All Saints: 'We all face different trials but within the same structure. The rules are different but the game's the same'
- Arusa Qureshi
- 12 October 2018
Shaznay Lewis, Mel Blatt and sisters Nicole and Natalie Appleton talk new album Testament and the changing pop landscape
Girl groups were a ubiquitous part of 90s pop culture. But while the Spice Girls were held up as the new face of 'girl power', with their mainstream-friendly brand of feminism resonating with many, their effortlessly cool counterparts All Saints were advocating for an entirely distinct version of female empowerment. Shaznay Lewis, Mel Blatt and sisters Nicole and Natalie Appleton didn't fit neatly into the shiny pop mould created by the music industry, instead choosing to remain fiercely independent and choosing to focus on the strength of their music over pop consumerism. Having now been in the game for 20 years, the quartet can recognise and truly value their individualism all those years ago.
'Whatever was going on commercially, within our music, I think we always worked with people that were a bit more left of field,' Shaznay Lewis explains. 'From our first album, where we worked with people like Nellee Hooper, Cameron McVey and K-Gee, who himself was originally a hip hop artist, to the second album, which had William Orbit. I think that the way that those producers worked was obviously very different to a lot of the music of that time.'
Although they only made two albums before taking a break in 2001, All Saints' contributions to the pop canon are undeniable, with hits like 'Never Ever', 'Pure Shores' and 'Black Coffee' continuing to inspire a new era of progressive and interesting pop music.
'I think 20 years ago, it was a lot more poppy,' Shaznay says when asked about today's pop landscape. 'I think now, what is mainstream and in the pop charts is a lot more mixed or urban than it was then. If you think back to then, we had a lot of pop bands like Aqua or Steps, and pop was really pop. Which is why we always thought we didn't necessarily fit into the same box because we weren't as typically pop as the others. Whereas now, there's hardly any of that kind of music around. It's a lot more diverse and the pop charts in general are a lot more diverse.'
For Mel Blatt, things have evidently changed but certain challenges remain the same, especially for young women in the music industry.
'I would think that fundamentally, things like feminism and sexism remain at the core,' she says. 'But I think there are different things that maybe are being addressed these days. There's definitely more discussion being had about [sexism] and no one is as ignorant about it now, but it doesn't mean it hasn't stopped or it doesn't happen. We were just having a discussion about mums and dads, and we're always asked what's it like going on tour without the kids. And men never get asked that. It shouldn't really be like that. But as far as women in music, I think we all face different trials but within the same structure. The rules are different but the game's the same.'