They may have been AWOL for just over two years but they have just exploded back onto the scene with their fantastically funky number ‘You and Someone Like Me’. We thought it best to track down Scottish quartet THE LITTLE KICKS to find out where they have been hiding all this time and what exactly they have been up to…
You’ve just shared your video for your latest track “You And Someone Like Me’ in which you have been turned into CGI skeletons. You’ve previously said that the green screen experimentation was unplanned. What were your original intentions for the video? Did you enjoy the filming process?
We decided quite some time ago that for this album we wanted to make a video for every single from the record and felt it was essential that our first single video be very strong and ideally something we have never done before. To achieve this we decided to work with a great video production company based in Aberdeen called Kreopix/Crow House Productions whom we have worked with previously. We went to the guys with the track and it was a very fun, enjoyable collaboration. Often as an artist you can be too close to your own material so it’s always interesting and worthwhile to get someone else’s take on your work and in this case the guys picked up on several aspects of the track we hadn’t considered which was great. The video designers really picked up on the robotic, relentless, driving nature of the song and initially really liked the idea of a more story based concept. For example, using the title and lyrical content’s theme to make a video where a robot can’t work out/understand why he is different to humans was one idea which we really liked. However, the option to utilise a green screen studio became available and this then immediately turned our focus to a more performance based vision.
One problem was access to prepare as we only had a day available in the studio and none of us had used the technology before, so it was a learning experience all round! On the day we had a great laugh in the motion capture suits as in order to appear more pronounced on screen every gesture you make needs to be doubled. So that was quite a challenge for us and took several takes to get right. Thankfully my sister, who is a professional dance teacher, stepped in at the eleventh hour to add some freestyle dancing which really was the secret weapon to the final production. Our only brief to the team was that the video be colourful, fun to watch and suit the song and what the guys came back with was awesome. The robots became an army of skeletons and then by pure chance we released the single the week before Hallowe’en! We are currently working with the team again on further videos for future singles from the record so we’re looking forward to letting everyone see several more in due course!
The track itself is pure funk riddled pop, a perfect single to return with. It brings to mind a combination of Hot Chip and Franz Ferdinand. How do you approach writing such infectious hooks?
Every song is totally different in its creation process. For this one, I had a Moog Opus on loan for nearly a year and barely played it due to a lack of spare time to get to know it’s sounds. Then with a week to go before I had to return it I sat and very quickly somehow came up with the bass line for this song which I immediately thought was a good hook. I played it for two days straight to a drum loop and once I had that in place ad-libbed over the top and added various ideas to it. I like disco music and if you listen to the words in a lot of big disco tracks often they are about quite sad thoughts (isolation, loneliness and heartbreak), set against an overwhelmingly catchy backbeat so lyrically I liked that idea for this song. The rest of the track’s parts came together on top very quickly and I was able to edit my weekends work to make a fairly detailed demo to take to the guys to hear in the practice room.
It’s always at this point that the guys then begin to add their magic and then that I can no longer single-handedly take any credit for the songs in their final form as once we have worked on them together they are no longer just mine but ours as a band. Originally this song came from a much longer demo and it was the guys who really beat the song into its current shape by suggesting we push the chorus to earlier, supplement it with those amazing backing vocals and add that punk disco guitar to it. After we had put all our parts down we hired in the Cairn String Quartet to overdub some strings on top and once they had completed their session we knew it was done which was very exciting. Sitting on the song for months and not letting anyone hear it has been difficult!
Have you always been influenced by pop? Who do you think are the artists that have had an influence on your own musicianship?
Ultimately our aim is to (hopefully!) make interesting pop music for anyone of any age, gender or background to enjoy. Of course we know we won’t be to everyone’s tastes but in an ideal world we don’t see why a band can’t be popular with a wide audience and still retain a level of credibility at the same time. We aren’t deliberately “pop” in style but whether it’s in the studio or the practice room I suppose our main aim is always to serve the song and make it the best it can be. I admit we do give considered thought to piquing the potential listeners interest when writing but I would say that we occasionally indulge ourselves too but only if the song requires us to. Every song is different and should be its own idea or emotion so although we do have songs that are under three minutes long, we also have some that are nearly double that in length.
Our previous set closer is nearly ten minutes long, and in fact one of our most popular tracks. We were once described as being equally suitable for airplay on both BBC Radio 2 and BBC 6 Music – while some bands would hate that description, we definitely feel it’s no bad place to be! In terms of influences we take inspiration from all sorts of music, bands and culture – movies and soundtracks are a big influence on our sound. While we do share some mutual love for some artists I do think as a band we benefit massively from all four of us liking very different music as it means we each bring differing reference points to the table.
The band took some time off to reassess: why did you feel like you had to take a break and what inspired your return? You’ve had a warm reception since.
Publicly we have been very inactive but in actual fact I actually don’t really feel like we have been away at all. After “Put Your Love in Front of Me” came out in September 2013 we toured for some time into the middle of 2014 then I spent the latter half of that year making demos and writing ideas for the next album. After some fairly intense band rehearsal we felt it was time to record and in spring 2015 we took a ten day holiday and relocated to a lodge by Loch Ness to set up a little studio there. As well as our producer (Craig Ross of Broken Records), and his recording rig, we took every instrument we owned, quite a lot of food and alcohol, and most importantly a set of a dozen songs we felt were in a very good shape for a potential record.
Over the rest of that year we mixed the record at The Depot in Edinburgh all the while adding overdubs (including strings with the Cairn String Quartet, gang vocals, percussion, piano, more synths, etc.) and essentially signed the recording off at Christmas in 2015. The album was then mastered at Abbey Road in the spring of 2016 and suddenly here we are talking about its first single! I do feel like the reception we have had has been very fortunate so far but it has been hugely helped by us taking time to do things properly on this occasion. We are a self-managed band who do everything ourselves so I guess you learn with every release – we felt the last record was perhaps stilted by being a little rushed at the last hurdle and we’ve been careful not to repeat that mistake.
How did your time way affect your songwriting? Was there any conflict over what you wanted your new work to sound like?
The band is in a completely different place now to where we were three years ago – on every level. Firstly, and most noticeably, we changed a founding member between records which was a big test that thankfully has worked very well and changed the band dynamic in the way we had hoped it would. Secondly in terms of our personal lives we all have had major ups and downs over the last few years which we have all experienced together and this can only have brought us closer as a unit. Finally and most importantly the positive reaction to our last record combined with the above has given us a confidence that has definitely shaped the way the songs came out for this release. Our last release came from a much more uncertain time and vulnerable state of mind (certainly for me personally) and although it’s a release we are immensely proud of, we wouldn’t want to repeat ourselves.
The new songs are more positive, upbeat and confident which is a deliberate correlation to our current state of mind of being a band who really enjoy playing together just doing what we do for fun. In saying all that, regarding any conflict occurring – yes there has been some interesting discussions along the way of the album making process. Occasionally some disagreements do occur but they are always about the music or the song and never over trivial matters, never unresolved for long and ultimately only happen because every member in this band is equally passionate about the project and really cares, which is important and very healthy in the long run.
Are you all set to release your new album? What can we expect?
The album is indeed finished, artwork done and physical copy sent to print which is THE most exciting time of the process! I can’t wait to let everyone get their hands on it when it comes to March. I think it’s a natural progression from our last record to a much more vibrant sound embracing some new additions to our palette sonically (strings, more synths, more percussion, heavier guitars and the addition of vocal arrangements) applied to a more confident, honed sound. We spent a LOT of time on arrangement and sounds so we hope people take the plunge and pick the release up on vinyl to enjoy loudly in its best proper listening environment! Furthermore, as a set of songs we feel it flows really well in terms of the traditional album track-to-track format and really showcases all of our different influences across its ten tracks. Hopefully anyone who bought our last record will agree, but for anyone new discovering the band for the first time, we also think the new album is a much more immediate record than its predecessor.
We see that you’ve been playing some shows recently. How does it feel to be getting back into the swing of things?
We did four shows in Scotland last week which were all a lot of fun and all very well received. We decided to air four new songs at the shows and each was met with a great response which was reassuring. Being back in the van with the guys is a lot of fun – when you do it a lot you can take it for granted I think – but with us balancing full time jobs, “life” and partners along with friends and family I think it’s a bit of a treat to get the chance to go and play some gigs with your mates on the road. Playing our hometown on the last show of the four was a definite highlight as expected, but truth be told Edinburgh was a fantastic night too. Glasgow can be tricky as any gig there is potentially up against a number of gigs elsewhere that evening but we were delighted to see a busy crowd there and we hope to go back soon. Once these other singles start rolling out and the album is released in March we will want to be on the road as much as possible playing anywhere and everywhere that we can – we can’t wait to come and see you all and let you in on what we have been away working on for all this time!
The Little Kicks release their new album in March 2017. Their current single ‘You and Someone Like Me’ is available to buy now.