After taking some much needed time away to reflect and find some fresh perspective, Aberdeen indie pop band The Little Kicks are back and better than ever. Equal parts fun and finesse, silly and sophisticated, electronic and orchestral, their new album Shake Off Your Troubles is one of the most surprising and rewarding albums of the year thus far. I caught up with Steven Milne from The Little Kicks to talk about the new album ahead of it’s release:
Thanks for your time! You’re releasing your new album ‘Shake Off Your Troubles‘ next month; are you happy with the way it’s turned out?
We are definitely really happy with the way the record has turned out. It’s been a lot of work and a few years in the making but to finally be at the stage where we are starting to let people hear some of it is very exciting indeed. It’s definitely in my opinion the best record we have made so far and I think certainly been the most fun to make and I can’t wait for everyone to hear it in full. Getting the vinyl and CDs in last month was really exciting and when we started seeing reviews come in or hear some of the tracks air on BBC Radio Scotland over the last month it’s really started to hit home that these ten songs that we have kept to ourselves all this time will soon be out there for everyone to hear and own!
You wrote and recorded the tracks in a little lodge by Loch Ness. What made you decide to work there and what effect did the serene surroundings have on the music?
We have a great relationship with our producer Craig Ross and we have made our previous records at his studio in Edinburgh (The Depot) which is a space that we love. However, both the band and Craig felt that for this record we were looking for a change of scene and perhaps more of a challenge. In terms of our budget the cost of us de-camping to Edinburgh and living there while recording had the potential to be expensive, so logistically the lodge offered us a fresh space with none of the time constraints you usually find in the studio as we could make, record and write music 24/7 without having to pack up when the studio shut down for the night. The space also came at an affordable rate and having it for a week allowed us record, hang out, sleep and eat together in one location. The scenery there was amazing and being in the middle of nowhere there was no wi-fi, no phone signal, no nightlife or distractions and we were able to be solely focused on the record during our entire stay. We started off very much on a 9 – 5 basis but by the end of our time there it was more of a nocturnal schedule. It was the best and most productive recording experience I have ever had.
The album plays around with a more expansive, orchestral sound. Was that a conscious decision or did it just come about naturally while writing and recording?
The strings were played by the Cairn String Quartet and added at The Depot during the summer after we returned from the lodge. The songs worked without them but we always wanted strings on the record and had planned to add them so space had been left on the recordings for them. We knew they would sound good but even during the early takes, we could tell it was going to be the icing on the cake for the arrangements. The guys did a great job and we were left speechless in the control room when the quartet asked us for feedback because hearing them play so beautifully on our songs was incredible.
What would you say were your biggest sources of inspiration for the new record?
I was listening to a lot of varying things during the writing process but I also find films really inspiring too. David Bowie, The Beatles, Can, 70s disco, 80s pop, DFA Records, DJ mix-tapes, Fleetwood Mac, Local Natives and soundtracks or instrumental electronic music were all definite influences. We weren’t into the idea of copying bands or trying to sound like anyone but we did concentrate on individual sounds. We made Spotify reference playlists for each song and whenever I heard a sound or a feel that I thought would suit one of our tracks I would add it in to the list. Some playlists were pretty random and they varied from 10 songs to 250! So lots of things fed into the making of the album but I wouldn’t say necessarily one band, artist or sound was a direct influence for us on the record.
The music video for ‘You & Someone Like Me’ saw you donning motion capture suits and being transformed in skeletons, that must have been a lot of fun! Where did that idea come from?
The idea came from the video company we work with Crow House Productions who wanted to experiment with green screen and originally it was to be robots not skeletons but the idea was always that we would be the ones dancing. This was actually pretty hard to do! Basically you have to put on the suit and exaggerate every movement so that it comes up looking lively on screen which is much harder work than you would think. We realised quite quickly that none of us are particularly Michael Jackson-esque when it comes to moves so we asked my sister who is a dance teacher to join in the fun by coming down to the studio. She single-handedly made the video look better! The final results are so cool and we were really pleased with it.
This album is the first new music after a few years away and to me it sounds like you’ve really progressed and evolved. Where are you guys at as a band? Do you feel more confident and comfortable in what you’re doing?
I think we probably are yeah. There are several lyrics on the record that seem to suggest so. I feel like we used to be a bit embarrassed or shy to admit that we essentially write pop music and have a focus on melody but on this record we have fully embraced that. As much as I listen to a lot of “weird” music that I would love to be able to perform or play I think the reason that I like it so much is that I can’t write in that way. No matter what we do it always comes back to serving the song with a heavy importance on the melody, words and a fairly traditional structure as that’s what suits our style. In saying that I think within what we do there are plenty of quirky elements to look for and enjoy and I would like to think we are a more credible act with a bit more depth to us than what the term “pop music” would usually imply.
After the album release what does the rest of 2017 have in store?
We will definitely release another single from the album before the summer, to tie in with playing some festivals and doing some more touring. Before the end of 2017 we plan to tour the UK/Europe again – most likely in the autumn. We also have some alternate versions and a couple of nice recordings from the sessions kept back to share in due course with everyone too – so there is still plenty to come from us! Essentially after the album comes out in the spring we will just be gigging as much as we possibly can to spread the word of the record and our music.
Massive thanks to Steven! The Little Kicks’ new album Shake Off Your Troubles is out 3rd March.