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Interview with R&B meets rock-pop band Little India

Rock pop band Little India creates an awesome blend of retro rock, disco-pop, and melodic vocals. For them, music isn’t about finding their identity; it’s about exploring new ones. While having an urge to harmonize modern music with the romance of music’s earlier decades, they are affirming that there is still an art in storytelling and are proving so through their new music.

From distant heartbreak and mental warfare to reassuring themes of sexuality and self-actualization, diversity is clear in Little India’s wide array of influences and lyrical content. For them, music isn’t about finding their identity; it’s about exploring new ones. Its R&B meets rock-pop and it’s gospel-soul meets synthesizers; Little India is a band who’s ready to give you what you’re not expecting.

Looking back, what were some of your earliest entries into music appreciation? And music production?

Andrew: “I can speak on behalf of all of us when saying we all have appreciated music as listeners from a very young age. While Conan had played in a couple of different bands through his younger years, it wasn’t until high school that we began to share a passion for playing music as a group. Dallyn, Conan, and I had formed a little after school jam group that wasn’t anything groundbreaking to share with the world. Conan, Dallyn, & Tim also used to jam together – but we never did it with the 4 of us until long after high school.

I think my earliest and most fond memories of production were the days that Conan and I really started first making music on computers in Uni. This was a major step up for us as we used to write music together by sitting in a circle with our instruments, playing the same parts over and over until we found something we liked. It was hectic and a great lesson in multitasking but not the most efficient.

Conan eventually knew his way around the earliest version of Logic with some basic knowledge and I would sit beside him and we really learned together by just relentlessly trying to put the ideas that were in our head onto the computer while failing miserably in the process more often than not. However, this is the best way to learn…we’ve found time and time again that the special magical music dust comes from the mistakes we make during songwriting and realizing when they’re sitting there waiting to be scooped up.”

Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when putting music together?

Conan: “It’s always been different, but for our new record I would write most of the lyrics first before the song is complete. Lyrics have become just as important as the melody and production for our new stuff, but it hasn’t always been that way.

At first, I was just writing music for the fun of it, but now I feel I have opinions and things to say – whether that’s about relationships, mental warfare, or the things we had to go through while we all lived in Europe. So it’s nice to finally take risks with lyrics. We have a few songs coming out soon that I think will shock some fans. We used to worry about risky lyrics and having a ‘clean’ image, but I’m not pulling punches lyrically anymore, and the guys are supportive of that.

We moved to Portugal in 2018 and allowed ourselves to try everything and anything musically. A lot of artists are obsessed with “finding a sound” and staying cohesive etc. but we feel that music is made for exploring identities, not finding one. So each song that’s coming out is going to have its place in the world and it will be very different from the last, while still being a cohesive Little India track.

Most of our album was written in a little humble bedroom in London. I would start with the initial idea and once it was something worth sharing, I would bring the guys in my room and we would talk about it and try new things. I find it hard to express how I want a song to sound if the demo isn’t there, no one is excited when it’s just a concept – so I often find it best to finish a song as much as possible and even give it a little mix before showing the rest of the guys. That way it translates and everyone can be pumped. After that point it becomes very collaborative and everyone has a place in the writing process. Tim is really good at coming up with guitar riffs, so he often jams to the song in the other room for a bit and then shows us ideas. Dallyn has a lot of cool production ideas that make certain moments shine in the song. Then Andrew and I usually record everything together and produce the song, it becomes a fun collaborative process at that point and we have a good writing relationship. He has a lot of great ideas and opinions and so do the rest of the guys, so it’s a solid team effort by the end of it.”

What gets your creative juices flowing?

We find inspiration never really comes from one specific place, it’s constantly changing. One of our favorite ways to get the creative juices flowing is to explore new cities and create music in a setting that’s not part of our everyday routine. This is a huge reason we decided to move our lives over to Europe for two years – we wanted to feel like we could reinvent ourselves and be whoever we wanted and were curious to see what came out on the other side. We’ve grown into some amazing camaraderie as a group, there really is never a bad or wrong idea and it usually leads to something great.

Sometimes we love to just challenge each other with trying to think of something that we’ve never heard. Like, what happens if we take Indian percussion, throw an 808 underneath it and then write a guitar solo over top that you’d hear on a Radiohead record? No one has any clue what it will turn out like, everyone will probably say no at first, but more often than not it turns out to be on the album. (Spoiler alert)

As a musician, it becomes apparent that there is a huge difference between the art and the business. Is there anything about the music scene that you would personally change?

Andrew: “The truth is, you have to be a special kind of crazy to pursue a career as a musician, just the same as any other form of art, but it’s totally worth it.

Since day one, we have been an independent band that has handled all of the creative and all of the business aspects of our band, simultaneously (which is so hard). I don’t think anyone that’s not in the industry has any idea into just how much work is involved in growing a band. Call it whatever you want but it really is a small business that demands as much if not more support as any other industry. It’s competitive, it’s convoluted, it’s political, it’s expensive.

For example, our frontman Conan just directed, produced, edited, and color corrected our latest music video for “Calypso” because we are our own team – who else is going to do it? This is how we’ve managed to learn all that we know, by just rolling up our sleeves and figuring it out as it hits us.

I think what we’d like to see change about the industry most is the ability to give independent artists a fighting chance to be rewarded for the amount of time, energy, and financial sacrifice they make to be a working musician.

I think everyone was scared about the new era of streaming, but it’s really been an amazing push in the right direction in terms of giving independent artists a fighting chance to reach new fans and be discovered.

However, the artists you are listening to aren’t being paid NEARLY enough per stream and it doesn’t even come close to comparing with the amount of money it can take to produce a record.

I’d love to see the rise of the middle-class musician. Any level-headed artist will tell you that “making it” to them would be to just make a living doing what they love, and for the amount of enjoyment that people get from their art, I think they absolutely deserve to have that at the very least.

The sad reality is that the industry is still very political with many barriers that are simply impossible to overcome if you don’t have the right people on speed dial.

For things like grant applications and career advancement, it seems completely backward to reject an artist because they’re not on a label or have a manager. In our opinion, these are the artists that need it MOST and getting a break like that could be the difference in them pushing forward or quitting altogether.”

Studio work and music creation or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer?

Conan: “They are all great for different reasons and serve their own purpose. It always happens in three stages:

Stage 1. Writing is very personal and can be freeing to express yourself and explore those areas that you might not visit often. I often find starting things off alone can make it very easy, because there is no one else in the room to judge me so I can create freely without boundaries. It’s the only time I get to truly be myself, and also figure out who I am. Art has an interesting way of doing that. I often catch myself looking down at my lyric notepad and thinking “oh, I didn’t know that was bundled up inside of me.” That’s what I love about any type of creative, their art is a window into their world.

Stage 2. Studio time is pure excitement and energy with the boys. It feels so good to have everyone put their heads together to push towards a final product and honestly it’s just a lot of fun for the four of us. Being friends first, it’s easy to find ourselves sharing a beer and playing pool on a recording day rather than actually recording the music. It’s so easy to get sidetracked in our group when we’re hanging out, but we do always get the job done at the end of the day. I think it’s important to have that freedom, if everything is serious all the time then it’s no fun. Fortunately enough, we own our own studio and record everything ourselves so there is no time limit or costs that are running high, so we are able to nerd out on gear and try crazy things that are equally as idiotic as they are genius. You never know what’s going to happen and that’s one of the benefits of having nothing but time to create in the studio with your homies.

Stage 3. Finally, when playing live we get to share our work with our fans and the songs aren’t ours anymore – it now belongs to the audience. We share the experience altogether and the feeling is indescribable. The live performance will always lend a completely different experience than listening to the record. Meeting the fans afterward is always one of our favorite parts. Everyone is there to see you, and I think a lot of artists forget that. It’s important to go out and meet the people who traveled and paid money to come and see you. After all, if it weren’t for the fans we wouldn’t have a show.

Every aspect of music creation has its own magic and just like the shifting of seasons, they each play an essential role in the final product.”

What is the most memorable response you have had to your music?

We’ve been lucky enough to have our songs used as the first dance in a handful of weddings now.

Our acoustic EP, “Miracle Skin” resonated with many people and it’s a huge honor to have some of these songs used in the most important moment of some people’s lives. Some of these people we have never met!

It’s truly something that doesn’t happen to many artists on this planet and is the best reminder to keep expressing ourselves and pushing forward with new music.

What’s on your current playlist?

Tim:
Dua Lipa – Don’t Start Now – “Can’t stop listening because that bass has got me groovin’.”

Mac Miller – Hurt Feelings – “Because Mac.”

Dallyn:
Dabeull – Don’t Forget it – “Love the retro-funk production and infectious melodies of this one.”

Amber Mark – Mixer – “Love the feminine power that drives this song, can’t help but move my hips.”

Conan:
HER’S – What Once Was. “No explanation needed.”

Andrew:
Pomo, Harrison Brome – Intoxicated – “This is one of my favorite producers. He’s so good at synth-funk but in such a chilled out, minimalistic way. The way he produces and mixes his stuff is like no one I’ve ever heard – oh and he’s a Vancouver local”

No Rome – Cashmoney – “No Rome just makes me want to party with sunglasses bigger than my face.”

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you in the near future?

After releasing two songs from our new batch of music, “Diamonds” & “Calypso”, we are excited to say that we will be consistently releasing a new song every 6ish weeks for at least the next year with a bunch of music videos. Being a band that loves to experiment with a variety of sounds and ideas, we want to give everyone enough time to appreciate each song’s individual character & aesthetic.
The batch of songs will wrap up as an album with additional songs & content, and we will have a few surprising features along the way that we’re excited about. We are also hoping to do some touring in 2020 and are excited to play these new songs on the stage. We’re planning on revamping our entire live set and we are quite positive that anyone who has seen us perform before will be pleasantly surprised at how different of a band we have become.

Famous last words?

Andrew: “I think a lot of people are terrified to sit in front of a computer with a blank screen or imagine writing a song while having zero knowledge on what they’re doing; that’s where we all need to remember why we stay creative.

Making music or learning production, while it’s all technical as hell, is truly about enjoying the process and embracing the lack of knowledge and following your gut. Be playful, we all hold too much judgment over ourselves and are afraid to make mistakes. Your next hit song is hidden behind that mistake – so get it over with!”

Conan: “My last words would not be as poetic as Andrews. Maybe something like “hold my beer.”

Follow Little India online 

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