LOCAL INTERVIEW: Little Comets | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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This time last year they had no record label, no manager and no publisher for the first time since 2007. Many would have called it a day, cut their losses and embarked on a new career. Not Little Comets. They were free to write the songs they wanted to write and record them how they wished; they were in charge of everything. I spoke to affable frontman Rob Coles just as the band had started mixing their third album, Hope Is Just A State Of Mind, released on 16th February. “We’ve really found our feet again in writing songs and we really love doing it. There’s so many middle men in music; some people need the input if they want to be a specific band but I think a lot of bands aren’t like that. I think it took us being signed to a major to realise that wasn’t the answer.”

Hope Is Just A State Of Mind, to these ears and as the name suggests, is slightly more foreboding than their previous offerings but still has all the hallmarks of a Little Comets record, with dynamic wordsmithery and intricate instrumentation. “There’s more similarity in the second and the third records than the first and the second. I wouldn’t say there was a massive shift but I would say it’s a bit darker and it doesn’t sound as nice in places. It’s not heavy but it’s definitely heavier than the last in terms of how it is tonally.”

The first track that arose for public consumption was B&B, a song that stemmed from a Tweet Grant Shapps made following the 2014 budget. It hones in on the idea that politicians see people as idiots, and the North East in particular during the Thatcher years. Its a capella start and sea-shanty melody is definitely something of a departure for them; it’s incredibly raw, but full of sentiment and a passionate regional identity.

Rob explains that the band’s records always serve as a snapshot of their lives, and it’s no different this time around: “Mickey and I have both become Dads so our perception of the world has changed quite a bit, we’re not just thinking for ourselves anymore, we’re thinking in the context of these little people that we’re guiding through their formative years.” And not only is that an undercurrent that runs through the album lyrically, but they also recorded their sons William and George and featured their voices on a track.

The album’s release will mark the end of a very arduous year for band brothers Rob and Mickey. In the absence of a team, not only did they have the pressure of writing, recording and producing but they also had to deal with things like the manufacturing, artwork, distribution and marketing. It’s a process that in hindsight they might re-think for the sake of their families if nothing else. “It has been really stressful as we’ve pretty much been working throughout Christmas, but I think we’ll look back on the year really fondly. By taking everyone else out of the equation it’s been our most productive year in terms of writing and getting things recorded.”

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“We’re more comfortable in the reasons why we do it now. We don’t really feel the pressure of having had something to live up to”

They chose the PledgeMusic platform to facilitate the release, not for its crowd-funding capabilities but to allow them to offer unique gifts to their fans including secret gigs, personalised songs and vinyls (their first in the UK); the fans became part of the album’s journey and as Rob fervently tells me, it’s that unique engagement that drives them. “We’re the kind of people that love watching music documentaries and reading sleeve notes for clues. It’s nice to let people know what it’s about and what you’re thinking when you’re doing it. It got people involved and that’s what music really is to me, it’s that involvement, that passion.”

Compared to other bands who have been through the same rigmarole of getting dropped and going DIY, they’ve been lucky that thanks to their sizable deal with Columbia and some sterling syncs, they’re still able to make a living from music. They’re also rigorously business savvy, having never gone in for the excessive lifestyle some musicians bow to. “We love being fortunate enough to write songs and that’s our job. We’d never do anything that could potentially shorten the time we get to do that.”

But how does a band go it alone, still manage to keep their profile and still play respectable venues? “We do sort of run our own little record label so we do have to play the game a little. We have to go to press and radio with stuff because it’s part of it all. We get on really well with our booking agent who we’ve been with for years, and they feel very strongly about us maintaining that side of things. We are lucky in that we have a nice stable fan base, people don’t come to see us because they’ve read about us in a newspaper or because they’ve heard us on Radio 1. They’ve found it in a different way and stuck with it.”

Their extensive UK tour throughout February and March is testament to that strength, and the tour will see them return to home turf on Saturday 14th March at Newcastle’s O2 Academy. “Touring is really nerve-wracking. We don’t write music so that people will like it…but it’s a lovely by-product!” Surprisingly touring isn’t necessarily something they think about when they’re writing or recording either. “We write and record and when it’s done we think about how it’s going to be arranged to play live.”

So, it would appear that Little Comets have gone full circle – they became a band simply because they liked doing it. “We’re more comfortable in the reasons why we do it now. We don’t really feel the pressure of having had something to live up to or having a record label that needs to sell a certain amount of copies. We’re free again.” And how do they plan on celebrating the fruit of all their labour and new found freedom? “Once we finish the tour we’ll go for a pizza, we’ll go to Pizza Express, we’ll get some vouchers off the internet!”

Little Comets release Hope Is Just A State Of Mind on 16th February. The band play O2 Academy, Newcastle on Saturday 14th March.

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