Little Comets @ London Dingwalls (Photo: Alberto Pezzali for Live4ever Media)
As we talk, Brexit is no closer to being resolved; it’s such a fast moving beast that by the time you read this, things will almost certainly have significantly changed, perhaps even in a decisive manner.
The after-effects will long be felt and seem to have had a disconcerting impact on the way discourse is conducted in the UK. As ever, Robert Coles and Little Comets are keeping a keen eye on the state of the world, but have a radical solution to the problems we in the western world are currently facing. It’s called listening.
“These days, when everything is kind of apocalyptic and negative – I was watching Question Time last night and the fact that people are just shouting at each other and arguing at each other – the thing is, with the way our media is, everything has to be black and white,” he says to Live4ever during our chat this month. “Everybody has to take a side.”
“Whereas yes Brexit is an important thing, but most people in our country have a lot more in common with each other than this one dividing line that someone’s just drawn. Regardless of what you think, you should be respectful and listen to someone’s point of view.” With some justification Coles, Little Comets’ singer, co-writer and guitarist, believes we as a society need to focus on what unites us rather than what divides.
“Try and focus on the things you have in common with people and the values that people have in common. It’s easy news to have two sides of the debate and polarise it. Sometimes I have 5Live on in the car and they just seem to get people with the most extreme point of view from either side, and they just put them in the bear pit. It’s fairly reductive.”
“The World Cup was a good example: even if you don’t like football people had a common goal to unite around. The atmosphere everywhere was far more communal and people had a smile on their face. You would more readily stop and speak to people you wouldn’t normally have a five-minute chat with. That’s the other side of it. But since then the negative news-stories have just been piling up. People are like, ‘oh well, we just need to get on with it’. It’s hard, it’s complicated. How many years’ work have gone into this relationship? This is a complex thing to get right.”
Little Comets are back, and not before time. It’s been two years since the release of their last album Worhead, the second on their own Smallest Label. But the trio are doing things are bit differently this time. They recently released a single entitled The Sneeze which followed hot on the heels of M62 in 2018. “I think we really enjoyed it a few years ago, when we started releasing things on our own label and had a really productive year,” Coles continues.
“We did three EPs and an album in the space of twelve months. It was nice to be constantly busy, and the good thing about having things like Spotify is that you can upload things straight away without necessarily playing the game of a release schedule. You can be quite fluid with it and that suits us. With our family situation we don’t tend to tour for 12 months and then be in the studio for 12 months. It’s a lot more piecemeal. The idea of uploading things as and when we finish them, and then putting them together for a physical release…I think that’s a pattern we’ll use over the next couple of years.”
Does this signify that the boys are giving up the ghost and turning their back on the traditional album format, which has apparently been dead for some time? “In terms of an album, because the songs are written in a similar timeframe and in a similar part of our lives that’s what gives our group of songs an identity and is the glue that keeps them together,” Coles says. “As long as we stick within time periods they’ll be quite cogent anyway. We will be doing the singles, but I still love the idea of producing something that people can hold and read. We do the artwork as well and I love that part of the process, decorating the cake. So we’ll still do that periodically because I think the songs will work together in an album format, simply because they’ve been done in a similar time. I think that’s what gives each of our albums a distinct sound rather than a conscious ‘this is the sound of this album’.”
As artists and musicians, Little Comets try not to stick to a regular style, format or cause, rather letting the process take its own natural journey. Yet sometimes it’s impossible to avoid the world around them. At the moment whichever newspaper headline you read, whichever television channel you watch, whichever social media platform you use, we seem to be at peak argument. Like there’s no escape. The Sneeze was an attempt to distance themselves and the listener from it. “The Sneeze was quite cathartic; the way things have been going the last couple of years, things seem to be heading in quite an ominous direction,” Coles believes.
“That’s what The Sneeze is about. On the front you can see a man-made disaster which could spell catastrophe just around the corner. It was nice to write about that. The video is quite intense so when we finished the process of the song and the mixing we were happy that it was out of us. When we did the video in Sheffield it was just around the time they were doing the real serious debate around the Brexit deal. We were listening to it all on the way home. It was almost purposely designed to turn yourself off from the process. I just felt so over-saturated with it so I just took no notice for two or three weeks. It’s dangerous because if you do turn off you’re just letting it wash over you, but I just think sometimes you need to do that.”
As hard as it is to believe right now, there is a future beyond March 29th, or even the end of June. The boys have big plans for the year. “We’ve got quite a bit coming up this year. We’ve got a bridging song which is quite a chilled out acoustic number coming out, then the one that sounds most like a single (American Tuna) coming last. That’ll be the start of April and then after that we’ve got a tour announcement, and we’ve done something a bit cheeky with the first album that’s kind of under wraps. Then the album at the end of the year. The next song is completely different from The Sneeze, it’s a lot more positive and upbeat. It’s a nice contrast really.”
And presumably there will be a tour to follow? “We normally do about 10-12 dates, but this one’s going to be a bit longer. We’re looking to do a few dates in Ireland which will be good because we haven’t been over for a few years now. We’d like to book some American dates as well. If you look at where people are when they listen to music, a lot of top cities on Spotify data are actually in the US so it would be a shame not to do a few dates over there. But again, it’s got to make sense as we don’t have a label to fund the shortfall.”
“It has its upsides but that’s certainly a downside, in terms of getting to a new territory because you just can’t afford to make a £50,000 loss on the tour. It’s just not happening. We’d try and consolidate it into two or three weeks. It wouldn’t be a ‘let’s go and try and break America’ 12 months. It’d really be making sure we’d get something tangible from it.”
For their first two albums, Little Comets were signed to Dirty Hit, home to The 1975, Wolf Alice and Pale Waves among others. One of the founders of the label was former footballer Ugo Ehiogu, who sadly died in 2017. Rob worked with Ehiogu as the label was forming and has positive memories. “It was really sad,” he tells Live4ever. “It was just after we’d left Columbia; I had an email from a guy called Jamie Oborne who manages The 1975. At the time he was setting up this new label and he said, ‘I’ve got a couple of other investors, one of whom is Ugo Ehiogu’. He said that he’d not necessarily made a lot of money from traditional investments, so he wanted to do something where he could have a bit of fun with it, and one passion he had was music.”
“So he came to a few gigs and we played football with him a couple of times. He was just a really lovely bloke. We hadn’t been working with Dirty for a few years, and I think he was taking a bit of a backseat because he hadn’t been coaching at Tottenham for that long. He was almost deciding what his next step was going to be, so it was a real shock. Such a shame, because not only was he a nice bloke but he seemed to be doing really well with his coaching career and he was obviously highly respected.”
Tellingly, the recollection brings to the forefront a key insight into Rob’s mindset, and a valuable lesson for us all: “Whenever anything like that happens you just try and relate it to your own life. You’ve just got to have fun with it really. Make positive decisions all the time.”
We recently had the chance to sit down with the Bournemouth native and talk at length about the music industry, the struggles that accompany his equipment laden live shows and the right and wrong ways on using social media for getting your music out to the masses.View full article →