got a girl on bass, who is amazing, a guitarist, a keyboardist and a drummer. We’re planning to tour with them next year. The best part of All Saints was going on tour, but it wasn’t with our own band. We’d turn on the TV and see them playing with Five and Boyzone. Even during our soundchecks, they’d warm up to other people’s songs. It felt so naff. This is different. We’re like a proper unit, a real band.”