Video: Leeds' own The Ultra Girls

They sing, dance and bear an uncanny resemblance to a certain other all-girl pop group that once conquered the planet.

Grant Woodward meets Leeds' very own The Ultra Girls

A dance studio nestled in the back room of a gym just outside Leeds is a long way from London's O2 Arena.

But here, beneath the stark strip-lighting, four girls strut and shimmy their way through a clutch of perfect bubblegum pop songs as if they're in front of a screaming mass of adoring fans, and not just their own reflections in a wall-length mirror.

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Water bottles and cans of deodorant stand in for microphones, while baggy T-shirts and Doc Marten boots take the place of glitzy stage costumes.

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Laura, Lucy, Lauren and Amy are The Ultra Girls – and, if everything runs to plan, they're going to be massive.

This isn't idle bedroom daydreaming either. Soon the quartet will be

doing this stuff for real, singing live in front of thousands as they support pop queen Kylie Minogue on her upcoming UK tour, including a date at the cavernous O2.

But if you're expecting them to be fazed by rubbing shoulders with such music royalty, you've got another thing coming.

Ask them what they want from this tilt at fame and they all trill back in unison, "World domination!" Well, except the one who says, "A boyfriend!" and we're pretty sure she was joking.

Before this they were working as a hairdresser (Lucy), in a fish and chip shop (Laura), doing a dance degree (Lauren) and running their own promotions company (Amy).

Now they've got Kylie's songwriter, Britney's producer, the Spice Girls' stylist, Lady GaGa's choreographer and oodles of cash behind them. How can they fail?

Their journey (because Simon Cowell's taught us these things are always 'a journey') began when they were dancing on the soggy Headingley turf as cheerleaders for Leeds Rhinos.

Sick of being stuck on the sidelines, they decided to have a crack at the X Factor under the working title Project A.

They did okay, making it to the round where the wannabes audition at the judges' houses, but not well enough to go through to the live Saturday night telly stage.

"We got to Louis' (Walsh's) which was a real surprise because we didn't think anything of it when we entered," says Lauren, who's 23, from Whinmoor, and 'The Funky One'. "It was a really good experience and Louis was nice and friendly, but he didn't put us through.

"But X Factor wasn't the be all and end all," pipes up Amy, the 27-year-old 'Girly One' from Horsforth, who's into Britney and used to live in the same Burley street as Mel B from the Spice Girls. "It just gave us that extra drive to think we could actually succeed."

Once back in Leeds the girls hired a dance studio for their strict rehearsal regime and showed a commendably practical approach to getting themselves noticed.

They researched management companies and even traipsed round London, gatecrashing the reception areas of the country's biggest record labels.

"We thought we could just walk in, give them a CD and they'd give us a

record deal," says Lucy (Cheeky Ultra, 21, from Rothwell), laughing at the glorious naivete of it all.

But miraculously it worked. At the start of 2010 they were introduced

to Leeds lighting designer Nick Whitehouse, who has worked with Kylie, Britney, Justin Timberlake and Coldplay. They got on so well that the girls asked him to be their manager.

Now Nick and his business partner Zoe Smith have formed Neon Star Records, specifically to sell The Ultra Girls to the world.

Doesn't all that investment add to the pressure on the girls to succeed?

"It's weird because you'd think it should," admits Lucy. "But when we meet people we get on so well and everyone just sort of fits in.

"I call it the Ultra Family. Everyone's really nice and there are no egos at all."

"Yeah," agrees Laura (Stylish Ultra, who's 22 and from Guiseley), "it's more like we want to do them proud rather than feeling any pressure."

"I think we just feel really lucky to be working with who we are," adds Lauren to nods of agreement all-round.

"Steve Anderson, who's producing our album, has worked with Britney, Kylie and Westlife.

"We've tried lots of things ourselves – we did X Factor, we've walked into record companies – so hopefully we deserve to get success."

Comparisons to the Spice Girls are obviously inevitable, especially given their styling, pop sensibilities and blend of personalities. But it's not something The Ultra Girls shy away from.

"If that's a comparison people make then that's great," says manager Nick, who's 32 and from Roundhay. "After all, the Spice Girls were the most successful girl group ever.

"I really do think the sky is the limit for The Ultra Girls, it just depends on how people take to them.

"We want to make sure that what comes across is that it's the girls

being themselves because they're so great they really do sell

themselves.

"Too often these days an artist is rammed down people's necks and then things dry up after one single or an album. We're trying to create a career for these girls.

"This isn't a one-hit wonder, we want them to be around for a long time."

I ask the girls and they say they don't mind the Spice Girls comparisons either, although they're keen to stress the differences too.

"People naturally compare us to them, which I think is something we're happy about because they had the energy, the dancing, the performance, the amazing songs and they really put on a good show," says

Lauren. "But we still try to be original and I think we're very different to them."

"Yeah," adds Lucy, "because we're self-formed, we're not a manufactured band that's trying to be the Spice Girls. We're just four friends who happen to be really different. We tried to match ourselves to start with but one of us would always look really stupid!"

"We just thought that fun pop needed to be brought back," says Amy. "I did a lot of teaching in schools before I was in the group and a lot of the music is R'n'B, which is good, but I just think kids need a bit of pop they can dance to. Keep it young, fun and fresh!"

For now The Ultra Girls are treading the stages of the nation's primary and high schools in a bid to recruit more members to their growing Ultra Army.

But looming large on the horizon is the Kylie tour in the spring, which should neatly coincide with the release of their first single Girls Will Be Girls in early April.

"Oh gosh, it's a dream come true," gushes Amy. "Me and Lucy used to sit in our car on the way to Rhinos games going, 'I can just see ourselves on stage'. And it's an arena tour as well, which is amazing to be doing so early in our career. We all feel really lucky."

One of the girls has already had a taste of life in the public eye, with Laura finding herself plastered over the tabloids after being snapped cosying up to runner-up Olly Murs who she met during their stint on the X Factor.

"It was a bit weird," she says now. "I kind of guessed it was going to come with going out with him so I was ready for it, but I wasn't prepared for how much. The better he did (in the competition) the more I had to hide."

The relationship was short-lived but Laura's diplomatic about the split. "We were both too busy, so we had to focus on what was important in our careers."

And anyway, she, Lauren, Lucy and Amy are now ready for fame on their own terms.

"We've been ready for a while," they say. "We're itching to get let out of the cage."

Perhaps a better question would be: Is the world ready for them?

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