A Word With Little Comets

25 Jan

I got a chance to interview Little Comets for Indie Shuffle – check this out, but I overdid it a bit and the full interview was too long to publish. So I’ve managed to get a scoop (sorta) and I’ve got the whole thing for Compromise Music, so here it is, in all it’s unabridged glory:

Little Comets – Joanna (Kuda Remix)

– This album took a long time to make.. for those who aren’t familiar with your back story can you explain what happened?
We’re four very different people from the same small city in the North East of England and for as long as we can remember we’ve tried to do everything ourselves. Mickey (our guitarist) produces the music, I do the artwork and Mark and Matt chuck in the odd slew of ideas (from slightly bizarre videos, to playing on trams and in lectures halls). When we signed to a major label, this obsession with minutiae totally clashed with their approach. After 12 months of arguments and head shaking we happily parted company. Luckily we’d managed to retain musical ownership over the album by persuading them to let Michael produce, so at least we walked away with something that we felt was ours. After that we looked for a label who would be happy to let us be creative and just work with the results and we were fortunate enough to find the lads at Dirty Hit.

– Tell us a bit about the album…
The album was inspired by a set of stories, places, accidents and incidents, hints and allegations from around our lives in Newcastle. We recorded it in lots of different places – a school, an old television studio, any interesting outside space we could find. I suppose we took a lot from albums like Bookends and Graceland, and the idea that any object has an inherent musicality just waiting to be discovered. We would describe a sound that we wanted (“the snare should sound like a car door slamming” or “this section needs an ending that sucks out like a vacuum cleaner”), and then try to make the simile or metaphor a reality by using these actual objects.
Lyrically the album is influenced by authors such as Roald Dahl (boundless imagination), Milan Kundera (tying my brain up in knots) and Jonathan Safran Foer (use of objectification and language), but all for entirely different reasons. Hopefully, there is also an interesting juxtaposition between quite dark lyrics and more jaunty, major melodies.

– What is your favourite track from the album?
Hmmm strangely I think the track Isles is my favourite. Lyrically it isn’t our best piece as it is one of my first attempts at writing a song which tries to capture an entire set of social issues in two verses and chorus – I think it takes a lot of practice and maturity to do this, and I’ve still got a way to go…. but from a musical point of view it weaves nicely and Mickey has made the drums sound amazing. He also gets quite excited about the backwards reverb in the chorus…. apparently.

– You managed to generate a strong fanbase as an unsigned band. Apart from obviously having good music how did you do this?
From starting the band we wanted to play in places that had a captive audience. We thought that if we could pin someone down and make them listen then we’d hopefully be able to hold their attention – so we started gigging on trains and trams, in university lecture theatres and cafeterias. Other than this we’d contact people on facebook in other cities like Manchester and Liverpool and ask if we could play at a house party they were having. We learned a lot from performing in front rooms, in terms of how to connect to an audience. I think Mickey also thought that it was really important to give music away so anyone who contacted us would (and still does) get a personal response and the offer of a couple of free songs to listen to. Along with getting a bit of support from radio djs like Huw Stephens and Tom Robinson (who do so much for unsigned bands), all of these things definitely contributed to building a little fanbase!

– In the course of making this record you toured the UK fairly extensively… so where was your favourite city to play in, and why?
Hahaha, we have different cities for different things: Newcastle for home cooking and a comfortable non-travelodge bed, Manchester for sweet potatoes and vintage clothes stores, Liverpool for chirpy people, Hull for the most rambunctious crowds we have ever encountered and Edinburgh for the coffee!

– As this album took quite a long time to write, it contains quite a few tracks that could be singles. In future do you think you’ll follow this kind of route, releasing less albums with more perfected content, or going down the conventional route?
I don’t know, me and Michael have been writing songs since we were 14 so this certainly doesn’t feel like our first album. Most of these songs were written within 12 months of each other and because we recorded them ourselves I think they do have a certain sound to them. I think our songs are just a product of whatever we are exposed to in our lives and as we are quite stable people hopefully the next album will also have a similar theme and soundscape running throughout it, which can accurately replicate how we are feeling.

– You’re scheduled to play SXSW in your first American dates… what are you expecting?
Weight gain, a mad scramble to find US plug adaptors, problems at customs (Mark our drummer has a self-destruct setting which he might just engage while chatting with an immigration officer), hopefully happy crowds, problems being understood (our accent is quite dialectic) and hopefully quite a few cliches.

– You seem quite politicised (e.g. Darling Alistair). What political issue do you feel most passionately about now?
Wow, that is a tough question…. there is this guy in Britain at the minute called Michael Gove (the education secretary) and he typifies everything I dislike about the Conservative government. They seem to be using the recession as a way of implementing policies that are heavy on rhetoric but don’t actual solve the problem that they have been designed to alleviate…. the latest idea is that students of a certain age are encouraged to stay on in higher education by being given an allowance of £30 a week. In practical terms this money is so important to kids from more impoverished backgrounds as they can use it for transport costs, books, or to stave off the need to get a low-paid job which would impinge on their ability to study effectively. The government are removing this allowance, which seems like a direct tax on the poor…. this alongside bringing back Latin teaching as a central tenet of where-we-are-going-wrong-in-terms-teaching-content, effectively privatising schools and getting away from a fact-based-curriculum is just the tip of the iceberg…..

– What new bands are you listening to currently? Do you have any tips?
Grandfather Birds from Newcastle are going to make an amazing album this year hopefully, they make autumnal music that is the equivalent of aural mulled wine; Ajimal from Edinburgh are doing some really interesting things with lyrics and very atmospheric sounds, and Big Sleep from Manchester have some pop classics hidden away behind their delinquant eyes.

– Best album/song of 2010?
Aaaaargh these questions are tough. The best album I heard last year was Yeasayer but I think I overplayed it so maybe Everything Everything’s Man Alive – I love how piercingly clever it is.

– Best movie/tv show you’ve seen lately?
I saw the King’s Speech tonight which was brilliant, Precious was the last thing I watched that made me cry and the original Swedish version of Wallander is my current guilty pleasure!

– If you weren’t in a band, where do you think you’d be now/What do you think you’d be doing?
Mickey would be a scientist – he keeps coming up with inventions that he then finds out were patented by MIT 6 months earlier, so he’d be looking to cut that gap down and become a visionary; Matt has a lot of business nous so he’d get involved with wheeling and dealing, imports and exports; Mark has a face that could launch a few ships so he’d probably take over the modelling world, and then retire to become a landscape gardener; I’d probably be a milkman or a postman….

– Tell us an interesting fact about each of the band members?
OK but one of these is false:
– Mickey was a child tennis prodigy and played Andy Murray as a junior – he took him to three sets losing 7-6 in the decider (and claims Murray had to cheat to beat him).
– Matt survived tuberculosis as a child and is prodigious climber.
– Mark was in a boy band that had 3 top ten hits in the UK and flew around the world shooting videos in Brazil and Florida.
– I have six toes on my left foot but only four on my right foot but when you put my feet together you cannot notice this aberration.

– Finally, any shameless plugs you want to make?
Nope, I suppose just to say that our album comes out on the 31st January. It is called in-search-of-elusive-little-comets and you can listen to it in full on our facebook page , also if you are bored check this out:


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