Lo-Fi Duo Littless Creates Folk-Infused, Jaunty Sound
Published: Thursday, September 27, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 01:11
There’s something wonderfully disarming about Littless, a Kenyon band founded in Dec. 2011. Many of their tunes are heartfelt love songs, often jaunty, that function as tantalizing odes to dysfunctional, bittersweet romances.
Littless is fronted by its two troubadours, Carmen Perry ’15 and James Karlin ’15. Perry possesses the soft-spoken, mildly disaffected vocals of a young Kimya Dawson. Karlin could be an Adam Green. Together, a cool, charming, playful vibe permeates their work.
With a sparse, bare-bones approach to music, the two band mates make wondrous sounds with a pair of acoustic guitars, a banjo and a glockenspiel. As a joke, Perry and Karlin tagged themselves as “devotional music” on their Bandcamp webpage. Littless is actually a mélange of folk-pop and indie, with perhaps a trace of punk.
“You can just call us folk, to keep it simple,” Perry said.
The duo explain that they took their band name from a character in an unfinished Ernest Hemingway short story “The Last Good Country,” yet they deny any special significance. “It’s Nick’s little sister,” said James, referring to the fictional Nick Adams who appears in more than two dozen of Hemingway’s short stories. Littless appears in the incomplete story, attempting to run away from home with her older brother. “There’s no real reason we called it that,” said Karlin. “It’s just what sounded the best.”
Perry said that the recording aspect the least glorious aspect of making music. “We kind of got impatient about recording last March, so we just recorded a bunch of songs on a cassette tape. And then we literally just held up the tape recorder to GarageBand on our MacBook and recorded it onto the computer that way, and then loaded it onto Bandcamp ... Hopefully we’ll get better recordings this year.”
On their Bandcamp site, you can hear the crackling, scratchy sounds of their recordings within recordings — ghostly tunes reminiscent of The Mountain Goats’ The Coroner’s Gambit, in which John Darnielle recorded most of the songs on his Panasonic RX-FT500 boom box. This lo-fi style of production is both a blessing and curse. It sometimes catches the listener with its scratchy, romantic aesthetic, but at other times it comes across as muddy.
Despite their lack of enthusiasm for production values, Perry and Karlin make up for it with their enjoyment of music and performance. Both played several instruments before coming to Kenyon.
“I played piano for a long time when I was younger,” Perry said. “But I really hated it. And then I took two guitar lessons in fifth grade and I hated that too. But I picked it up again when I got into high school, and I liked it more at that point because it was just me doing my own thing. Then I guess I started writing. But I never did anything with the songs I wrote until we formed Littless.”
Today, Littless sounds a lot like The Moldy Peaches and She & Him.
“I used to be really into She & Him,” Perry said.
“Except Zooey [Deschanel] sucks,” Karlin said. “I hate Zooey.”
“Shut up,” Perry said.
It’s this playful sort of bantering that translates well in the music of Littless. In the Perry-penned “Feet Asleep,” the singer chides “resentment is growing again / just as I begin to feel clever / you slam a great weight on my head.” The lyrics are honest and vulnerable, but they bite back at the audience with jokes. Much of Perry’s music has this whimsical quality. Her lyrics pun, confess and ridicule all in the same breath.
“I guess I originally started writing songs to kind of get things off my chest,” Perry said. “I never really wrote poetry. … I would try to play my favorite songs on guitar, but I’d get really sick of that, so I’d try to play my own songs. It wasn’t until last year that I started playing in front of people, so it’s been a really interesting process. I guess I get a little nervous, but not as much as I used to.”
Recently, Littless played a benefit concert on campus. They described it as a “garage punk concert.”
“It was at the Community Service House where they’re raising money for the Transition Mission,” Perry said. “It’s funding for special-needs kids from around here. We played and Young Crooks played. It was a lot of fun. We messed up so much, but it didn’t really matter because everyone was going crazy.”
When asked whether they have ever considered playing post-Kenyon, they both shrugged and raised their eyebrows. “I never really thought about music as a serious thing, it was just always something I enjoyed doing,” Perry said. This unpretentious attitude is evident in the band’s music. The effect is delightful, and Kenyon students should look forward to hearing more from this band in the next few years.