Little Comets have just released their debut album In Search of Little Comets. The band will play The Academy this coming Friday, and with this in mind MEG caught up with front man Rob Coles to talk about record labels, Roald Dahl and err……his new dog.
I call Rob Coles on a Friday afternoon to chat about the long awaited release of In Search of Little Comets. He answers the phone in a slightly exasperated tone, I am quickly put at ease however, as over the next half an hour Coles comes across as one of the most engaging and down- to- earth musicians one could hope to speak to. His initial tone is not some self-aggrandising arrogance, but something altogether more benign.
“ I’ve just moved down to Birmingham with my girlfriend. I haven’t been able to do stuff around the house because we have been so busy with touring. She is away today and I’ve been trying to get the various things done around the place. I just got a new dog, and have been out walking him. I’m just doing really menial tasks. It’s actually been really nice because it’s allowed me to clear my head. Everything has just been moving so quickly for the past few months. I’ve been out trying to fix the shed, which isn’t going too well.” he says with only mild amusement.
It’s the kind of response us mere mortals love to hear. There is something reassuring about rock stars performing such menial tasks just like the rest of us. It doesn’t take long to figure out that for Coles, eschewing the type of things normally associated with big bands and big labels has become the norm.
In late 2008, Little Comets were signed by Columbia. The quality of tracks Adultery and One Night in October were enough to get critics excited, and enough to encourage a big label to take a punt on them. Coles reckons the band were hasty in their desire to sign for a big label. “ We were very naive. With our writing style, everything comes together during the recording. The songs only really start to take shape towards the end of the recording process. We’ll put the songs together and I’ll go and write the lyrics. Columbia didn’t really understand that. They had a way that they expected things would work. Their way didn’t really suit us and vice versa. In the end it was just a farce. There was no delineation. Rightly or wrongly we just weren’t willing to work how they wanted us to.”
The whole project began to deteriorate, both parties becoming equally entrenched and exasperated. “ It was like banging our head against a brick wall for over a year. The relationship completely broke down. It was just constant arguments every day. They were saying they wanted us to sound like American radio pop. I don’t even know what that is.”
The end came in the middle of last year. Columbia decided they had had enough and decided to terminate the bands contract. “ It was them who decided to end the relationship. It’s always a bit of a shock when someone turns around and says they are not going to back you anymore – that they don’t believe in you. It was difficult for a couple of weeks, but then we just regrouped and decided we were going to put it out ourselves. To have been able to put it out the way we wanted it, was great in the end.”
The Columbia experience gave them an appreciation of what they needed to look for in a label. “ We were really lucky to have found a good independent label in Dirty Hit. They came to us and told us that we could do whatever we wanted with the music. They didn’t want any input. The only thing they wanted an input in was the video. And in fairness, the job they have done with that has been brilliant.”
Brilliant it is. The video for Isles is an incongruous blend of Coles upbeat vocals set against a scene of a deadened and decaying Britain. Was this the bands feeling on how the Britain around them was taking shape? Again Coles is refreshingly, yet possibly unfairly self deprecating. “ To be honest that was more Aoife who did the video. I think social commentary in music is a very difficult thing to incorporate into a four or five minute song. It is something I aspire to as a writer, and at times I try and bring it into the songs, but as yet I think I need to mature a lot more as a writer before I can say ‘we’re making statements about this or that’. My idea for Isles came from the town of Gateshead. I saw all these new wonderful buildings like theatres and things being built around the town, but if you ever go into the centre of Gateshead, the place is in an awful state. That’s what struck me. You had all these projects, that were a great idea for the people involved in the project, but that actually don’t help the wider community. The song is really about communities that get forgotten in this day and age.”
So how had Little Comets come about? “ Well me and my brother Michael have always played around the house. Then we met up with Mark who played the drums and formed the band. Matt was always the nice guy around the studio offering to make us tea or coffee. He was always just hanging around the place. He played guitar but didn’t play bass. We needed a bass player and he had a week to learn the songs. He was so determined he went away and learned everything within a week and has never looked back. The band has been going since then really.”
We turn to influences, and Roald Dahl strikes me as a rather unusual citation for a band to reference. Coles can’t resist having a pop at the standard industry answer. “ I think a lot of bands when asked that question will give you the band they think they should sound like. Or the band they want you to identify them with. I don’t think that’s a very realistic way of doing things. I said Roald Dahl because I just think it did so much for my creative imagination. I think that everyone should read Roald Dahl. It’s a shame that kids today only have Harry Potter which I think is nonsense. If you read Roald Dahl it just creates this world for you. It was a huge part of me becoming more creative as a person.”
So what can our readers expect from Little Comets? “ Well I guess you’d probably say that it’s upbeat music, with some melancholic lyrics. It’s really up to them to decide what they think of us. We have a lot more stuff ready to go now that we have got the album out.”
And so Little Comets will finally arrive in Dublin this Friday. It has hardly been a meteoric rise, but after all that has happened on their journey, you hope they will land in the right place.
By Sean Duffy.