Earlier this month Steven spoke to The Partae about writing process, synths, influences and much more!
See the interview here: http://www.thepartae.com/the-little-kicks/
What is your name and role within The Little Kicks?
My name is Steven and I sing and play guitar/ keys in the band.
How did you start?
The band has been going for a while now but we initially formed in the same way a lot of bands do – because a few of us liked and disliked all the same bands and wanted to make our own music. The line up we have today is very different to the one that started the band but as a unit we are definitely now at our strongest and most complete.
Where are you based?
We are based in Aberdeen which is in the North East of Scotland. We are not too far away from the Central Belt of the country which is where predominantly the majority of the “industry” is but we don’t mind. We’re happy to travel when needed – we have our own van so we are no strangers to travelling back and forth late at night on random journeys just to play a show.
Please give an example of your music writing process?
I usually work on something at home and bring it in to our practice room – sometimes with a finished demo, sometimes with a scrap of an idea or some lyrics. Either way its something I find fairly terrifying still even though we have been doing it for a while. After that we then just play through the song and try things out. Although the band is primarily a vehicle for my songs the other members Adam, Andrew and Scott are very talented and as a result are heavily involved in the writing process and shaping the final sound of how the material comes out. It’s amazing as a writer to have such a good band that can take a song in a completely different direction to what you imagined OR conversely if you have a vision they can help you achieve that too. I’m terrible at describing a sound in my head so we use reference tracks, sounds and other methods to get to the sound we want!
What are you working on right now?
Our album “Shake Off Your Troubles” just came out in March so we have mainly been gigging as far and wide as we can to spread word of it’s release and over the last couple of months have been pretty busy with festival shows and sessions for the BBC. We are now working on getting our diary for the later half of 2017 filled to a similar standard. It’s our first release since 2013 so while I have tentatively started sketching some ideas I’m not in any hurry to work on new material – we really believe in this record and are very proud of it so we would rather keep ploughing on with that for the meantime to try and make everyone aware of it!
What is your gear setup?
Live we are a 4 piece band – drums (Scott), bass / bass synth (Adam), electric guitar (Andrew), synths/ guitar (myself). Andrew and Adam sing harmony on most tracks and outside of the guitars we use 2 Korg MS10 synths, a Nord keyboard and an SPDS sampler which Scott controls from the kit. In the studio we like to utilise a lot of vintage synths and layer percussion onto our tracks and Scott likes vintage drums which he also uses live. The sampler is pretty integral to the live sound and these days is basically a 5th member (we have even given it a name – Sandy). While we were a bit conflicted at first (having to rely on it) using it live it means we can avoid having to be a 10 piece band with tonnes of kit and as we also employed a string quartet on the last record pretty heavily there are some strings on there too which we simply couldn’t afford to play live!
What do you like to do outside of music and does it affect your music?
I work in music as an events programmer so my time is pretty consistently taken up working in music or on events or spending time with other musicians – I guess that feeds pretty heavily into my writing whether I realise it or not. I also really like going to the cinema and reading up on culture which is something the guys are all into too. I think seeing, hearing or reading about new things all feeds into our music and as we are all into different things -it’s when you combine everyone’s different tastes and influences that you get the best results.
How would you describe your music genre?
I don’t think we ever aim to sound like one genre (which is maybe to our detriment!) but when writing there is definitely always a focus on trying to make melody driven songs and music simply using the best of the skills and influences we have. Primarily I guess we would be labelled as indie rock but I feel like as we spend a lot of time on the arrangements within the songs and the lyrics if you dig a little deeper we are perhaps a bit more sophisticated than that label suggests. Put it this way we have fans that are 55 and fans that are 15 so you could even say we are pop but I would like to think basically we can appeal to most ages/ types of people and that we have a kind of wide ranging appeal.
Do you know any music theory?
I know a little but it’s fairly deteriorated since the school days when I had to learn it all! I used some of it when writing the last record but realised my shortcomings when we were in the studio with the string quartet! If you wanted help within the band in that area it would need to be Adam or Scott who would be your technical help as Adam can play violin/ read music and Scott went to a Drum School!
What are your plans for the future?
Next up for us is a further single from the record in the near future, some dates in the Autumn, perhaps some down time after that and then next year will be a Spring Tour (with potentially another single). While thats going on I will try and do some writing and after thats out of the way (just as perhaps people are getting sick of us) we will start thinking about LP5!
How did you get into music?
I don’t have many childhood memories but any I do are all associated with music and discovering music. First it was tapes and my parents records then it was starting a collection of my own on vinyl and CD before learning how to play an instrument (piano) which opened me up to writing my own ideas. I think as I was growing up and going through a lot music became my go to thing for working out who I was and how to process various things. Having the ability to vent through playing, writing or rehearsing is something that I definitely wouldn’t be able to live without.
What are you listening to at the moment?
I cant drive but like walking and running so I listen to a hell of a lot of music every day (I also have to due to the nature of my job). I’ve kind of gone back to Radiohead lately in a kind of nostalgic memory lane way – it makes me feel 15 again. Aside from that Ive been enjoying the new LPs by Cory Hanson, Kevin Morby, Father John Misty, Laura Marling, Soulwax, Phoenix, Floating Points, The Beatles, Can, Timber Timbre and plenty other new records in 2017. I like a lot of old stuff too and find myself going back to Marvin Gaye, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Sun Ra and Prince regularly of late too. Last year I really loved the Andy Shauf, Hope Sandoval and Solange records – they’re still pretty dominant on my home turntable too.
Who are your top 5 influences and icons?
Thats a really tough question. I have about 10! I would have to say the following:
David Bowie – for the way he constantly changed his identity and sound so cleverly and still just kept moving all the time.
James Murphy – for the production sound side of things and his attitude to his band/control of his bands identity. I like the way he works and also the way he takes old influences and uses them to make something new.
A Beatle – not sure which as it changes daily but probably George. It’s an age thing with the Beatles – your favourites switch 24/7 but as a unit they are un-matched. My favourite is George based on “All Things Must Pass”.
Leonard Cohen – for his way with words and using what you could arguably say is a limited singing voice to often make something very beautiful.
Harry Nilsson – probably my favourite vocalist of all time and criminally under-rated. Im not sure he is an icon as his story is so sad and his talent so under appreciated but I think you just need to listen to his range to see it and “I’ll Never Leave You” is among my favourite songs.
If I had space on top I would add Rufus Wainwright, Nick Drake, Feist, Bob Dylan and maybe Father John Misty simply for his stagecraft – I wish I could be as confident as that.
When and where are you playing next?
Our next gig isn’t until the end of August which is when we play a festival in the borders of Scotland called Stowed Out which should be fun. After that we have some dates around the UK being planned and before you know it it will be Xmas so we will do some Xmas shows too!