|Little xs for eyes - The Roundy, 19th July|
"If one of the girls leave the band we'll have to kick one of the boys out."
Extracts from the below interview appeared in the Downtown supplement of Cork's Evening Echo on Thursday, 12th July 2012
Liquid sunshine may not have been invented just quite yet but a quick swig of Dublin sextet Little xs for eyes' harmony-laden pop juice will brighten up even the most miserable of wet Summer days. Having released debut record S.A.D. - a masterful lesson in bright hooks and carefully constructed compositions - less than a year ago, the past six months have been heavily populated with five star reviews, festival slots and primetime television appearances. A début performance in Cork is next on the agenda, providing the perfect opportunity to display exactly why S.A.D. featured on so many 'Best Album of 2011' lists.
The G-Man caught up with Bennie, Davey and Lucy i.e. half of Little xs... before their Roundy appearance - which will of course feature Adrian, Michelle and Aaron as part of the completed line-up - on Thursday (19th July).
The G-Man: Little xs for eyes have been around in some shape or form for a few years now but S.A.D. arrived less than a year ago. What challenges were faced and overcome in the first years of little xs existence?
Bennie: We formed 6 years ago and released an EP in our first year of existence, but then Davey and I moved away to London for a year and we had to deal with some line-up changes on our return so it took us a little while to build up enough steam to get the album under way.
Davey: We're just kinda slow, slow burners.
The G-Man: Do older songs such as 'Lou' still get a run-out these days or is it all about the present/future?
Bennie: Oldies like 'Lou' and 'Rubble of Love' still have a special place in our hearts and on our set list.
Lucy: We recently played 'Lou' at a gig in the Pepper Canister Church, it was lovely to play in such a beautiful and acoustically amazing setting. We've changed the musical arrangement slightly - exchanging melodica for the violin and mandolin for uke. It's always good to get the oldies out for a spin.
Davey: We still play 'Rubble of Love' too. Depends on how nostalgic we feel.
The G-Man: What kind of a reaction did you get to the fund-it campaign?
Bennie: An astounding one! We were completely bowled over. We reached our target [of €2,000] in the first three days. It was a big relief knowing that we could afford to release a physical album but also massively encouraging to discover that so many people wanted a copy.
Lucy: The fund-it campaign was amazing. Some of the success can be attributed to Fran Power and the great video he made for us. It really tapped into the everyday life of the band, and where we were at the time. The reaction was amazing, we didn't realise that there were so many people out there willing to pay for our album without having heard it before. There was a preview of 'In the Light' running over the top of the video clip - maybe that was it!
The G-Man: 2,000e is quite a lot of money to raise. What mentality did you hold going into the fund-it campaign as regards its potential failure/success?
Davey: We we're kinda nervous, as Fund-it was more or less an unknown quantity at that stage, so we actually asked for less than we needed. As it turned out, we made the 2,000 in three days. Doh!
The G-Man: Having survived the often brutal cycle (for independent bands anyhow) that is writing, recording, publishing and pushing your own record, is there a greater sense of fulfilment in the completion of the process?
Bennie: For sure. It was a huge undertaking but every single sound and mark made on it is our very own and was carried out with care.
Lucy: I guess if the band broke up tomorrow we'd always have the album in our hands to remember it by and the two great videos we've made. It really is great to have an album from the hours of time we've spent in 'the basement'; That's the nice name we give our rehearsal space. Actually our practice space featured in our fund-it video and it's also where the video for 'In Three Years' was filmed. We'll never break up though - we'll be playing together until we're old and wrinkly - promise!
The G-Man: What do record deals mean to you?
Bennie: It would be very nice to get paid to make music and tour but you often hear of bands losing a lot of control creatively and financially once signed to major labels. A small, friendly label who could lend us a hand with our next album would do nicely for now.
Davey: We don't lose any sleep at night agonising how to get one. If you're prepared to be preened to within inches of your dignity, I'm sure they're aces.
The G-Man: There is a tenderness in little xs' music that is too rare in Irish band’s music these days. Why do you think this is?
Bennie: Maybe its just that our songs are very honest. I think both lyrically and melodically we just write what comes naturally, even at the risk of coming across as total losers. We also spend A LOT of time crafting each song, there's a lot of care and thought put in. Tenderness takes time I suppose.
Lucy: We're all softies. We're often referred to as 'cute' so I prefer the term tender!
The G-Man: With which aspects of S.A.D. are you most proud?
Lucy: That people liked it.
The G-Man: Within little xs for eyes, how does the songwriting process work?
Bennie: Most of my songs happen when I’m walking and exist for long spells in my head in complicated layers until I demo them or play them for the band. I have two stewing away in there at the moment.
Davey: Bennie & I write the melody, chords and words. We'll have an idea of mood, instrumentation, tone and tempo, then bring it to the band and work on it collaboratively.
The G-Man: 'Gone Gone Gone' and 'In Three Years' are so different yet sit so nicely beside each other on the record. Is there an intentional concentrated effort to write songs that do not sound alike or is it just whatever comes out?
Bennie: Actually the fact that many of our songs have different sounds has been a worry to me in the past, but it is just a case of "whatever comes out" and I don’t think I could write in any other way. Our sound is constantly evolving, our newer songs are a lot poppier and synthier but then I still like to pick up the uke and write something folky. I think our vocal style and harmonies are the one constant and hopefully what makes our sound recognizable.
Lucy: I guess coming from inside the band and the songwriting process, it' harder to hear the differences. We have a new song in the works, it's about wrestlers. It sounds even more diverse - double synth dancy action!
The G-Man: You have hit the festival circuit this Summer. What do you enjoy about playing festivals?
Lucy: It's nice to hit the road with the band and hang out outside our normal hangouts. It's great to be out in the open air and feel the grass in between your toes. Also if the weathers bad we'll probably write a song about it huddled together in our tent nursing a bottle of whiskey.
The G-Man: How do little xs' amuse themselves when on tour?
Lucy: Harry and Adrian provide endless entertainment. Davey makes the best mix CDs - the girls promise to practice vocals while driving but then Michelle will fall asleep and I'll reverse into a lamppost. The general chaos is entertaining. And drinking of course. We have a tradition of listening to Owensie - Aliens on repeat on the hung-over journey home.
The G-Man: Tell me about your new video.
Davey: 99% of the credit has to go to Rory Gavin (aka Roricam). It's long been his dream to make a video extolling the joys of office-chair dancing. He developed the idea with us and I'm happy to report the filming was completed on time and on budget.
The G-Man: It looks like it was fun to make. What did you enjoy most about the shoot?
Lucy: Throwing buckets of paper at the lads.
Davey: Ditto. At the girls.
The G-Man: What is the least glamorous part of shooting a music video?
Lucy: Picking up all the paper afterwards!
Bennie: We shot about eight takes of the paper throwing and had to clean up the mess each time.
Davey: Adrian watching the Formula 1 on his laptop.
The G-Man: MTV may be dead and all that but videos are still a big part of the music “industry”. What do you think of the importance of music videos these days?
Davey: It's a brilliant way of opening the doors of interpretation to your music. Videos will always be another creative level to a song. The platform may have changed but it's essential to have good videos and visuals to accompany your songs.
Lucy: More people are using you tube as a means of discovering new music, so it's important to have quality content on there.
The G-Man: Not to rush you or anything but have you any songs written and waiting for the follow up to S.A.D.?
Lucy: Yup, three down and a few more in the creative mists of the basement.
The G-Man: What are you listening to these days?
Davey: Cass McCombs' last two albums, Metronomy's The English Riviera, Why?'s Eskimo Snow & Joanna Newsom's Have One on Me.
Lucy: New Best Coast album, Clock Opera after seeing them at Dublin Camden Crawl. M83 (still).
Bennie: Way Yes and Wings, I like to keep things alphabetical.
The G-Man: What Irish bands have caught your attention over the past few years?
Davey: Tandem Felix - while they lack many verified sightings in the wild, their recordings are amazing. SertOne is only gnarly.
Bennie: Meljoanne is another rarely sighted Irish act, her album Squick is brill.
Lucy: Sleep Thieves have a new EP out which is amazing. Sorcha Richardson - brought to my attention via Nialler9.
The G-Man: If you had to choose a decade to live in (other than now) what would it would be and why?
Davey: What, we only get one go in the time machine..? Weimar Republic in the twenties so.
Lucy: The 1920's - the decade for amazing hair and dresses, and nobody knew smoking was bad, so I could take it up again.
The G-Man: Three girls and three boys - would you feel the balance in the band is perfectly poised?
Bennie: The balance is perfect, it must never change. If one of the girls leave the band we'll have to kick one of the boys out.
Davey: Us boys aren't exactly paragons of masculinity. Pop's genetic make-up is more XX than XY.
The G-Man: Am I right in saying this is your first gig in Cork as little xs for eyes?
Davey: Yup! Though most of the band have played there at some point or another.
The G-Man: Why the hold up?!
Davey: We just thought you'd never ask.
Lucy: 6 people - 6 jobs! It's a tough one - we promise not to leave it so long till the next one.
The G-Man: Over your lifetime, what memories have you gathered of Cork?
Lucy: I spent a few nice summers in Baltimore and also around Ballycotton, in and out of the sea. I perfected a forward tumble on a trampoline overlooking Ballycotton. It's a beautiful county. Cork City - the English Market - nom nom nom.
Davey: Biblical floods generally coincide with any trip to Cork by me.
The G-Man: What feelings have you got ahead of playing a new city for the first time?
Bennie: Playing to a brand new audience is exciting, a challenge! It's one of my favorite things to do.
Davey: Seeing The David Nelligan Thing [who also play The Roundy on 19th July] who are amazing.
Lucy: We're excited to meet any Cork fans we have, and to meet the G-Man of course!
- Little xs for eyes & The David Nelligan Thing play The Roundy on Castle Street (Cork) Thursday, 19th July
- Tickets are priced at €6 with capacity limited
- Download their new single for FREE from bandcamp here