Aberdeen’s The Little Kicks return with their immensely uplifting new single, Bang The Drum Slowly, now available via Loosen Up Records.
Bang The Drum Slowly is a mightily infectious slice of off-kilter indie pop. It races through with scuzzy hooks, glitchy beats and sweeping harmonies, resulting in a delightfully quirky sound akin to the likes of Hot Hot Heat or OK Go. It’s the fourth single to be taken from their latest album, Shake Off Your Troubles. Describing the album, lead singer Steven Milne explains “the themes of the record would be a feeling of happiness, gratitude and to be thankful with what you have and not take things for granted. Furthermore, not to let others get you down or let anyone put you in your place.”
In this interview spotlight, we chat with The Little Kicks about the new project, motivations, challenges and much more.
Full Q&A along with links and streams below.
Let’s dive a little deeper into You, the artist and your music. What attracted you to this genre(s) or style(s)?
You have to write in a way that comes naturally to you. I use piano, synths and guitar alongside my voice to write ideas so that’s why we sound as we do and use the instruments we use. Our ideas always begin with a melody, maybe a couple of chords or a small synth part and then I flesh them out and bring them in to the group. For lyrics I try singing over my sketches to see what comes out and then honing and adjusting the lyrics as I go along. I guess there is always a deliberate emphasis on melody but while we don’t adhere to any rules of theory (which I think is a good thing) we are slightly ruled by what suits my singing voice. Essentially it’s our aim to play what comes naturally to us and what suits the song so while we have songs of all different styles the common factors of my voice and the band are what make it The Little Kicks. I like the fact we don’t have “one sound” and I guess the short answer is we try to let the songs take the path they need to and take it from there.
What led you into this journey with music? And further, what drives you to push it out to the public?
I cant speak for all of us (although I think they would likely answer similarly) but I cant remember NOT being into music. When I was a kid I was obsessed with tapes then CD’s and then when old enough I picked up instruments and wanted to play. As soon as I saw my first gig at school then much later played my first gig I was hooked. I also think I’m driven to write therapeutically as it helps me process things (both good and bad) and without that I would be pretty grumpy. Aside from that I love being in the studio creating music as I find the whole process of making the songs and getting the ideas you have over the finish line into a finished album for all to hear immensely satisfying. The final further driving factor is then the prospect of getting out and playing these songs live for people to hear – as long as people keep coming to shows then that cycle will continue.
Who or what influences your creativity? Have your tastes in music changed over time?
I don’t think we take direct inspiration from one band or artist or we would end up copying which I’m keen to avoid. We do definitely take reference points of sound (for example Soulwax synths or The Beatles drums) but we all listen to wildly different sorts of music which collectively feeds into the mix. For the last record we created a Spotify playlist of reference bands and songs for each track which was very helpful in the studio to get to the sounds we wanted. They became pretty eclectic playlists with selections of film soundtracks, soul, funk, punk to pop and classical music. I used to DJ a lot which was great writing research (what songs do people react to etc and conversely what songs don’t work) and I still buy a lot of new bands LP’s on vinyl and listen to a good mix of old and new.
Were you trying to accomplish anything specific on this new project? Creatively or otherwise?
We definitely wanted the new album to be an upbeat positive response to the previous record “Put Your Love In Front Of Me”, It had done really well but we felt like it was perhaps more of a grower and perhaps a heavier listen lyrically. In the time since that record was made I had a significant change in personal circumstances for the better and although we lost a member we also gained a member that certainly changed the band dynamic for the better. So lyrically to have just come back with more of the same wouldn’t have been a true representation of our state and you naturally want your music to reflect honestly on how you feel otherwise how is anyone else meant to believe in it if you don’t. Sonically we were feeling more confident about the songs and sound that we wanted to make plus we were a lot more comfortable with our instruments and playing the material prior to hitting the studio so I think the album reflects all those changes well. We also did a few things out with our comfort zone to keep us on our toes (embraced drum machines & analogue effects, utilised real strings) and that was a massively positive creative experiment too. Not to mention recording the album in the middle in a country lodge with no fixed hours/ outside interference which was an entirely new way of working that we’ll definitely look to do again.
What was the last song you listened to?
“Visions of Johanna” from Bob Dylan’s Live 1966 (Set 1-the Acoustic Concert). I had a long bus journey in the rain and in hindsight it suited perfectly.
Which do you prefer? Vinyl? CDs? MP3s?
Always vinyl. For all the reasons people usually cite – I think its the best. I will say though I hate double LP’s with 2 tracks a side as once I sit down to listen I’m lazy at getting up.
How about this one…. Do you prefer Spotify? Apple Music? Bandcamp? Or something else? Why?
Spotify is great. I don’t really use the others at all. I find it so easy to find new releases and to make playlists it’s become my go to source for music when not at home. People say it’s killing music but I think my spending on music has trebled via Spotify as once I’ve discovered an album there that I love I always click through to the bands site to buy the LP.
Other than the digital era overwhelming us with access to an abundance of music, what is the biggest challenge you face when trying to connect with or find new fans?
I think people are probably spoilt for choice now as to what to do with their time and you’re fighting for their attention (and ultimately cash) more. It’s great that they are finding out about new bands sooner but that means there can often be several gigs on at once that week (or even several the same night in Glasgow). Some folks see going to a gig as being expensive (once you buy a beer or two, get there etc) so they have no money left to buy the album. This is especially true of our audience age wise who are saving for house deposits or students etc- they have to prioritise their spending so they maybe have to choose between a few things all around the same price (gig, football, cinema, dinner and nights out) and ultimately decide not to go to the gig. So you have to work really hard and consider a lot of external factors when you put on a gig or decide to pick a night to play.
Where is the best place to connect with you online? Discover more music?
Spotify has our back catalogue but obviously I would say you cant beat owning the records on vinyl (sales pitch!). We keep our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pretty up to date most days and will always respond to any messages or interaction.
Anything else you’d like to add before signing off?
Just a thanks for taking the time to ask us some questions and for taking an interest in our music.