Upbringing: Ballet School

Rosie Blair talks through her early days, from growing up in a small Northern Ireland town to awkward guitar shop experiences.

Ballet School currently reside in Berlin, giving cool credence to their slick electronic pop that sits somewhere between ‘80s staples and a distinct vision of the future. It’s the perfect location for their arty, impassioned routine, and it’s solidified in their new album ‘The Dew Lasts an Hour’, which runs to the hills with progressive, idea-crammed synth pop.

Rosie Blair fronts the project, and in DIY’s new Upbringing interview, she talks through her early days, growing up in a small town in Northern Ireland. It was here that she began to form the wild, expressive vocal quality that defines Ballet School. Without any venues to go to, any real shows to get enthused by, she was left to her own imaginations - in-part, this helps explains the daring feats she helps lead in the band’s new record.

In an enlightening interview, Blair discusses the band’s early days, as well as everything from One Direction and why guitar shops are always the scene of awkward exchanges.

Catch up with recent DIY Upbringing interviews with Pulled Apart By Horses, The History of Apple Pie and Broods.

Can you remember the first song you ever developed an obsession over?
When I was a little kid in Northern Ireland, there was a political talk show on the radio every morning that had a theme tune that really moved me. This theme tune was melancholic, sort of dour - with this meandering cello and a sharp tuned piano with the tone of a metal toilet bucket - the kind you see in school corridors around 4.30pm if your parents don’t come to get you. No song my entire life ever captured the reality of existence as a child in a small working class Northern Irish town so acutely. As a trigger memory, it stayed with me for years. It blew my mind when I began to discover cool indie music in my late teens. I realised it was ‘Oscillate Wildly’ by The Smiths. When I hear it I immediately see our kitchen radio, the blue linoleum floor and the kids running around the estate outside. Sitting by single glazed windows and digging your nail in the window putty and just being bored, bored, bored. Waiting for that wonderful moment when you will escape and finally become yourself.

What’s the story behind you getting your first instruments?
Mine is the classic 14-year old girl in a guitar shop story. I still feel really uncomfortable in guitar shops. I learned how to play sweet child of mine specifically to diffuse awkwardness when trying out a guitar in a guitar shop. Dexterity is something people in music stores seem to value above basic social skill. What I purchased was a left handed sunburst westfield for 79 pounds. I then proceeded to learn ALL the nirvana songs. My bestie Jacqui taught me how to play ‘Paranoid Android’. We used to use that and ‘Said Sadly’ by Smashing Pumpkins to woo fit skaters.

Upbringing: Ballet School

“Dexterity is something people in music stores seem to value above basic social skill.”

— Rosie Blair, Ballet School

What’s your worst musical habit?
Wanting credit for everything and sticking the heels in for the greater good of feminism because I’m so haunted by how the culture has treated my fave female writers. If they’re virtuosos, they are dotty and unbearable. If they are merely serviceable, they are bad musicians who get their boyfriends to write everything.

If you could be any band from the past two decades, who would you be and why?
One Direction. I would be Zayn. What’s he thinking? Like - what is he thinking?!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given as a band?
If you want to break through, it’s a mix of talent, luck, who you know and persistence. Just don’t stop. I gave myself that advice.

Ballet School’s ‘The Dew Lasts An Hour’ is out now on Bella Union.

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