little kid – might as well with my soul

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the discography and creative trajectory of the toronto-based trio little kid is all but woven into the fabric of this site’s existence.  the band’s landmark 2013 sophomore full-length river of blood coincided with our first full year of operations, and frontman kenny boothby took the time to discuss both that record and its 2016 follow-up, flowers, in great detail.  with last year’s sun milk and now its successor, might as well with my soul, self-released in the twilight of august, little kid have cemented their legacy as a pillar of this past decade’s vibrant online independent music community, their impressive catalogue providing the soundtrack to hours of existential contemplation.

for the majority of the band’s existence, boothby has been joined by the multi-instrumentalists paul vroom and brodie germain, who primarily staff the rhythm section while also contributing more textural parts, and, in vroom’s case, handle engineering, production, and post-production.  this well-established collaborative ecosystem allows little kid to thrive effortlessly across might as well with my soul; the loose one-two punch of “two invitations” and “love minus seven / no livin'” is at turns both raucous and meandering, steady pulses segueing to the next while supplemental timbres fade in and out of the texture.

boothby’s lyrical and vocal stylings have long been the principal hallmarks of little kid’s aesthetic, and might as well with my soul fares no different.  his wavering tenor is as comfortable against the syncopated drive of “in the red” as it is laid bare on “the only light,” with intricate narratives resonating amidst rather sparse word counts, sentiments punctuated by slight turns of phrase or unexpected confessions.  dialogue is also a strong constant; the aforementioned “two invitations” turns on repetitions of old adages, while “the fifth” is anchored by two successive questions, its soundscape swaying gently in the breeze.

if weighted lyrics are one central tenet of little kid’s core, then the other is, arguably, sprawling compositions not always interested in reaching their final destination, instead content to move laterally and explore nuances in the space presently occupied.  the standout cut “receiver” makes good use of every second in its six-minute run-time, boothby’s lead vocal as pensive as the piano that threads through it, while the penultimate number “your orange and blues” marinates in its ruminative melancholy, quickly becoming one of the year’s best country tunes.  as the final chord of “easy or free” (itself a powerful meditation delivered via mournful slide guitar) dissipates, one feels the weight momentarily lift off of one’s shoulders, and then presses play again.

might as well with my soul is out now.  stream the album in its entirety below.

little kid – sun milk

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“album of the fortnight” is a (recently revived) bi-weekly feature that digs into a recent release of note.  the articles will run roughly during the middle and at the end of each month, always on a friday; the album or body of work in question will have been released at some point during that two-week span.  this column focuses on art that resonates deeply, on pieces that necessitate more than just a knee-jerk reaction.  next up: little kid

This site has extolled the virtues of the toronto-based outfit little kid for much of its existence.  while still approaching the band largely from a recording-project perspective, kenny boothby turned in the heavy, complex river of blood in 2013; last summer, after a prolonged, somewhat frustrating period of dormancy, boothby emerged with the sprawling flowers in hand and a solidified line-up in tow.  the stability of having a reliable pair of collaborators at hand is perhaps what led to the comparatively quick arrival of sun milk, little kid’s fourth full-length album, which the band self-released last week.

although just seven songs long, sun milk is a daunting, though thoroughly rewarding, body of work to consume.  one must traverse all the way to its coda before encountering a track that dips below the five-minute mark, and even then, “like a movie” arguably makes up in gravity what it lacks in length.  an exploration of ambient missives and noisy vamps that began on flowers is whittled down on its successor, maybe not to a more precise formula but certainly to one that breathes with the ease of seasoned veterans.

a self-inflicted allergy to electric guitars that afflicted boothby throughout the duration of flowers is immediately vanquished on sun milk; opening number “the fourth” bristles with saturation, as does the album’s centerpiece, “slow death in a warm bed,” ushering in perhaps the flat-out loudest iteration of little kid yet.  for a band that has long relied on outsized dynamic contrast for maximum effect, this embrace of grit only makes tracks like the lo-fi piano ballad “fog” that much more potent, as if an aural equivalent of the prodigal son returned and immediately became the workhorse of the entire operation.

Little Kid Sun Milk Album Artperhaps as a reminder that songs do not solely exist within the vacuum of an album cycle, a recent track-by-track guide for gold flake paint deconstructed the various iterations that many songs on sun milk went through, sometimes over the course of years, before arriving in their presently-recorded form.  this copious vat of detailed information (highly recommended if this album resonates with you) serves to further underscore the immediacy that little kid has operated under: recording in quick, concentrated bursts, ensnaring whatever feels natural at that moment.

as little kid approaches a decade of existence, patience seems to be an overarching theme worthy of ascribing to the project.  the acquisition of both paul vroom and brodie germain as stable members – after years of a rotating cast of characters – has yielded two monumental albums in a row; as the songs on those aforementioned albums grow longer, they unfold with care and determination, and loose, meandering passages are seamlessly tightened up when the moment is right; the inner mechanisms of those aforementioned songs are a wonder to unpack, with arduous three-person synth wranglings, carefully-placed tape hiss, and poignant found sounds threading a lived-in, nostalgic narrative.

little kid is methodical, a songwriting refuge equally capable of volatile bursts of energy and muted, minimal passages of restraint.  with sun milk, the trio has crafted its strongest effort yet, a sprawling structure anchored by its sonic forebears and accented with intimate glimpses of a profound lyricist’s tireless explorations.  step inside and stay awhile.

interview – little kid

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Little kid doesn’t venture much outside of their hometown, but you’d be quick on the draw to peg their music as insular.  the toronto trio, founded and fronted by kenny boothby, has churned out introspective lo-fi musings sprinkled with religious imagery and philosophical pondering for more than a half-decade now.

last month, little kid released their latest album, flowers, a fuzzed-out, sprawling epic that could easily serve as the band’s definitive piece of work.  we recently caught up with boothby via e-mail for an in-depth conversation about aesthetic choices, the lack of electric guitars on flowers, and new lyrical focuses.  check out the transcript below.

there’s been a three-year gap in between river of blood and flowers, which is a longer break between any of your other projects, i think, by a considerable amount.  was this gestation period intentionally long?

i wouldn’t say it was intentional – to be honest, i was frustrated with myself for how long it took, but it’s just the way it ended up happening.  brodie and i started recording in january of 2015, thinking we’d definitely have it finished by the summer of that same year since it was mostly already written.  

the primary cause of the delay was just the three of us having busy lives – we are all working full-time with very different schedules, so it was sometimes hard to get together.  we started playing more shows around toronto, too, which was great, but it definitely seemed like when we did manage to get together it was more often to rehearse than to record.  i have no regrets, though!  i’m happy with how it turned out, and being able to play live more often definitely helped us figure out what we wanted to do with some of these songs.

a certain lo-fi exterior still remains on the bulk of flowers, but the arrangements underneath feel thicker and more ornate this time around.  was there a specific tone or timbre you sought for this album, and if so, was it consciously different than past works?

the overall sound of the album was fairly deliberate, and i think we started with at least a vague idea of how we wanted to approach this one, but it certainly went through some changes over the course of recording.  i recall having some conversations with brodie early on, and we agreed that we wanted to play around with some more unconventional sounds and recording methods than we had on river of blood.  

the plan was always to have paul play some bass on the album, but brodie and i did a bit of the initial recording ourselves with the plan to have brodie mix it, as he had with river of blood.  but we ended up playing a few shows with paul on bass until it felt like we had a good thing going band-wise, and paul is more experienced with mixing, so we asked him to take over.  

from then on, it was very much a team effort, with us all coming up with ideas for arrangements and recording techniques.

this might be an addendum of sorts to the last question, but a liner note on bandcamp i found rather intriguing was in regards to the lack of electric guitars on this album.  you still manage some absolutely massive walls of sound in their absence, but i’m wondering if that omission was due to exhaustion or if it was posed as a sort of challenge?

it was definitely posed as something of a challenge.  the songs i was writing early on seemed at first to be songs that would lend themselves to the electric guitar, mostly because i was strumming hard and bending a lot of notes – some somewhat non-traditional stuff for a classical guitar, i guess.  

but i liked the way the demos sounded – usually a couple layers of classical guitar, and sometimes some piano or casio keyboard – and for some reason i wanted to just keep playing them on the classical. brodie and i were occasionally having conversations about what we might try with little kid next, and that idea stuck around long enough to become a sort of rule.

i like albums that have some sort of restriction to them – for example, the headphones album that is purely live drums and one or two synthesizer parts, or gillian welch’s time (the revelator)‘s emphasis on first takes.  i love that shit.  it’s why i prefer writing demos on the four-track, too – having some sort of limitation seems to stimulate ingenuity or something.

anyways, it was sometimes challenging to create interesting dynamics without electric guitars.  during live shows, i have typically been playing the classical through a guitar amp and pedals, and we use a lot more distortion for dynamics, but on the record we wanted to stay away from that and try for some lusher, stranger sounds.  

some of the ambient bits came from a day brodie and i spent playing keyboards through guitar pedals, and i spent many an afternoon alone in my room playing around with micro-cassettes and my memory boy (honestly, the best guitar pedal).


biblical images and references were pretty overt on river of blood; they’re still around on flowers but they don’t necessarily feel as explicit or immediate.  was this a conscious shift?

i’d say it was a mix of conscious and unconscious.  i remember having some conversations with friends who don’t have any history with christianity and wondering what it was like for them to listen to the songs i had written that relied a lot on those images and references.  i imagined it could easily become either boring or alienating.  i started thinking about, like, led zeppelin or prog-rock bands who sing about lord of the rings and shit – i don’t necessarily want to listen to people drop semi-obscure references to bodies of work i don’t have any connection with.

obviously, for people who had a similar upbringing, those types of songs can be really meaningful, and i don’t regret spending some time exploring those concepts when they felt very real and important to me.  but, i don’t spend much time with those ideas in my personal life anymore, so it wouldn’t make too much sense to keep writing about them.

but i don’t think it was necessarily something i was consciously thinking about while writing.  it wasn’t like “oh shit, i mentioned jesus again – better cut that line.”  it seemed a little more natural than that.  i just wrote about the things i was thinking a lot about during that time.

little kid songs have never been shy about wandering beyond a length perceived as conventional, and that’s certainly the case on flowers.  furthermore, i’m picking up on ambient addenda, patient vamps that eventually border on monolithic, and lyrical codas that haven’t really factored into your songwriting before, at least not to this degree.  were there any bodies of work that were specifically informative to the creation of this album?

i don’t think the three of us discussed too many direct influences in terms of song structure as we were recording and writing the album, but i know towards the end, as we were sequencing and mixing it, we spent some time talking about how the album was taking shape and what we wanted to accomplish with it.

in hindsight, we had just finished “missionary” and it was one of the most unconventional in terms of its structure, with that long repetitive jam and the noisy bit in the middle, and i think, having gone there with that song, we might have felt a bit more inclined to mess with the other songs and the overall sequencing a bit more.

i remember brodie was saying he felt like the album had started to have a bit of a similar feel to (modest mouse’s) the moon and antarctica – which is alright by me because that’s possibly my favorite album.  for me, i think wilco – in particular yankee hotel foxtrot and a ghost is born – kinda snuck in as a big influence, as well.  believe it or not, i hadn’t heard any wilco records prior to, like, late 2013, but it was pretty mind-blowing for me when i finally heard it.

so i think the whole “pop song with weird shit going on underneath” thing we have going on in some of these songs is definitely influenced by yankee hotel foxtrot, and some of the more seemingly-self-indulgent aspects might come from a ghost is born, as well.  i don’t think the songs themselves resemble wilco songs very much at all, but the approach to recording and production might be similar in some ways.

i do remember we had decided, before we even started recording, that we wanted to make an eight-song album.  i’m not sure why initially – at least in my case, i just like the number eight and the way it can be split up into halves and quarters nicely (although in the end, our album turned out to be five songs on side a and three songs on side b, which makes me mathematically uncomfortable…)

anyways, i know we definitely talked a lot about great eight-song albums like the king of limbs, on the beach, owls.  i don’t think flowers has a whole lot in common – sonically or in terms of the sequencing – with any of those albums, but we’re in good company.

the last time we spoke, little kid was primarily a recording project that occasionally functioned as a live band, but couldn’t really tour or play out all that frequently.  have circumstances changed?  are there any plans to tour in support of flowers?

circumstances have changed a fair bit – we are definitely able to play more often and even occasionally venture out of toronto.  for the last year and a bit, little kid has had a stable lineup of myself, and my two good friends, brodie germain and paul vroom, on drums and bass, respectively.  we all went to high school together and have played music together for years, so it’s a really great time playing with them.  we mostly just play a show in toronto every couple months, but we’ve got to play with some awesome bands this past year.

we are thinking about trying to put together a small tour within canada sometime in the next year, but i don’t know exactly if and when we’ll be able to get that together.  we’re hoping to keep up the momentum of playing together regularly, but we’re planning to play fewer shows and focus on writing and recording a new album right away.  we’re wanting to do a lot more live recording this time, and we have a new practice space that is going to make that a lot more feasible, so we can hopefully get something interesting finished a little faster – we’re hoping sometime next year.

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stream and download a new little kid demo

little kid banda bit over a year ago london, ontario lo-fi artist little kid released river of blood, a ten-track album that frequently found frontman ken boothby intellectually grappling with concepts of religion and morality.  it’s a fantastic record and one that gets detailed more here in our 2013 interview with boothby.  now little kid is prepping a cassette release of demos from the river of blood sessions, due out july 29th through his bandcamp page.  the collection will also be available to stream and download that day as well, but you can stream “apostles” exclusively here at dimestore saints.  check it out.

 

download little kid’s modest mouse cover

little kid banda couple days ago, i featured little kid’s off-the-cuff cover of the classic modest mouse tune “baby blue sedan.”  now i’m happy to offer a dimestore saints exclusive stream and free download of the song, via the site’s newly-created soundcloud account.  many thanks to ken from little kid for being so willing to share the track with me, and in turn, with all of you.  take a listen and grab a download below.

interview – little kid

my first exposure to little kid was actually through a local channel; lo-fi heroes wisconsin built covered his 2011 single “should you want to leave” on their album maps ii.  fast-forward about a year and wisconsin built’s drummer, thom, tweets something about little kid and how great their new album is.  i’ll usually bite on thom’s musical suggestions as they generally yield good results, and this one surely didn’t disappoint.  river of blood is a fantastically-crafted album, and multiple listens have only instilled in me just how heavy the subject matter is.  i was fortunate enough to get a response from kenny boothby, the guy who holes up in london, ontario and churns out songs as little kid.  i asked him questions about recording methods, religion, and future releases, and boy did he deliver.  check out the transcript below.

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what initially sparked your interest in recording with four-track machines straight to cassette?  is this something you still stick with, or has your growth as a songwriter required more sophisticated tracking equipment?

it can probably be traced to phil elverum’s albums as the microphones and mount eerie, as well as godspeed you! black emperor’s (and their various side projects’) use of field recordings, which i was really enjoying a few years ago.  i think it was around the winter and spring of 2009, and i had a somewhat strange period in my life where i was digging up all sorts of weird tape recordings and photos from my childhood, buying half-functional tape machines, postcards, books, etc. at second hand stores, and essentially starting to assemble a big project without realizing it.  logic songs grew out of that eventually – that album is pretty strongly tied to the medium i used to record it.

my method of writing songs has changed quite a bit, mostly due to playing the songs live with a band.  i still like to demo the songs while writing them, using the four-track (mostly because it’s the only recording technology i somewhat know how to operate), but playing with a band has let the songs grow a bit more before recording the final versions.  it’s also allowed me to play with some sounds that i really enjoy but would be impossible to capture without enlisting other musicians (i’m a terrible drummer, for instance), and make use of the flexibility digital recording affords.  i really love the way brodie produced the new record – it’s very simple, in comparison to logic songs, and i think it lets the songs speak for themselves a little more than the lo-fi aesthetic would allow.

little kid started out as a solo project but seems to have shifted to more of a collaboration, with members of your live band contributing to your latest record river of blood.  do you think this shift will continue on future releases?

i’m hoping to record an ep or short album on my own some time in the next couple months, just for a change of pace.  right now, it’s just ideas and scraps, but i’m hoping to strike a balance between the 4-track sounds and the benefits of recording digitally.  i’d definitely like to do another album on the scale of river of blood again, though – recording with a band is a lot of fun.  there are plans for a new band with brodie and jessiah (who both played on the latest record) – more of a collaborative project – that will hopefully come to fruition later this year.  i’m really looking forward to that.  i imagine little kid will continue in various forms for the foreseeable future – i have friends who are great musicians that i’d love to continue to enlist for albums in the future, but i also enjoy the freedom of working alone from time to time.

 

many of your songs across your discography reference religion either explicitly or indirectly.  in another interview with you that i read, you seemed to think about religion in a more intellectual, theologically-based manner than in a strictly spiritual one.  do you see this self-awareness as a centerpiece to your lyrical structure?

yeah, it’s pretty difficult for me to write without some form of religious imagery sneaking in somewhere.  it’s the type of songwriting i’ve always connected with the most, and it definitely comes the most natural to me.  i’m planning to try to challenge myself to avoid religious references when writing songs for the aforementioned new band, but i imagine my songs for little kid will always focus on religion in some way.

religion plays a large part in your lyrical work, but who do you count among the most significant musical figures to impact you as an artist?

david bazan is definitely the first person to come to mind.  i grew up listening to a lot of christian rock (the majority of which was pretty terrible in hindsight), and his work with pedro the lion really changed the way i thought about religious lyricism.  he talked about some things on those pedro records that i had never heard discussed so candidly in christian music previously – sex, hypocrisy, doubting god.  i’m still a huge fan of pretty much everything he’s released.

leonard cohen’s also someone i’ve always admired for his mix of religious and secular (or sexual) subject matter, and he’s probably the most consistently flawless lyricist of all time.  at the time of writing the last record, i was listening to a lot of late ‘90s and early 2000s indie rock – modest mouse, built to spill, early death cab for cutie – and some more folk and country-type stuff like neil young, bob dylan, and gillian welch.

what are you listening to as of late that constitutes more of a guilty pleasure than anything else?

i guess the new kanye west album would fall into that category.  the guy is such an asshole, but he makes some pretty interesting records.

to date, river of blood has been released on a limited run of cassettes and cds.  are there any plans of future rounds of releases or a vinyl pressing?

yeah, we are still hammering out the details, but the wheels are in motion to get river of blood out on vinyl, hopefully sometime in the fall.  there’ll be an official announcement once we have more info.

 

with the addition of musicians and the larger sound on river of blood, little kid is starting to seem less like a recording project and more like a full band.  do you have any plans of touring as a live act?

unfortunately, a band tour is really unlikely; we all have a lot of different commitments.  i have been talking to a friend about a potential solo tour in the fall – just a few cities in canada and the states.  i’m hoping that will work out; it would be my first tour, so i’m definitely excited about the possibility.

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full band or not, little kid would be an act i would love to see on tour.  eau claire might be a bit of a hike from ontario, but i can always hope.  in the meantime, make sure to listen to river of blood in its entirety if you enjoyed the snippets above, and check out the rest of little kid’s discography, which is stashed away in the bandcamp link below.  the possibility of a vinyl pressing is also something i’m excited about; i’ll be sure to pass along the details on that when they surface.

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