12 million record sales, five number one singles, two multi-platinum albums and two Brit awards. The stats speak for themselves. Now All Saints launch their brand single ‘One Strike’, released 26th February.
‘One Strike’ is a canny, charming reminder of everything huge swathes of the global pop audience loved about All Saints in the first place. The track is a perceptible call to arms for anyone who experiences a single moment, perhaps a phone call or conversation, that changes your life completely. The song is set against a lovelorn yet uplifting melody and the most heart-breaking middle eight likely to be sung by any harmonious assembly this year.
Shaznay explains: “When I write, I just think about what’s on my mind. The lyrics came from somewhere very real. Nic was going through a lot of things at that time. That was at the forefront of my mind because it was the heaviest thing going on.” The song was written as a direct response to the younger Appleton sister’s marriage dissolving. “We spoke for hours and hours on the phone,” Nic says. “The first few times I heard it in my car,” says Nat, “I couldn’t stop crying because I could hear so clearly what it was about.”
The single will be followed by their first album in a decade, ‘Red Flag’, released April 8th. After the touring the UK in 2014, All Saints resolved to do something they never thought they would again, and wrote, recorded and produced a new record. It was not made without massive prior consideration. “We didn’t force ourselves into this situation,” says Natalie, “and it couldn’t have happened at a better time in all of our lives. I just missed being with the girls. It makes us happy. Listen, if you can work with your favourite people, then why not? I have such a good time and I spend more time laughing and having fun than I do working.” “The album,” says Shaznay, “could have been made a lot quicker if we’d spent less time joking around while making it.”
It sounds great to have them back, reminding you of something you had perhaps forgotten you missed quite so much. What is so special about the new record is how contemporary it sounds without ever losing the core essence of All Saints, forever wrapped up in the magical conflagration of their four voices. This is what they do.
“Seriously,” says Shaznay, “I got on such a roll writing and recording with the Girls again, we’ve started getting material for the next album together already. This couldn’t feel any more right.”
As they turned from their teens to their twenties, All Saints were the symbolic British girl-band gateway to the new millennium. They were an irrepressible, immediately identifiable gang that would mascot us through to the 21st century. With music touched by a panoply of sharply honed influences, from The Shirelles through 90s hip hop, disco, slouchy club electronica and touched all over with the proximity the women grew up to Notting Hill Carnival, they were the flip-side of the tween-pop sound of their peers.
Now 19 years after their debut instruction, against several striking odds, All Saints know exactly where it’s at again.