interview – little kid

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

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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eluvium – “fugue state”

– featured image courtesy of the artist –

matthew cooper’s work as eluvium has marked him as a clear standard-bearer of ambient music in the twenty-first century; a direct descendent of brian eno, cooper has been manipulating tape delays and layering mountains of tones for the better part of two decades now, creating vast, affecting drone compositions in the process.  after pausing to make two albums as inventions – a collaborative project with explosions in the sky guitarist mark smith – cooper will circle back to his solo moniker for its eighth album, false readings on, out september 2nd via temporary residence.

alongside the album’s announcement today comes “fugue state,” a sprawling seven-minute return to form.  cooper uses one definition of fugue to inform another, inverting arpeggios at various tempos and moving them through different timbres – including a particularly haunting, cavernous vocal passage – to create an agitated soundscape that teases a serene resolution but evaporates before it can be reached.  take a listen below.

 

listen to a new song from pity sex

pity sex stuck out in the crowd of emo-inspired bands that garnered extra attention last year, often putting shoegaze and noise-rock elements on a higher pedestal than their mid-1990s downtrodden idols.  the ann arbor quarter released a split with adventures today via run for cover records; each band contributed a cover along with a new original song, and pity sex offered up “acid reflex,” a noisy, mid-tempo number in the vein of last year’s feast of love.  the track premiered over at wondering sound yesterday, but now you can stream it right here as well.  take a listen.

apollo vermouth – fractured youth

a2075354742_10in one of those rare musical moments, alisa rodriguez has created a masterful body of work with little more than a guitar and copious amounts of personal reflection.  fractured youth is rodriguez’s latest effort under her ambient guise of apollo vermouth, but this album strips away most of the salient, dreamy traits of ambient music in favor of an ominous, distant barrage of noise.  it may be the milwaukee resident’s most profound collection of songs yet.

although the album is broken up into specified tracks, fractured youth lends itself well to continuous, uninterrupted playback.  chord changes are slow, and any sense of harmonic motion is usually obscured by the layers of white noise that accompany each song.  after two comparatively quick tracks, the album settles in with “aftertaste” and “never ending,” a one-two hazy punch serving as the centerpiece of fractured youth.

both songs flirt with the six-minute mark, the former falling just short while the latter spills over, yet each establishes and represents a fairly concise, contrasting element of rodriguez’s music.  “aftertaste” has a sense of urgency, its busy progressions hinting at explorations of pent-up emotions, while “never ending” paces itself more methodically.  harmonics from the drone tend to have more emphasis here, and the back half of the song seems especially stagnant.

after increased tension on “vacant lots,” fractured youth comes to an appropriate close with “drift,” a gorgeous coda that evokes an oddly distinct feeling of being lost at sea, perhaps a metaphor for dealing with a foreign situation.  together, the album’s six songs comprise a half-hour of minimalist, reflective music just as useful for falling asleep as it is for deep, serious meditation sessions.  fractured youth is out now via bridgetown records.  don’t miss out.

8.3/10

pity sex – feast of love

i go through broad cycles in my musical taste that continuously encompasses bands that prefer to drench their sound with fuzzed-out guitars and melancholy lyrics.  when i reach this point on the cyclical pattern, i usually can’t get enough of these acts, spinning their wax on my turntable as much as possible and pumping them through my headphones at work.  thankfully, pity sex caught me at the perfect moment, because i can’t stop listening.

the ann arbor quartet released their debut album, feast of love, today, its ten tracks clocking in at just under thirty minutes of gorgeous shoegaze revival with a smart pop sensibility.  even though they’ve only been around for a couple of years, pity sex have made a name for themselves, utilizing last year’s dark world ep to solidify their hard-earned place in a community that is equal parts punk and indie.  while dark world was rough around the edges, the band’s full-length debut feels polished in a casual lo-fi sense; the vocals blend with the instruments, but nothing sounds too muddy.

 

guy-girl vocals have been done in indie-pop for years in various states of depression (for self-deprecation, see the pains of being pure at heart; for things more morose, see veronica falls).  while not on slumberland like these other two bands, pity sex still falls somewhere in the middle of this spectrum; on album opener “wind-up,” brennan greaves warns the listener that he’s nothing special and wallows in a monotone of self-pity, but other songs like “honey pot” have an undeniable upbeat attitude that evokes something lighter from the band’s persona.

co-vocalist britty drake steals the show.  her turn on “keep” bumps the song up to one of my favorites on the album, and provides a nice complement to the low mumblings of greaves.  also worth mentioning is the lead guitar work found across feast of love.  it’s a cut above anything i would ever expect out of a contemporary noise-pop outfit like this, and makes me flash back to early dinosaur jr.

pity sex aren’t doing anything groundbreaking, nor are they trying to do so.  they don’t have to.  for a group of hardcore scene kids from michigan, feast of love isn’t a bad debut at all.

7.5/10