Hoots’ Little Kingdom

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Interview with Little Kingdom ahead of their gig at Hootananny in February.

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Little Kingdom’s Eleanor Dow when they visited The Eagle
Little Kingdom are a young five-piece from Edinburgh combining upbeat folk-influenced instrumentation and lifting vocal melodies.

2014 has been a busy year having played Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, welcomed a new bass player to complete the full-band lineup, and most recently sold out their debut headline show at Sneaky Pete’s in Edinburgh.

The band have also managed to record their debut single, “Yesteryear”, which will be released in February 2015.

The single was recorded at the prestigious Castlesound Studios on the outskirts of Edinburgh with Creative Scotland’s YMI Project, whose previous clients include Frightened Rabbit and The Proclaimers.

You first played up here at Belladrum in 2013 as a duo, and since then have grown and have recently added a bass player.

Have you now reached your full complement or will the ranks of Little Kingdom continue to swell?

At the moment, it’s unlikely that we’ll be expanding the band any further, but never say never! At the moment, we have a wide enough variety of instruments in the mix to make the songs as melodic and big as we want them to be; Fraser (Lennon) does vocals, guitar, piano, mandolin; Eleanor (Dow) plays violin and sings (sometimes simultaneously, which is pretty impressive); Takuji (Usui) (bass) can also play several instruments; Samir (Diab) has a lot of different guitar effects for live shows now; the rhythm section is now complete so Gary (Cameron) and Takuji can give the songs a new dynamic to them; we’re not short of sounds available to us.

As far as we can see for our current songs and song writing, we’re complete now – Takuji was the missing ingredient.

How has your sound changed and developed since those early days?

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Little Kingdom circa 2013
Back when we started as a duo (Fraser and Samir) the song writing would usually start with Samir coming in with a few ideas for guitar pieces – Fraser would then arrange the pieces into a structure and add vocals and another guitar; either this, or Samir would add new guitar parts to an existing song of Fraser’s. The writing process has remained fairly standard to this, but now we have more ears and opinions to help.

Our sound has changed a lot with respect to the variety of instruments we now have – adding bass has really thickened out the songs, both melodically and rhythmically, and you can really hear that at our live shows.

In the early days we just had two guitars and one vocal; now there’s also piano, violin, mandolin, as well as bass. Messing around with song dynamics has really changed the way we go about writing, rehearsing and performing – it makes both the old and new pieces much more interesting to play and listen to live.

The way we’ll expand our sound is likely through song structure and dynamics – that, and the wider variety of instruments, has been the biggest change in our sound.

You will shortly be releasing your debut single ‘Yesteryear’. How easy or difficult was it to pick the right song to release?

677925 300x300 - Hoots' Little Kingdom“Yesteryear” is a relatively new piece which was shaped over 2014. The bones of it came from a sound check instrumental jam before our set at the Eagle Bar last March, which became the verse melody. We fleshed it out together, and with the help of our producer, Garry Boyle, we made a relatively short song have lots of different elements and dynamics to it. It’s a very happy, folky, upbeat piece, which shows the traditional side of our sound.

The B-side, “Like Lead”, is a more melancholy piece, but it still has the dynamic to make it a punchy song, in a completely different way from Yesteryear – the rhythm section is very prominent. The contrast between the two songs shows the diversity in our sound.

You always enjoy your trips up north. What makes these gigs so enjoyable?

Playing Belladrum 2013 and 2014 were really good fun for the festival atmosphere, and playing on the Free Range Folk Stage both years was great too. Our first time playing in the city was at the Eagle Bar back in March; the set went down really well, the sound was great, the audience was generous, and it was a fun performance to give.

We also went to Hootananny’s afterwards, where we had a really good time after the show (we asked the DJ to put on Boney M’s “Rasputin” which really made the night) so we’re excited to be playing there in February. All round, Inverness has always treated us very well – a gig there is always welcome.

What plans do you have for the year ahead?

“Yesteryear” is released on 7th February, which coincides with our Inverness show at Hootananny’s, followed by an Edinburgh show at The Electric Circus on Thursday 12th, and a few other Scottish dates yet to be announced.

We’re hoping to get some more festival dates for the summer and look to record again sometime this year. Radio play too of course. Onwards and upwards!

As students, is it difficult to juggle studying with being in a band, or does it go hand in hand with student life?

Over the past 6 months we’ve been incredibly busy band-wise: we produced and recorded our first single and B-side at Castlesound Studios and the new Slate Room Studios, which our producer Garry Boyle has just opened (we highly recommend!).

We also played our first headline show at Sneaky Pete’s in Edinburgh back in November: we had our friends, St. Dukes and Ollie Lee support us, we organised the whole night ourselves and ended up selling out – it was a tremendous success! But, all of these things are very time consuming – rehearsing, travelling to studios, and juggling five band members who are all in their honours years has been quite challenging.

It’s definitely been worth it though; this recent period of Little Kingdom has been the most productive and rewarding so far.

So first class degrees or multiple number one albums?

Let’s not jinx either!

Little Kingdom play Hootananny on the 7th of February. You can keep track of the band, and their forthcoming single, via their Facebook page.

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Frank Finlayson
Frank Finlayson
Chartered surveyor by day, music reviewer by night, and occasionally I get to use my camera. A strange mix, but one that I enjoy. A chance meeting in the queue for Bella in 2010 led to the opportunity to write for InvernessGigs; a far cry from the days of writing for a football fanzine back in the late 80s, early 90s. My interests lie between the mainstream, the emerging and the local. Increasingly I find that we have more than enough locally to entertain us to necessitate a trip south. I’m always happy to give a listen, whatever the genre. Inverness has a plethora of talent, all of which I am more than keen to write about. If it encourages just one person to make the effort to listen to some new music I’ll be happy. You can contact Frank direct via frankieboyfin@gmail.com

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