You’re back in Edinburgh tonight playing with Stillhound, how are you feeling?
Yeah! We’ve not been playing much in the last month or so, we had a bit of a busy summer period and then we took a couple of months off to just chill out a bit, so this is our first gig back. We had a gig last month in Edinburgh with The National, for Sofar Sounds. It was us, Idle Wild and Fatherson, which was cool, but it was acoustic, so as the last gig we played, being a month ago, it feels like it’s been a really long time. I’m feeling good tonight, we have tonight in Edinburgh and tomorrow we’re in Glasgow [at The Old Hairdressers] and then some coming up for the end of the year, so it’s good to get back gigging again.
You released “Shake Off Your Troubles” in March for the first time since 2016’s “Put Your Love in Front of Me”, how are you feeling about the reception that it has received so far?
It was weird because we had it finished for a while, so people were coming up to me, like “Mate, I really like your new album” and I’m like “New album? Oh, yeah,” It is new to everyone else after all, but to us it had been finished for quite some time. We feel like it’s been received really well, and it’s had loads of BBC play, people coming to our gigs- The numbers seem to have gone up a decent amount, and all of the right things have kind of happened, so we feel really chuffed with it, and when we were sitting on it we felt like it was something good, so it was nice to take it out and have that reflected back in those regards. We’ve not taken over the world or anything, but we’re really quite chuffed with it and how it’s all gone.
You wrote and recorded the album in Loch Ness, right? What made you choose that location specifically?
Yeah! We usually use a studio in Edinburgh called The Depot. It’s great, but for us to record in Edinburgh for a week, there’s the studio time, there’s the hotels, you’re out every night eating and drinking – within reason, of course. That can add up to quite a lot, and you have a 9 to 5 recording existence, so you go into the studio, maybe get there for 9, and then at about half past 4 or 5 there’s another band in, so you have to clean up and stuff. We went for the lodge option because it just happened to be the best option. It was actually cheaper because it was your digs and your studio space. It wasn’t kitted out to record bands, it was like a family holiday home, we just took all of our stuff, arrived on a Friday night after work and set up that night to Saturday morning. We all took a week off work and that meant that we had a full 9 days recording. It meant that we had no set time to finish, because there was no band coming in after you, there’s no clock, so to speak; that means there’s no pressure to try to get a part done, you’re not thinking “Aw, there’s a band in at 5 and I still don’t have this guitar part”. If it’s not working, take a break, someone else will go and do their part. It was a three bedroom lodge, so we turned one room into a control room, and the other two, we slept in. We had amps and stuff in between the beds, so stuff could be set up right.
There was one night I did vocals until 5 in the morning, and I went to bed, knocked out, and I got up at 9 or 10 and there was someone recording in the next room. It was really nice, we did that for those 9 days and went back to Edinburgh over the summer. That was 2015, where we added strings and some extra synths, piano, things that we didn’t have in the lodge. We did a bit of tidying up, redid some stuff that we weren’t totally happy with. We got it mastered in London, in Abbey Road, so that’s really cool. I think it was finished from last February 2016? So, it had been mastered for almost 9 months before it came out; it was pretty weird We got advice from a friend that works with bands that was, “Your record is really good, but you should sit on it,” since it was finished in May the year before, he said “If you put it out now, you’ve kind of missed the boat for festivals, you might want to make a plan and come back next year.” Initially, we were mortified, but then we gave it some thought; I was getting married that year and the other guys have had some stuff going on, so after three months passed really quickly, we thought that if three months is that fast, nine months is going to fly. Sitting on it for a bit longer just makes sense, so I’m glad we did. I feel like everything has been more thought out on this one. You’re not releasing it and going “Damn, we don’t have any gigs to promote the thing,” or “Where’s the single?” We made videos and even now, we have some stuff to announce that we haven’t yet. It sounds really bad, but when you’re in a band it’s all about the next thing and what you’re going to push and how you’re going to push it, timing, as well. So yeah, it’s been a really enjoyable thing to have it out.
Do you have a favourite track from the record, and why?
There are two songs that I can’t decide between; I was really chuffed with the way that “You and Someone Like Me” came out because I had this idea for a while. It was made on one synth in my room; I had a shot of a really cool old moog and I had it for about a year! The week before I had to give it back, even though I had never played it, I thought that I better actually use it, so I spent a whole weekend just mucking about with it and the whole song came out, really quickly and really easily, I just didn’t know if it was any good!
“Goodbye Enemies, Hello Friends” was the first song written for the new album, and it was totally acoustic, but there was something in it that I really liked. It’s my favourite song to play live because it seems to be so upbeat, everyone usually likes it and gets into it. I feel really close to those two tracks, but there’s not a track on it, thankfully, that I don’t like. There’s nothing on the last few albums that I would be upset to play if it became a “Creep” level hit.
Who were you listening to while writing the album, and who are you listening to now?
Weirdly, a lot of David Bowie. I don’t think you’d hear that in the album, but I hear it. I never really payed much attention to David Bowie until about 3 or 4 years ago, when I got older. I’d always liked Low, the classic Ziggy Stardust stuff, but I’d never gotten into Station to Station or Young Americans, but suddenly 3 years ago, I got it. I listened to film soundtracks because I liked the strings on that, but I generally tend to listen to a lot of American bands; Grizzly Bear, Arcade Fire, LCD Sound System and I’ve been really enjoying The Nationals new album. Local Natives, even though we’re not really similar to bands like that.
We made a massive playlist because we’re all into different music, which I think is really good because everyone brings something different to the table. To help the guys get an idea of what I was trying to do, I made a playlist for each track and sort of said “The drums in this track should really sound like this, or that,” and some of them were a couple hours long, some of them were 15 hours long. Every time I was on Spotify, I’d just drag it into the folder.
The new album is very different from Put Your Love In Front Of Me, focusing much more on the instrumental aspects. Was that your intention going in to write?
When we released Put Your Love In Front Of Me, there was a few things going on and I’m pretty sure that one of the other guys were going through a break-up, so I was listening to how he was dealing with that, and that album sort of became about a lot of uncertainty and vulnerability. With the new one, I personally feel a lot more upbeat. With a really good change in circumstances – I am very happy with my partner, I got married, my mental health improved and I started writing all of these songs while I was getting fitter and healthier–I totally think that affected the writing because I felt really confident, suddenly, for the first time probably ever, so I thought “Why not have an opening instrumental track that’s two and a half minutes long?”
It was the general idea to make this album as a much more upbeat, direct response to the other one being slightly sad. One of our most well-known songs from PYLIFOM is called Heartbreak, part 1 and 2, and if I keep singing about heartbreak, I’m going to be a bit of a fraud, so I have to sing about what’s happening to me. That’s what I was tapping in to.
Recording the album with Craig, we were also a bit more confident with the sounds that we wanted to make. People have definitely responded to the upbeat nature of the new record, and the fact it’s got a happy, grateful message. There’s been so much shit happening in the world in the last few years; People are homeless, Donald Trump, and fucking Brexit… I think it’s quite a scary, weird place, so to have something upbeat and happy is maybe what people need.
I know that in 2016 you released a couple of remixes of your track “Don’t Get Mad, Get Even” – What was the inspiration behind the music video?
We weren’t very involved with that one. The one with the skeletons, that is us dancing, the second one was done the same day, but the third one is a complete storyline. It’s quite interesting because the people that filmed the video had a writers meeting, and they brought us along to talk about what the song is about. I think it’s quite interesting because they took so much stuff from the track that I never thought, in any way, that that is what it’s about. When they sent it over, we thought “It’s amazing that someone can get something completely different out of your art when we didn’t write about that at all”.
If you could tour with any band in the world, alive or dead, who would it be?
Jeez, em… We always listen to a lot of The Beatles, and obviously they’re one of the best bands – or the best band, depending on your opinion – ever, so you have to say that playing with The Beatles would be cool. They’re all dead other than two, so dead; The Beatles. Alive, Arcade Fire look like a lot of fun and I feel like that would be cool to watch every night.
Since you’ll be in Canada in November- What is your favourite place outside of the UK to play live?
We’re playing in Canada in a few weeks for an indie festival thing, and we’ve never been, but it’s 4 days gigging. We’ve done some touring in Germany and Holland, one of the best gigs we’ve ever played was in Loonberg in a University Campus. We drove up thinking “This is gonna be weird,” and… it was. They spent a whole day setting the venue up and when the support band played the crowd were dancing from the first song. We had been on tour for two weeks so every night had started to feel the same, we were in the dressing room and we realised that this is their Saturday night, they’re going to be up for it. There was sweat dripping off the walls, 100 folk in this tiny room. They were so nice at the end, too, chatting away with us, so I feel like I have to say Loonburg.
What is the most embarrassing song that you play on repeat?
I like the new Harry Styles single; it’s not new, but I don’t think that’s embarrassing because it’s actually quite good. I have a child now, so probably nursery rhymes… What do I like that’s awful? I mean, I do like some pretty weird music. I have a playlist on my Spotify called “Long, weird, spooky music”. I like to work with instrumental music, so it’s a lot of weird, ambient soundtrack stuff. Pretentious, in other words.
Favourite artist and why, in three words?
Probably David Bowie.
What is your best or worst experience as a fan?
Best experience would be any time I’ve seen LCD Sound System. I saw them at The Lemon Tree where I work, and they played to, like, 300 people. That was incredible, but then I saw them play Barrowlands to 3,000 people and that was incredible. We had the drummer back to my house, because I DJ’d with him at a club, and it was amazing to just pick his brain about drums, and boring nerd shit.
Worst experience, I’d probably say Bob Dylan. I really like Bob Dylan, and I paid £60 a ticket, and it was good to see him, but it was also kind of awful. You couldn’t recognise any of the songs until about half way through, it was 2001, so he’s become worse since then. I was obsessed with Bob Dylan at a certain age, and that was a bit of a disappointment.
I think the worst is when you travel to see a band, and it’s terrible. I’m very aware that tonight is £10 to get in, and that’s not that much money, but anyone that chooses to come and see our band instead of watching Stranger Things or doing anything else, it means a lot. I’d hate for someone to come along tonight and it’s a shambles, or I’m not playing well, I’d feel really guilty. I don’t know how you could forget that unless you’re a different level and get away with yourself, but luckily, I’ve never travelled to see a band, walked in and thought “This is awful.”
What is coming for The Little Kicks in the next 6 months?
We’ve got these Canada shows in a couple of weeks’ time, we’ve got some highland shows, a Christmas gig at home for a bit when all of our friends are home, and then we’ve got a couple of festivals booked already for next year. I’m trying to do some writing while the iron is hot, not to move on from the stuff we’ve got, but just to keep writing stuff, especially in the Spring. We have another single out from the record in November, and then we’ll have another out in Spring, and that will be 5 singles, which is definitely too much, but we’ve got a music video for the next one done already, and it’s definitely a worthy single. I have another good idea for a video, so we hope to do that in Spring, too!
Rhi @ New Wave Testament 2017