Victoria Hesketh’s private joke started a couple of years ago, when the women traveling on her tour bus, outnumbered by men, rediscovered classic 1980s female-empowerment flicks like “Working Girl.”
“When we watched that movie, we were like, ‘Oh, my God! We all need to start wearing massive blazers and going around pretending to be bosses!’ But once you start pretending, people start believing you. And before you know it, you are actually doing it, making something happen,” says the synth-pop singer, aka Little Boots, who appears in San Francisco this week.
Like Melanie Griffith’s underdog personal assistant Tess in the 1988 film, the British artist was quite literally sick of working for the man. So she ditched her male-dominated major label, and – inspired by Swedish rocker Robyn (who launched the popular Konichiwa imprint from her Stockholm kitchen) – set up a company called On Repeat Records, naming herself CEO.
Its first release is the new, third Little Boots effort, titled “Working Girl,” which features Hesketh in campy shoulder-padded glory in the cover photo: “I love that late-’80s, early-‘90s look. The hair was incredible and so was the makeup, with lots of blue and green eyeliner,” she says.
The album opens with a droll answering-machine message, which prompts listeners to stop pushing buttons and go accomplish something instead – like Hesketh did.
Then, in autobiographical tracks more lounge-muted than thumping (“Heroine,” “The Game,” “No Pressure,” “Business Pleasure”), she tells the story of how she finally had had enough, after losing control of both her creativity and career.
“This record is where I really got into my swing again, and figured out what I am and how to get that across,” she says.
After the keyboardist’s dazzling 2009 debut “Hands,” her autonomy began slipping away. Execs told her to look and act a certain way, wrongly viewing her as the English answer to Lady Gaga. They even airbrushed her artwork to underscore the image.
“There were moments where I was dolled up to the nines, with fake hair, fake eyelashes, and not too far from a drag queen,” she says, sighing. “I began to wonder which part of me was actually real anymore.”
Little Boots was flown to exotic corporate gigs, told to play for disinterested suits, but saw no profit. Now, she licenses her music to distributors worldwide, keeps tabs on every cent, and hires publicity and marketing teams as needed.
“I found it frustrating when I wasn’t in charge of things,” she says. “So basically, I’m just a massive control freak. And a bossy cow!”
IF YOU GO
Where: Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. July 17
Tickets: $20 to $25
Contact: (415) 861-2011, www.snagtickets.com