Saturday, 25 February 2017

An Interview With LITTLE COMETS ~ 18.02.17

I can say without hesitation that Little Comets are among the nicest people you could ever wish to meet, and in a time where the music industry is filled with vipers and wannabes... they truly are a shining light, flying the flag for upbeat and intelligent indie pop-rock. With the release of fourth album 'WORHEAD' just around the corner, they are by now old hands in the industry... and they have a legion of fans to prove it. One thing I've learned in the time I've been following their music is that you can't not go to a Little Comets gig and come away feeling anything less than truly content; their music has an ability to make you forget your troubles, even if just for one night, and allow yourself to be transported; one minute, you'll be singing along to 'Dancing Song', 'One Night In October' or the fun and infectious 'Jennifer'... and the next, you could be mesmerized by the beauty of 'The Blur, the Line & the Thickest of Onions'. The Newcastle based trio (Robert Coles, Michael Coles and Matthew Hall) have become known and loved for their honest songwriting, dynamic live performances and above all... their endearingly spirited authenticity.

Prior to their headline show at Sheffields' legendary venue The Leadmill, I was able to talk to Rob and Matt and find out a little more about the band. Mickey was noticeably absent from proceedings but as Rob announced to the crowd at the start of the gig, he had a pretty good excuse... his wife having been delivered of a baby girl that very morning.

You've obviously been playing together for a number of years now, and obviously I know Rob and Mickey are brothers... but how did Little Comets come about, and when did Matt come into the equasion?
Rob: Me and Mickey started playing guitar when he was about 11 or 12. We just started playing in the house together. My dad always used to write songs just for himself, he wouldn't play them... he just used to like writing songs. So when we sat down and learned how to play, we did used to play other peoples' songs but we'd do our own as well. So that's what we've always done, and then we met Matt in 2007. He just used to pop his head in all the time at the place that we rehearsed and was just a really nice person... a really friendly, nice chap.
Matt: And I'm sure that at that time they didn't have a bass player! I kept coming in and going 'You got a bass player yet?'
Rob: When we decided to get a bass player, we thought we'd ask Matt to do it.
Matt: Then for that week Mickey was like 'Oh, you can just mime,' because there was a gig coming up, so he told me I could just learn one song or something and then mime the rest.... but I wasn't having that! I don't really want to mime!

What are your earliest memories of music?
Rob: Just whatever my mam and dad would put on, really. Apparently I used to really like a song by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions... 'Brand New Friend' or something. That, and 'Dancing In The Street'! When I was 4 or 5, that was my song! The Bowie and Jagger one.
Matt: My earliest memory I think was watching Chesney Hawkes on the TV and singing along... and Michael Jackson, then The Beatles.

Can you remember what your first ever show as Little Comets was like and how it went?
Rob: Matt nailed it! It was a London gig... so a band from the North East playing in London, it's always a 'Wow,' kinda thing. It was pretty relaxed... it was a good gig!
Matt: That night... can you remember taping up my guitar straps? We spray painted guitar straps in the back street, and that red tape that I put round the strap for the bass is still on! Its minging... it's horrible now, but it's still on there! That week, I remember Mickey telling me 'There's a light that shines right on to your face where you'll be standing,' so I remember he made me rehearse with this light in my face for that entire week which was quite ridiculous! I'm glad he did though, because there was a light shining in my face...
Rob: That's typical Mickey!

What would you say is the most rewarding thing about what you do- is it the writing and recording process of watching a great some come together, or being able to play it to live audiences at shows?
Rob: For me, they are entirely different things and that's the weird thing about being in a band. You're forced to, not master, but to produce two different things that are entirely different. Recording something where it's there for enternity, you have to get everything correct, where as live you've got to make a song connect with somebody in the moment and translate the emotion of what you're trying to say in the song to an audience. They are totally different things, but I love the challenge of that. We always do things in a specific way in that we'll never play a song live first, we like to record it first. We love the recording because it's really good fun to kind of make an idea into a thing... I just love doing that. Even with the artwork, it's the same process... you take your thoughts and solidify them, so that is amazing, but it's totally different from playing it live which is also amazing because of the buzz that you get. Every gig is different as well, so you might think 'This gig will be great,' and it might be okay... but then the next gig you might think that for whatever reason it'll be really great, and just a glance at someone from across the stage or seeing somebody singing it back to you can just make that gig the most magical thing ever. I've had moments on stage which have been euphoric, almost... almost like an out of body experience when I've just been so into the music. That's amazing as well, and the difference between it all is what I love most about being in a band. I don't think there is any other art form where you have to do two things which are just so, so different. 

Does anyone in the band have any interesting hobbies or strange talents?
Rob: (looking at Matt) You've got a fair few strange talents! Climbing... I'll often ask him if he can climb round the venue and get from the stage, right round the venue without touching the floor, and then get back to the stage...
Matt: I haven't done that for a while! That one in Manchester... there were shutters on the bar. It's a hard one that, but I did it.
Rob: Sailing as well! Matt's a really good sailor.
Matt: That's not a weird one! It's good though, I like getting wet. Rob has a ridiculously good memory... is it a good memory or just a weirdness for learning? Oh, and lists...
Rob: Yeah, I love a good list. My mam is always like 'Are you writing lists again?'
Matt: Your dad loves a list too.
Rob: He does, yeah. I've inherited that. I don't know if I'd go as far as to describe it as a talent, though!

What are you all listening to at the moment?
Rob: Nathan had the new Beyonce album on in the car the other day and it's pretty good. It's really interesting. Totally different soundscapes.
Matt: There are some really good singer-songwriters coming out of Newcastle at the moment. It's almost like folk... in the way that Bob Dylan was a folk singer-songwriter, but he wasn't folk in the violins sort of way. Eve Simpson is tremendous. She's absolutely class, she's got a really good voice and is really honest. I think that's what songwriting misses a lot. Not that I can particularly write a song, but I find when I listen to a lot of music now I find that they never really particularly say anything.
Rob: I think there probably are a lot of people out there writing really engaging lyrics but for whatever reason people don't want to play it on the radio or write about it and would much rather have something that's really safe... not necessarily to avoid offending anybody, but just doesn't make them think too much.

Your fourth album 'Worhead' is due for release next month... what can you tell us about that at the moment?
Rob: All of our albums tend to be a good snapshot of where we are in our lives at that time. I've got a little boy who's 4 and a half now, so he's starting to see the less savoury aspects of the world. A few months ago I was reading him his bedtime story and he said 'Daddy, will I die?' and we had that conversation, so he's really starting to engage with the world in a very different way to that innocence when he was 3. I'm kind of starting to prepare for these types of conversation. The world at the minute is not a great place and there are a lot of things that are imbalanced in the wrong way I think, and it's trying to make him a respectful person and making him a person who can engage positively with the world. That is such a challenge. That's the thing with parenting, you just make it up as you go along! So the lyrics are kind of like thoughts I'm trying to get down to give me a bit of preperation for having these conversations. Musically, this album is a bit of a change. The last two albums, we've recorded in a way where ever layer is built upon the last so it's not really that live but it's really methodical. We recorded a lot of things together... so the drums and the bass, or the drums and the rhythm guitar and things like that. So a lot of the tracks have an energy which I think is very similar to the first album, which we also recorded in that way. That live element does give a bit more of a pulse to it than the last two albums, I'd say. So that's it in a nutshell... well, it wasn't a nutshell really was it? It was quite long-winded!

If you could time travel for a day, where would you go and what would you do?
Matt: Would you go forward or would you go back? I think that's the first one.
Rob: I think I'd go forward, maybe by a hundred years just so I could see what's going on.
Matt: I'd go forward four years, just to get rid of the next four years!
Rob: I just hope everything's still here!
Matt: I think I'd probably go back to be quite honest. I have two ideas... one would be the start of the 60's, but I'd be a 20 year old. Then I'd go even further back to the 1400's or something just to experience a real lack of technology and be really pure in existence.

Is there anything that you've done to date, perhaps a certain song you've written or a particular show you've played, that you're either especially proud of or feel has been the turning point in getting you to where you are today?
Rob: There are so many. Whenever we have a conversation, someone will mention a different gig or a different thing. I think it was really important early on that we got out of Newcastle and played outside, but not in a way that a lot of bands do it. They'll go and play venues in different places, sometimes to no people... we'd try to make sure that there'd be people wherever we were playing, so we'd go and play house parties or public transport. That was important, especially with the house parties. You'd be playing and someone would be right in front of your face so you had to make it work. You had to work out how that song could get people to engage with your music or sing and dance along. We don't really do the retrospective much. There was a moment Mickey and I had a couple of years ago at a festival in New York and Damon Albarn was headlining. I just remember thinking if you'd told us when we were 11 or 12 playing the guitar in the house and learning Blur songs that one day we'd get to do a festival in New York and be on the same stage as Damon Albarn, we'd have just been like 'Nah.' So I will always remember that moment because I remember thinking 'If it stops today, that's alright... that's cool.'
Matt: We borrowed his keyboard stand as well.
(At this point Robs' phone rings...)
Rob: Oh, it's Damon Albarn!

What are the hopes, dreams and plans for the future of Little Comets?
Rob: I think as long as we get to do it and enjoy it. I love writing songs and I hope I always will. I hope nothing ever happens that makes me fall out of love with songwriting. It's just nice to be able to play songs to people.
Matt: It's funny because we are so in it that it's hard to see what is going on around you. Before this tour for example, we asked ourselves if it was all going to go alright but as soon as we got out there we thought 'Oh, people do like us,' and it's kind of weird.

Do you still get nervous?
Rob: I did on the first night of the tour. It's the new songs... we record them in the house or the garage and you just don't think anyone would like them when you're recording them, but then when you finish them and you're happy with them we do want to play them... we just hope that they don't bomb when we play them live. So that's really nervewracking.
Matt: Before the gig in Oxford Rob said 'Lets go and have some fun,' and then about 3 songs in I was having loads of fun. We haven't toured in quite a while so I'd forgotten what it was like to play in front of people who have come to our gig. It's been nice to be back home almost, and see all of our fans.

New album 'WORHEAD' is released on March 10th and can be pre-ordered here. In the meantime, listen to 'Common Things' below:

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