Spill! interview with Philadelphia's littler: limited cassette EP "get a life" (number4door) out now!
Littler photo by Amy June Breesman, (www.amyjunebreesman.com)
The repetition on the twangy opening guitar riff of littler's addictive single track "College Legs," takes a pause on the beat, and all at once, the rest of the song smashes into the room it fills with a wild and explosive, bratty style, that ebbs in fits and bursts of jarring rock'n'roll. The band's crunchy sound and mixture of garage and punk is addictive, the writing is catchy and clear, and lead singer and guitarist Madeline Meyer's vocals easily slide between quiet and harmonius to a dark and deep menacing growl ("College Legs," and "Sleeptalk") or squeal ("Didn't Ask") to match moods for each song on the band's debut EP, "get a life."
Released in cassette format on Glaswegian independent label Number4Door (also home to past releases with Amanda X, Coasting, and Mannequin Pussy, among others) and limited to 50, the cassette and online versions feature artwork by local artist and musician Perry Shall (Hound) who used the band's songs as the inspiration behind the fun, colorful, and strangely menacing design that fits the EP's temperament. While "Demigod" explores reacting to a person with an inflated sense of self, "You're a big shot, a demigod, you're a big shot, and you know it," need and emotion split hairs on "Sleeptalk," a reflection on telling the person you love your secrets while they sleep (or, keeping them awake for selfish reasons.... mostly because you can't sleep yourself). We loved the ideas behind the lyrics on "Bedroom Culture": who do you invite into your bedroom, what kind of person are you when you are alone, who do you show this 'personal' side of yourself to, or do you keep it all to yourself? The songs on the EP show both a mixture of spirited youth and tongue-in-cheek self-preservation with a score to match.
Along with singer and guitarist Meyer, the band features Dan Colanduno (Slow Animal) on guitar and vocals, Ivy Gray-Klein on bass, and Robyn Campbell on drums. They have played just over a handful of shows in the city, and we hope to see more of them soon. In the meantime - order their new cassette EP at the Number4Door website (oooh, fancy; European!) or the band will also have some available at upcoming shows or through their bandcamp (soon).
Girl About Town: Your new EP just went live last Monday on your bandcamp, and in cassette format on Number4Door (a label based out of Glasgow in Scotland). Number4Door has also released cassettes by Amanda X, Coasting, Mannequin Pussy (and more). How did you get to know the label and is it a limited release?
MM: I think the label heard about us through the website The Le Sigh who had done some of our earliest reviews and I had just started writing for. Gus (Number4door is just one guy) approached us, and I knew about his work with Amanda X and Toxie and was really excited to work with him. So far it's just 50 tapes but depending on how it does, we'll see if we want to do a second release.
How did the members of littler meet?
MM: Ivy and I met at a summer writing program in New York in high school. We somehow maintained contact despite her living in Maine and me in Los Angeles.
IGK: Dan was actually one of the first people I met when I moved to Philly for college.
DC: We met because I contacted her online in an attempt to get into a college show that was exclusive to college students and their guests. Ivy responded (despite the fact that my Facebook picture was a screenshot of Brad Pitt) and was able to get me in the show.
MM: A few years later, I was attending college in Ohio and had a show in my house that Dan was supposed to play with his other band, Slow Animal. Ivy had sent me a text earlier that day saying that they were friends and Dan and I had to hang. The cops showed up and they never played but it's okay because we date now. I moved to Philly a year later and met Robyn through my old roommate Rachel. Robyn was wearing this great shirt (which I now know she refers to her as her "L.A. Shirt") and I just knew if we were going to be friends that I was doomed to not dress better than her.
RC: I remember hearing her talk about covering "Flagpole Sitta" and was like, damn, that lady's cool (in my head). (I don't know if I ever told her that.) But anyway, a few months after that we ran into each other and somehow the subject of me playing drums came up. I was still pretty self-conscious about it at the time because I think maybe like one person had ever heard me play before, but Madeline and Dan both had this "I'm sure you're great" attitude that was pretty encouraging. They’d already been playing with Ivy so things just kind of fell into place.
How long did it take to record the EP and write the songs? Was there a specific sound that you were looking for in this recording?
DC: The recording process was done in pieces. We tracked all of the drums in a day. Then we went back and added the other parts whenever we had free time.
MM: I think it probably took two months to write, record, and mix the EP? We're all new to this so I think when we first started I was just so excited to be making music that I wasn't all that critical of what it was. By the time we made "Get a Life," I was like, okay, I want this to be a little faster and a little more raw. Also, a lot of music I listen to has ladies with really nice, high voices. Mine isn't like that and I think it took me a while to be comfortable with it, but this tape was a good exploration of leaning into it.
Bands can be partial to the type of gear they're using. What instruments does the band drool over, or what do you love about what you're using now in how it helps you to achieve your sound?
DC: We like Fender Strats and the twang that comes with it. As far as everything else, we kind of just take what we can get. We currently are using a crossbreed of mine and Robyn's drums. I still use my dad's Japanese knockoff Les Paul guitar. I also have a cheap Peavey combo amp that I bought from someone on Craigslist, but it sounds fantastic. But gear is overrated. Any instrument can sound good if you play it the right way, or if the sound of it compliments the songs you write. (if you have a shitty guitar, write a song that's favorable to a shitty guitar; Mac Demarco made it work.)
IGK: I started playing righty on a hand-me-down bass, but after some self-reflection, I quickly realized that was just never gonna happen or else my brain might melt. So my Danelectro is the first bass I bought, but it's been a very loving dynamic. I still feel really indebted to certain peers of mine for helping me embrace my left-handed-ness. Though I haven't been playing music for a long time, I'm so grateful for all the support I've received thus far.
What was the band's favorite song to record for the EP and what makes it so special?
RC: I think I'd have to say "Sleeptalk" was my favorite for a couple of reasons. It wasn't completely finished when Dan recorded me on drums, so I feel like there were still some questions about how it would sound exactly; but the general idea was there. We talked about it and basically were like "we want it to sound like this" and just tried something out. Not to be like, "oh, we're such free spirits!" or anything -- I'm sure bands do that all the time. But I had never recorded anything before so it felt weird and cool to not have all the details.
Actually, I remember being concerned that it was going to sound too surfy. But it doesn't! Hearing it all together once everyone finished recording made me so happy because it was like this unexpected little gold nugget that I really liked.
"Sleeptalk" was also the most challenging song for me as someone who's relatively new to drumming. I tend to tell myself I can't play something if I think it's too complicated, which is a terrible attitude to have but very real. I'm getting more and more comfortable, but at the time it was a little intimidating, so it felt really satisfying to push myself and see results.
MM: I think my favorite song to record and write was "Didn't Ask." I'm still new to writing lyrics, creating melodies, and arranging things and this was one of the first times that it just flowed super naturally. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I'd just read this article on the lack of narratives surrounding female hitchhikers and was really just thinking out loud. That and the recording process felt really organic, like it was just intuitive. Art isn't always like that for me.
IGK: I don't know if I have a favorite per se, but I am consistently in awe of Madeline's lyrics. Whenever she shows us new stuff she's written I think of that scene in "Ladies and Gentlemen the Fabulous Stains" when that teenage girl describes the titular band as, "[Saying] things I've always wanted to say and I haven't been able to." Which is to say, it feels really special to be playing with musicians I admire and to be able to help propel this collective message.
What has been the most positive thing about the local scene for your band?
RC: In general, I'd say support and encouragement. I wasn't around for First Time's the Charm, but the fact that any band can get its start in an environment like that, where PhilaMOCA is completely packed with people who are so excited to watch new musicians and clap even when they fuck up, is incredible. Along the same lines, the DIYPHL PA share (which they used the FTTC money for) is, like, one of the best ideas ever. Ten bucks is such a small price to pay to have this thing at your disposal. Now anyone can put on a show! That's so cool! It's important for a scene to strive for accessibility and inclusiveness. And it's kind of an endless process but I think Philly is working on it. In Littler's case specifically, since 3/4 of us are new to our instruments, it's nice to be around people who are rooting for us rather than saying "get the fuck out of here, shoobies!"
MM: Yeah, for those of you out there that don't know, we got our start at First Time's the Charm, a year ago, which was a show curated to include people new to their instruments/new to a band and prioritizing women, people of color, and trans and queer individuals. It says a lot that our inception is immersed in our community and the opportunities they've given us. Thanks guys!
What's next for littler?
IGK: We're debuting a new track on a forthcoming compilation by The Le Sigh, which should be a really neat collective of bands.
MM: We just want to get back to writing new songs and playing shows! Obviously we're so excited to have this EP out but it'll just be nice to move forward and keep doing things. We’d also love to be able to figure out a tour in the future but y’know who knows?