From the moment their Sing Song EP appeared in 2006, Los Angeles, CAs the Little Ones have been a ray of sunshine not heard since the golden days when the Beach Boys, Jan & Dean and Love were sweetening up the airwaves. On the verge of releasing their debut album, Morning Tide, the band were suddenly dropped by their label Astralwerks thanks to its parent EMI chopping down its roster in a bid to cut losses. Thankfully, their UK label, Heavenly (another EMI affiliate), held on and released the album overseas, but for a while, Morning Tides North American future was doubtful. Instead of releasing it on their own, like they did the Terry Tales & Fallen Gates EP, the Little Ones eventually found a home in the fledgling Chop Shop, a North American Warner affiliate, which just released the disc in early October.
Exclaim! got a hold of front-man Ed Reyes on the road in between cities to discuss being dropped from EMI just before releasing their debut album, how the band bounced back, the influence California plays in making their music sunny and why theyre so damn "remixable.
You were dropped by EMI at the beginning of the year, right before the album was supposed to come out. When exactly did you get the news?
Id say right around the release of "Ordinary Song as a single in the UK, about early January is when we heard the news. The album was supposed to be released on April 15.
What was your initial reaction
We were disappointed, to say the least, because we had a really good working relationship with Astralwerks in the U.S. and Heavenly in the UK, so it was disappointing that we couldnt put out the record when it was supposed to come out. And also, whenever you end a relationship with a label that you enjoy working with its hard, and its a rejection in a way, so the initial reaction was disappointment.
Did you see it coming at all?
I think we kind of knew that when Guy Hands took over EMI there was definitely talk of restructuring and trimming the fat and I knew for bands in our stage who were just beginning, it was easier to cut the ties right away.
Was searching for a new label a trying effort?
At first it wasnt. What we really thought was do we really want to go this route again and find somebody put out this record? We were set on releasing it ourselves because when we were let go from EMI they actually gave us the masters of the record back, which is a rare thing this day and age. Then we decided that if we couldnt find a proper home for it wed just put it out on Branches, our label, which is what we did with Sing Song for the initial release. So we went back to square one, and we didnt see that as a bad thing, especially when youve made the record. And then Chop Shop came on board and it was the perfect fit.
Was there a point where you didn't think the album would ever get a release?
Maybe for a second, but we knew that we could put it out ourselves. And we also had fans that we could rely on to help us out by purchasing it.
Chop Shop is affiliated with Atlantic, another major label. Was there hesitation to join up with another major after your experience with EMI?
You would think that because of our past experience, but when we met with them I felt that it was something that wasnt like our situation before. So, we didnt think about it in that way because Chop Shop is very much a small label that happens to be affiliated with Atlantic. So once you find a label that is excited about your record, you just trust in them and have as much confidence in them as possible.
You keep cutting out are you driving under a bridge?
We were driving under a bridge but weve just passed through it. Ive got full bars right now!
Thats good. So, the album leaked in May - did that have any impact on the band?
We found out about that. Not really. The thing is these things are gonna happen and you cant do anything about it. You cant stop people from downloading it or linking to it, but you can slap their hand and ask them to take it off their site, which we did because we werent really sure what the plans were at that point. It kinda rearranges your plan for the record, but hey, if you want to listen to the record and then come to the show, well thats great. But you cant stop those things.
Also, we remixed the record so the version that leaked isnt the one that we put out. That was one of the main reasons why we wanted it removed from the sites. Our manager politely asked them to take it down.
Where did the material for the Terry Tales & Fallen Gates EP come from?
The reason why we released that was because we were still trying to figure out what wed do with Morning Tide and we had these masters and B-sides to the album that hadnt been released in the U.S. So we decided to release them as an EP and then wait for a while to put out Morning Tide. The songs were B-sides and extra material from the sessions.
Was that something you had planned to release in the future? I think so, in one form or another. Those songs didnt fit on the record.
Do you find that living in California inspires you to write such sunny music?
Yeah, were all natives of Southern California, so its natural for us to write from that idiom especially when were surrounded by sun. The last four months its been 90 degrees, so you cant help but create music like that. Also, were fans of bands that came out of SoCal like the Beach Boys, so its definitely in our blood.
Are there ever nights where you don't feel like singing such optimistic music?
Yeah, there are certain times like right now, we have a seven-hour drive ahead of us, and then another seven-hour drive later. So, its hard every night to muster up the energy, but then its not hard once you hit the stage. You do drain at first when you get up and youre really tired, but were lucky enough to find the energy before we get on stage.
"Lovers Who Uncover" is one of the best pop rock songs I've heard in years. Was there any discussion over including that or any of the songs from Sing Song on Morning Tide?
There was some discussion, but when we released the EP we had been touring it for a year and a half. If we had put out the record immediately after the EP we likely would have, but we had so much material that we really wanted people just to have it on that EP and create an entirely new record.
How do you feel the LP differs from the first EP?
I think the maturity in the songwriting has increased a bit, and also in the musical palette and sounds that we had making Sing Song. That was really intended to be a demo, and we didnt have the luxury of the time to make it more, it was more like, "This is what were doing, boom! Record it and thats it. So for Morning Tide we tried to create an album full of peaks and valleys, which is the biggest difference for us, other than the fact that Sing Song is so short. This one is more expansive and runs the gamut of fast and slow songs, which we didn't get to do on Sing Song.
Were there other things you didnt get to do? I hear much more variety in the instrumentation
We brought in a real piano, steel drums, different percussion, just experiment this time around and not really say no to things.
You and Ian were previously in Sunday's Best. Do you find that fans from that band have followed you to the Little Ones?
Surprisingly enough, the last tour we did with Ra Ra Riot and played in some cities where Sundays Best fans would come up to us and ask if wed play those songs, so it was surprising to see that are old bands fans were following this band. You just never know.
Do you see much of a correlation between the two bands?
Not really. Its an entirely different band, but I always like to say that Sundays Best was a great learning experience for Ian and I touring, playing together we learned a lot about how we approach things, especially when it came to working with the Little Ones.
I loved the Studio remix of "Morning Tide." Before that there was CSS and Crystal Castles remixes of "Lovers Who Uncover." I never would have assumed you guys were so remixable if I didnt hear those. How did you realize your music leant itself so well to remixes?
Initially it was the idea of our A&R guy at Heavenly in the UK. Obviously, we didnt know that our songs could work for remixing, but once we heard the Crystal Castles remix we realized that yeah, maybe we can be remixed. At first we felt we werent dancey enough, but it worked for Crystal Castles, Studio, CSS and Stereolab.