I just find it a bit bizarre really. There’s a lot of issues today where people think “oh they’re solved” because they’re not as obvious as they used to be in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Little Comets are about to play the penultimate show of their early 2014 UK tour, a year, in which, it seems will see them putting out a lot of new material. We caught up with them to find out just how much.
This year you plan to release 3 EPs and an album; will the EPs feature much in the album or will it be mostly new material?
R: “No, we’ll take the lead tracks off the EPs but the rest of the songs will be new. We want to make sure the album is spot on and really fresh. Last time we put four EP songs on the album. It’d be nicer to have an album made up of newer songs so people aren’t drawn towards certain songs they’ve heard before.”
One of those re-issued songs was Violence Out Tonight, a thoughtful, provocative song tackling the issue of sexual violence against women.
I’d read that some radio stations refused to play the song because of its subject matter. It basically discusses rape in a very mature, focussed way, and it was not getting airtime while at the same time Blurred Lines is going to number one and seemed never to be off the radio.
Rob: “I just find it a bit bizarre really. There’s a lot of issues today where people think “oh they’re solved” because they’re not as obvious as they used to be in the ‘60s and ‘70s where they were staring you in the face. If you take the female role in society, there are so many things that are not right. Especially the way the radio is. Songs are either about absolutely nothing or promotes values that the listener doesn’t even realise are being promoted.
It’s like that with everything. Look at the makeup of parliament; it’s made up of white middle class males from a select middleclass area. We’ve got a national newspaper that thinks it’s ok to put semi-naked women on page three. It’s obviously not right and it’s sending out a message that’s truly ridiculous.”
As Rob speaks, relevant lyrics flood into my head about “the ascension of the Bullingdon”, the “old boys club” and “Oxbridge revision”. Only then it hits me that the latest EP’s name, The Blur, The Line and the Thickest of Onions is an attack on Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke. The new EP focuses on these issues quite a lot.
Rob: “It’s the first time we’ve have four tracks in a row that are in the first person, and it’s not views hidden behind a character in a story. It’s quite blunt and it’s quite opinionated. Maybe we’re just getting to that age where we feel a little bit more confident.”
You have to wait fifteen minutes for a positive news story about a woman.
You’ve mentioned feminism, and the role of women; how do you feel about the council-backed ‘night-time economy’ in Newcastle, where young girls are put under enormous pressure to ‘do themselves up’ and wear as little as possible for these ‘big nights out’?
R: “Well it’s part of the whole… you can even listen to Radio 4 and the majority of the news is about men doing things or men doing things to women. You have to wait fifteen minutes for a positive news story about a woman.
I don’t know because I not a young woman, but if you were and you’re growing up looking for positive role models, there’s not actually that many. That Glenda Jackson speech about Margaret Thatcher really struck a chord with me, about “female yes, but a woman? Not on my terms”. You often have to behave in quite a masculine way to get on, or what’s seen as a masculine way to get on.”
So are you suggesting women should be feminine?
Rob: “No, no. I mean that you seem to have to behave in this really prescribed way. If you watch parliament, people all behave in a really aggressive, unnatural way. Everything’s brash. Music on the radio; it’s not soft. It shouldn’t be ‘masculine’. Softness in general shouldn’t be seen as a feminine trait. You know, everything is brash, so everybody has to be brash.
It’s such a complicated issue. There’s so many things wrong with the world, it’s a massive equation, and it’s unsolvable. I’m just somebody who has an opinion, and I just put it into songs.”
I think a lot of fans do listen very closely to your songs, because you do put a lot in to each tune, do you ever worry that people might go maybe even their whole lives and not pick out something meaningful that you’ve put in? Or is that just something for them to discover in their own time? Stuff like when you put a Debussy theme into a song, or talking about the societal issues that you do in this new EP.
Matt: “I can probably put on an album that I’ve listened to fifty, sixty times, and try and find something new about it that I’ve missed. If I’m in a certain mood and I listen to an album, even though I’ve listened to it a hundred times, I may feel something totally different because of the mood that I’m in. For me, it’s all …there to be interpreted”
Rob: I don’t mind because, where we are now, I don’t think I’m very good expressing myself when I speak a lot of the time. I don’t like the pressure of having to condense everything into a small paragraph. I just try and use language in a different way. I don’t mind if somebody doesn’t necessarily get.. or not ‘get it’… it’s like I’m putting it into a box, and somebody can take it out in a different way, if that makes sense. I don’t mind because it’s personal to me. So it’s enough to me if someone just listens to it. I don’t know if that makes sense?!
Little Comets initially signed with Columbia records, but departed from the industry giants in 2010, midway through production of their debut album, In Search of Elusive Little Comets, and the only thing little about the Columbia now is Little Mix, who signed 3 years after Little Comets left. Knowing that fact, retrospectively, it feels like a marriage made under an inauspicious star.
I think we just made a really bad decision in the first place. I think they did as well.
You’ve talked a lot about the whole Columbia records… I don’t want to use the word ‘debacle’ but…
Rob: Oh no, the perfect word.
You’ve won a lot of respect for going for artistic independence and honesty over the gifts of a large record label.
Rob: “I think we just made a really bad decision in the first place. I think they did as well. We didn’t realise we wanted to do everything ourselves until we signed for them. They didn’t realise as well. Part of our writing process is that we’ve always been producing it ourselves. When they tried to introduce a producer into the mix, it really upset the balance.
It was hard because we both wanted different things out of it. We both realised that pretty quickly. When you’ve got someone who doesn’t have faith in you musically, you start to question what they’re doing.
They were really good in that they gave us the album back. Whereas a lot of labels would have said “we’re keeping it” and we would have been in a lot of trouble then. They were fair, they were always fair and that’s important.”
So expect more pithy social commentary as we look ahead to a year filled with new exciting material from the brilliant Little Comets.