‘You need a ringleader who’s happy to say: shut up Lily Allen' – five ways to make a girl band

Peter Loraine, who came up with the Spice Girls nicknames, helped create Girls Aloud and managed the Saturdays, talks girl-group chemistry

How is your girl band knowledge? You can probably tell your Spice Girls from your Girls Alouds, your Pussycat Dolls from your Destiny’s Childs, and, if pushed, you could name all six former Sugababes employees and possibly hum a Little Mix album track, right? To be honest, it doesn’t matter because you’ll never know as much about the glorious pop staple that is a good girl band as Peter Loraine. Remember Sporty, Posh, Baby, Ginger and Scary? Loraine helped create those iconic nicknames as editor of Top of the Pops magazine in 1996. Then, once he’d finished accidentally branding one of pop’s biggest phenomenons, he helped create Girls Aloud, working with them from Popstars: The Rivals in 2002 to that fateful breakup tweet in 2013. He also auditioned and later managed the Saturdays, before working on the recent All Saints and Bananarama reunions. He currently manages new girl band, Four of Diamonds.

So who better to ask for advice about what makes the perfect girl band than a man who has dedicated his life to them? Here’s Peter Loraine’s five-point guide to pop perfection …

1. You need a gobby one
“You need a mouth, as in a ringleader, a spokesperson, somebody who’s happy to say: ‘Shut the fuck up, Lily Allen.’ Good humour. Really important not to take yourselves too seriously, especially in a world of social media because it really doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, there’s always a handful of people that are haters. So you’ve got to have a thick skin and ideally have a laugh at the comments if you can. I think where it’s particularly successful is if they have an idea in their own heads of how’d they like to be perceived and how they’d like to look, because when it comes from them it makes a difference. People can tell.”

2. Not everyone has to sing like Mariah
“The voices need to work together and sound unique. By that, I mean, you knew when Nadine [Coyle, Girls Aloud] sang. You knew when Keisha and Mutya [from Sugababes] sang together. These days, you have to sing live on stuff; you can’t go on TV and mime. You have to be able to say yes if you’re lucky enough to get the phone call from Radio 1 to say they want you in the Live Lounge, or All Saints going on Jools Holland. You can’t fake it now; you could, but you can’t now. That’s not to say that they all have to be Mariah Carey. You need voices that blend together and if there’s someone who doesn’t sing the lead but can bring a specific tone then that can be really important as well.”

3. Get a good stylist, please
“A bad stylist can kill it. You’d never get away with a Spice Girls thing now because no one would believe it. If you’ve got one that likes to dress really girly, and another who only wears jeans and tracksuit tops, that’s just going to look like a mess now. But you don’t want them all to look the same either because then it looks manufactured. It’s about how you can take what’s in the individual girls’ heads, find a continuity, but then make it more than what you could buy if you just went into River Island.”

4. You need chemistry, not competition winners
“Chemistry is so important. I use this analogy often: if you have a day job and you work in Marks & Spencer, you don’t get to choose who you work with, but you can take it or leave it. There will be some people you like and some you don’t like. For a band that have been auditioned and put together, like Girls Aloud were, the chances of finding girls that are all going to get on to the point where they can spend 24 hours a day with each other for years is rare. There have been cases where it’s like: ‘She’s amazing, but this group won’t see it past the end of year one if we put her in because she will cause so much trouble with the others.’ We’ve had to say no before, because we couldn’t risk it.

The Spice Girls were auditioned and lived together and very cleverly hand-picked, and by the time they were presented to the world they had bonded and very fortunately it did work for them. All Saints is more of a Bananarama template of ‘me and my mates are going to form a group’. With Four of Diamonds, they’ve lived together for two years and we’ve struck gold because they’ve formed a really strong bond together, because had they not got on we’d have been screwed. The investment [in girl bands] is so massive financially and it takes years before you make it back so you can’t have a situation where they self-combust after 18 months. Fifth Harmony: awesome songs, bad personnel. They’re a good example of how, if you don’t get the right people and they don’t get on, it’s just a massive waste of money and time. They looked like competition winners. All those photos of them on red carpets glaring at each other like they hated each other. Them being interviewed saying the thing they’re most excited about doing is going solo. An absolute car crash.”

5. You need a properly amazing tune
“If you’ve got a good song you get the opportunity for the rest to cut through. There’s so much music out there now, but there are fewer TV shows, fewer pop mags, it’s harder to get radio’s attention. The volume of what is out there is colossal so it’s about making an impact with the song and then it’s: ‘Hey, they look great’; and, ‘Hey, I read a bit about them and they’re really interesting.’ It’s not about selling 10,000 singles in the shops and getting in the charts and then getting on the telly. If we were to release a new song with the Saturdays now it would be weird because everything’s changed. There’s no six-week lead-in times. Now, you start putting a song up on streaming and then you take it from there.”

Four of Diamonds’ new single Blind is out now


Peter Loraine, as told to Michael Cragg

The GuardianTramp

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