New girl band ready on the Spice rack

... and comparisons are inevitable, reports Clare Garner
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The Independent Online
They are young, attractive, feisty and female. They were hand- picked to star in an all-girl band together. Sound familiar? After the multi-million-pound success of the Spice Girls, someone was bound to try to repeat it.

Preeya, Prudence, Dawn and Lucy are the members of the latest girl band, an invention of Miller Williams, creative manager of Sony ATV Music Publishing. As he puts it: "Even if we had a fifth of the success that the Spice Girls have had, everyone will have a lot of fun out of it."

But it's not just fun that he is after. Spice Girls Limited is estimated to have netted more than pounds 11m from album and single sales so far and a further pounds 4m from royalties for the songs. Their marketing and merchandising ventures include a video, which has earned them an estimated pounds 5m, the launch of Channel 5, for which they were paid around pounds 500,000, and a pounds 1m marketing deal with Pepsi.

Mr Williams has yet to name the new band, but Sony's involvement is evidence that this is a serious venture. This week the girls begin recording three songs, two of them by Mike Rose and Nick Foster who wrote "Hey Child" for East 17 and produced "If You Ever" for Gabrielle. The third, Mr Williams promises, is by someone hugely famous.

The girls themselves are unhappy about any comparison with their spicy forerunners. Dawn, the black member, has even straightened her frizzy hair to avoid being labelled Mel B mark two.

Preeya insists they are not just another triumph of marketing over music. "We want to show people we've got talent," she pleaded. "It's not just a girl thing. It's not just a looking thing. We want to sing live. It's not just about looking great and being spicy."

Mr Williams, who has worked for Sony for four years after setting up promotional tours for Take That at the BMG/RCA record company, is a combination of father-figure and businessman. "The idea of creating a mystique about the band is paramount," he said. "If you're getting a group together there's all the imaging and style. Particularly with the pop bands, it's part of the package.

"At the end of the day, if we've got a good song and good production that's probably the most important ingredient. But with Take That, Boyzone, the Spice Girls, their image is also important."

So important that no photographs are permitted "until they get completely styled".

"I know people are going to say we've even gone to the trouble to get an Asian girl, a black girl and two white girls, but I just chose the four girls who sang well, were the most talented and who were going to have hit records," Mr Williams says.

Gavin Reeve, editor of Smash Hits, believes there is plenty of room in the market for more girl bands. "After Take That there were dozens of boy bands," he said. "Everyone said there was no room. Now look at Boyzone. They are massively successful."

Mr Williams picked his band after auditioning 3,000 young girls between the ages of 16 and 21 who replied to an advertisement in the Stage and Smash Hits.

Despite the four girls' protestations, comparison with the Spice Girls can only work in their favour, says Mr Reeve. "It's an obvious comparison to be made," he said. "It's great because it gets people talking about you."