I have been e-mailing Rob from Little Comets for over a week. E-mailing Rob from Little Comets DIRECTLY for over a week. As chasing down interviews with bands goes, this never happens.
It would appear that Little Comets, the band I remember from sweaty underground gigs rammed full of air-propelled beers and teeny boppers, have grown up over the last three years. I’ll admit that they fell off my radar following undeniably their biggest hit, Joanna, but as Rob and I fire organisational e-mails back and forth I’m struck with his friendliness, confidence and good manners. Hmm. Teenage indie band tendencies out the window, then.
So- what has lead Little Comets to where they are now? Post-Joanna, the band released a second album, toured “a couple of times” and released a set of EP’s before moving on to concentrate on building their latest album, set to be released at the start of next year. All pretty standard stuff. It is only as we delve into the band’s route into the industry that I begin to hear of their rather unconventional career path, and so the saga of Little Comets begins to take on a convoluted twist.
we just weren’t the right fit for that label and we only realised that after we signed
It has been well documented that the band had something of a debacle with Columbia Records back in the day, and as Rob talks me through it I can’t help but wonder how such a state of events could fail to impact upon a band. The story starts as many have: up and coming band, hungry for the limelight, keen to be signed to a big label. Cleary, a spot on Columbia’s roster must have appeared the proverbial dream come true. Fast forward a few months and trouble in paradise doesn’t even begin to cover the struggle between the big hitting label and infantile indie band. Looking back, Rob is now able to chat of the incident with a refined sense of hindsight: “we just weren’t the right fit for that label and we only realised that after we signed”. The band’s love of doing things themselves did not gel with Columbia’s desire to have an input on every decision. A further element to the conflict was the fact the record label “lost faith in guitar music” around the time Little Comets signed. A tall claim, yet Rob’s awareness of a meeting between Radio One and Columbia’s top dog would seem to back up the claim. Believing “guitar music was dead”, many a band was promptly axed from the Columbia label. More fool them, time would tell. Post-Columbia, a stint at an independent label proved fruitful (“they really believed in our music”), yet with the soon to be released third album I get the feeling the band have truly hit their stride in the label arena- they’re going it alone. Having come full circle, from aspiring to work with a big label to wanting nothing more than the opportunity to go it alone, Little Comets have indeed matured greatly along the way.
Nowadays, minus the pressure to shift x amount of albums and sell out y arena tours, the band can afford to relax and truly enjoy taking the time to hone their craft. The existence of a loyal and stable fan base, more than willing to take a chance on new music, ensures support of new material and a ballsiness to try things out which many bands nowadays are sadly lacking. Yes, if there’s one thing Little Comets stand for, it must surely be organic experimentation. Whilst they’re more than happy to take the time to try out something new, sadly not all bands take the same tack. Indeed, Rob relishes telling me a story of the set list he came across months ago in Newcastle which had scheduled in when to speak to the crowd and what to say. When the creativity of the craft is quashed by such strict choreography, I can’t help but think that some bands have kind of lost the point.
Get Little Comets onto the topic of the music of yesteryear and suddenly their love of experimentation gains grounding. The flaws, errors and imperfect moments so often evident on good old vinyl seem to be a major source of inspiration- “those little moments are what excite me when I’m listening to music”. Pit that against modern day’s fear of failure which pushes many a musician to force the fruits of their labour through such a refined polishing machine the word originality becomes obsolete, and I begin to see why Rob is so able to wax lyrical on the subject.
Such an opinion makes sense when considering a Little Comets live set- although they are notably aware of which songs can and cannot be put next to each other to avoid disrupting the tempo, the relationship with the audience is always touted as the number one factor of importance. Indeed, the band note that “what drives a good gig is changing things up”. Live performances are a far different animal to recording stints as there is a new found importance to make the songs connect in that instance. A strong desire to make the live experience far removed from hitting play on the album in the comfort of your own home is at the core of every Little Comets gig.
The older I got, the more I realised everything was pretty messed up
Another thing audiences at a Little Comets gig certainly get a hefty dose of is political opinion- something the band have hooked onto strongly of late. “When I was at Uni I wasn’t really interested (in politics) and just assumed that it was all fine. The older I got, the more I realised everything was pretty messed up.” So- do Little Comets think music is a way to generate interest about such matters? Yes, but they wish it wasn’t so. “I think it’s a shame if people have to listen to music to engage with politics; but I think that says more about politics than music”. Cue a fairly hefty debate on the state of democracy, the behaviour of politicians and the flaws in place within our country. Whilst Rob insists he finds it hard to get his point across in conversation, as opposed to lyrically, I can’t help but disagree. Should I not have agreed with him on many issues raised, I can’t help but think I would have taken a heavy political beating.
So what paved the way for a move from cheeky indie boy band to issue tackling political dynamos? As we’re interrupted by Mickey and his son, who is set to feature in the band’s latest video, things quickly fall into place. As one by one the band become fathers, the legacy they leave behind for their children appears to play paramount in their minds. Listening to a talk on global warming, Rob notes how he realised for the first time that his son would “not always be a little boy” and that the next generation will inherit whatever world we leave them. And so the penny drops- as Oscar Wilde put it: “Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.” It would seem, having become parents, Little Comets are keen to put in place a strong legacy to be loved, judged and forgiven for.
Speaking of leaving legacies, I broach the topic of Little Comets song writing being somewhat eternal- all too quickly to discover this aspect of the industry is very far from a focus. “We just write songs because we enjoy writing songs”. Political tendencies, opinions and industry relations aside, it’s refreshing to hear that at the end of the day it really can be just that simple.
What of the future of Little Comets? With a new EP recently released, two more are firmly in the pipeline- but with no strict date for release. Mickey has just become a father for the second time and I’m reminded of how hard it is to juggle “the little ones and the music”. That said, there are absolutely no complaints or whines. Little Comets have no grand targets to meet for the next album- as long as they can pay the bills and do the job, they’re happy. As Rob says, “we live pretty simple lives”. Simple lives perhaps, but far from simple minds. Indeed, I can think of few bands as intriguing as Little Comets- long may their family focussed, heavily political music reign.