Little Fish by Octavi Navarro
I saw you guys at the Royal Albert Hall, advice supporting Them Crooked Vultures, clinic and was completely blown away when I saw you play and by your sound, but what was it like for you to play a venue of that size?
I don’t think I realised how big it was until we got on stage-I knew it was big, but I don’t really think about it until I’m on stage and then I go, ‘shit there’s loads of people and lights, and there’s a huge screen behind me, a huge screen!’ It felt a huge privilege to support Them Crooked Vultures as they’re such a great band, it was nerve wracking, and it’s a big prestigious venue to play.
Are you fans of the Vultures?
Definitely. We met them briefly, and Dave Grohl was really lovely. He’s got the reputation of being one of the nicest men in rock and roll and he really was. It was for the Teenage Cancer Trust, [a trust founded by The Who’s Roger Daltrey to raise funds and awareness for teenage cancer] and there were loads of kids backstage and he was really nice to them.
I’ve unashamedly had a crush on Dave Grohl for years, have you ever had any rock crushes like that?
Ha! I have had a couple of rock crushes, I even wrote a fan letter to someone once, and that was probably the hardest letter I’ve ever written! Trying to write a letter to someone you don’t know is pretty hard. It was to someone who had written a song with ‘devil’ in it, and it was the first time I’d ever heard a dark song and I was so inspired by it, it kind of changed my whole way of writing. I used to write really happy songs and I realised you can be dark and angry. So I wrote a letter, and said thank you for inspiring me. I wrote an answer to them in one of our songs called ‘Devils Eyes’, which is a response to their song ‘The Devil’s Song’.
Your debut album, Baffled and Beat, was produced by Linda Perry of 4 Non Blondes fame, I hear it was at times a gruelling experience and recording process, was it quite intense? Or was it a good way to progress further as a band?
It was a big learning curve because we’d gone from just doing a demo in a garage to recording in a big LA studio with a big producer, and it was really shocking. It made me question what I was doing and why I was doing it. Was I doing music because I wanted to be a rock star? No was the answer. I was doing music because I loved it and I found that hard because when you’re thrown into that situation, automatically you’re in a position where you’re supposed to be a rock star and I felt like that wasn’t why I was doing music. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be in that situation, but then I realised actually I love writing and I love doing music and it’s what comes with it so I carried on. But it was hard to realise.
How long did it take to record?
We recorded the album really quickly, over three weeks, pretty much live, and what took a bit of time was choosing the songs. We didn’t do any pre-production really, I think that was the hard thing, it would have been nice to have a bit more time, but it was the first proper experience and we learnt so much, and Linda Perry makes you work very hard, so we really learnt how to work hard, and that was great because now I think we’ve stepped up a big gear and we’d like to record our next album.
When I listened to your EP and your album, I heard a definite change, but it still sounds like you kept the rawness there, but it’s slicked up. Is that your take on it?
Yeah, I think we’ve also developed as a band, as we got signed as a two piece and now we have our Hammond player [Ben Walker] as a three piece, so now we’ve evolved as a band. We were in LA as a two piece, and now we’re three, and creating different sounds and writing different songs so we’re evolving and that’s magical.
Have you had pressure to add more instruments or do you want to keep the sound as stripped as possible?
We’re quite purist in that way, and we like to stay true to the challenge of staying pure. A lot of bands have got their five or six pieces, a wall of sound, but I like the human side of things, I like the calamity, and I don’t like things to be perfect. I like that struggle, and I think you’ve got to keep things with a little bit of a challenge and stay small.
With the garage sound, it doesn’t stay that way for many bands, and it’s good to see as a band gets bigger, you’ve still kept that sound.
I don’t know if that works against us in this industry- I think a lot of people like the instant, big, quick and simple sound, but it’s a bit more challenging with us. We’re definitely going to stay true to [our sound] for a while.
Back to the album, many artists see their work as their babies; do you have a favourite baby on the album? Or is the whole album one big baby for you?
I think I’d like to give birth all over again. The baby is good, but I think that because we were so inexperienced in a way, I’d like to have that opportunity to really record an album that is exactly what I’d like. We were learning with the recording process, so I think that album is a discovery album, I think there are some bits we will take and some we will leave for the next one. I’m really happy with it, to have had the opportunity to record an album is amazing, and to have someone like Linda Perry support you is amazing, I just want the opportunity to keep going.
You guys picked up music at different ages (Nez started drumming at five, whereas Juju began playing the guitar much later), do you think that’s helped create the distinctive sound of Little Fish?
Probably! Nez and Ben are really proficient, well taught, trained and naturally amazing musicians, I’m a bit of an eclectic, self taught manic person, who jumbles songs together. I think that mix helps it because Nez really helps ground the songs, and I think if we were both too calamity we would be a real, calamity sound! To have the privilege to play with such great musicians is really grounding and they’re so good they allow me to explore things, which is great. It makes us who we are.
What’s the writing process like? Is it difficult, or do you have to be in the right mood?
I used to think I had to be in the right mood, but when we did the album with Linda she would just send me off in the morning to write a song, and that was a lot of pressure, obviously everybody’s waiting for a song! You realise that you can write, you’ve just got to apply yourself. It’s more about applying yourself then being in the mood! I tend to brew, and maybe not write for a month, because I’m brewing, and then I get really depressed, and just write!
Have you written a lot of songs waiting to come out?
Yeah we’ve recorded a few new demos, and we’ll be recording a few more in a few weeks. So that’s really exciting. We’ve no idea when a second album will come out, but not too long. It’s going to be called ‘Re-baffled and beaten’!
What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t doing this?
I don’t think I’d ever go down a different path until I’d have to, but whatever I do I just apply myself 100%, this is more like a compulsion. I love writing and singing and I think it would break me if I had to do something else. I’ve always written, I love writing little stories, poems, I’ll always write songs whether I’m in a band or not, whether I’m a mother with lots of kids running around-I have to do it, if I don’t I just don’t feel well, it’s kind of like therapy. The best advice for anybody in a band is to not have a plan B.
There’s a bit of buzz recently about the position of women in rock today (see the recent Elle article on Elle honouring women in the music industry). Do you see yourself as one of the woman in rock?
I never thought about it before, it’s only now that I’ve started to realise it since I felt, dare I say it, a bit of sexism for being a woman in a band. You realise how much you actually have to step up a little, and it’s only recently, I never thought about it before and didn’t care, and you realise the women [in rock] today are already big icons, but how did they get there? It’s not impossible for a woman to be the forefront of a band, but it’s hard. That’s why I want to make people aware of it, to dip into people’s consciousness.
Little Fish’s video, Whiplash
Categories ,4 Non Blondes, ,Ben Walker, ,Dave Grohl, ,Elle Magazine, ,Juju Sophie, ,Linda Perry, ,Little Fish, ,Nez Greenaway, ,Old Blue Last, ,Roger Daltrey, ,Royal Albert Hall, ,Teenage Cancer Trust, ,the who, ,Them Crooked Vultures
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